3rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. STORRERpresented a petition from the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, of Tasmania, praying the House not to adopt compulsory military training.
– I ask the Prime Minister if the New Protection memorandum is complete.
– As I have already in dicated, the short memorandum is practically complete, but, on further consideration, it appeared desirable to accompany it with a draft of the . particular amendment of the Constitution which will be suggested. It was thought that when the memorandum was presented it would be asked for, and that therefore they should be presented together. I have seen the Attorney-General this morning, and confidently expect to present the paper on Tuesday.
– Has the Minister of Defence further considered the question of holding the annual cadet encampments in New South Wales, and, if so, to what conclusion has he come ?
– In accordance with my promise to the honorable member when the Estimates were laid on the table, I gave instructions that a statement should be sent to the State Commandant, informing him of the amount which Parliament would” probably vote for this purpose. That was done about a week ago. I shall make inquiries as to what report he has furnished, and inform the honorable member when the camps will be held. I do not think that there should be any delay.
– Has definite action yet been taken in the purchaseor leasing of a suitable site in London for Commonwealth offices?
– The House will be informed immediately a tentative arrange ment has been arrived at.
Victorian Deputy Postmaster-General - Bacchus Marsh Telephone Rate - Maylands Post Office
– Since notice of my questions was given, I have learned that a permanent Deputy Postmaster-General for Victoria has been appointed; but, nevertheless, as I desire the information, I ask the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral upon notice -
– The Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Melbourne, has furnished the following information: -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is - 1 and 2. I was not aware that such a resolution had been passed by the Local Board of Health, and am having inquiries made by wire. The further action to be taken in the matter will be indicated on receipt of a reply.
– , for Mr. Hutchison, asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
When the Public Service Inspectors of Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia respectively last examined the work of all the Commonwealth officers in the above States?
– A special inspection was made for the purpose of classification in 1903-4. Since then the inspection by the Public Service Department has been continuous, and, in addition, where the circumstances seem to warrant it, a special inspection is made.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are -
Service in India.
asked the Minister of De fence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– I move -
That the Contract Immigrants Act should be amended so as to prevent the employment of coloured or Asiatic labour upon or in connexion with ships in Commonwealth ports during the time of industrial disturbance.
The Parliament has not hesitated to go as far as it has deemed desirable, necessary, and proper, in the exercise of the powers conferred upon it. by paragraph xxvii. of section 51 of the Constitution, in pursuance of which it has passed the Immigration Restriction Act, the Pacific Island Labourers Act, and the Contract Immigrants Act. Under the Immigration Restriction Act, No. 17 of 1 90 1, as amended by the Act of 1905, power is taken to exclude from the Commonwealth “ any person who fails to pass the dictation test.” There were exempted from the operation of those Acts the master and crew of any public vessel of any Government ; and the master and crew of any other vessel landing during the stay of the vessel in any port of the Commonwealth, the intention being entirely confined to preventing the landing of persons whom it is desired to exclude beyond the period of thestay of a vessel in port. The Contract Immigrants Act of 1905 has an entirely different purpose. It provides that every person who is under contract to perform manual labour in the Commonwealth must comply with certain conditions, and that the terms of his contract must be approved by the Minister. If it is made in contemplation of, or with a view of affecting an industrial dispute; if the remuneration and other terms and conditions of employment are not as advantageous to the contract immigrant as are those current among workers of the same class here; or if the agreement is made before the contract immigrant lands in the Commonwealth, then the Minister may not approve of it. It is very clear that the intention of that statute is to prevent Australian workers being subjected to the competition of cheap labour from other countries, and in particular to protect them from Asiatics and coloured labour. Under the White Australia policy we have declared very emphatically, and, I think, with the indorsement of nine out of every “ten persons in the Commonwealth, that the competition of coloured labour is undesirable.
Under the Contract Immigrants Act, or other statutes which seek to secure the same object, we have not distinguished between one industry and another.. We do not say, for instance, that competition from abroad with bootmakers is undesirable, but that competition with carters or seamen is permissible. We extend the prohibition to all industries, and the protection, whatever it is, covers the whole sphere of industry. That being so, we haveto consider how the Act operates. If, during the existence of a strike amongst carriers, there came into a Commonwealth port a vessel having on board persons who were willing, and conceivably capable, of performing the work usually done here by those on strike, there can be no doubt that they would not be permitted to land to take the place of the strikers. A contract of employment is not necessarily a written one. By far the greater number are not evidenced by one line of writing. A man goes to another, and says - “ I wish to work for you “ -and after a few words have been exchanged as to the rates of wages, and hours of duty he is engaged. That procedure has always been regarded as sufficient. Let us assume, therefore, that a vessel comes into the port of Melbourne during the existence of a carter’s strike, and that there are on board that vessel a number of passengers or sailors who profess their readiness to take the place of those on strike. In the circumstances, I submit that the Contract Immigrants Act would apply, and that they would not be permitted to take the place of the strikers. The Immigration Restriction Act could and ought to be applied in the same way. Let us assume that there is a. strike amongst sail and tent makers, and that seamen on board a vessel that has come into port, and is to be laid up for three or six months, as often happens, are ready to take on the work of sail -making. Let us assume that they are quite capable, as most seamen are, of doing such work, and that application is made to the skipper for permission to engage a number of them, whilst the vessel is inport, to enable the completion of some work of the kind. Compliance with such an application would be, I contend, a distinct violation of the spirit of the Act. I wish to bring my illustration a little nearer the point that I desire to reach, and to see how this legislation affects persons engaged in loading and unloading ships. The loading and discharging of vessels is as much an Australian industry as is the making of boots, clothes, pianos, or ‘anything else. It is an industry performed by Australians in Australia. The fact that part of the work is per- formed on ships belonging to persons in other countries is not at all to the point, nor does it affect my position in the slightest degree, because it cannot affect our right and power to regulate the conditions under which contracts of employment must be made and carried out in this country. Suppose that a foreign-owned ship goes into a clock of any sort for repairs. There are ship painters, dockers, shipwrights, boilermakers, and engineers, and so on, working on the ship. Every one of those men is < working on a ship belonging to subjects of another country. Yet every one of them would object in the strongest possible way if it were proposed to take from a ship’s company an engineer, and to say to him : “ Now that the ship is in Mort’s dock, go and work on her.” There would not during an industrial disturbance be one on the dock who, under such circumstances, would turn to. In this country, unionists have gone to the extent of declining to allow Australians in other trades to encroach upon their particular industry. A shipwright, for instance, will complain if the work which properly belongs to a shipwright is done bv a ship’s joiner, and vice versa; and particularly will an engineer complain if that part of the work which belongs to his trade is done by a boilermaker, or vice versa. When a ship is taken into a dock she is regarded in the light of an ordinary job - just as if she were so much metal, wood, and brass lying about in readiness to build a ship. I venture to say that this legislation must apply to all industries without any exception. I come now to an industry which begins and ends with the loading and discharging of ships, as regards both coal and general cargo. In coaling, as well as in loading and discharging, some men work on the ship, some men work on a collier, or in a punt or drogher alongside the ship, and some men work on the wharf. All these men are equally engaged in loading and discharging or coaling the ship. Suppose that during a time of industrial disturbance a ship manned exclusively by coloured labour comes to this port, it mav be that both parties to the dispute are resolved to submit it to a Court of Arbitration. When the ship applies for men in the usual way either to coal, or to load or discharge cargo, she is told that as there is a strike in pro- gress, she cannot get any men. Then the agent or the manager says: “Very well; wo will put on our crew,” and accordingly they put on, say, 200 men, and coal the ship. I understand that during a comparatively recent trouble, an offer was made to assist other vessels out of their difficulty by coaling them with alien labour. Now, the owner of a ship has no more right to be relieved of the consequence of an industrial disturbance than has the owner of a warehouse on shore. There is no immunity attaching to a ship-owner which ought not to attach to every person in the country. A ship-owner must comply with our navigation law, else he cannot make use of our ports. There is before another place a Bill iti which it is proposed to exclude from participation in the advantages of trading on our coast all vessels which do not comply with local conditions - that is, including rates of wages and conditions of labour. Now a vessel is permitted under the Immigration Restriction Act to carry on its business with alien labour, but it is not permitted to land that labour on the wharf until the captain has entered into a certain bond. It was surely never intended that these alien labourers should enter into competition with our own citizens. Yet after the security has been given, these men are permitted to land and to load ox discharge, not their own vessel, but any vessel. They are in Commonwealth territory and carrying on part of the functions of our industrial machine. It is only an accident, and a negligible accident, that they happen to be on a ship which belongs to subjects of another country. Handling cargo on the wharf, lighter, collier, hulk or ship, is just as much part of the industry as is the putting on of a sole,, cutting out of the upper and finishing, parts of the bootmaking industry. Exactly the same division of labour marks the operations of the two sets of men I refer to. I submit that to permit persons who are engaged on a ship, simply because they happen to be sailors and bound to obey the lawful commands of their officers, to do that which we prohibit all other men from doing, is to penalize one particular industry and declare that it alone must be exposed to foreign competition. We have gone to considerable trouble, and taken a great deal of money out of the pockets of the people, to protect 40 per cent, or 50 per cent, of those who are engaged in the industries of Australia. I do not tie myself down to accuracy, but I venture to say that there must be excluded from the operation of any protective Tariff here all shearers, agricultural labourers, seamen, waterside workers, persons engaged in the building trades, and many others. They cannot possibly hope to gain those direct and real benefits which come from a protective Tariff in the trades where it operates.
– Of course, they can share indirectly in the benefits.
– One of the indirect benefits consists in paying the extra price for the other fellow. While the benefits which one derives are direct and obvious, the benefits derived by the other are indirect, and not at all obvious. While we say to men engaged in the boot industry, “ We will protect you from competition by taxing the goods of other countries, and by preventing persons coming from those countries to manufacture boots here during an industrial disturbance,” we say to the wharf labourers, coal lumpers, and seaman, “You must be exposed to all the competition, both coloured and white, that may happen to be brought against you.” That is a most unfair condition of things, and I am certain that it does not represent the intention of the Legislature. If the Act as it stands, permits this sort of thing, I say most emphatically that we have not exhausted our power to make it operative in the direction which I seek. If we have exhausted our power in that connexion, it is time that we sought an amendment of the Constitution, with a view to obtaining further power.
– The Government confess that they have no power to do what the honorable member seeks to accomplish.
– I shall listen very carefully to what the Government may have to say upon the question of whether or not we have exhausted our power. If they contend that we have no power to do what I suggest, and if we) act upon such an expression of opinion, I claim that we shall be taking a very unusual course, and one which has not previously been followed. We all know that it has been the practice of the Government to take action in any desired direction, irrespective of whether they possessed the necessary constitutional power, and to allow the High Court to determine the validity of a Statute. But apparently they now intend to anticipate the decision of that tribunal by declaring that they have no power to act in the direction I have indicated. If they can establish that position, I demand such an amendment of the Constitution as will place the persons whom I represent in this matter upon a level with every other workman in the country. Why should one set of individuals be protected against the competition of coloured labour, whilst another set is exposed to that competition? Why should one class of persons be permitted to engage in an industrial struggle, with the full knowledge that nothing unforeseen can disturb the conditions of the local market - with whose factors they are perfectly acquainted - whilst the waterside workers may be at any moment exposed to competition, the nature of which they cannot foresee? Under the circumstances, I contend that vessels ought not to be permitted during times of industrial disturbance to undertake, with the aid of their crews, work which is usually performed by citizens of Australia. I do not care whether those citizens are wharf labourers, painters, engineers, or bootmakers. They should all enjoythe same measure of protection, and if the law does not allow us to extend it to them, we should amend the Constitution so as to permit of it. Of course, it may be held that under such circumstances, no contract exists, and so the Contract Immigrants Act cannot apply. But I do not think that the facts bear out this contention. I understand that the person who superintends the stevedoring and coaling of ships is usually an independent contractor. Some ships are stevedored direct by the shipowners, but in the great majority of cases they are stevedored by an independent contractor at so much per ton, or so much per hour. And the coaling of all foreigngoing ships is performed by contract. Let us assume, then, that a number of persons are under contract with the owner or charterer of a vessel to discharge certain duties incidental to its navigation. Upon their arrival in Sydney or Melbourne, let us suppose that another person who usually coals that ship with certain of his employes, has a dispute with those employes, and is unable to get a supply of labour. Let us further suppose that he goes to the ship-owner or the charterer of the vessel, and says to him, “Willyou lend me your men to coal your vessel?” If the ship-owner or charterer consents to do so, I venture to say there is no earthly doubt that a contract for the performance of manual labour has been made which is forbidden by the
Contract Immigrants Act, section 5 of which says -
The Minister shall approve the terms of the contract only…..
if in his opinion -
the contract is not made in contemplation of or with a view of affecting an industrial dispute ; and
there is difficulty in the employers obtaining within the Commonwealth a worker of at least equal skill and ability (but this paragraph does not apply where the contract immigrant is a British subject either born in the United Kingdom or descended from a British subject there born).
Ifa “ British subject “ includes a native of India, all I have to say is that it has been the invariable practice to limit the opera- tion of the Immigration Restriction Act to coloured persons. I submit, therefore, that the provision contained in paragraph b would never be acted upon with a view to permitting a coloured person to claim exemption from the operation of the Act. Under the conditions Ihave indicated there is clearly a contract entered into by immigrants to perform manual labour in this country - a contract other than that made between them and their original employer. As this work is almost invariably done by shore labour, if their original employer asks the crew to do it, in effect a fresh contract of employment is made, because an order to do such work is not one of those lawful commands that were contemplated at the time of making the original contract. If it was contemplated at that time, the employer must have had in his mind the possibility of an industrial dispute. If he did have that in his mind, it was a contract within the meaning of the section, which makes Ministerial approval of the contract conditional upon its not. being made - in contemplation of or with a view of affecting an industrial dispute.
The set of facts upon which I am moving related to the coaling of a vessel. That is work which is invariably undertaken by an independent contractor at so much per ton, to deliver coal for the purpose of taking the steamer to its port of destination. The coloured or coolie crew of the vessel did the coaling, and so were, temporarily at any rate, servants performing manual labour for a contractor, and the contract was made in the Commonwealth. If it was not, if they were working directly for their old employer, if no fresh contract was made for that particular purpose, and the old contract covered it, it must have been a contract made in contemplation of the industrial trouble.
– Are those crews paid extra by the contractor under a special contract?
– I could not say, and in any case I submit that the payment has nothing to do with the question. The honorable and learned member knows that any further inducement held out to seamen to do something not included in their contract could not be recovered. I could not say whether such an inducement is held out, nor do I know whether in this particular case the crew worked for their principal employer, or for an independent contractor. In my opinion that is not material. Section 4 of the Australian Industries Preservation Act of 1906 provides -
With intent to destroy or injure by means of unfair competition any Australian industry, the preservation of which is advantageous to the Commonwealth, having due regard to the interests of producers, workers, and consumers. is guilty of an offence.
Penalty : Five hundred pounds.
Every contract made or entered into in contravention of this section shall be absolutely illegal and void.
That Act was passed in pursuance of the trade and commerce power given by subsection 1 of section 51 of the Constitution. I do not say that it will apply , to this particular case, but in it there is clearly a power to prevent anybody, whether in the country or out of it, from doing something which has the effect of injuring or destroying any Australian industry by means of unfair competition. This is an Australian industry ; competition by coloured labour must inevitably injure it, and tend to destroy it; such competition exposes those in the industry to most unfair competition, and cannot be advantageous to the Commonwealth “ having due regard to the interests of producers, workers, and consumers.” Although it may be held that it is very desirable that the ship should get away, and that if labour cannot be obtained here the ship has a perfect right to employ her own crew in order to get away, still there is the Act. It is a hardship to individuals if you like, but the law takes no cognisance of hardships to individuals. It has regard only to the general effect of legislation. No doubt every Act that is passed involves hardship to individuals. With the generality of legislation it must inevitably be so, but the intention of this legislation is clearly and unmistakably to exclude competition coming from foreign countries, particularly during periods of industrial disturbance. I ask the Government to declare, first, whether, in their opinion, the Act as it stands can deal with that matter - which I doubt - or whether, failing that, they have power under the Constitution as it stands to provide for it. I think they have ample power to do so. They may say that they have doubts, but it is to be noted that when they had no doubts at all they went on cheerfully with legislation which the High Court just as cheerfully vetoed. The Government have gone on most enthusiastically passing Acts of Parliament of the most comprehensive character, apparently for no other purpose than to provide a chopping block for the exercise of the ingenuity and judicial foresight of the High Court. I want to know what the Government propose to do in the matter. I think that it is unsatisfactory that such a considerable body of men - numbering many thousands - should be exposed to competition over which they have no control, while every other workman in the Commonwealth is safeguarded.
– Does the honorable member intend the motion to apply only to nonresident Asiatics ? If not, what about those who are already in the Commonwealth ?
– I take it that the context shows that the motion is intended to apply only to non-residents. I thought that would be understood in any case.
– The motion of the honorable member for West Sydney only came under my notice just before lunch today, and I must admit that I have not had time to look into the matter with the closeness which would enable one to speak with any degree of authority. The subject is one that demands serious consideration.
– Has the motion only just been placed upon the notice-paper?
– No, but it only came under my notice to-day. I take it that the honorable member for West Sydney does not desire to stand strictly and literally by the wording of the motion, but that he desires it to be considered in a comprehensive sense. He desires, as I understand him, that Asiatics shall not come out to Australia as members of crews of vessels, and be permitted, while their ships are in Australian waters during a time of industrial disturbance, to come ashore or go into lighters and do work which would be otherwise done by men employed in Australia. I take it that that is the honorable member’s meaning.
– Quite true.
– Strictly speaking, the motion refers only to labour done upon, or in connexion with, a ship, but I take it that the honorable member intends to deal with the broad principle. It is true, as the honorable member has said, that this Parliament has already considered the question of persons coming to Australia under contract with a view of affecting industrial disturbances. Undoubtedly the policy of this Parliament has been not to encourage - in fact, to prohibit - the introduction of immigrants under contract, where a strike is in contemplation, or with a view of affecting an industrial dispute. Parliament has expressed that general policy. Speaking personally, I think that there is a great deal to be said in favour of the position which the honorable member has submitted, because undoubtedly the intention of Parliament was that immigrants should not be allowed to be introduced with a view of affecting any industrial disturbance whether on a wharf, or in a factory, or in the back parts of the country. If immigrants do come into Australia under contract to perform services in connexion with what I may call wharf work, their introduction is in contravention of the policy of the Act. I ask the House to remember that our immigration legislation deals with two subjects. First of all, under the Immigration Restriction Act, we exercise what I may call a Commonwealth police power of keeping out of Australia all undesirable immigrants, including coloured immigrants. But under the Contract Immigrants Act, we deal with a special class of labour relating to those who come to Australia under contract to perform manual labour. The whole of our legislation contained in those two Statutes is based upon our power to deal with immigration, but as yet we have had no authoritative interpretation of what constitutes immigration under the Constitution. The matter recently came before the High Court in Minahan’s case, when the Chief Justice said-
Reference was also made to the decision of this Court in the case of Chia Gee v. Martin (3 C.L.R., 649), where it was said that entry without proof of an animus manendi was sufficient evidence of immigration.
That is to mv, the mere fact of> his coming in without proof of his intention to remain would constitute immigration -
In that case the question was whether it was necessary for the prosecutor to establish an animus manendi ; and it was held that it was not necessary. The question whether every person entering the Commonwealth is an immi grant was not considered.
The view taken by Sir Edmund Barton when he was administering the Department of External Affairs, and also the view taken by the then Attorney-General, the present Prime Minister, and by the late Mr. Kingston, was that the crews of vessels landing during the stay of the vessel and doing certain work ashore were not immigrants and did not come within the prohibition. That is the present position. The Contract Immigrants Act deals with persons who come into Australia as immigrants under contract ; and the essence of being under contract involves an intention to remain to perform the contract. But so far it has not been decided whether mere entry into the Commonwealth does constitute immigration. Section 8 of the Act says -
The two last preceding sections do not apply to an immigrant under a contract or agreement to serve as part of the crew of a vessel engaged in the coasting trade in Australian waters, if. the rates of wages specified therein are not lower than the rates ruling in the Commonwealth.
This section contemplates that it is possible for persons to come to Australia and serve in our coasting trade under contract.. But the case the honorable member puts is that of Japanese, Chinese, or other foreign boats - even British boats like those of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company - which come into Australia during a strike.
– Is a strike not illegal now ?
– In some parts of Australia, a strike is not illegal; but that is not the point before us at the present, moment. The case put by the honorable member for West Sydney is that, when a boat comes in during a strike, the shore contractor, who, under ordinary circumstances, would employ persons ashore, and coal the ship for so much per ton, makes an arrangement under which the members of the crew do the work.
– That is not the usual case.
– That is the case presented by the honorable member for West Sydney ; and I am endeavouring to deal with it. The honorable member very properly raises the question whether such a case as he presents does not come within the Act; and he asks, whether, as a matter of policy, it is fair that persons should come from outside the jurisdiction, and practically affect an industrial disturbance.
– An illegal disturbance.
– In Queensland under State law such a disturbance would not be illegal.
– It would be in New South Wales, with which the honorable member for West Sydney is particularly dealing.
– I am talking about an Australian case, without reference to particular States.
– Are strikes not illegal under the Commonwealth Act?
– Not ordinarily in the case of unregistered organizations.
– But these are registered unions.
– I do not know if they are registered under the Commonwealth law.
– All the shipping people in Sydney are under the Commonwealth law.
– Even if such a strike be illegal, the policy has always been, in the case of an industrial disturbance, not to bring in people from outside to further complicate the position.
– It is not asserted that that has been done.
– I am now merely dealing with the case put by the honorable member for West Sydney. I must admit that, departmentally, I know that it is alleged such cases have taken place.
– The Minister knows that as a fact.
– I know of a case from my departmental knowledge.
– The Minister knows it from his own knowledge.
– I have it also as newspaper knowledge.
– Why, I brought before the Minister a case at Pinkenba !
– That is one case of which I have knowledge from the departmental files. What is said to happen is that, while a disturbance is on, crews are used -to do the work, just the same as if they were persons brought in from outside.
– To do the work they signed on to do.
– That is a question of fact, depending on the contract. But what I am dealing with now is the general policy of bringing persons from outside to take the place of other persons during a. time of industrial disturbance ; and I presume that in the past it has been felt that, to bring persons from outside, especially coloured aliens, really tends more to a breach of the peace than to the settlement of a dispute. That general policy is one upon which Parliament has legislated ; but the honorable member for West Sydney asks whether persons who are so employed come within the meaning of the Act as immigrants under contract to do the work. The view that has been taken is that, under the Act, such persons are not immigrants, seeing that they do not intend to remain in Australia, but are members of crews simply passing through the country.
– We have to deduce the conclusion from the facts.
– An obvious fact is that a vessel calling at say, Sydney, desires to get away as quickly as possible, and, to that end, the crew do the work instead of the shore men.
– The effect is just the same.
– The result is the same; but we have to ask ourselves whether such persons are or are not immigrants.
– If they are not immigrants, what are they?
– They are members of a crew staying for a time in Australia, with the intention of going on.
– But supposing a member of the crew undertook another job in town during the stay of the ship, would he not then be an immigrant?
– Such a person would still come within the exemption.
– - Then the Act ought to be altered !
– Such cases do not happen.
– I contend that such cases have happened.’
– According to section 3, paragraph k, of the Immigration Restric tion Act, the following are excepted, amongst others - the master and crew of any other vessel landing during the stay of the vessel in any port in the Commonwealth : Provided that the master shall, upon being so required by any officer, and before being permitted to clear out from or leave the port, muster the crew in the presence of an officer.
There is no prohibition against such persons doing any work when they are landed.
– Then what does the Act mean ?
– The object of the Contract Immigrants Act is to exclude from Australia certain persons who came here under contract. The section I have quoted from the Immigration Restriction Act provides that certain persons shall not be excluded.
– Then a member of a crew could, for instance, drive a tram during the time he stayed.
– There is no prohibition against that, the contract being made in Australia.
– I do not believe for one moment that that is the meaning of the Act.
– The construction may be wrong; but there is another difficulty in the fact that, when a man arrives in the country, he comes under the States laws which regulate callings and occupations. The Commonwealth has no power, for instance, to regulate the driving of carts or trams within a State; our powers are confined to immigrants and emigrants.
– An immigrant is a per son who comes into one country from another.
– That is true, but the question hae been raised whether in addition to his coming into the country there should not be the idea of his remaining in the country.
– That would introduce a very wide interpretation. A Chinaman might come here with the idea of remaining twenty years, and, because he did not intend to remain permanently, he would not be an immigrant.
– There may be an intention to remain a week or a month. Personally I shall be pleased if we can sustain the view that mere landing constitutes a person an immigrant. Suppose that a man signs on at Hong Kong to make a voyage to the Commonwealth, and return to Hong Kong. He may be only two or three days in Sydney during the stay of the vessel, and may never intend to remain in that city.
– According to the honorable gentleman, that would be a sufficient answer to a chargeof desertion.
– I do not say so. The question before us is whether such a man would come within the purview of the Contract Immigrants Act. I say that, during his stay, he would not be an immigrant within the meaning of the Act. But there is the further question whether he is an immigrant at all.
– What constitutes an immigrant ?
– The High Court has not defined an “immigrant,” I should say that the slightest indication of an intention to remain in Australia would make such a person as I have referred to an immigrant.
– How would the honorable gentleman interpret “ remain in Austialia”?
– If, for instance, he deserted from his ship, that would be evidence of an intention to remain. If he did not turn up at the time appointed for the muster of the crew, he would be. an immigrant, in my opinion. We have acted upon that assumption. Whenever a member of a ship’s crew breaks away from his contract to serve on the vessel, the assumption is that it is his intention to remain in the Commonwealth. The honorable and learned member for West Sydney has raised two questions, the first as to whether what he has complained of comes within the purview of the Act, and the second as to whether we have the power to amend the Act to remedy what he complains of I think that the honorable and learned gentleman was guilty of some exaggeration, when he said that the Federal Parliament has passed Acts, irrespective of whether it has possessed the power to do so. I do not thinkthis Parliament has done anything of the kind, or that it is fair to suggest that it has done so. In dealing with any matter, if, on the face of it, it has appeared that we possessed the power to do what was proposed, we have proceeded to exercise our right. I hope that this House will always be prepared to claim all its powers. It is our duty to stand by what we believe to be the powers intrusted to this Parliament under the Constitution.
– We have been a bit unlucky in doing so.
– On the contrary, I think we have not been unlucky. If honorable members will examine the records of the High Court, they will find that our proportion of wins in the cases in which we have been engaged is Satisfactory.
– The Government had a win the other day, when they deserved to lose.
– There have been a few cases in which the Commonwealth have been unsuccessful; in one case, in connexion with a minor provision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
-A very dubious matter.
– On a point which both sides admitted to be dubious - the question as to whether railway servants were included under the Act.
– The Attorney- General has himself challenged some portions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– Only the interpretation of some provisions of the Act, not the power of the Federal Parliament to pass the Act. There was the Harvester case.
– That was a small matter.
Mr.GROOM. - It was admittedly an important matter, but we were defeated only by a majority decision, and he would be a bold man who, studying the judgments of the majority and minority of the High Court, could speak confidently on either side. Another case was the Union Label case.
– Another small matter.
– If honorable members will take into consideration generally the whole of the matters on which we have been challenged, they will have to admit that we have scored many victories, and that in the majority of instances the views on which we proceeded have been sustained.
– One more such victory and we are undone.
– In the Senate election case also we were rather unfortunate.
– In that case the question was certainly an open one, and honorable members will remember that the State Government of South Australia were given the same advice by their responsible officers before they proceeded. Viewing the whole position we can claim that we have been fairly successful, and we can further claim that in nearly every case which we have lost a strong minority opinion has supported the position which we assumed.
– That is only very recently.
– I refer honorable members to the cases which involved the right of the States Governments to tax Commonwealth property, the right of municipalities to tax our property, the right of the States Governments to tax the instruments which Commonwealth public servants sign when they receive their pay, and the right of the States Governments ,to levy income tax on Commonwealth servants. There were also the wire-netting and steel rail cases involving the right of the Commonwealth to tax the States imports and other goods, and in all these cases the Commonwealth was successful.
—-But in every industrial case we iia ve gone down.
– In two or three cases the High Court has been against us. In the last case in connexion with the Conciliation and Arbitration Act the High. Court sustained a wide interpretation of our powers. On the question of our power to amend the Contract Immigrants Act, in the way indicated by the honorable member for West Sydney, I should like further time to look into the matter.
– Can the honorable gentleman see anything in favour of the contention ?
– I believe there is much to be said in favour of the policy proposed. I believe that the honorable member for North Sydney favoured the provision in the Contract Immigrants Act, which has been referred to, and the right honorable member for East Sydney also approved of it.
– I would prevent a man going from his own ship to work in another or on shore. I think that a higher law than ours would prevent us from interfering with his working on his own ship.
– It is not a question of a higher law, but undoubtedly under the -comity of nations, generally speaking, the rule of international law is that when a foreign, vessel comes into the waters of another State, the authorities of that State do not interfere with the internal -discipline and control of the ship.
– No, I do not desire that we should do that.
– Quite so, I understood the honorable and learned gentleman to say that he recognised that law.
– Would not the coaling of a steamer be an internal operation as much -as the taking of water into her boilers?
– The case put by the honorable member for West Sydney was that of men coming out of a boat” and making a’ contract to do work on shore.
– Or taking coal off lighters.
– I should be with the honorable member for West Sydney on that point. *
– The honorable member for West Sydney will admit that he has not stated all the facts essential to a perfect knowledge of the case he submits.
– I .think- that work usually done on ships or on shore by wharf labourers should not be done by a ship’s crew.
– The honorable gentleman referred to the coaling of a ship, and also to the case of the repairing of a ship, and mentioned the case of a . vessel being taken into Mort’s Dock for repairs. He said that the work of repairs carried out was work usually performed by shore labour.
– I put that as a hypothetical case.
– There was the case at Pinkenba.
– In that case a vessel arrived at the wharf when there was some industrial trouble, before any one on shore knew anything about it, and cargo was unloaded, and taken on board by the crew.
– Cargo was also loaded into trucks on the railway line.
– Another case of the kind occurred a,t Bunbury, in Western Australia. In that case members of the crew of a vessel went ashore, and loaded trucks with timber from the vessel. It could not be said that they were performing the duties of a crew, because they participated in an industrial work ordinarily carried on by our own people. I must confess that, in such a case, I find it difficult to distinguish them from contract immigrants as regards a matter of .policy. The policy of the Contract Immigrants Act is to keep out of industrial occupations, during the time of a dispute, those whose presence might provoke a breach of the peace. That is the principle. But there are complications in the case presented by the honorable and learned member. It is open to question whether we can deal with these matters under our power to control immigration. We have also the power to control navigation, and to deal with special races ; though the motion applies not to special races, but to coloured races generally. All the questions arising in connexion with the subject must be considered, and I should like honorable members to-day to state particular cases which have come under their knowledge, ‘so that we may possess the fullest information as> to the facts. Another difficulty has presented itself in the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act, and we have now under consideration the propriety of amending the law to meet it. The honorable and learned member may think that this case might be dealt with at the same time. In the meantime, we should like an opportunity to look into the matter.
– Any proposal affecting the Immigration Restriction Act should, I think, be in the direction of liberalizing it rather than of making its provisions more stringent.
– In regard to coloured labour being used at the time of an industrial dispute?
– I wish the Prime Minister was less restive, and that he had allowed me to finish my sentence. I think that proposals for amendment should be in the direction of making the Act less illiberal, and of removing some of the objections which have been taken to it by persons in other countries.
– Objection is not taken to its provisions by those who understand them.
– Some of its provisions are still considered objectionable, although we have managed to improve others. The present proposal is to go beyond what was originally contemplated,’ and to interfere with the shipping of the British Empire and of other countries to an unnecessary degree.
– Coloured labour !
– The Prime Minister is obsessed by that phrase, just now.
– No ; but he knows his cue.
– The other day he attacked certain members on this side of the Chamber–
– The honorable member must not refer to a previous debate.
– Then I shall not do so. The Prime Minister is now trying by interjections–
– To bring the honorable member to the point.
– I am coming to the point. It is the honorableand learned gentleman who needs to bebrought to the point. He always seeks to attain his ends by devious courses, and he is at present trying to discount my remarks by a similar method.
– ‘The honorable member should read the motion.
– What the honorable and learned member for. West Sydney asks us to affirm is -
That the Contract Immigrants Act should be amended so as to prevent the employment of coloured or Asiatic labour upon or in connexion wilh ships in Commonwealth ports during thetime of industrial disturbance.
That means that a coloured cook on a vessel lying in one of our ports at the timeof an industrial disturbance could not prepare the captain’s or the crew’s meals.
– That isthe meaning of the words, though I am willing to accept the honorable and learned member’s assurance if they do not expresshis intention. I acknowledge that, in the- framing of such a motion, words may be used which express more than is intended. However, I was asked to read’ the motion, and I am now mentioning oneof my objections to it. The Prime Minister has insinuated that I am opposing it- because I favour the employment of coloured labour in Australia.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon. What I was endeavouring, to convey was that the honorable member, in his .preliminary observations, was not dealing with the motion before us.
– I am doing so now. Does the Prime Ministerfavour the motion as worded ?
– Then I have him with me so far. The honorable - and learned member for West Sydney gave some hypothetical cases which were of no practical value. He said that at the time of an industrial dispute coloured sailors might be taken from ships to work ashore.
– There have been instances - of that.
– Goods have been transferred from a ship to lighters by a coloured crew.
– And into railway trucks.
– If a coloured crew were brought ashore to do work not provided for under their articles, it would be a breach of the Immigration Restriction Act.
– I think that that would be so where there was an independent contract, though I understand that the AttorneyGeneral takes a different view.
– I do not agree with the Attorney-General, but I do not profess to speak with so much authority.
– A crew might sign articles compelling them to do work not connected with their ship. The average sailor does not understand what he is signing.
– A man could not be compelled to do work not connected with his ship, even though he had signed articles promising to do it. A sailor or fireman could not, under his articles, be sent to dissociated work ashore. Anything that he might agree to do on shore would be the subject of a separate contract, and where coloured men were concerned, their employment ashore would be a breach of the Immigration Restriction Act. In almost every instance, sailors agree to discharge and take in cargo or coal at whatever ports they may visit. But in a number of places it has become customary to have this work done under contracts with stevedores. If effect were given to the motion, and, in a port where this arrangement held good, stevedores could not be got, because of some dispute with which those connected with the vessel had nothing to do, a ship carrying a coloured crew would have to remain in port so long as the dispute lasted. Those connected with her might be willing to pay the rates customary in the port for the services she required ; but under the motion she could not, in any case, use her own crew, and would have to lie idle while the dispute lasted, at whatever loss to the owners, the consignees of cargo, and the passengers. That seems to me to be tyrannous. During a recent strike by which certain New South Wales coastal companies were affected, it was proposed to extend the dispute to oversea shipping, in order to bring pressure to bear on the coastal companies.
– That was proposed by the shipowners.
– No; by the employes.
– Absolutely, no.
– The constant proposal now in connexion with strikes is to extend them into other industries where there is no dispute.
– I do not know that that idea is becoming more popular.
– It is often put forward.
– Wild schemes of all kinds are put forward, even by members of the Opposition.
– Then the Labour Party has not a monopoly of such schemes. An illustration of the manner in which the proposal might operate was afforded during the visit of the American Fleet. Some of its vessels had coloured men on board, and would have been affected by the proposal of the honorable and learned member for West Sydney, had it been the law.
– The American vessels were not carrying coloured crews.
– Some of their men were coloured. Is it proposed to say that a certain mixture shall be deemed a coloured crew and another mixture a white crew ?
– Whisky may be diluted until it cannot be tasted. The presence of two or three coloured men in a crew would not be noticed.
– I might retort that the few cases of loading and unloading of vessels by their own crews is of no practical importance, and yet the honorable member wishes to legislate to prevent it. What was the action taken concerning some of the vessels of the American Fleet when in Port Jackson? Objection was made to their using their own crews to coal. We cannot reasonably expect the vessels of other nations, especially warships, to abandon their own methods, and adopt ours, when they are carrying men specially to do certain things. We cannot expect them to yield to our desire to interfere with their naval or maritime arrangements.
– They did most of their own work, and when they asked our men to do what may be described as thetail end of it, they said, “ You have done most of it ; do the lot.”
– The objection was that these vessels loaded coal with their own men. Had there been in operation such legislation as is now proposed, we should have witnessed the extraordinary spectacle of the Commonwealth endeavouring to hold up portion of the American Fleet, simply because of a dispute existing among a small number of men as to the coaling of a few vessels.
– I think that such an Act would exempt foreign warships ; they are exempt from our present legislation.
– It is a general policy of international law.
– Will the Attorney-General say that they are exempt ?
– Yes. “ The master and crew of any public vessel of any Government “ are exempt under the present law.
– Why should we interfere with vessels simply because their crews consist partly of coloured men, when they are unable to obtain the usual shore assistance?
– But cases have occurred where masters of vessels have refused to avail themselves of shore assistance offering.
– Such cases may have occurred, but why should we interfere in the case of vessels whose crews consist partly of coloured men, and refrain from interfering when the same work is to be done by low-paid white labour on board other vessels ? Is this not another reflection on the coloured races of the British Empire, and will not its adoption make it still more difficult far Britain to reconcile the people of the Indian Empire to our treatment?
– Does the honorable member propose to amend the motion by_ extending it to white aliens?
– The honorable member always seeks to answer an argument by putting a question. I am dealing with the proposal as it stands, and it will be time enough for me to propose an amendment when an amending Bill is submitted by the Government to give effect to this proposition. There is no real difficulty in this matter. No serious injury iis inflicted on Australian industry on the few occasions on which coal is shipped or goods landed by the crews of vessels in the harbors of Australia. There has been no serious interference. As a matter of fact, even when crews could have landed and have shipped their own cargoes the masters have agreed to employ stevedores and lumpers to do the work. If the master of a vessel cannot have this work done by shore labour, is that vessel to be kept in port at enormous expense to the owners when their only d’esire is that it shall discharge its cargo and sail away? If that course is to be pursued we shall do something which other countries will very properly regard as an infringement of their rights. The honorable member for West Sydney rightly said that, so far as it could reasonably be given, the wharf labourers of Australia were entitled tosome of the protection that had been extended so fully to those engaged in other industries. He sarcastically asserted that the principal benefit the wharf labourers had reaped from the increased duties imposed by the Commonwealth Parliament was the payment of higher rates for the goods they consumed.
– I think that is right.
– It is. But the honorable member surely contributed to a considerable extent to the imposition of duties that have become a burden on these people.
– I did not vote once toincrease the price of anything they eat.
– If the honorable member refers to the records, Ithink he will find that he did.
– I am sure that I did not.
– What about the 60 per cent.. duty on hats?
– Wharf” labourers and their families have’ to be clothed.
– They will not be clothed’ if the honorable member continues to allow Asiatics to do what is rightly their work-
– The honorable member knows that there is nothing in that interjection, and that there is noreal competition in this case.
– It is just at the most important point that the competition arises.
– The object of this motion is to induce the Government to introduce a Bill that will compel’ submission to any demands that may bemade by strikers.
– That is an overstatement.
– The honorable member for West Sydney might justas well ask the Ministry a*- once to go a little further, and say, “ When there isan industrial dispute those who make de- mands must have their way.” In other words, the Government might just as well be asked to enact that the hands of one party to a dispute shall be tied, while those of the other party remain absolutely free.
– Why should wharf labourers, in the matter of their right to strike, be exposed to competition to which those in other trades are not subjected?
– Whyshould some sailors be exposed to restriction to which others are not subjected? Wharf labourers, though they have no pre-emptive right to the loading or discharging of vessels, as crews sign on to load and discharge cargoes-
– The honorable member is in error.
– Crews sign on to load and discharge vessels, and in many ports where shore labour is not so readily available as it is in Australia they do that work. Then th’e honorable member wishes to provide that not all crews, but only those of a certain class shall not be permitted to discharge their vessels. What justice is there in. such” a proposition? Although the object of a master of a vessel is to leave our ports as quickly as possible ; although he says, “ We do not want to interfere in your disputes ; we wish to discharge and go,” the honorable member, says, in effect, to him, “ Your crew shall not unload your vessel ; you shall keep it alongside the wharf as long as our trouble with others lasts.” Instead of doing this, why should he not go further, and propose that we should say, as we have the power to do, “ No one shall take these goods from the wharfs once they are landed from the vessel ‘ ‘ ?
– A strike of wool buyers is delaying, and will delay, ships in our ports, and yet if sailors attempted to do anything of the kind there would be an uproar.
– And if the wool buyers appealed to us to pass legislation to support them, I should be the first to oppose such legislation. Or if they mme to us, and said that we ought not to allow coloured wool buyers to buy wool here, I should oppose them.
– But if the wool sellers asked for legislation to assist them, the honorable member would be the first to support such a request. The wool buyers, of course, are aliens.
-THOMSON. - How does the honorable member arrive at that conclusion ? .
– From the whole of the honorable member’s_ political records.
– I cannot describe that statement as it deserves, but I ‘will say that it is absolutely inaccurate, and is consequently in keepingwith most of the honorable member’s interjections. He draws a bow at a venture,, but never hits the mark.
– The honorable member cannot point to a division in which lie has taken part to prove to the contrary.
– The honorable member says that I cannot point to a division to prove that I have not- voted with the wool sellers of Australia. ] think that his wits must be wool gathering. I should like him to attend more closely to his own votes before he discusses those given by me. I ask the Attorney-General to consider the far-reaching nature of thi: proposal. There is no necessity for it. It would be very unfortunate if vessels came here, the masters of which are willing and anxious to employ shore labour at current rates, or at those agreed upon, and-are detained simply because their crews or a portion of them consist of coloured people. This provision would apply mostly to British vessels ; foreign vessels, for the most part, would not be interfered with.
– I shall be very glad to accept an amendment to extend it to all. foreign crews.
– I am not * dealing with the proposal as worded - for the mover admits it would go too far - but with the spirit in which it was made by the honorable member, that is. that it shall apply to coloured crews only when loading and discharging. Apart altogether from the desirability or otherwise of interference at all, look at what an extraordinary condition of affairs would arise if our interference is partial. We should interfere with British ships, for instance, with the boats of the Peninsular and Oriental Company, and tie them up, while we allowed foreign vessels, employing cheap labour - not perhaps “ so cheap as coloured labour, but very much cheaper than ordinary wharf labour - to discharge or load, and get away. That is the proposal which we have before us. I trust that the Minister will give serious consideration to the far-reaching effect of any such proposal before he determines to endeavour to embody it in our law.
– The honorable member for North Sydney said that the honorable memberfor West Sydney was dealing with hypothetical cases.
– With some, I said.
– I remember bringing a matter of this sort under the notice of the Government nearly eighteen months ago, when there was a coal lumpers’ strike in Sydney. On that occasion I did not object to a crew working aboard their vessel. I saw no objection to a crew carrying on the work which, as the last speaker said, they were under contract to perform, that is, the ordinary work of the ship, even extending to the conveying of coal after it was placed on board. What I did object to then, and what I objectto now most emphatically is, that men were brought on to lighters in the harbor, and were therefore working on Commonwealth territory, not on their ships. That is a totally distinct question. Notwithstanding all that the Attorney-General has said today, and notwithstanding the reply that he gave to me then, I still contend that when coloured men come ashore and engage in work on Commonwealth territory they are immigrants, and that the exemption given to crews landing in Australia does not cover their case. I had a number of communications with the Department at the time, and the Attorney-General expressed the opinion, which he practically reiterated to-day, that these men, even although engaged in work on lighters in Sydney Harbor, which technically are Commonwealth territory, were not immigrants within the meaning of the Immigration Restriction Act, as they were exempted by paragraph k of section 3.
– In what manner were the men engaged on the lighters?
– The men were working at winches on lighters, filling baskets on lighters, running the baskets up on to the planks, and from there depositing the coal into proper shoots on the vessel. That class of work was performed by coloured men who were members of the ship’s crew, and who in my. opinion were technically immigrants, and not exempted by paragraph k of section 3 of the Act:
– They were working on colliers.
– They were working on colliers and lighters. For all practical purposes they were working on Commonwealth territory. A hulk is within our jurisdiction. A vessel registered in Sydney and trading permanently between different points on the coast of New South Wales is, for all purposes of law, Commonwealth territory. The men I allude to were performing work which previously had teen done by our own citizens. My complaint is that the Attorney-General has taken the word “ landing ‘’ in the provision absolutely literally. During the last few months we have had sufficient experience of the attitude of the High Court to convince us that the least successful way of attempting to interpret the Constitution or an Act of Parliament is to depend upon its literal meaning. The High Court has simply cast aside as of no value the plain literal meaning of an Act or the Constitution. It has been guided, so it has declared, in each case by the spirit underlying the particular provision which it was called upon to interpret. In that light let us take the word “ landing,” and ask ourselves what was the evident intention of Parliament. It was to permit the crew of a ship to go ashore, and not to be harassed while they were going through the city in their leisure. They were to be allowed, under paragraph k, to go ashore temporarily, without being harassed by detectives or police officers as undesirable immigrants. Parliament did not contemplate men going ashore to perform work. If the Court could hold that the word “ landing “ covered any stay in Australia short of an express intention to permanently reside here, it would be possible for coloured immigrants, or, for that matter, any other immigrants to stop here for ten years - as long as the ship remained in port.
– Plenty of ships remain in port for three months at a time.
– A number of ships go to Newcastle for coal, and sometimes they have to wait for three or four months before they get a chance to go under a crane.
– Are the men under contract all the time as members of the crew?
– Uusually a ship pays off her crew.
– The exemption only applies to members of the crew.
– But in some cases men are kept on.
– In another minute the debate will be interrupted by the standing order.
– As I desire to deal with other matters, I ask. leave to continue my speech on a future occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from1st October (vide page 656), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– - On the last occasion, when the Bill was before the House, I said that apparently the honorable member for West Sydney was seized of the fact that there is great discontent with the present constitution of the Appeal Board. I pointed out that while the employes in a Department are represented by one elected member on the Appeal Board, the Department is represented by the Public Service Inspector, and its permanent head. In my opinion the Appeal Board ought to possess three qualifications. In the first place, it should be impartial ; it ought to be beyond suspicion, and to command the full confidence of the service and the public. I want honorable members to consider whether it possesses those qualities. I maintain that it is not impartial, for the reason that the Public Service Commissioner insists upon uniformity being observed in the Public Service, and that consequently the moment that the Public Service Inspector goes to adjudicate on an appeal he has to bear that fact in mind. The question of justice does not enter into His consideration at all. The Appeal Board is not impartial. In the next place, whatever its finding may be, it has to be remitted to the Commissioner, who possesses the power of veto. As he has indorsed the recommendation of the Public Service Inspector, who usually acts on the recommendation of the head of the Department, who also sits on an appeal, if the Board comes to a different conclusion the Public Service Inspector has to admit that he had recommended an irregular appointment, or done an injustice to an officer of the Department. I do not think that the Commissioner - or even the Inspector - on mature consideration, is likely to admit that what he did was wrong. The consequence is that having the power he will at once say, “ The appointment I made in the first place was quite in accordance with the merits of the officer.” I do not think that the history of the service will show that, in every instance, officers have been dealt with justly. The head of a Department has his favourites. If he desires a certain officer to be promoted to a vacant position he informs the Inspector that that officer is the most qualified to fill it, and the Inspector reports accordingly to the Commissioner, who, since ‘his duties extend over the whole of the Commonwealth, cannot possibly make himself acquainted with the work of the officers in all branches of the service. He is dependent upon the advice of the Public Service Inspectors, who, in their turn, are dependent upon the advice tendered to them by the heads of Departments. Only to-day, I asked when the Public Service Inspectors in Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia, had examined the work of all the officers in those States. The reply which I received was not satisfactory, because I am sure that, in one of those States, no examination of. the work performed by all officers has taken place during the past live years.
– In what respect was the reply given to the honorable member unsatisfactory ?
– The reply stated that the’ Inspectors had made themselves familiar with the work of the officers of the various Departments. It did not say when they had done so.
– I will answer the honorable member now, if I may be permitted to interject. The reply is that an examination of the work of the whole service for classification purposes took place in 1903-4, and, since then, it has been continuous, and where circumstances have warranted it, a special examination has been made.
– Perhaps the Minister will be surprised to learn that in one State there has been no examination of the work performed by the whole of the officers for at least five years. Yet the Public Service Inspector in that State sits upon the Boards which deal with appeals in regard to promotions. How can he possibly give an unbiased opinion upon work with which he cannot possibly be familiar? This Board ought to possess the confidence of the Department, and of the public, but it cannot do so whilst injustices are perpetrated throughout the service. I could mention the names of officers who have been unjustly treated, but, inasmuch as they are not permitted to exercise political influence, I shall refrain from doing so. Were I to publicly announce their names, they would, doubtless, be penalized for having committed a breach of the Public Service Regulations. I could cite numerous instances in which junior officers have been promoted over the heads of their seniors, notwithstanding that the latter possessed undeniable qualifications. The; stereotyped reply given to appeals in this connexion in the case of telegraphists is as follows -
No appeal lies in connexion with the advancement of telegraphists previously their juniors to the fourth class, and the expert judgment of the Department does not support their claims to be regarded as equal in telegraphic ability to the officers who have been promoted.
– As a matter of fact, the Public Service Commissioner, by regulation, has practically repealed section 50 of the Public Service Act.
– There is no doubt about that. The reply just quoted h the stereotyped one that is given to officers who think that they have been unjustly treated.
– How would the position be altered by this Bill ?
– At present, the Appeal Board consists of the Public Service Inspector of the State in which the appeal is heard, who has to give effect to the system of uniformity insisted upon by the Public Service Commissioner-
– The regulation to which I have alluded will also require to be repealed.
– Yes. The Appeal Board consists of the Public Service Inspector of the State in which the inquiryis held, the head of the Department concerned, and a- representative of the division to which the appellant belongs. I am not entirely satisfied with the proposal of the honorable member for West Sydney, but I think that any alteration in the present method of constituting these Appeal Boards would be an improvement.
– I do not sa.y that.
– Under the scheme of the honorable member for West Sydney, we should displace one member of the Board, who in my opinion is consciously or unconsciously biased, and who almost by virtue of his office, must insist’ upon giving effect to a system of uniformity.
In his place we should have either a State Judge or a stipendiary or a police magistrate. The Board having decided whether an officer has been justly or unjustly treated, would forward its report straight to the Governor-General, who would act upon its finding. That is the improvementsuggested by the honorable member for West Sydney. When an officer complains that he has been superseded by a junior, and desires to appeal to the Commissioner, instead of being granted an inquiry, he is usually told that “ No appeal lies.” I ask the honorable member for Parramatta, who gives that reply? Caesar - and Caesar is the Public Service Commissioner. If a Board constituted in the manner suggested by the honorable member for West Sydney declared that “ No appeal lies,” I should be perfectly satisfied.
– Does the honorable member suggest that every appeal should be heard by somebody?
– Why give to the public servants of the Commonwealth the power of appeal if they think that injustice has been done to them, and permit the Public Service Commissioner to say that “ no appeal lies? “
– If every appeal has to be heard, we shall require the services of fifty Judges.
– Then the honorable member should say that our public servants should have no right of appeal - that Caesar should be omnipotent.
– I do not say anything so ridiculous.
– The honorable member assisted to pass the Public Service Act.
– I am waiting to hear the honorable member suggest a reasonable method of dealing with the difficulty.
– I have already outlined what I conceive to be a reasonable method of dealing with it. I would like to see that method given a trial.
– In the long run fifty Boards of Appeal would be Jess costly to the country than is a discontented service.
– Parliament in its wisdom has declared that officers who feel that they are the victims of injustice shall have the right of appeal. Yet the moment that they exercise that right, the Public
Service Commissioner affirms “ No appeal lies.” 1 have in my mind’s eye quite a number of cases–
– We all know of hard cases. I knowof several.
– But the cases to which I was about to refer are typical of scores of others. Of course, in a large service it is inevitable that hard cases must occasionally occur, and, personally, I feel very sorry for an officer who suffers under such circumstances. But when we find officer after officer being superseded by juniors without their cases being inquired into at all, it is time that we took some action to remedy the existing state of things. How can we expect out Public Service to be conducted as it should be if in the breasts of a majority of the officers there is rankling the conviction that they have suffered, or may suffer, injustice?
– At present they have to curry favour with the heads of their Departments to obtain promotion.
– I am very glad that the honorable member has made that interjection. In the old days, if an officer curried favour with the head of his Department, it was possible for him to procure an unfair promotion. But the moment he did so, his brother officers, who felt aggrieved, we’re at liberty to appeal to their parliamentary representatives. Today they are forbidden to do that.
– Has a member of Parliament to-day the right to approach the Public Service Commissioner on behalf of any officer?
– No. The idea underlying the Public Service Act wasthat the administration of the service should be entirely removed from political control. To-day, however, I have more than a shrewd suspicion that, instead of political influence being exerted on behalf of officers, social influence is exercised. The Public Service Commissioner has a very arduous duty to discharge–
– And he is not a society man in any shape or form. He is singularly free from entanglements of that sort.
– But what about the Public Service Inspectors?
– I agree with the leader of the Opposition that the Public Service Commissioner is anxious to do what is right by our public servants. But he is entirely dependent upon the recom mendations made by the Public Service Inspectors. What is the position in South Australia to-day?
– Every officer in the central office enjoys a good opportunity of securing promotion.
– The Public Service Inspector of South Australia is a gentleman who used to command the entire confidence of the whole of the public servants of that State. I had something to do with getting an Act passed to empower a body to draw up a classification. The Public Service Inspector of South Australia was appointed to the position of classifier by vote. To-daythere is not a man who is more execrated by the public servants of that State than be is. From what has come under my own knowledge, I have no hesitation in saying that he is more anxious to see that civil servants are kept down to the very minimum, apart from the value of their services, than to see that fair play is done to officers. He takes his attitude fromthe stand-point of the finances, and seems to feel it to be his duty to keep down every officer to the lowest possible point.
– The Deputy PostmasterGeneral cannot even appoint a telegraph messenger.
– The honorable member’s interjection shows the absurdity of the present position. WhenIask the Deputy Postmaster-General why the telegraphic service is not better in a largelypopulated centre, or why in such a congested district we cannot get an improved postal delivery, he replies, in effect, “ The Public Service Commissioner will not give me even a telegraph messenger boy. I know that I want extra hands, but the Commissioner’s reply is that, whether I want them or not, he will not give them to me.” Yet the Deputy Postmaster-General is supposed to be responsible for the profitable conduct of the Department.
– Does not the honorable member think that those complaints ought to remain for the Royal Commission to deal with?
– I have been sidetracked on to that matter, because the whole question of whether the Public Service ought to be placed under the control of a Commissioner and his Inspectors will have to come before the House at a future date. We, in our wisdom, have provided for a Board of Appeal which has given the utmost dissatisfaction throughout the Commonwealth service. I’ say that we can substitute something better, and, to prove my case, I am trying to show some of the injustices that have been done to officers. I have in my mind the case of an officer whose conduct has never been questioned. He has performed more responsible duties than have others who have been placed above him. He has been prepared to demonstrate that he was equal to any duties that might be imposed on him in the Department. He can refer to all the officers with whom he has worked, yet, in spite of all this, he has not only been given no opportunity to demonstrate his qualifications, but his juniors, who were not nearly so competent or capable, and who had never been intrusted with the responsible duties which he had fulfilled, are, for some inscrutable reason, placed over him.
– There are hundreds of those cases.
– Is it not time then that we had some improvement?
– Was promotion in that case due to merit?
– That diligent, conscientious officer has never had a black mark against him. He asked that his qualifications should be tested, so that he might demonstrate that he was the superior of the juniors who had been promoted over him, but he was given no such opportunity. The reply always is, “ We have decided that the junior officer shall take the position.” Does the honorable member wonder that the service is disorganized ? Let him put himself in that officer’s position.
– I could cite a dozen cases like that.
– If I were one of those officers, and had suffered as some of them have done, I should not be contented. Yet men wonder that there is discontent throughout the service. We shall never have a contented service while such injustices are possible. The Deputy PostmasterGeneral, who is responsible for running his Department, and who has been trained to do the work, has no power to remedy matters. All the power rests with a man who knows nothing about the duties of the Department.
– The Public Service Commissioner has been very much interfered with by Ministers.
– He need take no notice of Ministers. I am glad to say that Mr. McLachlan knows his position and asserts it. He is not amenable to the influence of honorable members.
– He is a great deal fairer than many of those under him.
– Hear, hear; I believe that he is most anxious to do what is fair for the service, but it is not possible for him to know the right thing to do in connexion with the whole of it and therefore he is entirely dependent on his subordinates. That is the great trouble.
– How could a Judge be better informed of the merits of the case than the Commissioner himself?
– The Commissioner depends upon his Inspectors. I believe that in the State of New South. Wales there is a Public Service Inspector who has not examined the work of all the officers for five years. What knowledge can he have of their work, and how can he recommend a promotion? I know how some of the Inspectors go about their work.. I have known one to go to an innocent young officer and ask what work he is doing and how long it takes him to do it. The officer, anxious to show how smart he is, says, “ I can do it in such-and-such a time,” whereupon the Inspector reports, “ There are too many employes in this Department.”
– And was it not the case?
– No. The officer wanted to appear smarter than he really was. It was only natural for him, when being examined by a superior, who had power to do something on his behalf, to desire to show, not how inefficient, but how capable he was, and so he did not mind exaggerating.
– What is the remedy ?
– The only man capable of judging the officers under him and the work they are fitted to do is the man who is trained to the work - the Deputy Postmaster-General. If the Deputy does not know his work, and does not carry on the Department as,I am glad to say, the Deputy Postmaster-General and the late Postmaster- General in Adelaide have always done, some one else should be put in his place. But it is absurd that an untrained man, who knows nothing of the work of the Department, should have the power to decide whether the Deputy should have an extra boy or extra postal delivery officer under him.
– Where is there such a man in the position of Inspector?
– When the position of Public Service Inspector was advertised, the honorable member for Hunter, or myself, would have been eligible to apply, but I am sure that we should both have admitted that we were not qualified for the position, because we had not the necessary training. The Public Service Inspector for South Australia, who is a very able officer, and was a first-class Secretary to the Commissioner of Public Works, knew no more about the work of the Post Office than I. do. The honorable member for Parramatta, who ably conducted the Department when Minister, would not have liked to be at the mercy of a Public Service Inspector when he wanted an extra man or boy.
– I was at his mercy for some time, and chafed under it.
– I do not wonder at New South Wales having adopted the system that has been adopted by this Parliament. I took evidence in Sydney in 1899 on the matter, and could never have suspected the astounding amount of political corruption that I found. I said at the time that anything would be an improvement on the old system of New South Wales. I do not wonder that that State made a change in its system, but our Public Service Inspectors have gone further than anything that has happened in that State. If the honorable member, when PostmasterGeneral, had been told that his Deputy could not obtain an extra employe who was found to be necessary to facilitate the work of the service, he would have seen that the matter was remedied at the earliest possible moment. I venture to say that he Had all the employes that the Department repaired.
– The Board dealt very unjustly with one or two, and I could not get the matter remedied.
-Very probably, hut that is another matter. Under the Commonwealth system, the Deputies, who are expected to run the Department efficiently and at a profit, say they must have certain employes, but in steps the Public Service Commissioner, through one of his Inspectors, and says, “ No, you cannot have them.” It is nothing but a farce to say that an officer who is unjustly dealt with in a case of promotion has the right of appeal. The moment he makes that appeal to the Board, the Commissioner, not the Board, says, “ The appeal is disallowed.”
– And the appellant is a marked man.
– Without going so far as that, I will say that any officer who is at variance with his chief has no hope of promotion. I know an instance, I will not say in which State, of an officer who is in a high position to-day, but whose former chief did all he possibly could to get him out of the service. The moment his chief was removed from that centre, the officer’s value was recognised, and today he occupies a leading position in his Department.
– Still it does not follow that he was a good officer.
– He is recognised to be a good officer. If he had not been, he would not have been in the service today, such was the power of those above him. Surely that sort of thing ought not to be possible in a Commonwealth Public Service. What I have said applies to the way in which the telegraphists have been treated. I have known a temporary officer to be placed over the head of a permanent officer, and, when the latter appealed, he found that his chief was against him, and that, therefore, the Public Service Inspector was against him, too. We should provide for Boards in regard to which there cannot be ground for the least suspicion. The Minister said that Boards might be prejudiced ; but he did not say that they would be.
– Even members of Parliament are prejudiced.
– I admit it: but, although the departmental head and the employe’s representative might both be prejudiced, the stipendiary or police magistrate could be trusted to give his verdict in accordance with the evidence.
– Not always.
– I am not one of those who continually say, “ Trust the Court.”
– Is not the honorable member one of those who said the other day that Parliament should supersede the Courts?
– I have said that, ever since the passing of the Statute of Labourers in 1358, working men have not got justice in the Courts. My objection to the proposal is that it invokes the assistance of the Court ; but it is a better arrangement than the present one. Officers appealing are likely to get more justice from the Boards which the honorable and learned member wishes to establish than obtains at present.
– The honorable member, after setting up these Boards, will turn round and say that he does not believe in them.
– I have not as much faith in Courts as other honorable members seem to have, and admit that a better arrangement than that suggested may be possible; but I think that we might give the proposed system a trial. The Postal Commission could then inquire into it, and, if it were not satisfactory, might bo able to suggest an improvement.
– Does the honorable member know of any State service in which there is a right of appeal against the promotion of officers?
– It is given under our own Public Service Act?
– It is allowed in connexion with the railways.
– If there is no appeal, should we not do away with that injustice ?
– I am not against providing for appeals.
– Then surely the honorable member desires a system under which injustice will not be done. It is not human nature to admit that one has made a mistake. Surely, then, appeals should not be made to a man, who may have, either consciously or unconsciously, done an injustice to the person appealing.
– I should like the honorable member to indicate a better practical system than the present.
– That now proposed would, I think, be better.
– The honorable member does not say that he approves of it. He merely speaks of it as another evil.
– In the clerical division in one of the States there were a few appeals two and a half years ago, with most unsatisfactory results, but since then there has been no appeal.
– Nor in the general division.
– I know of several cases in which there should have been appeals.
– Appeals have not been lodged because the men have felt that they would not get justice. We can not get the best out of our service while the men have grounds for discontent. In some cases, probably, no injustice has been done; but the men do not know that. If I were in the service, I should keep on agitating until I was heard. But, in most cases, the men have been told that no appeal lies.
– That is because of an interpretation of the Act by the Crown Law authorities.
– Every officer of the service should have the right of appeal against what he conceives to be injustice.
– The honorable member is confusing Boards of Inquiry and Boards of Appeal.
– I am not. Who sends out the reply that “no appeal lies”?
– The Public Service Commissioner.
– Under what authority does he make that reply?
– The interpretation placed by the Crown Law authorities upon section 50 of the Act.
– Even a Government has not the right to make regulations inconsistent with an Act; but that is what the Public Service Commissioner is doing. Let me mention a particular case which has come under my own notice. I am precluded from giving names publicly, but I am prepared to give honorable members information in private. A certain officer in the Telegraph Department, a married man, who has been over twenty years in the service, and has been in charge of some of the most important lines, a man of whom his fellow-officers speak as diligent, obedient, and capable, has had a junior put over his head. He is a splendid typist, and” can deal with the fastest messages. He has never been absent from work, and for a period of twelve months no error was charged againsthim.
– Then he must be a marvellous man.
– I do not say that he has never made a mistake; but there are no marks against him, and for that period no error was ever sheeted home to him. Being a high-spirited man, he appealed against such treatment, but the reply received was that no appeal lay. I have never heard of anything more scandalous. Were I in his position, I should do all I could to disrupt the service untilI got justice. We should not tolerate such occurrences; but should see that the fair thing is done to every officer. In the Customs Department, no fewer than fifty officers appealed against promotions, but they were flouted with a similar reply. If no injustice has been done, why should the authorities be frightened of appeals. If the service were justly treated, appeals would become less frequent directly that fact was recognised.
– Does the Act give no right to appeal?
– The Commissioner issues the ukase that no appeal lies.
– Under what authority?
– Under a regulation. He does what no Government would dare to do, in making regulations which are not in accordance with the spirit of the Act.
– The regulation to which the honorable member refers must be on the same basis as the Customs regulations in getting beyond the Act.
– If the honorable member will give me an instance, I promise to try to help him to sift it, because I have no sympathy with such a state of affairs. I think I may say that, with the help of, not only of members of the Opposition, but of members who sit in this part of the House–
– They will not take any steps !
– Let the honorable member give an instance, and try us. Let it be shown where the Government have done an unfair thing, and I shall have no hesitation in guaranteeing that every one of my colleagues–
– We have given instances every day.
– Show me one case.
– There is the case I cited the other day.
– Duties are charged on tools of trade which ought to be free.
– Matters of proof and matters of opinion are quite different things. I am now proving my case ; and if the Government will make this a vital question I shall be most happy.
– Hear, hear. Now the honorable member is recovering !
– I have never had to “suffer a recovery.”
– The honorable member is making us all anxious.
– If I can put a little life into a dead Opposition I shall have done some good for the country.
– Will the honorable member vote against the Government if this be made a vital question?
– I hope that, in the interests of justice, the honorable member will vote against the Government, whether or not this be made a vital question. I am not submitting hypothetical cases, but actual facts, and, as I have already said, I regret that I cannot mention names without a danger of injuring the officers concerned. Most of the complaints, I am satisfied, are thoroughly justified, although there may be one or two in regard to which another side might be presented ; and the only way to ascertain the facts is to have them investigated before a competent Board. I do not wish to say that this or that man has suffered an act of injustice, but merely that there ought to be some inquiry.
– This is not a party matter.
– Quite so; but it is a public matter, which does not so much concern honorable members, as it concerns the services of the country, which cannot be what they ought to be while men rankle under a sense of injustice. ‘ I could mention a case in which a Deputy PostmasterGeneral recommended a promotion which was rejected by the Commissioner ; and the public servant desired to appeal on the ground that the action taken by the Deputy Postmaster-General was in accordance with the regulation, and that similar recommendations had been previously indorsed. I take it for granted that a Deputy PostmasterGeneral would not recommend promotion unless he was satisfied that the officer was competent to fill the position.
– I know of one case where a Deputy Postmaster-General recommended a whole bunch rather than discriminate.
– Then there ought to have been a new Deputy PostmasterGeneral.
– The honorable member would “ sack” a man quick.
– I would” sack “ a man who did not do the fair thing. 1 would stand by a man who acted fairly ; or even by the man who, acting wrongly, was satisfied that he was acting fairly; but I would “ sack “ any man who would not accept the responsibilities of his position.
– That is the position of the Labour Party in relation to the Government and the country.
– It was only the other day that honorable members of the Opposition were saying that the Labour Party were doing much better where they were than they could do if they were in power.
– Will the honorable member discuss the question before the Chair?
– I shall not be further drawn off the track. If I found a Deputy Postmaster-General who would act in the way described, I should say that we had the wrong officer at the head.
– The honorable member would turn him out in the cold world ?
– Undoubtedly ; and possibly some honorable members opposite may find themselves turned out into the cold world by their constituents. As I have already said, for two years and a half, in one State, no officer, whatever the injustice done to him, has dared to appeal. That is not a satisfactory state of affairs, and there is a simmer of discontent that is bound to react on the whole service.
– That certainly should be remedied.
– Quite so, and I hope the honorable member will help me to find a remedy. In the case of the recommended promotion, to. which I have just referred, and which” was entirely to the satisfaction of the colleagues of the officer recommended, not only was promotion refused, but the usual reply was sent that there was no right of appeal ; and 1 could give scores of such cases throughout the Commonwealth. I have beencareful, on account of the officers themselves, not to particularize the State in which such treatment has been meted out. I know that many hundreds apply for positions which have been thrown open to application, and have received no reply ; indeed, I know of one officer, who, so far back as August last, applied for holidays to which he was entitled, and has not yet had the courtesy of any response.
– There are many others in the same position.
– Then the case I cite is only one of many and such a state of affairs ought not to be possible in the Commonwealth service. Men who are unfairly treated cannot be expected to give the best that is in them to their work. Further, I know that officers have objected in vain to be classed in certain divisions, on the ground that the new work was entirely clerical, and that they were made subordinate to the superintendent of the mail branch. The result of such classification was a promotion that effected a small saving to the Department, the others being denied the maximum salary they were entitled to reach. Indeed, I may say that the officers so classified were led to accept the new position by misrepresentation, and, in their own language, felt that they had been “ sold.” In a case in South Australia, it was the Public Service Inspector who advised the officers to accept the classification, but, as I have said, they found they were “ sold,” because they were denied the increase of salary to which they were entitled had they remained in ‘their old position. There was one officer who had been over a quarter of a century in the service, and possessed splendid educational and practical qualifications. He had a wide knowledge of postal work, and in addition was a competent telegraphist, shorthand writer and typist; but, in spite of all, the promotion was given to a clerk in the correspondence branch, who had had no experience whatever in practical work. I do not see how an officer can be expected to sit still, and do his work with satisfaction, when he is labouring under such a sense of injustice.
Mr.J oseph Cook. - What were the qualifications of the officer who was promoted ?
– He was a good correspondence clerk; but in that respect the rejected officer was his equal, and was familiar with many branches of postal work. He was recognised by his brother officers as a very smart man; indeed, I may say, he was just as good a man, perhaps, as was Mr. Pilgrim, who, the other day, in consequence of his bad treatment, left the service in disgust. 1 am delighted to say that that officer has obtained a position in private employment, where his remuneration is greater than he could hope to get in the service ; and at a farewell gathering his superior officers testified to his ability. Mr. Pilgrim saw no future for himself in the Department, but, on the contrary, witnessed injustice after injustice done to his colleagues and himself. He was entitled to promotion which he did not get ; but he has been able to better himself outside the Department. The Minister, in dealing with this Bill, admitted that the Public Service Commissioner has power to veto the decision of a Board of Appeal, and the honorable member for West Sydney very rightly desires to remove that power. That honorable member, however, proposes that a Board, composed, if honorable members like, of a probably biased head of the Department, a probably biased representative of the employes, and an unbiased judge - because in most cases honorable members, at any rate on the Opposition side, have often contended that the Court is to be trusted-
– Dees the honorable member say that he does net “ trust the Court? “
– I say that the Bill, if introduced by me, would not have provided for a judge; and I am only ask- ing the House to try an experiment.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– The honorable member for Parramatta has always said that we ought to “ trust the Court,” and I am willing to do so in this instance as an experiment.
– I do not know that I ever said such a thing.
– Does the honorable member not “trust the Court?”
– Yes, I hope so.
– If the honorable member tells me that he does not “ trust the Court,” or a stipendiary magistrate, I shall be delighted to help him to substitute some layman,’ who is not connected with the Public Service, as the presiding officer of the Board. I am willing to try the experiment proposed by the honorable member for West Sydney, because honorable members opposite say that they are always willing to “trust the Court.” I do not mind confessing that I do not “ trust the Court “ to the same extent.
– The honorable member thinks that any change would be preferable to the existing condition of affairs ?
– I do. I am willing to support the proposal of the honorable member for West Sydney in the interests not only of the public servants, but of the public whose interests are dependent upon the efficiency of Commonwealth services. If I can be assured of the support of a majority of honorable members in Committee, I shall be prepared to assist in providing that a layman, instead of a Judge, shall preside over the proposed Court. But surely it is high time we abolished a Court whose decisions must be reported tothe Public Service Commissioner, who hasthe right of veto. What an absurdity it is to appoint three men to arrive at what they believe to be a fair decision, and then oblige them to refer their finding to the Public Service Commissioner, who in their opinion may have been guilty of unfairness, and ask him to admit it. Of course, he will say, “ No. I vetothe finding of the Board.” The proposal of the honorable member for West Sydney is that the Board of Appeal constituted under his Bill, having come toa decision, shall report to the GovernorGeneral. That in my opinion would be a. great improvement on the existing system. I am sure that the Minister would say that he would not care to be asked to review one of his own decisions in the light of a finding by some one else. He would consider that to ask him to do so would be toplace him in an invidious position. I do not think the Public Service Commissioner should be placed in such a position. I believe that he does what he believes to be fair, though often the adviceon which he acts is not of the best. But having taken action, he naturally does not care to be asked to undo what he has done because of the finding of a Board of Appeal. The Minister said -
The Appeal Boards are governed by principles underlying classification, and are urely administrative.
What does that mean? It means that the Board of Appeal is not untrammelled. It must decide the cases that come before it on certain lines already laid down. It must not depart from those lines, and if it does it can rely upon it that the Public Service Commissioner will not ratify its finding. I wish to have a Board of Appeal established whose business it will be to see whether or not an employe” has had justice done him. The Minister says that the Boards of Appeal must inquire into the merits of other officers- Are the inquiries to be prejudiced? Do the ‘present Boards inquire into the merits of other officers? I have said that in one State there has been no examination of the work of the officers for five years. What does the Public Service Inspector do? He acts practically upon the recommendation of the head of the Department, and the Public Service Commissioner acts upon the recommendation of the Inspector. As a con- sequence many an injustice is done.
– With all deference, I think the honorable member ought to have quoted me fully in both cases.
– Will the honor- . able gentleman tell me what I have left out?
– Yes. I said, “Appeal Boards” are purely administrative Boards governed by principles underlying classification.” The honorable member stopped there, but I went on to say, “ rather than by strictly legal points.”
– Exactly. I told the honorable gentleman that our Boards of Appeal should not be bound by legal technicalities. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act and all other arbitration laws lay it down that the Court, in dealing with any dispute, shall not be bound by legal technicalities, but shall be guided by the merits of a case alone. The Minister says that these Boards are governed - honorable members will mark the words - by principles underlying classification, and that they are purely administrative. That means that no matter what injustice has been done the members of an Appeal Board, if they think that an officer has not been properly treated, must ask themselves “ What will be the effect upon the whole of the service or upon classification in the service if we come to such-and-such a decision?” We have departures from classification at the present time. Why should these departures be “limited to officers called upon to perform duties in outlying places like Eucla or Kalgoorlie, where living is expensive? Why should not an Appeal Board be sufficiently untrammelled to say that, in their opinion, the duties performed by a certain officer should be more highly remunerated, or that a certain officer is better fitted to carry out the responsible duties of a certain position than a junior officer?
– Will the honorable member complete the other quotation that he made from mv speech ?
– . The honorable gentleman said -
The Board of Appeal must inquire into the merits of other officers.
– That is where the honorable member stopped, but I added the words “ who may be affected.”
– That is fair ; that is what they should do.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh did not complete the quotation.
– It was scarcelynecessary that I should do so. If that were the procedure adopted it would, no doubt, be fair. But do the Boards of Appeal do anything of the kind? Instead of inquiring into the merits of other officers an appeal is refused, and a reply sent back that no appeal lies. I have taken good care to fairly quote what the Minister has said. I have so far failed to elicit from the honorable gentleman by whose authority any officer is empowered to say that no appeal lies, when under section 50 of the Public Service Act we provide that an appeal shall lie.
– Section 50 provides for certain limited appeals only.
– It gives no power whatever to any officer to say that he shall refuse to hear an appeal whilst it gives power- to appeal to all officers who feel that any injustice has been done them in the matter of promotion. It reads -
Any officer (except officers of the Parliament) affected by any report or recommendation made or action taken under this Act other than a report or a recommendation made or action taken under section .thirty-one, forty-six to forty-nine inclusive, sixty-five, sixty-six, and seventy-three thereof - which deal with matters other than promotion - may in such manner and in such time as may be prescribed appeal to a Board consisting of an inspector, the chief officer of the Department to which such officer belongs or an officer nominated by such chief officer and the representative of the division to which such officer belongs elected under the regulations by the officers of the division to which such officer belongs in the State in which that officer performs his duties. The Board shall hear such appeal and transmit the evidence taken together with a recommendation thereon to the Commissioner who shall thereupon determine such appeal. Providing that in the case of reports of recommendation made by the Commissioner to the Governor-General, all such ap. peals must be taken before the report and recommendations are dealt with by the GovernorGeneral under the provisions of this Act -
Will the Minister tell me to what section of the Act I must turn to discover where power is given to the Public Service Commissioner to say that no appeal lies?
– To the section the honorable member has just quoted - other than a report or recommendation made or action taken under section thirty-one, forty-six to forty-nine inclusive, sixty-five, sixty-six, and seventy-three thereof
All those are specially exempted.
– But the Minister knows well that not one of those sections applies to promotions or retirements from the service. They deal with dismissals, with officers whose estates have been sequestrated, or who have been found guilty of offences. There is nothing “in the Act which gives the Public Service Commissioner or any other officer the power to say that no appeal lies in the matters with which I am dealing, whilst the Act distinctly says that any officer may appeal to a Board, and it provides what the Board shall do after evidence has been taken in an inquiry.
– Of what use is it for an officer to appeal when some one else has been appointed to the position, and the Commissioner tells him, “ It” cannot be helped “?
– Under the Act’as it stands, it is of no use at all, but under the amendment proposed by the honorable member for West Sydney, an officer would have some chance of securing fair play.
– We ought to insist “that all proposed appointments shall be gazetted before they are made.
– The Minister said that the chief officer of a Department, or the elected representative of a Division, might be biased. He did not say that they would be.
– I said that in reply to an interjection by the honorable member for West Sydney.
– That does not matter; the Minister made the admission that the chief officer of a Department and the elected representative of a Division on the Board of Appeal might be biased. But, presuming that that is so, what is done under existing conditions is to call in another officer of the Public Service, who is sure to be biased, to decide between the two officers who might be biased. The Minister must admit that when a case comes before him the Public Service Inspector must give judgment in such a way as will insure uniformity in the service.
– The present Appeal Board is undoubtedly unfairly constituted.
– There can be no doubt about that. The Public Service Inspector is under the instructions of the Public Service Commissioner. I am. not saying that the Public Service Commissioner would do what he knows to be unfair. I believe that he does what he believes to be in the best interests of the community. But the view which he takes of any matter may not be the view which others would take of it.
– He is more or less bound to uphold the opinion of his subordinates.
– Yes. The Minister admits that. The Public Service Inspector is an officer who, on account of the position he holds, and the view he is expected to take, must be prejudiced. The Minister says that the proposal of the honorable member for West Sydney would place the Commonwealth service in the hands- of a State officer, and that that is something which has not been done before. But what objection is there to placing the public servant’s under the judgment of a State-officer? Either we “trust the Court.” or we do not.
– Why not call them “ employes,” not “servants”? I do not like the word “ servants.”
– I do not take exception to the word “servants.” I did not object when the right honorable member for East Sydney spoke of the officers as “hands.” I do not think that he meant to use an offensive term. The word “servants” is not offensive. All that is asked by the honorable member for West Sydney to be done is precisely what we have to do under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. ‘ The Judge of the Arbitration Court delegates his powers to a State magistrate. Surely, if we do that in a matter affecting the whole of the industries of the Commonwealth, we can do it in a smaller matter. Moreover, the power intrusted to a magistrate under the Arbitration Act is such as the Judge chooses to delegate. He can delegate the whole of his powers, and leave the magistrate to exercise them, subject to review. In this case, all that the State official would do would be to hear the evidence. If it is considered that the power will be unfairly exercised, I am prepared to substitute a layman for the Judge. The Minister said that a Judge would have no knowledge of the principles which guided the Commissioner and the Inspectors in coming to a decision. That means that, in the Minister’s opinion, a Judge could not take an unprejudiced view of the situations. It is also an admission that the Public Service Commissioner and his Inspectors never take an unprejudiced view. It is said that there are certain principles which guide the Commissioner and his Inspectors, and the Minister’s objection to the Bill is that a Judge would not take the same view. But I point out that the Judge would simply sit, hear the evidence, and adjudicate upon the facts. He would not require to have a knowledge of the service, any more than the Judge of the Arbitration Court possesses a knowledge of the many ramifications of industry coming under his review. In the same way, the Judge, hearing appeals under the Public Service Act, would obtain whatever technical knowledge he required from the officers of the Department. If the head of the Department placed the case unfairly before him, the representative of the employes would point out the discrepancies in the evidence tendered; and if the Judge, was. not satisfied, there would be nothing to prevent his calling other witnesses, and making sure that he ascertained the true facts of the case. I am certain that the Minister must be convinced that a fair thing is not being done to the employes at present. As Chairman of the Postal Commission, he must know that the service is seething with dissatisfaction. Anything that can be done to remove that discontent, if only temporarily, and as an experiment, will be to the advantage of the service. I am sure that the members of the service would cheerfully submit to any effort that was honestly made to better the system. I believe that it is the desire of the Government to have not only an efficient service, but one which we can show to the whole world as being a service, the members of which are well paid and properly treated, whilst their grievances have only to be stated to te remedied, if they are genuine. If those conditions were brought about, I am certain we should very rapidly have a better state of things than exists to-day.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh has delivered what I believe to be a very good speech on this question. I have on previous occasions heard him make remarks as to the injustice done to officers of the service. I have also listened to a very spirited address from the honorable member for Melbourne Ports on the same subject. It will be admitted that the Public Service is a difficult one for the Commissioner to manage. A more conscientious man for the post we could not have. That he fails to give satisfaction to everyone is only what we might expect. But it is my conviction that he does his very best to do justice all round, and to promote the true interests of the service. Where so many hundreds of thousands of pounds are spent we should be very slow indeed to recommend a change in management. But the change that is now recommended is not a radical one, and it is not made because the Commissioner’s work has not been appreciated. I believe it is a change that would make a success of a service that at the present time unfortunately is regarded as anything but successful.
– The Commissioner’s view is that the change would have a reverse effect.
– No doubt the Commissioner does not want an alteration made in the Act while he is at the head of the service ; but I believe that if he occupied a seat in this House a similar proposal would be made by himself. We cannot expect the Commissioner to say that he has not given satisfaction to the service. Any honorable member who looks through the voluminous report that the Commissioner has presented to Parliament will realize how many are the difficulties with which he has had to- grapple. We also learn from his report that he has been approached by Ministers in the making of appointments of which he did not approve.
– Appointments have been made in defiance of the Commissioner’s recommendation.
– Yes. One Minister in particular persisted in his recommendations, and almost made himself offensive to the Commissioner in pressing the appointment of officers - as for instance, in pressing the appointment of an officer of the Post Office to be Assistant Secretary to the Department with a view of making him Secretary in the future. These are interferences with the work of the Commissioner that have occurred quite recently. I know of a great number of cases where appointments have been ‘made upon the recommendation of Ministers - recommendations that juniors should be promoted over the heads of seniors who have served a long time. It was a feature of the Public Service Act that was thought to be an improvement upon the old system that merit was to have consideration over long service. But if that principle is to be enforced generally, I can see that it will conduce to a state of affairs as corrupt as was the,old system. The head of the Department, having recommended a junior for an appointment as being a more efficient officer than certain seniors, the effect can only be to cause dissatisfaction to men who have, perhaps, been in the service for a very much longer period. Some time ago I brought under the notice of the House a case in Sydney, which was a public scandal. It has not been remedied. I know of other cases where officers have been twenty and twenty-five years in the service and comparatively junior officers have been put over, their heads at higher remuneration. These are great hardships. The tendency on the part of honorable members iS. I think, in the direction of putting the service under a responsible Minister. But by so doing, we should simply have made political appointments similar to those which were formerly made. That would simply be going from bad to worse. At present an officer can appeal against the appointment of a person over his head. An officer in another State can appeal against the appointment of an officer, say, in Victoria, to a position for which he thinks he is qualified. I think that is a good system. The expense of hearing a case of the kind is a mere bagatelle in comparison to the injury done to the service if another officer is wronged, and has no right of appeal. I cannot imagine what the Minister is thinking of in objecting to such an alteration of the present system as is now proposed. At the present time Ministers exercise a great deal of influence. When 1 first became a member of Parliament I received a number of letters asking me to use my influence with the Minister. I understood that a member of Parliament had not a right to be heard in such matters. I mentioned this opinion to the head of one of the Departments, and he said to me, “ Oh, you are mistaken ; on this very matter we have already had halfadozen gentlemen here using their influence.”
– Probably that was before the Public Service Commissioner was appointed.
– It was. 1 have never been to the Public Service Commissioner since he was appointed, nor have I been to the head of any Department to promote the interests of any officer of the service.
– The honorable member does not understand how to do it. Honorable members opposite know how these things are done.
– I frequently do this : If an officer has a case and states it to me, I send on his letter without comment. I believe that a public servent who writes to a member of Parliament concerning his position in the service is liable to a penalty under the Act. If he writes tq a member he does so at his own risk. I fail to find anything unreasonable in the proposal that a Board shall be appointed to hear appeals by public servants who consider they have been unfairly treated.
– But an appellant might be in a remote part of the country and, in such cases, these Boards might involve great cost.
– Perhaps so, but members of the service woul”d know that they would have to make out a good case, and would not rashly appeal. They would know that they must speak at once or for ever hold their peace. This Bill will give general satisfaction in the service, and, if carried, will protect the Commissioner from disagreeable insinuations of the kind that have been made in regard to him. The Public Service Commissioner is a most efficient officer. He stood high in the service in New South Wales, and, before he was selected for his present position, I do not think any one heard a public servant speak ill of him. As it is, many are dissatisfied because they imagine that they are not advanced in the service as they ought to be. That, after all, is only human nature. I believe that the Commissioner does his work fearlessly and well, but I do not think he does it so well as it would be done if he had the assistance of the proposed’ Board of three members, to deal with malcontents. Ninety-five per cent, of those who complain ought not to be in the service. The honorable member for South Melbourne said, on one occasion, that a public servant who considered he was overlooked would be justified in not doing his best.
– I did not Mv that.
– If I “have misrepresented the honorable member, I withdraw the statement. I have only to say, in conclusion, that this Bill will, in my opinion, provide a remedy for many troubles, and that I hope it will be carried.
– I fully agree with the concluding remark made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh that it is of the utmost importance that there should be contentment in the Public Service. As to the interjection made by the honorable member for Parramatta that it might be necessary under this Bill to constitute fifty Boards of Appeal, I would reply that it would be far better to have even fifty Boards .appointed to deal with the grievances of the public servants, than to have a dissatisfied arid, consequently, an inefficient service. The loss that must accrue to the Commonwealth from a service performed without that heartiness which should characterize it must be far greater than would be the cost of these Boards of Appeal. I was very much disappointed at the attitude taken up by the Government in regard to this measure. The Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs had his case in opposition to it prepared before the honorable member for West Sydney moved the second reading of the Bill. He entered the House prepared on behalf of the Cabinet to oppose it without hearing the reasons adduced in support of it by the honorable member responsible for its introduction. The Government would have been better advised had they refrained from determining what their attitude should be until the reasons given for the proposed amendment of the principal Act had been put before the House. There was, however, a little gleam of hope in the concluding remark of the Minister when, in referring to the honorable member for West Sydney, he said, “ If he can substitute a better proposition, or can advise the Government of a better constitution of Boards of Appeal than the present one, or that contained in the Bill, every consideration will be given to it.” I find that the order of leave is wide enough to permit of any amendment that may ‘be desired in respect of the Public
Service Act. If the Government object to the appointment of a State Judge as chairman of the Board, it will be open for us to so amend the Bill in Committee as to provide for the appointment of - some other authority. Like the honorable member for Hindmarsh, I am not entirely in agreement with the provisions of this Bill. To my mind, it touches only the fringe of. the reforms necessary, and might well be carried’ a good deal further. “Under the principal Act, we have what are called Boards of Inquiry, and also Appeal Boards. The Boards of Inquiry deal with, all matters of discipline, and the Appeal Boards deal with questions of promotion, and advancement in the Service. Just as strong objections can be urged against the system of Inquiry Boards to deal with questions of discipline as can be levelled against the provisions of the Act relating to Appeal Boards. I hope to be able later on to present a scheme relating to appeals generally that will be an important improvement on that which is already provided for in the Act.
– What is wrong wilh that part of the Act?
– A great deal. For instance, an officer who asks to have his case heard by a Board of Inquiry has no voice in determining the constitution of that Board.
– He can be represented by counsel.
– What advantage would he gain by being represented by counsel, if the Board itself were hostile, I do not suggest that such a Board would necessarily be hostile to the appellant. The point I wish to make is that the appellant has no voice in the selection of any of the three members of the Board. A little while ago, an officer who had been dismissed from the Service presented to me affidavits which appeared to show that he had been- unjustly retired. I asked that his case should be reopened, and, in order that I should be absolutely satisfied of the guilt or innocence of the officer concerned, I represented him at the inquiry. The facts adduced before “the Board were such as to raise in my mind a doubt as to whether he had been unfairly treated, and I am unable to say that he was. I found, however, that one of the members of the Board was an officer who. after serving for three years on the Appeal Board as the elected representative of the employes, was defeated by an overwhelm- ing majority in seeking re-election. The employes absolutely repudiated him, showing by their votes that they had no confidence in him. Nevertheless, he was selected as a member of the Board of Inquiry in the case to which I have referred. I have worked amongst public servants for many years and have been for five years the representative of 5,000 railway men, appearing week after week before Appeal Boards, but I have never heard of a more outrageous proceeding than this. It seems to me to be an outrage that a man who has forfeited the confidence of his fellow employes as a member of an Appeal Board; and who has been rejected by them on seeking re-election to that position, should be chosen as a member of a Board of Inquiry appointed to deal with the case of a man who had been dismissed from the Service.
– His fellow employes may not have lost confidence in him. Perhaps they simply had a greater liking for the other candidate.
– One could almost count on one’s fingers the number of votes that he secured when he sought re-election to the Appeal Board as the representative of the employes. That should be sufficient to show that he had lost the confidence of those whom he had previously represented.
– Perhaps his friends thought he was safe, and refrained from voting.
– Nothing of the kind. When postal employes are called upon to elect a representative on such a Board, they vote fairly well up to their full strength.
– I do not think that he gave satisfaction in the other capacity.
– He did not. Nothing tends more than does an act of that kind to destroy the confidence of the men in the Board. I do not want to be misunderstood. I do not desire any one to think that I have any complaint to make against this gentleman or that I know anything against him. Whenever I met him he acted as a gentleman, and so far as I could see he acted fairly. My complaint is not against him, but against a system which permits a man who has just been defeated as the employes’ representative on the Board of Appeal to be selected as the departmental representative on a Board of Inquiry.
– Surely the honorable member does not wish the men to pick the representative on each side !
– If the honorable member cannot understand the injustice I complain of, I do not think that it is worth while for me to labour the matter.
– But the honorable member is assuming he had been unjust.
– He had lost the confidence of the men who previously had elected him to the Appeal Board and nothing could more effectually destroy their confidence than for the Commissioner to select him as the departmental representative.
– Perhaps he had given cases against them.
– A man may get soured after he is defeated at an election. I am not urging anything against the man. I do not know anything against him. So far as I know, he is a very fair man.
– Well, what is the matter ?
– I am not speaking of the man personally. I now come to another matter. The Parliament deliberately enacted section 50 of the Act, which gives the right of appeal to the officers of the Department, and which says -
Any officer (except officers of the Parliament) affected by any report or recommendation made or action taken under this Act other than a report or recommendation made or action taken under sections 31, 46 to 49, inclusive, 65, 66, and 73 thereof may.
Those sections do not apply to advancement in the service. Section 31 enables a special appointment to be made by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Public Service Commissioner. Sections 46 to 49 refer to matters of discipline and offences which are dealt with by a Board of Inquiry. Section 65 relates to questions of incompetency and provides for a reference to a Board of Inquiry. Section 66 deals with acts of bankruptcy on the part of officers, while section 73 relates to the retirement of officers at the age of sixty years. Those are the provisions of the Act which are exempted from the operation of section 50 ; but otherwise that section says that in all cases any officer, except an officer of the Parliament, shall have the right of appeal to an Appeal Board. For the last eighteen months in New South Wales, although there have been hundreds of grievances under section 50, the Commissioner has prevented every one of those cases from being referred to the Appeal Board.
– How did he manage that?
– I will show the honorable member how the thing is worked. Section 50 concludes with this provision -
Provided that in the case of reports or recommendations made by the Commissioner to the Governor-General all such appeals must be taken before the reports and recommendations are dealt with by the Governor-General under “the provisions of this Act.
Before the officers of the Department can obtain any information a matter is dealt with by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Commissioner, and the decision is gazetted, and then an officer is told that no appeal lies against that act.
– That section acts as a prohibition.
– Exactly. The latter part of the section was never intended to be used to prevent officers from appealing as provided in the first part of the section.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Government uphold that sort of thing?
– When it is pointed out to them they take no action, so that they must uphold it. It is a scandal that the Commissioner should be allowed to act in that way while, this section of the Act gives the right of appeal to the officers of the Departments. It is a scandal that when officers think that they are unjustlytreated, a technical method is found to prevent them from exercising the right which Parliament deliberately extended to them. I hope that the Minister will deal with that point when he is replying.
– I have no right of reply.
– It is very lamentable that the Minister spoke immediately after tha second reading of the Bill was moved.
– There is no reason why another Minister should not speak.
– Exactly. As I have much more to say concerning the administration of the Public Service, sir, I ask leave to continue my speech on a future occasion.
Leave granted : debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 14th October (vide page 1 181.) on motion by Sir William Lyne -
That the item “ The President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
– It certainly seems as if there is not much interest taken in this question.
– I think that we ought to have a quorum present. [Quorum formed.”]
– I am glad that we have got back to practical business after the preliminary skirmish which has been indulged in.
– After the honorable member’s silence.
– If the honorable member for Wentworth were always as free to voice his opinions as I am, he would occupy an exceedingly pleasant position. It was by my own choice that I remained silent during the recent no-confidence debate, and I can make that statement with the greater satisfaction, because, in my opinion, good service was rendered to the people of this country by the members of the Labour Party maintaining a policy of silence.
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the matter under consideration ?
– With all due respect to the Chair, I say that the imputation which the honorable member for Wentworth sought to convey must be refuted. I think that every honorable member will rejoice in the general prosperity of the Commonwealth, as disclosed in the Treasurer’s Budget. We are all exceedingly gratified to learn that the country has made substantial advance, both so far as its natural products- and its secondary industries are concerned. I believe that by careful administration on the part of the Commonwealth and the States Governments much can be done to insure a continuance of that prosperity. But if there is one thing more than another which members of the Labour Party desire, it is that in seasons of abundant prosperity the lot of the toilers shall be materially improved. Notwithstanding that the States Treasurers, in common with the Federal Treasurer, haVe stated in their Budgets that during the past few years the revenue has “been exceedingly buoyant, we hear, from day to day, the old cry that a number of honest, upright, respectable citizens experience the greatest difficulty in getting an opportunity to earn their bread.
– Does not the honorable member think that that will always be the case?
– T do not. If it were beyond human wit to solve this difficulty it would be an argument in favour of the abolition of responsible government. It is true that there may be persons who cannot reasonably hope to secure employment, but the time has certainly arrived when the Governments of this country, without undertaking too much in the nature of parental guidance, should pursue a policy which will afford everybody an opportunity to earn a livelihood. It is the duty of our Governments to provide every person who desires to pursue a lawful occupation with an opportunity to do so.
– Does not that opportunity exist ?
– No. Apart from land monopoly, which admittedly exists, industrial monopolies are displacing, and will continue to displace, labour.
– Without saying that there is nothing wrong in the existing condition of affairs, does tha honorable member really think that things are worse now than they have been?
– I hope not. My reply to that very pertinent question is that if. during years of prosperity, things were worse than they have been, it would be a charge against us which ought to lead to our dismissal. It would be an argument in favour of the entire abolition of Governments.
– The honorable member misses my point.
– If we can remedy the position, why not provide those who are unemployed with work?
– What I think would prove a partial remedy is-
– I think that Socialism is most popular in this country. The Treasurer himself has, I think’, raised that question, because in his Budget he said that we now possessed a Commonwealth trawler which had’ been built in a socialistic dockyard, and which had been constructed cheaper and better than it could have been constructed by private enterprise. I am confirmed in my belief that
Socialism has come to stay by reference to a memorable correspondence which passed between the leader of the Opposition and another gentleman occupying a seat in this House. .
– Order. I must point out to the honorable member that the financial question is under consideration, and not the question of Socialism.
– With all due respect, I say that if upon a question of this kind I cannot discuss an aspect of political differences, I shall not debate the item at all. I make no reflection upon the Chair, but if my remarks are to be limited in the way that your ruling suggests, it will be impossible for me to say what I desire to say.
– I would point out that we are now dealing with the finances of the Commonwealth. If the honorable member is going to enter into a general discussion upon Socialism, he must see that he wi]l get right off the financial question.
– Upon a point of order, I desire to know whether it has_not been the practice to allow the debate on the first item of the Estimates to cover the whole range of governmental policy, and whatever may be involved in it? If that practice is departed from, we shall not be afforded an opportunity to discuss the policy which is involved in the financial proposals. It seems to me that your ruling will restrict debate in a way in which it has not hitherto been restricted.
– The widest latitude is given to honorable members in discussing all matters embraced in the policy of the Government as disclosed in the Budget.
– 1 do not wish to ComE into conflict with your ruling, but my own view is that under it we shall have no more right to discuss the Government policy than we have to debate the socialistic basis of that policy. In other words, my remarks must be limited to the question of whether the Treasurer has spent sixpence too much in one direction, or sixpence too little in another, and whether in so doing he has exhibited teo socialistic or too individualistic a tendency. But I now wish to deal with a more important matter.
– More important?”
– I would point out that if honorable members will continually interject, it will be impossible for the honorable member for Wide Bay to continue his speech. I must therefore ask honorable members to refrain from interjecting.
– I rise to a point of order - in fact, I wish to dissent from your ruling. That ruling is so important that I do not think it ought to be allowed to pass unchallenged. I hand in my motion of dissent.
– The honorable member for Parramatta moves to dissent from my ruling in the following terms -
I move to disagree with Mr. McDonald’s ruling to the effect that the questions of Socialism and unemployment may not be discussed in a general Budget debate.
I must point out to the honorable member that I did not prevent the honorable member for Wide Bay from discussing the unemployed question. What I say - and I wish to impress this upon the Committee - is that, first of all, when the House met, a motion was submitted for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, and on that motion the whole policy and administration of the Government were open to discussion, but that when the House goes into Committee of Supply, and the Budget has been delivered, it is then open for any honorable member to discuss any question that may arise regarding the Government and their administration so far as the finances are concerned.
– Are we confined to the discussion of finance only ?
– Well, the general policy of the Government. What led up to my ruling was this : The honorable member for Wentworth interjected, when the honorable member for Wide Bay was speaking, some remark about Socialism, which is a broad question without any very definite limits, and the honorable member for Wide Bay began an academic discussion of a matter that seemed to be quite foreign to the Treasurer’s financial statement. In those circumstances I asked the honorable member to connect his speech in some way with the matter before the Committee. I did not, and do not, desire to restrict legitimate discussion, but there must be a rule to confine honorable members in some measure to the subject before the Chair.
– I have no wish to press the matter further than to say that your statement, sir, clears the ground very much. As I understood it, the honorable member for Wide Bay was proceeding to refer to the construction of a trawler, which is provided for in the Estimates. It occurred to me that that was a matter we might legitimately discuss. I venture to. submit with the greatest deference that the whole question of private versus Government employment, and that, broadly, is Socialism, may be, perhaps, more properly than any other question discussed in connexion with the Estimates.
– I - It is the basis of finance.
– Is the honorable member dealing with the point of order?
– I am dealing with the motion which I have handed in. As a matter of fact, we are engagednow in the consideration of Estimates–
– I rise to order. Do not the Standing Orders provide that, ifyour ruling is to be questioned, action must be taken at once? In this case the honorable member for Parramatta did not raise the point until after the honorable member for Wide Bay had resumed his speech.
– I withdraw the whole objection. It is not worth continuing the discussion, particularly now that the point is made clear.
– My wish was to discuss a most important subject thatis interesting people in every part of the world, and receiving the attention, not only of those who are looking after our material welfare in this world, but of those who are concerned with our welfare when we are no longer here. It is a subject of interest to the most learned men in the world, to the leaders of advanced thought, and also to the man in the street, but it will be quite sufficient for me to discuss our own little attempts at concerted social action by drawing clear attention to a matter that was discussed in this Parliament earlier, and in regard to which I regret that our best efforts to assist the employes engaged in certain industries in Australia have not been successful. I refer to our endeavour in1906 to discover a method whereby we could assure to the employes in those industries the receipt of fair and reasonable remuneration for their labour. No honorable member of this House, and no honest member of the community, can feel anything but the deepest regret at the failure of our attempt to assure to the employes in the harvester and other industries the remuneration that a Judge of the Arbitration Court considered that they were entitled to.
– Protection was going to secure that before, so you always told us.
– Protection never did so.
– You always said it did - by “ you,” I do not mean the honorable member individually.
– The honorable member is entirely in error. He knows that I never said that protection could assure to the workmen fair and reasonable conditions of labour. I have never been so foolish as to believe that it would, and that is why the Labour Party, from the beginning, declared that protection was not a solution of this social problem. That is why the one party that came to this Parliament with no definite fiscal policy to provide a cure, asserted that neither free-trade nor protection would protect the worker, and put forward the new policy that wherever protection is given to the employer, It shall be accompanied by assured protection to the employe.
– And what about the consuming public?
– The consuming public will have a share of the benefit. As an illustration, let me refer the honorable member for Illawarra to the Newport workshops, which are a State socialistic institution. I am glad the honorable member for Flinders is present, for he can confirm what I say. The evidence given before two select Committees and one Royal Commission in Victoria, showed that every equipment for the railway service could be produced at those workshops 21 per cent. cheaper than they could be bought from a private firm. I think the honorable member for Flinders will agree with me there.
– I believe that locomotives are produced there as cheaply as they could be obtained elsewhere.
– The report- the second - that I read, was to the effect that there was a saving of 21 per cent. There we have a State monopoly where the workmen get better wages, the apprentices are better paid, the conditions of labour are better than those offered by outsidefirms, and yet an article can be turned out there for the rest of the people - the consumers -at a cheaper rate than is charged by private enterprise. Why, if the workmen have improved conditions in every way, and the consumer gets the article cheaper, should we be afraid to give that advantage to the people? Why should we fear to take steps to provide better conditions of employment and at the same time a cheaper article for the general public?
Even taking the statement of the honorable member for Flinders, that the article is produced at as low a price as that at which it can be obtained elsewhere–
– The same thing now applies in the case of the Sydney railway workshops.
– It applies all round, but I shall not confine myself even to those illustrations to prove the fact. The employers approached the Government in 1906, and said, “ Give us a monopoly of the production of a particular article, and we assure you that we will pay better wages to the workmen and give goods of the same quality to the consumers at cheaper rates than they are paying now.”
– That was proved to be all humbug.
– That was their sworn evidence before the Commission, of which the honorable gentleman was a member. If we cannot accept their sworn statements, we must brand them all as liars. There is no half-way term to describe men who will swear again and again in crossexamination that they can and will do certain things, and give details showing why they can do them, and then fail to keep their word. If they are swearing falsely no credence can be given to them at all.
– The honorable member knows that they have not done what they promised.
– The fact that they have not done it is no proof that they cannot do it. We have found to our cost that the very desire of this Parliament to assist those manufacturers has permitted them to use the most contemptible means to deprive, the workmen of their just rights. They came pleading to the Government for assistance, saying, “ If you do not give us protection from capitalistic competition from abroad our industries will be destroyed.” I am not here to challenge that statement, for I believe there was a. good deal of truth in it. They said, “It is not we alone that will suffer, for our workmen will suffer also if our industries are destroyed.” The Government therefore submitted their statement to Parliament, and Parliament agreed to give protection to the McKay Harvester Company and all the others engaged in similar industries. All that they asked for was given, and all that we asked in return was that the workmen should be paid the wages and granted the conditions to be prescribed by a Judge sitting in an Arbitration Court. We imposed also a condition that the consumer was to be protected by the machines being sold at a price lower than that then existing.
– Has that been done?
– I understand that that question is in dispute. But as regards the contract with the employes, there is no attempt to keep the promise. Why? Because we have not the power to enforce it. This shows clearly that commercialism has no conscience whatever.
– As a matter of fact, honorable members opposite believed for twelve months that they had the power, and yet did nothing.
– A great authority has said that for 300 per cent. commercial people would commit murder. This case has almost proved it. It was no mean authority that made that statement. I do not go so far as to say that it is true; but what description can we apply to a firm or body who would get all the protection that they wanted against capitalists abroad, and then say to the men who had only a few shillings, or perhaps a week’s rations, between them and starvation,” I decline to give you any protection at all ; I am protected from my capitalistic competitors, and you can fight for the merest pittance ; I do not want you ; fight with your fellow man for this job?”
– One of the theories of the protectionists is that protection cheapens goods, and so brings down prices.
– If I feel warmly about this matter, it is because I think a great injustice has been done. I admit at once that it was with the desire to save the manufacturers that we enabled them to get off so lightly. We could, in my opinion - speaking as a layman - have imposed Excise duties, and paid the money back in the shape of a bounty to those manufacturers who paid fair and reasonable wages, and our Constitution would have enabled us to enforce the law. But we did not desire that manufacturers should have their capital tied up, and we therefore left the legal position weak so that employers were able to take advantage of it. I wish to say again to the Government, as regards the agricultural implement makers of Victoria, that it is only due to them that they should be re imbursed their expenses. They were doing the Federal Government’s work in fighting this case. While I lay down no general principle, I do think that we ought at least to recompense the union for their expenditure.
– The honorable member is only firing off a little blunderbuss.
– I hope that the honorable member who interjects is not above taking notice of the concerns of the employes of this country.
– I am not.
– It is not a subject for jest.
– No; it is a subject for action.
– I must again appeal to honorable members to cease interjecting.
– I intend to put the whole case into Hansard, if I have to take a long time to do it.
– The honorable member is loose to-day.
– No one knows better than the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that he was loose yesterday if he wanted to be.
– We are generally loose when we want to be.
– In my opinion we have a new charter regarding the remuneration of the employes of this country. Hitherto the idea has been that the employe was only to be paid what he could get in the scramble for work in the open competitive market.
– Wages boards have been in existence for some time.
– They have their value.
– And there are Arbitration Courts.
– Arbitration Courts prior to the establishment of the Commonwealth Court had their severe limitations. But we now have a decision’ from Mr. Justice Higgins which places the position of the workman on a different footing. He has laid down the basis of the reward that is to be paid to employes engaged. in an industry of this kind. It is not, with Mr. Justice Higgins, a question of whether the industry can pay a certain wage or not. He has laid it down, absolutely irrespective of whether the industry will be a paying one or not, that the workmen are to receive certain rates of wages. He has enunciated that principle in words that will live and that are logical. Mr. Justice Higgins used this language -
The provision for fair and reasonable remuneration is obviously designed for the benefit of the employes in the industry ; and it must be meant to secure to them something which they cannot get by the ordinary system of individual bargaining with employers. If Parliament meant that the conditions shall be such as they can get by individual bargaining - if it meant that those conditions are to be fair and reasonable, which employes will accept and employers will give, in contracts of service - there would have been no need for this provision. The remuneration could safely have been left to the usual, but unequal, contest, the “ higgling of the market “ for labour, with the pressure for bread on one side and the pressure for profits on the other. The standard of “ fair and reasonable “ must therefore be something else; and I cannot think of any other standard appropriate than the normal needs of the average employe, regarded as a human being living in a civilized community.
– What are the “ normal needs “ of any individual at any time?
– I shall answer that question by reading the schedule -
The following conditions as to remuneration of labour are declared to be fair and reasonable, for the purposes of the Excise Tariff 1906, for persons employed on time-work in the manufactures referred to in the Act, if (except as provided in Part IX. with regard to lorrydrivers and carters) their hours of work do not exceed eight hours per day or 83/4 hours on five days in the week and 41/4 on the sixth day, or if (except as aforesaid) there be some other similar distribution of hours adopted for the purpose of securing a weekly half-holiday on the basis of an eight hours day.
The Standard remains until altered.
– I do not complain at the honorable member for Dalley saying that the rates are too low. I echo his remark.
– The unions themselves secure better wages than those.
– I believe that the honorable member will be found voting with us in our efforts to improve the condition of the workman.
– Hear, hear.
– But that is not the question that we are now discussing. The contention has been that the rates are too high. The Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Bill was resisted by the great body of the Opposition.
– That is not correct.
– The schedule proceeds -
Part VI. - Boys (not apprenticed) -
Part VII. - Young Journeymen -
Rate : not less than two-thirds of the minimum prescribed for journeymen.
Rate : not less for the first year than fiveeighths and for the second than threefourths of the minimum prescribed for journeymen.
Part VIII.- Exception to Parts I. to VII.-
Any old slow or infirm worker licensed to work at a lower rate(a) by the Registrar of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration or (i) under section 99 of the Factories and Shops Act 1905 (No. 2) of Victoria (or any substitution therefor), if the licence be approved by the said Registrar.
Part IX. - Overtime -
At the rate of time and a quarter for two hours, time and a half for the next two hours, and double time afterwards.
Double time on Sundays and Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Good Friday, and Eight Hours Day.
Overtime to be reckoned separately for each day from the usual time for beginning or ceasing work, and without regard to any time off on other days.
Part X. - Definitions.
The time expended by lorry-drivers and carters before or after the usual time for beginning or ceasing work, in feedingand attending totheir horses is not to be regarded as overtime. “Journeyman” means any person doing any of the work of an artisan as an employe, not being an apprentice or a young journeyman. “ Apprentice” means (a) any person under 21 years bound by indenture for a term of years (not less than five or more than seven) to learn the trade of an artisan; (6) any person who, on the 1st November, 1907, was bound as an apprentice by indenture for a term, and who has attained or will attain the age of 21 years before the expiry of his term ; (c) any person under 25 years who, on the 1st November, 1907, was learning any trade as an unbound apprentice, and who has not had in the whole more than five years experience in the trade, and who becomes forthwith a bound apprentice for the balance of the five years. “ Young journeyman “ means - class (a) any person who has served his time as apprentice, and who has not had more than one year’s subsequent experience. Class (i) (for a period of two years only from the first of November, 1907). Any person under 25 and not being an apprentice who on that date was doing any of the work of an artisan in the manufacture of any of the articles referred to in the schedule to the Excise Tariff 1906.
– May I ask the honorable member why the “ normal needs “ of a furnaceman should be less than the “normal needs” of a fitter?
– I presume that Mr. Justice Higgins would reply - though I should be sorry to have anything that I say taken as the expression of his opinion - that a man engaged in an occupation requiring particular skill might need to be better equipped, might have to buy instruments and to purchase books, like the honorable member himself. He might also have to spend money in order to keep himself up-to-date in his trade, and thoroughly capable of earning his living.
– Is there anything in Mr. Justice Higgins judgment which suggests that any of those considerations are taken into account in his estimate of “ normal needs “ ?
– That question was not suggested to Mr. Justice Higgins; but in the course of the evidence given it was pointed out that a skilled artisan might have to undergo an apprenticeship of five or six years. During that time his parents would have to draw on their capital, or might have to borrow money to enable him to acquire the special skill “needful in his. trade. Consequently such an artisan should be remunerated according to a scale that would enable him to pay for the time so occupied. The honorable member belongs to a profession the members of which will tell you that for five or six years, a lawyer’s period of training, papa had to keep him at the University and to equip him for his profession; and that therefore he should be entitled to charge such fees as would make up for the time and expenditure so applied.
– That is a good reason for paying more; but what has that to do with the normal needs, when the man is in that position ?
– There are minimum normal needs, to begin with, which must be supplied to enable a man in the profession to live as he ought to live in a civilized community. If the honorable member for Flinders objects to that view, or takes exception to it, then let professional men live down to the same standard’ as the ordinary workmen.
– Do not misunderstand me; I am not objecting to the view that normal needs should be supplied. What I take exception to is that the reasons on which the conclusion appears to be based have no relation to the actual facts.
– That is a question of evidence which might well be argued before the High Court. I come back to the point that this is the first occasion on which such a judgment has been given. Wages Boards all declare that this trade or that shall pay certain wages, and the judgment of the High Court is that there are normal needs of a person living in a civilized community, and that, if an industry cannot pay sufficient to satisfy those needs, it is an industry that should have no existence in Australia. That is also the position I take up. We have a country here abounding in wealth production, and each Treasurer sends financial statements all over the world directing attention to the prosperity of the Commonweath, which has the highest production per head of any country on the face of the earth, and inviting people to come here. At the same time, however, workers are paid a mere pittance in certain industries. I should like here to again call attention to the treatment that was meted out to a lady who was called into the witness box the other day. to account for the pittance she earned in a protected industry. One of the barristers engaged in the case asked the witness what she paid for the jacket she was wearing. Could anything be more mean and contemptible? Any man who would stand by and hear such a question asked without indignant protest, would tolerate anything. I should have made no comment had this been an ordinary case of an offence; but this lady was called to give technical evidence as to what she did with the few shillings she earned by her labour. However, when she was asked what she had paid forthe jacket she wore, her replywas that she had not paid anything for it, because she had borrowed it from a friend, in order that she might appear in Court. Is there not a good deal of badgering of witnesses, especially of poor people, who are timid, to prevent the truth being brought out fairly and justly ? Our Courts, are, perhaps, the best and most impartial in the world; but a great number of people, especially the honest poor, hesitate to go near the Courts from fear. As to arbitration cases, I have no doubt that our High Court Judges will see that every one concerned is properly protected.
– The High Court Judges are no better than some of the other Judges.
– All I say is that the High Court will see that witnesses are properly protected. I desire once more to make it clear that the witness to whom 1 have referred was not charged with an offence, but went there to show how she spent the few shillings a week that she received in wages ; and it was no doubt with a view to showing that she was amply paid that such questions as I have indicated were asked. There is no other opportunity but this, that I can see, or making a few remarks publicly on a question of the kind; and I make them although this is the national, and not a State Parliament.
– What a satire this is on the protectionist policy. !
– I have been in London and Glasgow ; I was in Sydney in 1894, when free-trade was predominant, and I saw there worse conditions than I have observed in any other part of the world.
– Protection has not improved those conditions elsewhere.
– Then all the worse for protection. But surely the honorable member does not say that free-trade can be buttressed up by such an argument as that. We cannot rely on either policy.
– I say that protection is no cure.
– At the time I mention, I went through all the institutions provided in Sydney for those in dire distress ; and the honorable member’s interjection only proves my contention that protection in itself is insufficient ; in other words, we cannot rely on either protection or free-trade to cure such evils. We must, therefore, provide by law some security for the worker, call that security by whatever name we like - Socialism, Collectivism, Lyneism, Deakinism, Reidism, or what we may.
– Has the honorable member abandonedthe “objective?”
– There is an official publication which can be bought for fourpence by the hundred, and in which the honorable member will get all the information he desires. I am a little sorry that I cannot review a recent correspondence, in which the word “extreme” occurs - in which we are told that “extreme” Socialism is bad, but that Socialism not extreme is all right. The leader of the honorable member for Robertson has stated that he and his party are against only “extreme” Socialism, and a similar position has been taken up by the right honorable member for Swan.
– If the Labour Party has no “objective,” they are not Socialists.
– We shall have to be very careful, or we may be dragged at the coat-tails ofthe honorable member for Robertson, if he finds an “objective” of his own. My own opinion is that the employes should be recouped a fair amount of the expense they were put to in fighting the policy of the Government, Parliament, and the country.
– I think so, too; the Government ought, for shame’s sake, to pay them !
– I do not want to say that. I shall, however, be delighted if we can, by legislative means, compel those employers who have benefited by their own perfidy to do justice. My real difficulty is that some of the producers of agricultural machinery have paid up to the last farthing according to the award of Mr. Justice Higgins.
– And so the honorable member would allow the big manufacturer to go scot free.
– According to British ideas of justice, if there is one guilty man in a crowd, we ought not to shoot the crowd down in order to reach him ; even if there be ten guilty men, and only one innocent man in the crowd, we ought not, unless all other means have been exhausted, to shoot that innocent man with the guilty. For that reason I am not prepared to remove the duty, and thus penalize the honest man. Why should I, while the people can give this Parliament power to single out the unworthy for penalty and the honest for reward?
– What about the 300 per cent. ?
– It has been stated by a great authority that for 300 per cent. commercial people would commit murder.
– Who is the great authority ?
– Karl Marx. That leads me to say that I was glad to hear it stated from the Opposition that they were more in favour of this Act than we were when it was passed.
– Who says that?
– The honorable member for Parramatta?
– Certainly not.
– The honorable member for Lang also said that the Opposition were as much in favour of the legislation as we were.
– I never said anything about that.
– Then I ask the honorable member whether the Opposition are in favour of the principle of the new protection ?
– I am.
– That is a credit to the honorable member for Dalley.
– Then, of course, for the sake of the honorable member for Dalley, the leader of the Labour Party will not shoot us all over here?
– Certainly not ; but I am greatly mistaken if the whole tenor of the speeches from the Opposition was not that honorable members opposite were as anxious as we are to give fair conditions to the workmen.
– New protection will not do that.
– All I desire to say is that the Government have an idea of presenting an opportunity to honorable members to empower Parliament to compel employers to pay reasonable wages.
– Do not forget that the leader of the Opposition expressed himself in favour of the new protection.
– Immediately the High Court decided that the Act was unconstitutional, the leader of the Opposition stated, in a press interview, that he was entirely in favour of amending the Constitution, so as to insure that a law of the kind could be given effect to. I quotedthe right honorable gentleman’s statement when interviewed myself. I was in Queensland at the time, and I congratulated the country on the fact that the matter was now assured, since the Government, the Labour Party, and the leader of the Opposition, were all in favour of an appeal to the country to grant larger powers of industrial legislation to this Parliament. Weshould, in the circumstances, have no difficulty in obtaining the necessary power, to give effect to the views I have expressed.
– The Government have definitely promised it now, have they ?
– I have heard members of the Government promise it five or six times.
– When are we to have the referendum ?
– At the earliest possible convenient moment, I hope. We cannot have it too early for me.
– Are we to have a special referendum ?
– I have no responsibility in that matter.
– If the honorable member has no responsibility, will he tell us who has the power?
– The power rests with the Government, and they must take the necessary action. What I am most concerned about is that honorable members shall agree to make provision for a referendum enabling the people to decide this question for themselves. I hope that whatever views they may hold upon the question, they will not take any action which would debar the people from an opportunity of saying whether they believe in the suggested amendment of the Constitution or not. I go so far in the matter as to say that even if I were opposed to an amendment of the Constitution to confer upon this Parliament larger powers in the matter of industrial legislation, I should still be prepared to have the question submitted to the people for their decision. In my opinion, it would be a serious thing to deny the people an opportunity to express their opinion on this question. I have no doubt that honorable members will exercise their rights as representatives of the people, in deciding the form which the question to be submitted at. the referendum shall take. The matter having gone so far, I trust it will be given the serious and fair consideration, which may be expected from any Parliament constituted as this Parliament is. Dealing with the defence proposals of the Government, and especially on the naval side, I wish to congratulate them upon coming round to the views submitted in 1902 by my distinguished predecessor in the position of leader of the Labour Party, the honorable member for South Sydney.
– A torpedo boat in every port.
– At the moment, I am not concerned about the kind of boats we are to obtain for our naval defence, so much as to publicly recognise the policy advocated by the honorable member for South Sydney, at a time when it was not at all popular, and was, in fact, quite out of touch with thegeneral feeling in this
House to say that Australia ought to have her own navy. The honorable member spoke as the leader of a party that declared that the Naval Subsidy was no help to Great Britain at all. That expression, of opinion was at the time considered disloyal, and it was held that the suggestion was made from disloyal motives.
– Order ! I point out to the honorable member that an amendment dealing with this very question has been moved by the honorable member for Flinders, on the motion for the second reading of the Defence Bill. In the circumstances, I ask him not to go into details, but to confine himself merely to a reference to the matter covered by the amendment to which I have referred.
– I am afraid, sir, that I must move that your ruling be disagreed to, if it really is that the amendment moved on the Defence Bill by the honorable member for Flinders debars any discussion of the proposed, expenditure on naval defence.
– I point out to the honorable member that at the present time, there is a Bill before the House dealing with the subject of defence. On the motion for the second reading of that Bill, the honorable member for Flinders moved as an amendment, that -
In the opinion of this House, the defence of Australia depending primarily upon control of the sea, it would be unwise to commit the country to any scheme of compulsory universal military service until Parliament is in a position to determine the naval policy of the Commonwealth
The honorable member for Wide Bay will see that on that amendment, it will be competent for every member of the House to deal with the question which he was proposing to discuss. In the circumstances, I ask honorable members not to anticipate the discussion upon that amendment, and to confine themselves to mere references to the subject with which it deals.
– I desire to point out that there are certain items of expenditure included in the Estimates now under consideration dealing with the question of naval defence, and the payment of certain sums of money to the Admiralty. I submit that it will be in order for any honorable member to discuss any of those items comprehensively .
– The honorable member will see the difficulty we are in. If I were to permit honorable members to deal at length with the question , of naval defence during this debate, it would follow ;hat no matter what business appeared on *.he notice-paper, the discussion of it in detail might be anticipated. I submit that under the Standing Orders, while a general reference may be made to the question of naval defence, it is not competent for honorable members, in this debate, to go beyond such a general reference in dealing with the subject.
– I propose, sir, to conclude with a motion. I do not disagree -with the ruling which you have given, in view of he terms of the Standing Orders under which we are at present working. But I propose to take action in this matter in order to emphasize the necessity of some alteration of the standing order on which your ruling is based. I can best achieve my object, I think, by giving my reasons for dissenting from that ruling. If it is to hold good, honorable members must see that it would be quite possible, at any time, for any member of the House, for the Government, or for any member put up by the Government, to put a motion on the paper dealing with any question, of importance, the early discussion of which might lie inconvenient, and then, by raising a technical point of order, founded upon the fact that such a motion appeared on the business-paper, prevent the discussion of the particular subject with which it dealt. That, it will be seen, would lead to a state of affairs that would be intolerable in a free Parliament. I have not a shadow of doubt that your ruling is given in accordance with the incomplete and very undesirable Standing Orders under which we are working. I remember that you, sir, were yourself a distinguished member of the Committee appointed to revise those Standing Orders.
– We cannot refer to thePublic Service, because there is a Bill on the paper dealing with it.
– I am not as skilled as the honorable member for Dalley, and some other honorable members, in suggesting methods of blocking discussion, but I can conceive that it would be easily possible for either the leader of the Government or the leader of the Opposition, under the existing Standing Orders, to block every useful discussion. I respectfully move -
That the ruling of Mr. Chairman, namely - That the Committee is not entitled to- discuss the naval defence policy of the Government, notwithstanding the fact that a number of items affecting naval defence appear in the Estimates -be dissented from.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay has moved dissent from my ruling, “ That the Committee is not entitled to discuss the naval defence policy of the Government.” Let me say that that was not my ruling. I ruled distinctly that the honorable member was not entitled to anticipate a question already on the paper - that the honorable member would be out of order in discussing the details of naval matters, owing to the fact that a certain amendment, dealing with that subject, is already on the business-paper. Standing order 274 distinctly says -
No member shall digress from the subjectmatter of any question under discussion; nor anticipate the discussion of any other subject which appears on the notice-paper.
– What is the question now before the Committee?
– The question before the Committee is that the vote for the President’s salary be agreed to. The practice in this Chamber, has been to permit a general discussion on the financial policy of the Government to take place on the first item of the Estimates.
– Hear, hear j and naval defence is a part of that policy.
– What I ruled in this matter was that the honorable member for Wide Bay was not in order in proceeding to discuss details connected with the proposed naval defence, whilst I agreed that he was at liberty to make a general reference to the question. If I permitted a general discussion of the question by the honorable member, another honorable member might desire to continue such a discussion to-morrow or the next day. In the circumstances, I have ruled that the honorable member would not be in order in discussing the matter in detail.
– It may be my misfortune, but at present T. am unable to see that there is any real conflict. If. I may be pardoned for saying so, the purpose of the amendment on the paper in the name of the honorable member for Flinders is perfectly clear. It is that we should not discuss land defence until we have determined our naval policy. It might be any kind of naval policy, and it relates only to the order in which the two questions must be considered. The honorable member proposes that we consider the naval policy first, and then the military policy of universal service. I think the honorable member for Wide Bay would at once accept that as a warning that he should not discuss the question of whether the naval policy should be considered before the question of universal training, or whether universal training should be considered before the question of naval defence. So far as I heard the honorable member’s remarks, they did not trench upon any such question. I understood him to be commending previous proposals in relation to naval defence, made by the honorable member for South Sydney when at the head of a Government of which he and the honorable member for Wide Bay were both members.
– No. Before that.
– I understood the honorable member for Wide Bay to commend those proposals on account of their likeness to certain naval proposals which are now being made. I am unable to see where those two arguments even cross.
– If we are to be prevented from discussing the policy involved in proposals on the Estimates, we may as well close the debate.
– The Chairman’s ruling that the honorable member for Wide Baymust not discuss the subject-matter of the motion of the honorable and learned member for Flinders does not impose the slightest limitation upon his present line of argument.
– That is not the whole question.
– It is the whole question at the present juncture. It will be time enough to discuss other possibilities when they become actual. I submit that you, Mr. Chairman, are not called upon to withdraw your ruling, and that the honorable member for Wide Bay need not be asked to change the course of his remarks.
– I agree with what the Prime Minister has said as to the general character of the. amendment standing on the notice-paper in my name ; but, although I think that we should try to find a way out of the difficulty, it does not seem to me that he has shown us one. A similar question arose earlier in the evening. The broad principle involved is whether, in the Budget debate, a member should be confined within the narrow limits which you, Mr. Chairman, have indicated. Standing order 274, which applies to proceedings both in the House and in Committee,, says -
No member shall digress from the subjectmatter of any question under discussion.
– That would be hard to enforce.
– It must be considered a counsel of perfection rather than a hard and fast rule, and in the Budget debate must be applied with the utmost laxity, honorable members being left perfectly free to deal with the principles and policy of every political party. This freedom has led, and may lead to long debates; but it is the inherent right of any member during the discussion of the Budget. Therefore, I think the leader of the Labour Party was justified in asking for the decision of the Committee for future guidance. We should settle whether we are to have the fullest liberty in the discussion of the Budget to deal with every question of policy in all its aspects. To limit us would be to depart from the traditions of not only the House of Commons, but the Parliaments of the States, and from the practice of this Parliament.
– There is a principle at stake in this discussion. The question which we are now asked to determine has cropped up previously, and has been ruled upon by other presiding officers, it having always been held here, as in the Parliaments ot the States, that, the Budget debate being practically a discussion of grievances, differs from all others in that those taking part in it may discuss in the freest manner possible every question of policy involved in the proposals of the Government. It is true that if the Standing Orders were strictly applied this would not be possible, and the Budget debate would have to be very soon brought to an end, because so many questions have been anticipated by proposals on the notice-paper. But the practice has been to allow the widest latitude, other Chairmen, and even Mr. Speaker, having held that the fullest liberty must be conceded to every speaker. On Tuesday last the honorable member for Corio took exception to the precedence given to a motion of no confidence, and his point, that precedence should not have been given, would have been incontrovertible, bad the matter to be determined only by reference to the Standing Orders. But Mr. Speaker ruled, as I think you, sir, will rule now. that the usage of Parliament must also be considered. The Standing Orders provide certain rules for the conduct of debates : but if they were administered with absolute strictness, they would prove unworkable. There must be exceptions, of which the Budget debate and motions challenging the existence of a Government afford examples. According to the usage of Parliament, members, when the Budget is being discussed, must have the freest opportunity to deal with all questions of policy, and I believe that you, sir, will regard it as your duty to rule that that is so.
Colonel Foxton. - If new protection is a subject which, may be discussed by the leader of the Labour Party under the practice to which you, sir, have referred as governing the discussion of the financial policy of the Government, any other question of policy must be similarly open’ to discussion. According to May, nth edition, page 315 -
Debate must not stray from the question before the House to matters whicli have been decided during the current session, nor anticipate a matter appointed for the consideration of the House. For instance, upon a motion for the appointment of a Committee upon the game laws, a member was restrained from criticising the provisions of certain Bills before the House for the amendment of those laws ; though when Bills, in the charge of the Government, dealing with subjects bound together by a common principle, stand in a series upon the notice-paper, debate upon the first Bill may include therein a discussion of the Bills of a cognate character.
If bv general consent we are to have, on the first item of the Budget, a general discussion on the financial proposals of the Government, then everything that could possibly appear upon the business paper may be1 said to be bound up with the question that is admittedly before the Committee. A’ general financial discussion embraces, practically, every subject. I think that, having regard to this authority on the interpretation of the rule against anticipation, the honorable member for Wide Bay is quite in order.
– I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that in accordance with what is evidently the desire of the Committee, you should allow the scope of the debate to be widened. Since I spoke last, another illustration in support of my contention has occurred to me. There is on the noticepaper the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, and we find in the Budget statement proposals relating to the iron bounty, for which that Bill provides. Then we have the proposal to appoint a Royal ‘Commission to inquire into the business conducted by life insurance! companies in Australia, and a Bill to amend the Public Service Act is also on the notice-paper. I doubt whether, under your ruling, sir, it would be: competent for us to discuss any of those matters during this debate. In fairness to you, sir, I should like to say that under a literal reading of the standing, order your view is no doubt correct. But: I point out that a debate on the Budget could be rendered impossible by crowding the notice-paper with measures relating to-, every conceivable subject. A sense of public duty suggests that the broadest opportunities for discussing a Budget statement should be permitted, and, I think, sir, that it would be well for you to accept what appears to be the generalopinion of the Committee, that a wider reading be given of the standing order bearing on this point.
– I would remind the Committee that I have, first of all, tobe guided by the Standing Orders, and that it is my duty to endeavour to keep the debate within proper limits. It appears to me that if a general discussion were allowed, we might have a repetition of debates that have already taken place upon measures now on the noticepaper.We have had, for instance, a lengthy debate on the motion for the; second reading of the Defence Bill, and if the course suggested by the honorable member were adopted, that measure could be discussed over and over again in connexion with the Budget. If I am not to stand by the interpretation of the standing order which I have given, there can be no limitation of the debate, and any measure that appears on the business-pap;r may be discussed over and over again. If the Committee, however, desire fuller opportunities to discuss the Budget, I have no wish’ to press the ruling I have given.
Honorable Members. - Hear, bear.
– Having delivered several Budget statements in. the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, and in this House, I should like, sir, to make a suggestion. In the State Parliament it was the custom - and I was not aware; that it had been departed from in this House - to allow a general debate on the first item moved by the Treasurer, at the conclusion of his Budget speech. That item having bean dealt with, however, a general discussion was not allowed on any other item. I suggest, that it would be convenient to follow that practice. The Government do not wish in any way to curtail the debate, and although I believe that you, sir, have given a ruling that is technically correct, I think that the practice I have mentioned is a wholesome one.
– Does the honorable member for Wide Bay desire leave to withdraw his motion?
– I do, sir, on the understanding that the wider scope for which we ask is to be granted.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
– The point that I was leading up to when the question of order arose was that I should be sorry to see the honorable member for South Sydney leave this Parliament without some honour being done him for the stand that he took at a time when the cry for an Australian Navy was unpopular. The then Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, had just returned from Great Britain, with honours thick upon him, bringing with him an agreement - made against the express direction of this Parliament, that he was not to bind it to any contract - by which the Commonwealth undertook to contribute a certain sum per annum to the cost of the British Squadron on the Australian station. That agreement bound this Parliament to what I consider was never really an Australian policy. It is true that there was a division of opinion on the point, but it is equally true, I think, that it was largely out of courtesy to Sir Edmund Barton that his policy was carried into effect. It was thought too, by many honorable members, that since the agreement had been entered into by him on behalf of the Commonwealth, the honour of Parliament was more or less at stake. If the policy advocated at that time by the honorable member for South Sydney, who was the leader of our party, had then been adopted, we might have had a little navy of our own “to meet the great American Fleet which recently sailed into our waters. Instead of that, we were in the humiliatingposition of having no Australian warship worthy of the name. I am not going to say what is the best form of naval defence to adopt, but I certainly do contend with a desire to help Great Britain, that we should have a navy of our own. I am glad to find from correspondence that I have read that nearly all the leading critics have now come to the conclusion that it would be safer and better for Great Britain if the naval bases here were controlled and maintained by the Australian people. It would be a great advantage to the British Navy to have here, fully equipped, harbors of refuge into which British ships might run at any time.
And I can say that the more freely, because I have never agreed with those who have stated that the Australian Squadron which is sent here by Great Britain must be confined to Australian waters. J do not think that honorable members could adopt a more mistaken attitude than to say that any warships belonging to Great Britain should lie here if they were needed at any other place. On the contrary, let them go where there is fighting to be done.
– Or warships belonging to ourselves.
– Yes. If we had any fighting ships, and Great Britain was in trouble, I should not be at all alarmed about them being removed from our waters. We do not belong to a. race of that kind. The ships should be free to go into the thick of the fight. It would not be an Australian sentiment to say that we should keep them in our waters.
– It would be an Australian sentiment to look after our interests in that way.
– Apart altogether from the question of whether it would be to our interests or not, the ships would be there. I wish to guard myself against a jingoistic utterance. I do not think that warships in our waters, or Australian warships, should be sent to take part in every paltry troublewhich might arise. But if there was a contest between Great Britain and a power of the same class, I believe that our ships would undoubtedly find a place alongside the British warships during the trouble. I hope that the development of the naval side of defence will now be taken up. The Parliament has granted, very handsomely, to the Government £250,000 as a nucleus towards the development of that policy. I hold now, as I held when I first entered the State Parliament, that the naval side of the question has been neglected in order to spend money on the land forces to less advantage than it could have been spent on the other side. I consider that the expenditure on the military side is excessive. I hold strongly that whether we have a National Guard or a system of compulsory training on land or not, it will be largely a waste of time, unless we develop the naval side. I have no doubt that the Australians will become good soldiers. Passing from the naval side, I think that the Government should invite Parliament to pass a measure to insure the compulsory training of cadets at all schools ; and associated with that system there should be compulsory medical inspection of every kind which would safeguard the health of our youth. It is incumbent upon this Parliament to insure the one as much as the other. Our duty is to develop the youth of the Commonwealth physically, morally, and mentally. No doubt, legal members may say that our right to take that step is doubtful ; but as a layman, I think that if we have the power to say that our youth must be trained physically for military purposes, it would be an anomaly if we had not the right to say that there should also be medical instructors and inspectors of our youth. That would be a limitation of our powers, which, I think, would not’ be justified by a fair reading of the Constitution.
– The honorable member would have the State Frights’ Crowd on him at once.
– I am here to preserve the rights of the Australian people, and to advance them in the best way I can. 1 do not think that any honorable member should hesitate to advocate what he believes would be beneficial for Australia, even though it might. seem to impinge upon what are called State rights. I have a profound belief in the broad high character of the people of Australia. Our actions should not be restrained by a desire to conserve what are called the constitutional rights of the States. If we exceed our powers, the High Court can always be appealed to to set us right. If we were to allow our ideas to be cribbed, cabined, and confined for fear of creating a little political feeling against us, we should show ourselves to be somewhat unfit for our positions.
– Does not the honorable member think that we have had enough of the High Court for a while?
– I know that an attempt has been made outside to create an antagonistic State feeling against the Commonwealth. I have no fear of that feeling being developed very much. It might possibly succeed in its object at one election. But I am so convinced that a national sentiment has taken possession of young Australia that national ideals in this Parliament would only get a spasmodic set back. I do not fear the ultimate result. If there is to be a fight, let the other side come into the open - let the facts of the case be placed before the people. If it is desired to curb the development of national sentiment, to limit the power of this Parliament to- control the national destinies, to restrict the powers which are absolutely necessary to a nation, the case should be clearly stated, and the people should declare their will at the ballotbox. “Under the ConstiTution they possess the right to dissolve this Federation. Perhaps two referendums would be needed. But the power to do it exists. I do not believe, however, that a single person claiming to be a statesman thinks that that result is ever likely to be brought about. Therefore, believing that the interests of the people can be best safeguarded by the actions of this national Parliament, we ought to express here broad general views, and take the consequences at the hands bf those who may differ from us. I desire to refer very briefly to the effect which the operation of the sugar Excise and the sugar bounty have had upon Federal finance. From time to time the State Treasurers have complained of the Federal Treasurer not having returned to them sufficient revenue. They are now complaining of the operation of the Surplus Revenue Act, which was declared by the High Court to be constitutional. It empowers the Treasurer to retain onefourth of the net revenue from Customs and Excise for necessary purposes, either immediate or future. What is not so clear to honorable members, however, is that the principal object of the Excise duty on sugar was not to bring, in revenue at all, but to insure to those who produced sugar by white labour a higher protection than to those who used coloured labour for that purpose. When it was imposed, the contest between the two parties was clear. One party claimed that owing to physical causes, and not to economic causes at all, white men could not produce sugar under any conditions. To prove that my statement is correct, I desire to quote a number of resolutions which were affirmed by the Pioneer Farmers’ Association, Mackay, at the time thi* legislation was under review. For twentyyears previously the Labour Party in the Queensland Parliament had contended that under fair conditions, and granted fair remuneration, the white man could ‘ produce sugar in any part of Australia as successfully as could the coloured man. Our opponents, on the contrary, had maintained that white men were incapable of working in the canefields. The resolutions adopted by’ the Pioneer Farmers’ Association, Mackay, when Mr. Barton, as Prime Minister, introduced the Pacific Island Labourers Bill, providing for the deportation of the kanakas, and indicated the Excise and bounty provisions which have since been applied to the sugar industry- -
– That was in 1901.
– The pamphlet from which I am quoting is entitled The Voice of Queensland Agricultural Societies, and is dated Brisbane, 1901. The resolutions which it contains provide as much amusement as would a comic opera, but I shall content myself with quoting those adopted by the Pioneer Farmers’ Association, Mackay, which are typical of many others. They are as follow : -
Resolutions 5, 6, 7, and 8 are couched in a similar strain. Honorable members will observe that the first resolution declares that it is a physical impossibility to successfully grow sugar with white labour, and that the difficulty is not a financial one. The third resolution affirms that the legislation, which the Commonwealth has since enacted, but which at the time was under review, would injure the sugar industry in the north, and benefit only a few large mill-owners in the south of Queensland and in New South Wales. It also affirmed that the co-operative sugar mills, upon the erection of which£1, 500, 000 had been expended, would be worth only scrap iron. It further alleged that the industry was entitled to protection, apart from the fact that it employed 9,000 kanakas. In reply to these allegations, I invite honorable members to look at the returns from the sugar industry to-day. The effect of seven years’ experience of Commonwealth legislation has been to transform the position. One could forgive the cane-growers if they had proved to be wrong in only their first allegation, that it was physically impossible for white men to successfully produce sugar. When the Excise upon that article was £3 per ton, and the bounty only £2 per ton, the planters were not anxious to get rid of the kanaka; but immediately the Excise was increased to £4 per ton, and the bounty to £3 per ton - which increase did not make a farthing’s difference to the Commonwealth revenue, but merely penalized the employment of coloured labour to the extent of another pound per ton - a great many of the growers broke their agreements with the kanakas. Some of them had previously declared that the Pacific Islanders were employed for the religious instruction and’ benefit of the latter. But the moment it became profitable to get rid of them, these same planters had no hesitation in breaking their agreements. History has also demonstrated that the growers were absolutely wrong in affirming that as a result of Commonwealth legislation the industry would” suffer in Queensland, whilst in New South Wales it would be benefited. But the fact is that sugar production in New South Wales is decreasing, whilst in Northern Queensland it is steadily increasing.
– That is largely due to the success of the dairy farming industry in Northern New South Wales.
– It is immaterial what the cause may be. The Pioneer Farmers’’ Association, Mackay, it will be noted, affirmed that the co-operative mills, in the erection of which£1,500,000 had been expended, would, under Commonwealth legislation, be of value only as scrap iron. 1 recollect the occasion upon which the then Treasurer of Queensland stated that the Government had invested ,£500,000 in those indi ls, and that they would be glad to sell their interest in them for half of that amount. But to-day the Queensland Government could recover every penny of the money which they have so invested. Every one of these mills is paying, and the probability is that the Government could get back more than the amount which they have expended upon them. It is abundantly clear that the growers honestly but mistakenly feared that the legislation of this Parliament would result in the destruction of the sugar, industry. I have merely cited the foregoing resolutions for the” purpose of showing that a party which has a policy in which it believes ought not to be deterred from giving effect to that policy by the carrying of any number of adverse resolutions. When the Pacific Island Labourers Bill was under consideration in this House, the whole of Queensland was aroused by our contemplated action. Both Houses of the Queensland Parliament adopted resolutions in opposition to that legislation, and almost every agricultural association in that State did the same thing. This is the last occasion upon which I need mention the matter, and I have touched upon it only for the purpose of showing what a transformation has taken place in the sugar industry during the past seven years. The production to-day is of greater value than it has .been at any previous time in the whole history of the sugar industry. The Government, and especially those members who were not connected with sugar districts, ought to be complimented and thanked for the manner in which they treated that great difficulty at that time. I wish to refer now to the effect of our legislation in that regard on the Commonwealth, finances. The Treasurer has stated emphatically that he intends to hold every penny of the .Commonwealth’s one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue. But literally, by. the Sugar Excise and Bounty Acts, he cannot hold the Commonwealth’s full share. From the very initiation of that legislation, which was a superstructure to enable us to change the whole sugar industry from a coloured to a white one, the Federal Treasury has been depleted bv an excessive payment to the States. The illustration that I have frequently given in the . country, when debating the financial question, is this : If the ordinary revenue from Customs and Excise was £8,000,000, without any Sugar Excise or Bounty Act, the Treasurer would have £2,000,000 to spend on Commonwealth services. But if the Sugar Excise Act brought in £800,000, and the Treasurer had to pay out £500,000 in sugar bounties, the Federal revenue would be depleted to the extent of £300,000. That would occur in this way : - Adding to the £8,000,000 the Sugar Excise revenue of £800,000 would make £8,800,000, one-quarter of which would be £2,200,000, the Commonwealth’s share. But out of that sum the Treasurer would have to pay £500,000 in sugar bounties, so reducing the Commonwealth’s share of the net revenue from £2,200,000 to £1,700,000. That has been going on all the time, and will continue until some rearrangement is made of the Braddon section. I appreciate the action of the Treasurer in submitting in his Budget a table to explain the matter, but it was well known previously to those who took an interest in the question. The fact, however, was one that I hesitated personally to make too much of, because of the dread of the effect which it might have on this Parliament until the “ white “ sugar industry had been established. Now, however, that our policy has been thoroughly established in that direction, we ought, undoubtedly, to state more fully the whole of the facts as they affect the Commonwealth finances. If we could find a legal way to make the payments to the growers “ by means of a rebate, or in any other way than by this superstructure of a bounty to differentiate between black and white grown sugar, the Treasurer would have at once an immediate additional revenue of about £340,000. That would bea proper and legitimate amount for him to use for Federal purposes.
– The only point is that Queensland would lose some revenue.
– All the States would lose revenue in proportion to their present receipts, but it must not be forgotten that our present legislation is only a means to establish the sugar industry on a proper basis, while it really deprives the Federal Government of a large amount of revenue that legitimately belongs to it, and that would properly have been retained by it if we could have continued the rebate system. To illustrate my point, if we applied, the Excise and bounty principle to every pro- tected industry, and if manufacturers who did not pay fair and reasonable wages were penalized, it would be quite possible, by that beneficent means, to deprive the Commonwealth practically of the whole of its revenue. That, of course, would be a financial absurdity. In this case we have had to take that means of doing the right thing, because we are “ cabin’d cribb’d, confin’d “ by the Constitution. If we had the original powers even of the smallest State we should not be in this difficulty, which will continue to embarrass us during the next two or three years. I presume that we shall have to put up with it. Personally, apart altogether from the fact that Queensland is the great sugarproducing country, and that the difficulty was chiefly felt there, I feel that any price was cheap to get rid of the great coloured labour question. One has only to think of the trouble that the United States of America have had to bear in that regard to realize what a blessing it is that we are practicallyfree from the race problem. The emphatic declaration of the Federal Parliament in its first session for a White Australia, and its readiness to pav for it, had a good effect, not only here, but throughout the world. I shall always feel proud of the action which Parliament took in that regard. If the Treasurer could retain the £340,000 which is now lost to the Commonwealth Treasury through the operation of the Sugar Excise and Bounty Acts, I should be able to say a great deal more pleasant, things to him than I am able to say now with regard to old-age pensions. When I had the honour of submitting to this Parliament a motion affirming the urgency of making provision for Federal invalid and old-age pensions, I thought that the time had come to set aside some revenue for that purpose under the Surplus Revenue Act, which the Government have the fullest right to be proud of having introduced and carried. But I felt that we ought not, as a party, to let that opportunity pass without making it clear that an Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill should be brought in, and an Act for the purpose put into operation at the earliest possible moment. The Government are entitled to the credit of showing a legal means of accumulating a fund to enable old-age pensions to be paid. Holding that view, I moved in this House that the question was one of urgency, and that it be a direction to the Government to bring in such a Bill. The Government accepted the proposition. I admit that criticism was hurled at me and at the party to which I belong for not having taken action sooner. I venture to say, however- and the Attorney-General will correct me if I am wrong - that the Government at that time had not the power. They could not have introduced such a policy earlier than they did.
– Why not?
– Because of constitutional embarrassments; because the five years’ bookkeeping period had not come to an end.
– Which means that the Government could have begun to get ready three years after Federation, just as we are beginning to get ready to pay pensions two years hence.
– There were two periods - until the uniform duties, and the five years’ bookkeeping - about seven years in all.
– No, three years and two, making five; not five and two., making seven.
– At any rate, there was a provision in the Constitution which did not enable us to take action in this direction in the earliest years of Federation.
– Does the honorable member say that a commencement could not have been made until after the bookkeeping period expired? The Government could have begun to get ready after two years.
– Suppose that we lost a few months. A general election took place in the meantime, and the Prime Minister went to England. Until he came back, we could not very well take action. But exception was taken by the Opposition to the means whereby we intended to finance old-age . pensions. I think the honorable member for Parramatta stated that our action was mere fireworks; that we knew that the thing could not be done; that it was all a placard.
– The honorable member himself did not know of the scheme of the Surplus Revenue Bill at the time he took action.
– Is that so?
– Well, that statement suffers from what I may call “ Chronologica.” On the very same day on which my statement was made to the House I said that the means could be provided.
– Our party discussed the whole question before action was taken.
– My honorable friend the member for Cook knows that the matter was discussed and the details were all considered before my proposition was submitted.
– The honorable member knows that the purpose of the Surplus Revenue Bill was to provide money for defence.
– It is quite true that the motion which I submitted was subject to amendment, and while we might have stood to our own proposition, which was clear, the usual desire to be equal with one’s opponents impelled us to counter the move of the Opposition as we did.
– The honorable member knows that the money set aside under the Surplus Revenue Bill w.as intended to be allocated for defence purposes, and not for old-age pensions.
– The honorable member is referring to a< different matter altogether.
– Is it not a fact that, the honorable member and his party have been toying and playing with old-age pensions for years?
– I am glad to be able to give historical references. The leader of the Opposition stood up in his place in this House and stated that as far as he was concerned the action of the Barton Government in putting old-age pensions in their platform, was no more than a placard. He asked, “ Why do you deceive these old people? Why do you put forward that placard knowing very well that what you propose cannot be done?” .
– Until 1910.
– The leader of the Opposition said, “I am against direct taxation by this Parliament, and the Government know very well that they cannot honour their own proposition.”
– Is not that statement coming true? ‘
– The honorable member for Parramatta echoed that statement, and said that our proposition was a placard.
– Hear, hear.
– When it turned out that there was business in our proposal, the Opposition said that the means adopted were wrong, and that they washed theihands of the whole thing. It is true that the whole Parliament was in favour of old-age pensions, but the Opposition denounced as unlawful the only means that could be adopted of giving effect to the policy.
– What is the honorable member referring to?
– To the Surplus Revenue Bill.
– Who said that it was unlawful ?
– Most of the Opposition did.
– The honorable member for Angas made a clear statement in favour of the legality of the measure.
– All honour to. him, and to the honorable member for Flinders. But the Opposition as a whole said that they were not in favour of the means adopted.
– I never said that. I would have abolished the Braddon section long ago if I had had my way.
– If the Opposition now say that they were always in favour of the Surplus Revenue Bill I will withdraw what I have said about them.
– We never said any such foolish thing.
– The means adopted to accomplish the policy of paying old-age pensions were denounced, although they were the only means available. Yet we are charged with neglecting our duty in this matter.
– Hear, hear.
– Very well ; my reply is that in no single year since the commencement of Federation have we had at our disposal enough money to pay even 5s. a week to the aged.
– What about the surplus that we have returned to the States ?
– In no single year have we had a surplus sufficient to enable us, if we seized the whole of it, to pay old-age pensions.
– And in no single year now is there enough.
– We could have accumulated a fund.
– We had not the power. I speak, with the greatest diffidence, as a layman, but my belief is that until the expiration of the five years’ bookkeeping period, we’ had not power to accumulate a fund for the purpose. “
– Why have we established a fund now, then?
– Because the five years period has expired. But, if it will appease the honorable member for Robertson in any way, I will say that 1 agree that whatever Government is in power, it will, in administering the Act, have to place the most liberal interpretation upon it.
– The honorable member says that, and yet he knows that this Government are shirking their responsibility.
– They have to save for three years in order to get enough money to paythe first year’s demand.
– I am not going to praise the Government. I think they have acted in a niggardly spirit in what they are putting aside for old-age pensions. The amount is too little.
– Yet the honorable member last night voted to say that the Government were making adequate provision.
– I voted to prevent a farce being enacted.
– Is it a farce to say that proper provision should be made?
– I have in my time voted against a plank in the Labour platform itself, when people who were clever at finesse endeavoured to score a party advantage for their own purposes.
– The honorable member voted against a plank of his party’s platform last night.
– The honorable member is entitled to all the advantage that he can make out of that statement. He is entitled to go before the electors of Australia as a statesman and say that I and the Labour Party voted to declare that ample provision was made for old-age pensions.
– I do not pretend to be a statesman; I leave that claim to the honorable member.
– As far as I am concerned, I simply try to speak my mind to the best of my ability. I know my limitations; I admit them. If I have one little conceit, it is that I am in earnest in what I believe, whether it be popular or not. I have never advocated a principle when popular, and abandoned it when it became unpopular. I have faced every difficulty ; and to-day I am prepared to meet any charges that may be made in relation to Socialism or anything of that kind.
Whatever opponents may say regarding the Labour Party, its programme or action, I pledge myself that, so long as I occupy the position I do now, no charge of immorality or danger to morality will ever be made against the opponents of my’ party. It will never be whispered by us outside that if the policy of the Opposition is adopted there will be danger of the violation of the home. Such charges will have no countenance from our party.
– And they have had no countenance from any other party.
– Do not tempt me to read some statements made at the last election.
– By whom?
– By candidates. I deplore the whole position ; a man who would seek political power at the expense of the moral standing of the people is not only not a statesman, but not a man whocan command any respect. I pass over what some of the women now sitting in conference have said regarding us, and I do so because those women believe what they have been told. It is perfectly true that in every cause there are those who go to great extremes - that can be said of every movement, political, religious, or otherwise - but we are not here, as sensible men, to give voice to those extremes.
– Why does the honorable member make those charges against the party on this side?
– I say that the accusations I have indicated were specifically hurled against my own party.
– If so, the accusations were based on the statements of Continental Socialists.
– I think I could quote from that great economist and individualist, Malthus, something that the honorable member for Parramatta would detest and denounce. Malthus expressed the view that if the father of a family had not the means to provide for those dependent on him - if he could not bring a feast to his family - then Nature had no place for him, and he and his must be swept away, it being no business of the State to give any aid. I do not charge the honorable member for Parramatta with adopting such an idea, because I believe it to be abhorrent to him.
– There is something to be said in favour of Malthus, in that he used argument.
– Does the honorable member for Robertson indorse the view of Malthus ?
– The honorable member has not read Malthus.
– Indeed I have.
– Doubtless the honorable member has used a quotation made by one of his party, but he has never read Malthus, who did not put the matter in the way quoted.
– Although the honorable member has a literary standing, both in this House and outside, 1 venture to say that he has never read the work of which I speak, otherwise he would know that what I have quoted is a sentence which is omitted from the third edition of Malthus’ works, not because the author disbelieved in it, but out of respect to certain people who took exception to it.
– Malthus. never put the matter in that way.
– In any case, I am not dealing specifically with Malthus this evening, but merely complaining o”f the small contemptible tactics introduced into elections for party political purposes. The cry about the violation of family was raised, first of all, on the continent of Europe, and filtered through Great Britain to Australia. Why? I ask honorable members why it is that all pioneers in thought, whether social, industrial, or religious - all who try to help their fellows - have hurled at them every possible evil insinuation ? We have comfort in the fact that there is scarcely a man or woman who has given service in any advanced movement of the kind but who has suffered, and has proved better for the persecution. It is only those who leave the good cause, and who, preferring the flesh-pots of Egypt, find themselves, when that support fails, in the gutter. We do not claim to be better than others, but I think that the party with whom I am associated have much reason to be proud of many of their political actions.
– Hear, hear; there is no dispute about that.
– All this may, perhaps, be a little homiletic, but I may be excused, seeing that I was led from the main track. I do not get many opportunities to express my views, but I must say that I expected to speak for not more than a few minutes, instead of an hour or two. I regret that the Treasurer has not provided more money for old-age pensions. If the
Treasurer anticipates an accumulation of £600,000 on the 30th June, 1909, and if there be a surplus of £500,000, he will have available for old-age pensions a sum of £1,100,000. The Treasurer flatters himself that he will be able to pay invalid and old-age pensions with a sum, approximately, of £1,300,000. I do not think the honorable gentleman has the least chance of being able to do s>o, and I hope. that he has not. If the Act we have passed is to be administered, we should see to it that the Treasurer shall find the necessary money. What should we say of a public company that entered into an obligation to pay invalid and old-age pensions, and that, though its resources were as extensive, and its prosperity as great, as that of the Commonwealth, begrudged a few thousand pounds to completely fulfil that obligation? Speaking from memory, I believe that the value of our exports exceeds the value of our imports by £27,000,000. The Treasurer told us that he received £1,000,000 more in revenue than he anticipated. This will be contributed to by the very people who will be entitled to pensions under the Act. What an outrage it would be if, after having extorted unnecessary taxation from comparatively poor people, we should say, “ We shall return to you, in the shape of old-age pensions, but a paltry portion of the money you have contributed.” I shall be no party to anything of the kind.
– The only difference between the honorable member and myself in the matter is that, so far as I can gather, his estimate is very much in excess of what will be required.
– I have carefully considered the figures supplied by the Treasurer, and have compared them with the estimates of capable men. I find that, his estimate, that in Queensland £140,000 will be required for the payment of oldage pensions, is far too low.
– That may be.
– I say nothing of the estimate of the amount required for New South Wales, because it seems to me that it is a fair estimate. But the estimate of the amount required for Victoria is ridiculously low.
– What would the honorable member say is required in New Zealand? I have the actual figures df the amount required there.
– Will the honorable gentleman say how much is required in New Zealand?
– Nearly 7s. per head of the population, or nearly double that required for New South Wales.
– If it would cost 7s. per head to pay old-age pensions in the Commonwealth, it should not be difficult to say how much would be required with a population of 4,500,000.
– No, about 4,250,000.
– It is not difficult to calculate what would be required. It is clear that on the basis of the payment in New Zealand, we should require over £1,400,000. The honorable gentleman must recollect that in New Zealand no provision is made for the payment of invalid pensions.
– Their’s is a very liberal pension.
– It is a much lower pension than we have provided’ for in our Act, though I admit that the New Zealand Act is an excellent one, and is well administered.
– There is no Act of the kind in existence that is one-half as liberal as is the Commonwealth Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
– I quite agree with the honorable member.
– I have statements from officials in which that is denied.
– The Treasurer must guard himself against these statements. He must judge the figures presented to him by common-sense rules. At the v present time, under the Victorian Act, only 17 per cent, of those who are over sixty-five years of age are receiving pensions. Does the Treasurer, in the circumstances) think that under the Commonwealth Act, which is sufficiently comprehensive to remove all taint of charity from these payments, such an amount as he has estimated will be sufficient to cover the Victorian claims?
– I do not think that it will. I think that the estimate for Victoria is very much under, and the estimate for New South Wales considerably over, the amount that will be required.
– I wish to know exactly where we are going in this matter. No matter who the Treasurer at the time may be, there is not the shadow of a hope that, solely from indirect taxation, there will be sufficient money available to meet all the claims for invalid and old-age pensions up to the end of 1910. I again saythat if we are increasing taxation, it is surely a fair thing to ask that a portion of it shall be returned to the people in the shape of these old-age pensions.
– Where is the Treasurer to get the money from?
– Whoever is Treasurer, having the administration of the Act, will have the full resources of the Commonwealth to call upon. I venture to say that, no matter who may represent the people in this Parliament, the Treasurer of the day will be called upon to find the necessary funds to finance the Commonwealth Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, giving its provisions the most liberal interpretation. Let me refer to another phase of this question. The Commonwealth Government, in undertaking the administration of the Act, will release the States Governments of financial obligations amounting to £1,500,000; and, in consequence, there will be practically an absolute gift of that amount to tile States Governments. One of the reasons why I did not push the question earlier in the life of the Federal Parliament was because appeals were being repeatedly made to the States Premiers to meet in Conference and agree to permit the Federal Parliament to retain sufficient of the three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue to which they were entitled, to meet a federalization of their systems of old-age pensions. But did they do so? Not they. They paltered with the question time after time, until this Parliament finally dealt with the matter, and took upon itself the financial responsibility. Our action in that respect has been challenged by the States Governments. I do not complain of the States Governments insisting upon their rights, and they might very well have been excused if they had not been in such a hurry as they were to test the constitutionality of the Surplus Revenue Act, when they knew the purpose for which the money retained by the Treasurer was intended to be used, and that the administration of the Commonwealth Act by the Federal Government means practically a gift of £1,500,000 to the States. We are told that this Parliament is endeavouring to interfere with the rights of the States. It was our duty to protect the people of the Commonwealth, and to carry out what we were thrice pledged, almost unanimously, to do. I am exceedingly glad that this Parliament was wise enough to take the step it has taken in this matter, and that the question has reached even its present position. I am sorry that there will not be an accumulation of £1,000,000 at the end of next June; but as I have, said, that cannot be helped. Had I seen any way of remedying it _ I should not have hesitated to take it. But I am expressing the view of the Labour Party when I say that attempts to tamper with the Act by giving a restrictive reading to the sections in regard to either invalid or old-age pensions will meet with a short shrift. With regard to the Department of the Postmaster-General, which has caused so much trouble of late. I think that it is time that a proper balancesheet was prepared. At present it is difficult to discover what services pay and what, do not. According to a statement recently made by one of the responsible officers, every new telephone involves the Department in an annual loss of 19s.
– It is asserted that the country telephones all pay ; but’ that there is a loss of over £1 on the metropolitan telephones connected with the large networks.
– That is a pure guess.
– The loss has been computed at 30s.
– In any case, it is not sound administration - it is not right to the country people - * to allow it to continue. Telephone facilities are less needed by city people, who can visit each other in a few minutes, than by those in the country. What an anomaly it is for a democratic Government to penalize our pioneers. Country applicants for telephones have to find security, and, having lodged the money demanded by way of guarantee, discover that they cannot get their wants attended to. We cannot feel’ proud of that state of things.
– I have been informed to-day that the Department cannot erect a trunk line which was promised two or three years ago.
– I have not time to go into details, but, speaking generally, I say that the policy must be altered. The city and town population - there are two cities in my constituency - should not be benefited at the expense of the country. We should strive to have the telephone placed in every farmer’s home, or, at least, in every centre of population, so that medical men could be quickly summoned in cases of accidents, and urgent communications speedily transmitted. The people of the town should pay a reasonable rate for the service they get. .
– How long will the honorable member’s party permit this state of things to last?
– The party last night by its vote affirmed that everything is going on properly.
– Honorable members object that the Labour Party did not vote with them last night. But it is seldom that they vote with us.
– We have not asked the Labour Party to vote with us.
– The appeal last night was a general one. I ask the Government to bring in a Bill to make the rates fair. Ministers should know the real position.
– The allegations to which the honorable member refers have only just been made, and have yet to be proved.
– Is it fair to assume that there is a loss of 10s. on each city telephone ?
– It will be impossible to say what the loss is until we have a basis for a balance-sheet.
– Does the trunk line between Melbourne and Sydney pay ?
– I understand that it is paying now.’
– The’ fact that neither the Postmaster-General, nor the Honorary Minister who is Chairman of the Postal Commission, can answer my questions, shows the need for a balance-sheet.
– The statement made to the Commission by Mr. Hesketh was that the telephones connected with the larger networks of communication in the towns do not pay. In support of that statement, he advanced certain figures, but it has yet to be proved.
– Is it not known that an expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds is required to put the departmental services on a right basis ? The Cabinet Committee acknowledged that.
– The point which I am emphasizing now is that, if there is a loss on city and town telephones, the Government should at once bring in a Bill to fix remunerative rates. It is the country people who most need telephones. They have to face all the hardships and difficulties of pioneering, of which no one has spoken more eloquently than the right honorable member for East Sydney. Surely they should not be compelled to make up the losses on city services.
– It is not necessary to bring in a Bill to alter the telephone rates.
– It would be very advantageous to have the rates fixed by an Act of Parliament.
– When a sweeping change is made, it is advisable to have the force of parliamentary opinion behind it.
– I have in mind not so rauch the safeguarding of the Ministry as the protection of the Treasury. A Minister is tossed on the waves of public opinion, and it would require a very strong administrator to increase the telephone rates in Sydney or Melbourne. If it cannot be done by Ministerial action then Parliament itself ought to take action. If, in this regard, the people of large towns and cities enjoy an advantage over those in country districts that is an injustice-
– Why should the country people have to wait?
– Quite so. The point I wish to make, however, is that if the Department is suffering a loss of nearly £1 on every telephone in the large towns and cities it is unjust. If that is the position the Postmaster-General should .at once remedy it. I regret that whilst the Department continues to be in an impoverished condition we should still have dangled before us, as part of the Government programme, the proposal for penny postage. No one is more strongly in favour of penny postage than I am. But whereas the Government say that they are in favour of the principle, and would give effect to it if they had a majority behind them, mv contention is that having regard to its present position the introduction of penny postage would lead to chaos in the Department. It would still further impoverish the- De’partment, and such placards are not befitting the Government.
– The honorable member has now wiped out that proposal.
– The right honorable member need not worry. I took up the same stand when the present Minister of Trade and Customs - who, I sincerely regret is unable, owing to ill health, to be present - strongly advocated it some time ago.
– It is not a party question.
– Every member of our party is free to vote as he pleases upon it. The Commonwealth Treasury would not suffer very materially by the introduction of penny postage but the States, ‘with the exception of Victoria, would. Take, for instance, the position of Western Australia and Queensland. Every part of Queensland is settled.’ We have there a wider net-work of telegraph and telephone lines and mail services than is to be found in any part of the Commonwealth. There are people residing in some parts of Queensland who, if they were allowed to do so, would be very glad to pay sixpence, or even a shilling for the delivery of a letter. But if we reduced the returns from the carriage of mails by nearly one-half, how should we be able to give a reasonable service? Until we have a unified financial system the adoption of penny postage would be absurd. Its adoption would not affect Victoria, but it would certainly involve a loss to all the other States.
– Where communication is more difficult?
– Yes. The finances of Victoria would not be affected, since the service would be treated as a transferred one ; but Queensland, as well as South Australia and Western Australia, would suffer a loss of revenue. I believe that South Australia is beginning to view the proposal more favorably.
– We have had strong representations in South Australia in favour of the reform.
– From Chambers of Commerce ?
– And from other quarters, the demand for the reform being based on the plea that the State itself would pay for it.
– Then what is to hinder them from crediting the Commonwealth with an amount equal to the loss that would be incurred? I venture to say that if the South Australian Government were prepared to make good the difference the Commonwealth Government would not hesitate to impress the words “ one penny” on every two-penny stamp issued in that State. If the States were itching to make good the loss that such a reform would involve, I think that I could find a way of meeting the difficulty. There is another matter relating to the Post and Telegraph Department to which I desire to refer. I understand that the Postmaster-General pays to the Government of each State a certain sum for distribution amongst railway employes who discharge postal duties.
– The stationmasters do not receive a penny for doing such work; it is another case of sweating.
– Quite so. But that charge lies against the States Governments, and not against the Commonwealth.
– I have had hundreds of letters from persons receiving 5s. or 10s. per week for acting/ as gatekeepers in addition to performing other duties, who complain that they are rendering services to the Post and Telegraph Department without reward. They blame the Federal Parliament for this, and ask why they should not receive that to which they are entitled. My reply invariably is that the Commonwealth Parliament pays to the States Governments a sum to enable them to be rewarded for any services they render to the Department.
– And the States Parliaments will not allow the Commonwealth to pay the men themselves.
– I do not complain of that. If I were Premier of a State I should not allow the Federal Government to pay any of its officers for services rendered to the Commonwealth. It would be inadvisable to allow the control of State servants to be taken out of the hinds of the Government that employed them. During the short time that I ‘was in office I took up a strong stand in respect of that matter. In the same way I think that a Commonwealth officer who performs State duties should be rewarded bv the Commonwealth, and not by the State concerned; otherwise the reward given might destroy the influence of the employer. The State Governments should certainly distribute amongst their employes, who perform services for the Commonwealth, the amount which the Commonwealth hands over to them for that purpose. I mention this in order to assist in clearing up the difficulty, and to let the people know what is really being done. I am afraid that I have been lecturing a good deal.
– My word ! the honorable member has.
– I should like to express an opinion which I expressed here previously.
– The honorable member need not apologize. He saved the Government last night, and they are grateful to him.
– The right honorable member knows that every honorable member has to make up his mind as to which is the best course to pursue. I dare say that- we are apt to make up our minds in the interests of party when we think that it is in the interests of the country. But, speaking generally, no one can take any exception to this Parliament. In my opinion it has taken a very high view of its duties. I regret, as J. said in a previous session, the revelations which the Treasurer made, and which he was not justified in making, of the estimates sent by the Departments to the Ministers before they are submitted to the House.
– It is an unheard-of thing.
– It is not a question of taste, but a question of procedure. It gives to the permanent heads of the Departments a power which they ought not to possess. If they can send to the Treasurer of to their Ministers any estimates and say that they represent the minimum with which they can carry on, and demand that those figures shall be published to the world, what kind of responsible Government have we?
– The honorable member is not quite fair. I did not do anything of the kind until after the information was given to the Royal Commission, and that I objected to very strongly.
– That is just where the strength of the Government was not exercised.
– I never knew that it was going to be done.
– Naturally the permanent heads wish to see their Departments bright and burnished, and jingling with money ; but Ministers’ are paid their salaries for another purpose. The 1’rea- surer has claimed that he has spent more money than anybody else. Ministers are paid their salaries not to see who can spend the most money, but to examine every proposal to spend money, and to see that no unnecessary expenditure takes place. That may be an old-fashioned idea. I admit that the Treasurer has had his -own troubles, but, in my opinion, this delegating of authority to the permanent heads and allowing them to do administrative work will be the ruin of Commonwealth finance.
– The permanent head of a Department submits his esti mates to the Minister, who forwards them to the Treasury. The Treasurer has no direct communication with the permanent heads.
– I am still conservative enough to think that the Cabinet is an entity, and that no loyal Minister would turn upon a loyal colleague. That is the view I take of Government responsibility. Let me give, an illustration of what might take place. I can remember a time, in 1893 - that is the year when financial disaster overtook the whole of the Colonies - when the Defence Department of Queensland made s. demand upon (he Treasurer for a certain sum and its permanent head declined to do with less money. The Minister who was in charge of the Defence Department could not cut down the Estimates; but fortunately the Premier bad other ideas of what Government was. He told the permanent head to take back the estimates and reduce the amount by onehalf. The permanent head said, that it could not be done. The Premier said, “ I asked you to do the work because I thought that you would have known best which half to strike out. Kindly leave my office and I shall do it myself,” and he did. That is the kind of administration which is absolutely necessary if’ we are to finance the country in a difficulty.
– He practically took the management of the Department out of the Minister’s hands.
– He had a certain sum available with which to administer the affairs of the Colony. He could- not spend the amount required on defence and have a solvent Colony, and as the head of the Department could not cut down the estimates he did it for him. It was really marvellous how the Defence Department discovered what they could do with the onehalf of the amount originally demanded. We did not notice any material difference, and the one-half was saved. I do not like the idea qf these revelations being made. It would be out of place for me, a much younger member than the Treasurer, to do more than express my views, in the hope that the precedent will not be followed. He announced that his Budget speech would be sent, not only throughout the Commonwealth, but perhaps to all the countries of the world. I regret that it contains comparative tables showing what the Departments wanted, what the Ministers said they wanted, and what the Treasurer was able to give them. In my opinion a divided responsibility of that kind will lead, not only to weak administration, but also to a great waste of public money. I apologize to the Committee for the length of time which I have taken up in this debate.
House adjourned at xo.47 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 October 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19081022_reps_3_47/>.