3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Home Affairs if he has obtained from the Minister of Trade and Customs, whom he represents in this Chamber, an answer to the question which I asked a few days ago respecting a patent medicine which is sold for 2s. 6d., though supposed to be worth only the one-fortieth part of a penny.
– I have just received from the Department of Trade and Customs, the following memorandum on the subject -
In regard to this matter it is pointed out that the Department is taking every possible action allowed by law to properly control the importation of patent medicine.
Every effort is made to seethat all claims in regard to the medicines imported are not in any particular extravagant or misleading, and in this way the public are protected as much as possible.
There are, however, grave objections to complying with the suggestion made to inform the House of the name of the patent medicine referred to in the accompanying slip.
As a fundamental principle, it would be highly inadvisable to single out any particular item for special treatment in this way, seeing that the estimated cost of ingredients in manufactured articles is in many instances much less than the priceof which the article is retailed ; nor are patent medicines the only goods affected - the difference in price being pronounced also in many other lines.
So long, then, as the Department sees, as far as possible, that the article is properly described, it does not appear desirable that information which may have been obtained confidentially, or in the course of official inquiry, should be made public, more especially in any one particular instance only.
– It is stated in Satur day’s Age, in regard to a debate in the House of Lords on the Budget proposals, that- in dealing with Socialistic remedies for rural depopulation, Lord Lamington said the settlements set up by Australian Governments in the country districts had been unsuccessful, though the conditions were favorable and the land was given free.
As land settlement in this country is conducted on more or less Socialistic lines, land in some of the States being given free to farmers, does the Prime Minister not think it necessary to take steps to correct the misapprehensions which may arise in the Old Country from statements such as this?
– The noble lord was formerly Governor of one of the States.
– His remark does not apply to that State.
– I have been told that there were some experiments regarding village settlements-
– I should like to know who gave the honorable member the information.
Colonel Foxton. - I did.
– It is not true.
Colonel Foxton. - I rise to order.
– I withdraw my remark. It was an indirect statement.
– I was unaware what justification the noble lord might have for what he said,’ and questioned my colleague, who replied that he remembered certain experiments in connexion with village settlements during Lord Lamington’s term of office in Queensland, which probably supplied material for the remark. There have been artificial attempts at land settlement in other States, which have not succeeded. I remember one in Victoria. But a general statement of this nature would be unwarranted in regard to any one of the States, and, of course, quite contrary to the experience of Australia as a whole.
– What does the honorary Minister think of that?
Colonel Foxton.–I agree with it.
– When the Coinage Bill was being considered, and proposals were made for certain amendments in the schedule to provide for decimal coinage, the Treasurer promised to try to provide for it by means of regulations. ‘ The newspapers now report that he is not disposed to bring about decimal coinage. As that is contrary to his promise, I ask if he proposes to provide for it by regulation ?
– I expressed the opinion that, by abolishing the halfcrown, we could make it more convenient to institute decimal coinage, but I did not promise to introduce the system. Nickel coinage was provided for in the Bill, but the Government are not doing more than to keep the supply of bronze coinage equal to the demand. They do not propose at once to substitute new bronze coinage for that now in currency.
– In view of the fact that copper coin is simply a token, its intrinsic value being less than its nominal value, will the Treasurer take into consideration the advisability of making it smaller, so that it may be more conveniently carried about ?
– All that is proposedin regard to bronze coinage is to import £10,000 to meet the demands of the banks. The new coinage will be stamped similarly to the silver coinage. The question of substituting nickel for bronze has not been dealt with.
Cooma Mail Service - Telephone Charges - Postal Notes
– In view of the fact that the coal strike has caused the Railways Commissioners of New South Wales to reduce the train service between Goulburn and Cooma to three days a week, whereas formerly it was a daily one, will the PostmasterGeneral have the mails conveyed from Goulburn to Cooma by motor car on the days when a train does not run?
– The claims of each district for a substituted service where, as in this instance, the Railways Commissioners are not able to carry out their contracts for the carriage of mails, will receive consideration.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral state whether there is any possibility of the Committee appointed to in quire into the telephone charges reporting before the end of the session ?
– I have sent a communication to the Committee, asking them to expedite their labours. I cannot control their operations any more than I have done. I have done my best to expedite the work, but they say it is so immense in its complexity and so difficult that they cannot carry it on any faster than they are doing. They also say that the accounts that have been kept in the various post offices of the State are so imperfect and confused that theycannot arrive at a fair and reasonable estimate without examining the accounts in a systematic manner. I have asked them to make a short cut to a conclusion, if possible, but they decline to do it. .
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice - :
If he will make arrangements whereby postal notes can be purchased at receiving offices, which are usually situated in outlying districts fat removed from facilities for transmitting moneys ?
SirJOHN QUICK.- The matter is receiving consideration, with a view to making such arrangements, if generally practicable.
– Can the Prime Minister tell the House why the High Commissioner Bill, which might have been passed into law in two minutes on Friday has, apparently purposely, been further delayed, and put down as No. 4 on the notice-paper for today? Is it the intention of the Government to pass the measure during this ses-. sion? If so, can the Prime Minister state the approximate date?
– The only reason why the Bill did not leave this House last week was through the action of my honorable friend and one or two others. There has been no alteration in the position of the Bill on the notice-paper, except that, as usual, the two new items have been put on first in order that they may be launched. I have every hope that within a comparatively short period this afternoon we shall find ourselves again there, and further.
– Does the Prime Minister think there is any possibility of the InterState Commission Bill, which is before an- other place, and has not been dealt with for nearly two months, being passed this session ?
– I necessarily watch the notice-paper of another place. The honorable member is quite aware that the only reason why the Bill referred to has not been further proceeded with is that measures - I will not say of greater importance, for no question is of greater importance than some of those involved in the Inter-State Commission Bill - but of greater urgency, as having a financial character, have lately occupied the time. I fear now that the chances of so extensive a Bill as the Inter - State Commission Bill being passed this session are growing very small.
– Are we to understand from the Prime Minister’s statement regarding the prospects of the Inter-State Commission Bill that it is not the intention of the Government to proceed this session with any proposal to grant the new Protection to those engaged in manufacturing industries ?
– If honorable members in either House are agreeable to pass a measure embodying the new Protection portion of the Inter-State Commission Bill, I am prepared to consider the possibility of severing it from the rest.
– I shall fight it, anyhow, because it is only an apology.
An Honorable Member. - So will I.
– I thought the Prime Minister was the Government. What has become of responsible government? It appears that it is now a question of getting a majority.
– It is a question, not of majorities, but of time, and the time at our disposal is now very limited.
– As honorable members opposite seem to have forgotten the particular measure, I wish to ask the Prime Minister at what date the Government propose to proceed with the Land Tax Assessment Bill that appears at the foot of the notice-paper ?
– I think the Greek kalends is a sufficiently definite date.
– Does the Prime Minister purpose giving the House any information before the close of the session as to thepersonnel of the proposed Sugar Commission ?
– Yes, if it be determined. The pressure of business has been so great that for the last ten days or more I have not been able even to look at the matter.
– Have the Government any intention to proceed with the Seamen’s Compensation Bill during the present session ?
– I regard the passage of that measure as a certainty. It is very short, and I think both sides are agreed upon it.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister is making inquiry into this matter, and the honorable member will be informed of the result.
Royal Australian Artillery : Leave-
Senior Cadets, Victoria - Military Tattoo
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The District Commandant has furnished me with the following reply to the honorable member’s questions - 1 and 2. No.
Holidays will be allowed, the Commandant adds, as far as the exigencies of the service will permit.
asked the Ministerof Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 and 2. Five battalions of Senior Cadets are already raised in Victoria, three with headquarters in Melbourne, one in Bendigo, and one in Geelong. 3 and 4. Requests have been received, but, as no funds were available to cover such increase, it was not recommended by the District Commandant. The matter will, however, be noted for future consideration.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will the Minister ascertain whether it is a fact that the written judgment of the Registrar of Trade Marks in the opposed Trade Mark case, La Societe Anonyme Le Ferment v. The Australian Milk Ferment Proprietary, contains the two following findings : -
Will the Minister obtain from the Registrar of Trade Marks some explanation as to how he can give to any one “the exclusive use” of a word which he decides is not registerable as a Trade Mark?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
The honorable member for Hindmarsh a few days ago asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Mr. FULLERlaid upon the table the following paper : -
Public Service Act - Recommendation in connexion with the promotion of W. A. Maguire, Clerk, Public Service Commissioner’s Office.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
– I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenues and moneys be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to authorize the raising and expending of the sum of£3,500,000 for the purposes of naval defence.
– The seventh borrower come to light !
– Is the honorable member going to make my speech ? I regret that the Bill has not yet come to me from the printer. I hope to have it later in the day, and propose then to make my speech on the second reading, as is customary. The practice which we are falling into of making speeches on the preliminary motion in Committee is quite foreign to my experience. I see no advantage in it. It simply means making two speeches instead of one. I am not prepared to make my speech without the Bill, and, therefore, I simply submit the motion.
.- This is certainly a most extraordinary proceeding on the part of the Government. They have no mandate, nor are there halfadozen members on the Ministerial side who have a mandate from the people, for a loan policy. It is evident that the Government are desirous of putting the Commonwealth in pawn, so that they may be in the same position as the States.
– Why not wait for the second reading?
– Because I have no certainty that I shall be heard on that motion. On three different occasions when I might have intervened the Government have taken a step which prevented my making any remarks at all. The Prime’ Minister shakes his head, but that is an absolute fact.
– The fact that a debate is stopped does not mean that it is intended to stop the honorable member personally.
– On two of these occasions I desired to assist the Government. In inaugurating a policy of this kind, the Government should make a statement of the conditions relating to it. They should tell us why they propose to enter upon a borrowing policy which is contrary, not only to the policy put before the people at the last general election, but to the policy of the present Government, and that of the Labour party. The whole of the members of the Labour party are pledged to a restriction of public borrowing. In inaugurating a loan policy for the Commonwealth at the present time the Government are taking up, not only a strange, but an exceedingly degrading position. I am able to say that as late as fourteen or fifteen months ago, the Prime Minister himself was absolutely opposed to the policy of borrowing. What has brought about the change? What need is there for it? We have no statement of the reasons from the Treasurer ; he simply says that the Government desire to raise , £3,500,000.
– The honorable member knows that we want it.
– I do not. Beyond the mere statement of the Treasurer that the Government desire to raise£3, 500,000 by means of a loan, I do not know what the Government want. I know of nothing that calls upon them to borrow before an appeal is made to the electors. The course that they have proposed to take is without precedent. The Prime Minister said that the Government were following the usual procedure. I admit that they are, so far as the Standing Orders are concerned, but, if he thought thatI was referring to a technical breach of the rules of procedure, he is more innocent than most of us imagine him to be. The procedure is all right ; the policy is all wrong. What is this money required for?
– The resolution of which we gave notice has been carried. We require the money for naval defence.
– If the money is required entirely for naval defence purposes; then it is not necessary to take this action until after the next general election. If, 0.1 the other hand, the money is required for any other purpose, that fact should be stated.
– The honorable member will not give us an opportunity to speak.
– The right honorable member had his chance. We wished him to go on.
– What the honorable member wishes, and what I wish, are two different matters.
– Quite so. The object of this Government is to cover up everything.
– That is very good, after the application of the closure on the naval defence motion.
– Who moved the application of the closure?
– You did.
– Does the honorable member say that the Leader of the Opposition moved the application of the closure ?
– The Minister of Defence is capable of saying anything. Motions were submitted that the honorable member be no further heard, but they were disapproved of by me, and 1, and other members of my party, voted against them. The application of the closure to the general question was moved by the Minister of Defence himself, so that his interjection is quite beside the mark. I am not going, however, to be side-tracked. As I understand the position, the Government see that the six States are increasing their indebtedness to financiers in other parts of the world, and they, too, are extremely anxious to borrow. An article in a recent issue of one of the financial journals published in the Old Country contains the statement that Australia is practically in pawn to the money lenders. A great naval policy, following on the lines indorsed practically by all parties in the House, has been announced by the Government, but they desire to inaugurate that policy by resorting to borrowing. Surely that is not in keeping with the spirit or desire of those who have advocated the principle of Australian defence? I can understand the Minister of Defence and those associated with him in the Government being in favour of borrowing, because they have always said that we should be protected by the Mother Country. Until the speech made by him on this subject last week, the honorable gentleman had always declared that the defence of Australia could be best carried out in the North Sea, but those who think that it can be more effectively secured by Australian people and Australian money, and who are willing to find both men and money, take a very different view from that of the Government, who would appeal to financiers in other countries to finance their defence scheme. Their action will do injury to the spirit and fibre of our young Australians. The whole force and effect of an Australian defence policy lies in its inculcation of the idea that we must provide, not only the defenders from among ourselves, but the money for our defence. From the meagre statement that has been made, I understand that the Government propose, by means of borrowing, to raise every penny of the money required to provide the new flotilla. I do not know whether they desire in that way to provide for the cost of military as well as of naval defence.
– The honorable member’s Government did not leave us anything on which we could put our hands.
– The Minister of Defence is in error. The present Government were left a larger nest-egg than my predecessor said would be in the Treasury at the end of the financial year. The amount to the credit of the old-age pension fund was also larger than was anticipated. When I left the Treasury it was in a better position financially than it was when I took charge of it, so that, while the Minister of Defence may jeer, it is evident that he knows nothing about the matter.
– But the honorable member knows that his Government starved every Department.
– It is far better for a Government to economize and pay its way than to clamour for a loan from a socalled poorer people and country. We produce more wealth per head than any country in the world ; and vet we have a Fusion Government of all the talents, whose first act of finance, four months after taking office, is to submit a proposal which humiliates this Parliament in the same manner, and in the same degree, as did the borrowing, boom Governments of the States the State Parliaments a few years ago. We are enjoying unexampled prosperity ; and, at a time when the bounties of nature are greater than ever before - when the people are ready and willing to contribute the money to enable us to effectively defend these shores - the Government, instead of manfully facing the situation, seek to inaugurate a mischievous policy, and, as has been said, create a seventh borrower in Australia. This is a dangerous policy to initiate. Had it not been for the action of the Labour party when Sir George Turner proposed to borrow £500,000, in 1902 - had it not been, as I say, for the Labour party and others-
– Including the honorable member for Parramatta.
– Whoever opposed the policy deserves credit. Had it not been for the action of the Labour party and others at that time, the Commonwealth by this time would have borrowed £20,000,000, and the people would have been, not better,but worse off. What purports to be a desire to borrow for the defence of the country is simply a desire to, on the part of the Government, adopt any means at hand, except that of raising taxation, to get over their difficulties. If we were to adopt the present proposal, it would be the inauguration of a principle which would prove disastrous in the present and in the future.
– Say that more slowly, and it will be more effective !
– I must admit that I feel strongly, because I regard this proposal as something as near a betrayal of the confidence of the people as I can conceive of.
– Many honorable members on this side felt strongly when Sir George Turner submitted his proposal !
– I am speaking of the Government - I take care to charge only the Government. The first I heard of this proposal was late on Friday night. I had no suspicion previously; and, had I been asked whether I thought the Government would introduce a loan policy in this Parliament, I should unhesitatingly have replied in the negative. Yet, on the eve of closing Parliament, when we are not in a position to give the matter full consideration, we have introduced a principle of the greatest importance connected with our financial arrangements. Further, it is against the undoubted constitutional practice, in a dying Parliament - and, I hope, with a dying Government - to seek to involve the Commonwealth in a policy on which the people have never been consulted. It is quite possible that .;he Government hope to induce the people to enter on a loan policy, seeing that it is connected with the patriotic purpose of defence, although such a policy has been expressly declared against at two general elections. Even if the Government thought they could induce the majority of the people to defend their action, the more straightforward and constitutional course would have been to hold their hand until the people had been consulted. The Prime Minister cannot say that the defence policy will be endangered if we have to wait until next session; it cannot be successfully contended that this matter is so urgent that it will not wait for confirmation by the electors. As I understood the Minister of Defence, when he outlined the policy of the Government, the principal expenditure - that on the armoured cruiser - will not have to be met until two years hence. Mr. Joseph Cook. - I did not say that at all. I said it would be two years before the vessel was completed.
– Exactly. Does the Minister say that the money has to be laid down at once?
Mr. FISHER.There is no necessity for the whole of the amount to be raised by loan, even if it has to be paid at once. If two years are to be occupied in construction, and we have that period in which to pay, it would not be an extraordinary demand on the part of the Government if they asked for an annual contribution from the people to enable the payments to be made as soon as the vessel was constructed, or a year or two afterwards. After all, we come back to the main point, namely, that the people ought to be consulted before we alter the policy declared for by the people at two different elections. I shall be compelled to vote against the proposal, not because this is money to provide for the defence of Australia, but because it is the inauguration of a loan policy which has been condemned by the people, and which, in my opinion, would be against their wish at the present time. I am surprised that even this Government should so flout the people as to introduce a proposition of this kind, so near the end of the Parliament. I hope that every member who considers his pledges will see that the motion is defeated. In case there is any misunderstanding, I may say that this matter has not even been discussed by myself and my friends ; but, seeing that the Labour party are practically all pledged against a loan policy, I feel I am speaking largely, if not wholly, for them. I hope that the Government will be thwarted, and I appeal to honorable members opposite, as much as to honorable members on this side, to give the electors an opportunity to express their opinion before they are committed to a loan policy, which is likely to injure the financial future of the Commonwealth.
.- I regret that the Leader of the Opposition has made the speech he has at this stage of the Government proposal. It would have been fairer had the Governor-General’s Message been allowed to pass on the voices, and we had an opportunity to examine and discuss the Bill that is bound to follow.
– The honorable member is the champion apologist for the Government !
– I listened with great patience to the illucid exposition of the Leader of the Opposition and I hope that I shall have the same consideration from honorable members opposite.
– The honorable member shall if he is equally lucid !
– If I am equally lucid, honorable members opposite can interrupt as much as they like. I feel that all honorable members would view with great concern public borrowing for what we are agreed should be regarded as an insurance proposition, but neither on this side nor on the other have honorable members yet considered the emergent necessities of the Government position. I should like to hear the proposal of the Government before being asked to divide on lines of party antagonism in the manner suggested by the Leader of the Opposition. One phrase used by him seemed to me to have a peculiar significance. He said, “ These are the dying hours of a dying Parliament, and, I hope, of a dying Government.” I do not share that hope. I hope that the Government will continue to exist ; and I hope that such considerations will not be allowed to interfere with our deliberations regarding defences and provision for them. To pay to this great subject the attention which it needs, we should deal with the message of the Governor-General as we have dealt with previous messages, and permit the proposals of the Government to come before us as a Bill before we discuss them.
– On the last occasion of the kind, we discussed the proposals of the Government at this stage.
– I think that the Minister left it to the Leader of the Opposition to say at what stage the debate should take place.
– The honorable member is in error.
– I thought the Opposition on that occasion signified its desire to debate the question at the message stage. It would be perfectly ludicrous for us now to discuss the merits or demerits of a loan policy for naval purposes, because we have not before us the proposals of the Government. In -the case referred to, we were acquainted with the text of the Premiers’ agreement. I shall “vote to allow the Government to place its measure before Parliament, and I hope that honorable members generally will do the same. If they wish to closure debate, either by voting that a Minister be not further heard, or by preventing the introduction of this Bill, I shall be happy - being opposed to them - to see them adopt that line of attack.
– The Leader of the Opposition was closured.
– I do not think that any individual honorable member was closured before the Minister of Defence rose to make what should have been the most important speech of the session, though there had been the closuring of a question two days earlier, without any personal significance. If we are to be swayed by revengeful and personal considerations, the sooner we go to the country the better. We owe it to those who sent us here to give an opportunity for the ventilation of Ministerial proposals, and I hope that my honorable friends will allow the Government to put this measure before the House.
– We shall give blow for blow.
– My honorable friend would meet the rapier of Ministers with a bludgeon. Personally I am only concerned that the people of Australia shall know absolutely what we are doing in regard to defence. If my honorable friends, because of ‘memories of the past, and from a desire to obtain possession of the Treasury bench, try to prevent Ministers from placing their views before the country, I shall vote against them, and those who put defence before party will do the same.
Mr. HALL (Werriwa) [3.47).- What we are now considering is a message of His Excellency the Governor-General regarding the Naval Loan Bill. That is the order of the day. Can we be said to consider the matter if we give it no consideration? It is absurd for honorable members to say that we know nothing of the proposals of the Government. They are clearly labelled “ Naval Loan Bill.” If the order of the- day does not mean that a loan for naval purposes is to be proposed, I do not understand the English language. What is proposed is evidently to imitate the Mother Country by obtaining a Dreadnouglit and other vessels; I regret that we are not to imitate her by paying for what we get. Instead, we are going to imitate Germany, and other countries which borrow the money expended on naval preparations.
– Does Germany borrow to build her navy?
– Yes. In Germany, that course has led to a financial crisis and the resignation of a trusted Chancellor. It would not be too much to expect the people of Australia to imitate the people in Great Britain in providing for naval defence out of revenue. Although in Great Britain there are not more than about 40,000,000’ persons, about 4,000,000 of them are on the verge of starvation, and many more have very little to tax. Yet Great Britain, in addition to creating and maintaining a fleet twice as large as that ot any two other countries, has within the last seven years paid ^60,000,000 off her National Debt. We, when faced with the need for naval defence, at once propose to borrow. Honorable members opposite have taken the names of English parties. The honorable member for Parramatta has boasted of being a Liberal. Would a Liberal like Lloyd-George propose to borrow to pay for a Dreadnought) The British Liberals do not borrow for these purposes. They have not shrunk from proposing taxation which is almost revolutionary in its consequences. The Australian Liberals, since the Fusion, at any rate, have no idea of providing for naval defence except by borrowing. Were it necessary for the Commonwealth to borrow, I should like it to be wholly for reproductive works, not to pay for war-ships which, at the end of fifteen or sixteen years, and probably at the end of ten years, would be obsolete.
– The German newspapers say that their Dreadnoughts are already obsolete.
– I do not accept that view ; but long before we have paid oft the proposed debt, and probably before we have made arrangements for paying it off, the vessels in respect to which it is incurred will be obsolete. We shall have had the use of them, and posterity will have to pay for them. A policy of that kind does not require much statesmanship, and the man in the street could propound one just as original. This Government will be remembered, not. only for its extraordinary changes of policy, to enable its individual Ministers to work together, but also as being the first to borrow to meet public expenditure, and the people will realize in time to come that “ He who goes aborrowing goes a-sorrowing. “
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson> [3-52l- - The Leader of the Opposition took the course which he might have been expected to take, knowing that the proposal before us foreshadows the Government policy. His remarks made it evident that he advocates a policy very different fromthat of the Government. The naval policy of Great Britain is not so ambitious as that of Australia, seeing that we have a population of only 4,000,000, while her population is over 40,000,000. To enable usto find the money for an Australian Navy, some such scheme as that which the honorable member for Wide Bay sees foreshadowed is necessary. But until a Bill is brought in, and we know definitely what the Government propose, I do not think we should block the measure. In mv opinion this is not the stage which we should make the battle-ground of our fight as to whether the money necessary for naval construction should or should not be obtained by borrowing. We should wait until the Bill hasbeen introduced. I hope that the scheme embodied in the measure will meet with the hearty approval of those sitting on this side. Of course, if it should be a scheme which will lead to waste and ruin, instead of building up art efficient defence, it must be opposed. But the continental European Powers, and even the South American Republics, have schemes by which their people are, fortified against such waste. I take it that it is the policy of this Government to bring forward such a scheme. Anything else would undoubtedly be financial suicide, and lead to ultimate ruin. However, if the Leader of the Opposition intends to make this the battle-ground on which to test the question of whether the naval policy foreshadowed’ by the present Government shall be accepted in preference to his own, it will’ be impossible for us to finish this business at the end of next week. It is the greatest question that we have yet had to deal withthis session, and I have been looking forward to it with an immense amount of concern, because our future depends to such a great extent upon what the Government’s scheme really is. I think I have read asmuch about it as most honorable members have. One can read between the lines of the speeches delivered by those who are responsible for the policy of the Government. It will be seen that they have thought the matter out carefully, and are not going to propose a policy of waste, ruin, and financial imbecility. I take it that they have a properly-considered scheme, because it is undoubtedly most ambitious on their part to bring forward a proposal to build in the beginning a Dreadnought, a number of first and third class cruisers, a fleet of submarines, and, I suppose, also of submersibles, which will all have to be replaced from time to time. lt is a great and ambitious scheme, and I take it that the exposition which we shall have when the second reading is moved will be worthy of a great Treasurer. I do not think there is much to cavil at at this juncture. The Governor-General’s message should be respectfully received, but no one can object to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. It is his business to see that the Government are not reckless, and to put in a word for his scheme at every opportunity. I look forward to the Treasurer’s second-reading speech with a good deal of interest, and hope it will be delivered soon; but if the matter is going to be fought, as the speech of the Leader of the Opposition would indicate, I fear we shall not get through it this session. I would much sooner have seen the matter submitted to the electors before it was put before the House, but the responsibility rests with the Government, and they are prepared to shoulder it. It is always the strong Government that commands the most respect, and the present Government have taken on a very big thing. I hope, therefore, that the Treasurer will be able to give a good account of himself, and bring forward a scheme that will meet with genera! approbation.
– I take it that the honorable member for Robertson has not been intentionally unfair to the Leader of the Opposition, but he has not thoroughly appreciated that honorable member’s attitude. The whole tenor of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition was in opposition to a proposal to borrow money to establish a navy of any description.- It does not necessarily follow that the honorable member is opposed to the establishment of a navy j but he is opposed to borrowing money for that purpose, and he sought to justify his attitude by giving several opinions dealing with various aspects of naval defence. I would tell the Prime Minister and the Treasurer that the Opposition cannot be charged with taking any unfair advantage of them over this Question. We are not responsible for arranging the business-paper or for the fact that frequently when the Treasurer rises in this House to push forward a Bill he has not got the Bill ready. He always wants to get a certain stage of a Bill passed before the members of the House are in possession of any facts to justify its being tabled at all. He wishes now to push forward a Loan Bill, in order to bring into existence certain ships for the purposes of naval defence. Those ships, I believe, will be an asset, but not by any means an asset which will increase in value, or which will not depreciate. When we are opposed to raising money by means of a loan for such a purpose, is it not our duty to oppose it at every stage?
– This is the stage that enables the Treasurer to make an explanation.
– It is the stage that would have given the Treasurer all the latitude that he required to explain the necessity for a Loan Bill.
– But the Bill was not here.
– Who is to blame for that?
– We cannot do things like a steam engine.
– The right honorable gentleman might have allowed this notice of motion to stand over until to-morrow, or until such time as. he obtained copies of the Bill. He seems to think that he can come into this House and say, “ I have not got the Bill, but let it go up to a certain stage. I do not want to make a speech to-day, and I do not want you to make a speech.” Although the right honorable gentleman happens to be the Treasurer of Australia, and, in some circumstances, has a majority behind him, he is not going to conduct the business entirely as he wishes. This is a proposal to plunge the country into a new financial scheme which was never once mooted to the electors prior to the last election. I challenge the Prime Minister or any of his Ministers to say that they advocated during the last Federal campaign a proposal to borrow money in order to establish a navy. T challenge them to show where they even indicated to the electors that they- were going to raise money for the purpose bv means of a loan. The Minister of Defence has followed the advice of his late leader and turned a complete somersault cn this question. The sound of his voice when he was in Opposition, howling against the proposal to establish an Australian unit, has hardly yet died away.
– I never did.
– Does the honorable member deny that he believed in increasing the subsidy to the Imperial Navy in order to strengthen it, rather than in establishing an Australian Navy ?
– It is correct that I believed in increasing the subsidy, but not “ rather than in establishing an Australian Navy.”
– Did the honorable member propose to do both?
– Did he propose to give a subsidy of a million pounds to the Imperial Navy and establish an Australian Navy also?
– The honorable member might make it three or four million pounds while he is at it.
– My honorable friend is talking of three or four million pounds now, but he knows that at that particular time members on his side openly stated that the then subsidy of £200,000 to the Imperial Navy was not one-quarter enough for the services chat were being rendered. Does he deny that that statement was made at that time from this side of the House?
– I said it was not enough.
– We will not argue about the amount, but when he was in opposition did the honorable member ever make any statement that would indicate that he favoured the establishment of an Australian Navy in preference to the payment of an increased subsidy?
– I always said on every platform in the country that it was time we began to get an Australian Navy.
– The honorable member might have said iton platforms in the country, but he was silent in the House on the question .
– I do not think so.
– I used to listen attentively to the honorable member, but I did not hear him make any such statement.
– He used to sneer at a “ mosquito fleet.”
-I do not know that the Minister was one of those who sneered at a mosquito fleet, but he was associated with quite a number who did. His late leader, the right honorable member for East Syd ney, was one of them. The transformation that has taken place on the Ministerial side of the House on this question during the last few months, has been simply astounding. The Government sent a representative off to London; they had to explain his statements for several weeks after he left, and the honorable member for Robertson used to ask who he was, but he came back with a scheme, and the Government seem to have accepted it.
– Oh no. We do not know what it is yet.
– That is a lovely admission, seeing that the honorable member voted the other day for the gag, and also for a motion approving of the scheme as entered into between the Imperial Government and the self-governing Dominions.
– I was not here.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon.
– Missed again !
– But that does not apply to the Minister of Defence. He voted to “ gag “ the scheme through.
– What would the honorable member for Robertson have done if he had been here?
– I was very indignant that the matter was disposed of in that way.
– It is refreshing to know that there is at least a little liberty left on the Ministerial side of the House still.
– If the honorable member will let this motion go through, we shall have a chance of learning what the scheme is.
– The honorable member must remember that I am opposed to the borrowing of money for the establishment of a Navy. In the prosperous condition of this country, in view of the resources available for taxation, if more taxation is necessary, and seeing the new service that is going to be rendered to those who own landed estates, and possess the wealth of this country, those people are fair subjects for taxation, in order to provide insurance against attack. I am absolutely opposed to any proposal to borrow money from the Old Country to build ships which will be obsolete in a few years’ time. The Government say, “ Oh, it does not matter, Posterity will pay.”
– That is to say, the honorable member believes that we ought to raise £4,000,000 in the next two years?
– If it is necessary, I am prepared to see that amount of taxation levied upon the people of Australia which will give effective defence. If it is necessary that the amount of money specified in the motion should be raised within two years, then I am in favour of raising it ; but I do not think it is necessary. Only a little while ago, the Minister of Defence did not think it necessary, either.
– They were all against a loan a few years ago.
– Every one of them was against it.
– This Fleet has to be built in about two years.
-Of course, the Minister of Defence says “ This is the scheme that has to be accepted.” The Ministerial delegate to the Imperial Naval Conference has approved of it, and notwithstanding that some supporters of the Government professed not to know who he was, the agreement to which he became a party has been accepted. Apparently we are now going to be told, “ If you do not vote for this motion you are opposed to an effective system of defence.”
– I raised no such point.
– Then why did the honorable member ask whether I was in favour of Australian defence? If this proposal were not preceded with we should have authority within twelve months to take from the revenues of Australia sufficient to provide for effective defence.
– Then the honorable member proposes to finance our naval policy out of the money that now goes to the States? ‘
– I would provide first of all for the necessities of the Commonwealth out of the revenue collected by the Commonwealth’. The Minister of Defence seems to be anxious to raise against the Opposition the cry, “ You would rob the States,” but all that- 1 say is that I believe in our meeting the liabilities of the Commonwealth before making a definite payment to the States. I propose now to quote from the Hansard report of the debate which took place on the first Loan Bill submitted to this Parliament.
– That was a long way back.
– I propose to quote from the report of the proceedings of this House on 17th June, 1902. Surely, the Trea surer, who used to say to his constituents, “ I knew your grandfathers,” does not think that this is very ancient.
– Is there any harm in my making such a statement?
– Not the least. Does the right honorable member say that it is wrong for a man to hold to-day opinions that he held in June, 1902? On the occasion in question Sir George Turner, who was then Treasurer, said -
Victoria could not possibly construct out of revenue the works proposed to be undertaken in this State unless additional taxation were imposed.
That seems to be a reasonable statement, but the Minister of Defence who was then sitting on this side of the House, said -
Is that an absolutely insuperable objection? Are there no resources in Victoria which can be drawn upon for this particular purpose?
The honorable gentleman has now adopted a different attitude. The resources of the country which, in ordinary circumstances, would be drawn upon for this purpose, are in the hands of gentlemen who will be the political friends of the Ministry at the next general election, and that is why they do not wish to touch them. They think it far better to raise a loan and let posterity pay for it.
– The honorable member surely sees the difference between this proposal, and that to which he has just referred.
– The difference is that the honorable member was then in Opposition, whereas he is now on the Treasury bench.
– There is also another important difference.
– The first Loan Bill was to provide for reproductive works.
– That is so. It was to provide for necessary reproductive works in Australia.
– And that is the only possible justification for a loan.
– I agree with the honorable member.
– And even then the proposal should be accompanied by one to make provision for a sinking fund.
– That is an important matter.
– There was no justification for a loan at that time.
– Was the prosperity of Australia in 1902 equal to its prosperity to-day? Was the tax-bearing capacity of the people greater then than it is now?
– It is better now, I believe, thanks to this Government.
– I am not going to be led away from my argument by such an interjection. I hold that the tax-bearing capacity of the people to-day is much greater than it was in 1902.
– I am very doubtful as to that.
– I am not. The Australian States have already incurred an indebtedness amounting to over £250,000,000, the interest on which, amounting to about £9,000,000 per annum, has to be made good by the taxpayers. We have six State borrowers who have raised by way of loan £50,000,000 since the inauguration of Federation, and the Government propose that the Commonwealth shall enter the market as the seventh Australian borrower. Whilst the States may have been justified in borrowing to provide for great national developmental works, the Commonwealth Government propose to borrow by way of insurance against invasion. They will bring into existence by means of this borrowed money a doubtful asset. It may be blown to pieces at any time, but the liability will remain. That is the worst possible object for which we could borrow.
– But we do not know what the scheme is.
– We know that the Government propose to raise £3,500,000 for naval defence purposes, and when the Bill itself is before us, we shall not have an elaboration of the defence policy of the Government.
– Do not let us have a divisionon this motion. Let us take a division at another stage.
– I am for a division at every stage of this Bill. I am opposed to borrowing to provide for the cost of constructing a Navy, and am prepared to vote against such a proposal at any stage. Let me make another quotation from Hansard, showing how the Minister of Defence viewed the policy of borrowingon 17 th June, 1902.
– The honorable member for Barrier, who has handed the quotation to the honorable member, seems to sleep on Hansard.
– The honorable member for Barrier knows the Minister of Defence better than does any other honorable mem ber. The Minister of Defence said, on that occasion -
It is not at all a popular policy - as the Treasurer has discovered before to-day -
The honorable gentleman always keeps his eye on the question “of popularity - to discontinue borrowing and endeavour to bring our expenditure within reasonable dimensions. The old couplet applies to nations equally with individuals -
The devil was sick, the devil a monk would be;
The devil grew well, the devil a monk was he.
We do not think of the consequences of borrowing.
How different is the position to day. When the Minister of Defence was on this side of the House,he led an attack against a proposal to involve the Commonwealth in a borrowing policy. He was then fighting for the people.
– I believed that what I said was perfectly sound. I think so still.
– If the honorable member thinks that it is dangerous to borrow, how can he persuade himself that it is wise for the Commonwealth to borrow for one of the most doubtful of assets ?
– Circumstances alter. For instance, the honorable member said a few moments ago that he would be in favour of the Commonwealth returning to the States only £3,500,000 instead of £5,000,000 per annum, as was proposed at the Brisbane Labour Conference.
– I said nothing of the kind. That is an unfair statement to make.
– The honorable member said he would raise this amount in two years. That would mean returning to the States £2,000,000 per annum less than we propose.
– I ask the honorable member to discontinue his interjections.
– What I said was that I believed in making the Commonwealth revenue available first of all for Commonwealth necessities. I said, further, that if it were proved that to provide for the effective defence of Australia £4,000,000 was required within the next two years,that money could be raised by way of taxation, and not by borrowing. I did not say that we should necessarily stand by taxes on thefood of the poor, as this Government are prepared to do. We have the lands of Australia available to us as a possible means of raising money to provide for the defence of the country.
– The States are taxing them now.
– The honorable member at one time was in favour of land taxation, and used to describe private ownership in land as legalized theft.
– A Land Tax Bill has just been passed by one House of the Victorian Parliament.
– The honorable member knows that it will never be passed by the other House. The Treasurer, in his Budget statement, put before us certain other loan proposals on the part of the Government, and our difficulty is that we can never find out where the Ministry are so far as any financial proposal is concerned. The Treasurer then anticipated that we should have a deficit of £1,200,000; but that anticipated deficit has been reduced to £600,000 under the financial agreement. A proposal was submitted to raise money by short-dated Treasury bonds in order to get over the difficulty until the end of the financial year. .Does this loan proposal relate only to naval defence, or is it. to extricate the Government from their financial obligations? Ministers adopt an attitude of studied insolence to members of the Opposition. However, if the Government do not care to make a statement, I am not going to cry out; but when the Leader of the Opposition expresses a desire for information, he is entitled to consideration.
– We have not had an opportunity.
– The Treasurer can have an opportunity now. The Prime Minister knows that when the proposal was submitted in regard to naval defence, the Minister of Defence himself desired to make a statement, and the House, though any one could have objected, permitted hhim to do so. But we find that on this naval loan proposal, the Treasurer does not desire to make a statement now, but at some other stage.
– The Treasurer says he is not ready !
– We never know when the Government are ready or what they want. The Prime Minister intimates that a statement will be made as soon as there is an opportunity ; but, when an opportunity presents itself, we are told that it will be done at some other time. I am absolutely opposed to a borrowing policy for the purpose of establishing a navy. The resources of this country are sufficient to pro vide the necessary money for effective defence. The recklessness of State Treasurers in the past is responsible for half the difficulty we experience to-day. Australia is faced . with the payment of £9,000,000 per annum in interest ; and that is the severest drain on the resources of both the Commonwealth and States.
Colonel Foxton. - A large amount of that interest is paid by reproductive works.
– I admit that a large proportion of the borrowed money was invested in reproductive works; but, at the same time, some of it was squandered. It cannot be said that this proposed loan is for reproductive works.
Mr. Joseph Cook. Indeed, yes !
– The Minister of Defence would justify anything !
– Is insurance not justified?
– If the honorable member were conducting a business, and had to borrow money, would he be justified in charging the insurance on his premises to loan account? Would his business be on a reasonable basis if he did not make his profits pay the insurance? The question is too absurd to require any consideration by the intelligent people of Australia. The trouble is that the Government have broken so many promises - have so often shifted from one side to the other and swallowed one another’s opinions - that they ‘do not think it matters if they break another, and, although they were returned as antiborrowers, resort to a loan policy before the people have an opportunity of expressing an opinion.
.- Whatever may have been the case with the Labour party, I am not aware of any candidate at the last election who placed the question of borrowing or not borrowing before the electors. I certainly did not mention the matter ; and beyond the fact that antiborrowing is a plank of the Labour platform, I do not think it arose or that the people would have been prepared to cast a vote on it as coming within the range of active politics at that time. The only occasion when the borrowing question came before this Parliament was in 1902 ; and at that time the present Minister of Defence, the present Minister of Home Affairs, and the present Attorney-General, in common with myself and others on this side of the House, were against a borrowing policy.
– Also the present PostmasterGeneral.
– Quite so; only he was not a member of the direct Opposition, though on the wing. The members I have mentioned,” who are now of the Fusion party, stoutly resisted a borrowing policy. The Prime Minister, however, as a member of the Barton Administration, did introduce a loan policy, which, as we know, was rejected. 1 cannot understand how honorable members, who then opposed borrowing, can so readily accept the motion now before us.
– Does the honorable member say that under no circumstances is borrowing justified?
– There is no more acute interjector than the honorable gentleman; and I shall reply to him at a proper time. From 1902 until now it has been laid to the credit of the Commonwealth that, in the exercise of its powers, it has lived upon its revenue. The honorable member for Robertson made an appeal, which, for a time, had an effect upon me. He pointed out that to resist this message was a needless insult to the Government of the day, seeing that the struggle should really lake place on the second reading of the Bill. Whether or not that would be a diplomatic suggestion to follow, I do not know; but I am invited by this message to do a certain thing, and that invitation I have to accept or refuse. I have listened carefully to honorable members who have already spoken, and I must say that I think they introduced a good deal of party warfare into the discussion. Whether my time here be long or short, I think I can at least claim that I have always endeavoured to indicate, without pretence or qualification, how I intended to vote. If I appear to constantly differ from the opinions of others, that may be regarded as my mental attitude; but, in what I do, I believe I am preserving the rights of those who sent me here. My desire is to show that the masses of the community willi not be well served by entering upon a loan policy for the purpose of naval expenditure. By this motion I am invited to say that it is expedient that an appropriation be made for a Bill which will authorize the raising of £3,500,000 by loan for the purpose of naval defence. I do not deem it expedient that such an appropriation should “be made; and I may as well resist the proposal now as later on. If there are degrees of justification for borrowing, there was greater justification In 1902 than there is in 1909. Sir George Turner, as Treasurer, asked for a loan authorization on the grounds that certain reproductive and developmental works in the Postal and other Departments could not otherwise be carried out ; and it must be remembered that the Treasurer at that time was restricted in revenue to 5s. in the £1, whereas the amount available now is, or will be in the near future, 10s. in the £1. It will be seen that the Treasurer of 1902 was in a much worse position than is the Treasurer of 1909.
– The honorable member surely does not mean that?
– I do mean it. For the immediate present, and for some years, the Treasurer will be in a better position than was the Treasurer in 1902.
– There was the Braddon section then.
– That is what I am pointing out.
– And in 1902 we had one of the worst of drought seasons.
– Quite so; the skies were gloomy and the outlook was dark, the revenue from Customs and Excise being on the decline. In fact, I remember the present Minister ‘of Home Affairs pleading foi a remission of the fodder duties ; and his plea was rejected for the reason, amongst others, that there was a shortage of revenue. A little while ago the Minister of Defence asked me whether I could conceive of no occasion on which a loan may be justifiable. There are times when, for purely developmental work, a loan is justified, but only when the Treasury is in a more depleted condition than the forecast now shows it is likely to be for some years to come. With the growth of population anticipated by the Prime Minister under the policy which he and the Premiers have inaugurated, any shortage in the revenue will be made up in the near future. The object of the proposed loan is naval expenditure, and it has been intimated that we are to borrow £3,500,000. If that was to be all, if there would be no succeeding loans, the position would not be serious ; but the Minister of Defence has told us that the proposed expenditure is only for an instalment of the navy. He, or his successors, will be compelled to go further. What we do now will not stand for all time.
– In one year we paid to the States £880,000 out of our one- fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue. We should be in a better position to do without borrowing then than now.
– If we had not returned to the States anything over the three-fourths to which they were entitled, we should today have ,£8,000,000 or ,£9,000,000 to our credit.
– Is it not our duty to defend the people of the States ?
– I shall come to that matter directly. The money returned to the States over and above their three-fourths would, had it been retained and saved by the Commonwealth, have enabled us to pay for a navy without borrowing. The States have received millions more than they were entitled to. But there has been no admission of that fact from their Premiers and Treasurers. As I have said, this will not be the only loan. It is now proposed to establish borrowing as our policy in connexion with naval construction, a proposition so serious that I agree with honorable members opposite that the matter should be referred to the electors. This loan must be followed by others, if the navy is to be kept efficient. The expenditure of ;£3>5o0>°°0 will riot do more than maintain the present auxiliary squadron. It will not do away with the need for British assistance. There will be the British navy plus what we provide. Honorable members who resist the proposal are resisting more than a proposal to borrow ,£3,500,000; they are resisting the introduction of a borrowing policy which is far-reaching in its character. Whatever Ministry may be in power in the future will be bound by our action in this matter. All future Governments will be tied by the financial agreement, and bound by any policy that we may lay down now for defence purposes. From whatever party any future Ministry may be chosen, the policy adopted now must be continued, and further borrowing undertaken.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the whole of the capi- tal expenditure on defence must be borrowed ?
– No man more greatly desires effective naval defence than I do. I think that the bulk of our expenditure on defence should be in connexion with the navy. Our insular situation will require us to maintain a strong navy. The proposed’ unit will not be sufficient for all time. This or some future Ministry will have to strengthen and develop it. For that, money will be necessary, so that in the future we shall have further borrowing Should we to-day indorse the Go%’ernment’s proposal to borrow for naval expenditure, we shall indorse a loan policy for all time. I have a few words to say as to the equity of that. In my opinion, it is unjust to ask the Commonwealth to borrow for purposes of defence. If there is one thing for which borrowing is not right, it is defence. Money spent on defence is spent for the purposes of to-day, and should be provided by the people of to-day. I suppose that the Minister will not propose to borrow for the upkeep of the navy. He will surely provide for that out o’f revenue ? The Commonwealth’s main source of revenue is Customs and Excise taxation, which falls chiefly on the masses of the community, in taxes on their food supplies, wearing apparel, and other necessaries. Direct taxation of any kind has not been suggested. Apparently the money required for the upkeep of the navy will have to be found by the masses, while it is by the masses that the manning of the vessels will be done. Should we borrow, the interest charges will be met. out of current revenue, and will thus also be paid by the masses. .
– There will be interest and a heavy sinking fund to be provided for.
– We come of a race which’ does not repudiate its debts. Therefore we shall have to repay what we borrow, ‘but as revenue does not fall from heaven like rain, and as practically our Only source is Customs and Excise taxation, it means that the people will have to bear the burden of these payments. The proposed expenditure has been referred to as a form of insurance. But we are insuring, not only the interests of the people at large, but also the wealth and property of the community, and those who own that wealth and property are not asked to contribute specially towards its defence. Our propertied classes will not be laid under contribution for the upkeep and maintenance of our defence policy. It is astounding that the masses should be asked to provide for an effective defence scheme. We certainly require effective naval defence, but we should provide for it by means of “taxation of an equitable character. We know that some of the party newspaper organs will make it appear that those who vote against the Government’s proposal do so because they are opposed to the provision of naval defence. This may frighten some, but I hope that others will be prepared to fight the matter out on the platform. Money should not be borrowed to provide for naval defence. The Minister of Defence has indicated that a sinking fund is to be provided. He desires to gild the pill.
– That is simply an honest provision for the repayment of the loan.
– The honorable member for Dal ley would be the last to oppose anything of that sort. He does not object to the repayment of debts. British communities have never repudiated liabilities of this kind. But I would remind the Minister of the experience of New South Wales and Western Australia in regard to sinking funds. Some years back, when New South Wales had a heavy deficit, it established a sinking fund into which payments were made for several years, but, after a time, Governments neglected to comply with the law in that respect, and Sir William McMillan took possession of the money at the credit of this fund for the purpose of the Government of which he was then Treasurer. The experience in Western Australia was the same. A sinking fund was started, but, when I was over there, the Ministry of the day were struggling to abolish it.
– That was for future loans, not for existing loans.
– At any rate, the Government wanted to get rid of the sinking fund. A sinking fund is all right if it is carried out properly, but after a few years it is disregarded, and the first Ministry that get themselves into a financial corner forget all about it, or evade it. I am asked now whether I am in favour of a loan policy for the navy. I distinctly say “ no. ‘ ‘ I should vote against the Bill on the second reading, but why should I wait until the second reading is moved ? This message conveys a straightout invitation, and I have to give a straightout answer to it. Of all things that Australia should not borrow for. defence is the most prominent. I am asked what sources of revenue can be tapped for the purpose. On many occasions during the last nine years it has been my pleasure to indicate that direct taxation is the source from which revenue for defence purposes should be obtained. That is a just and fair course. Great Britain to her honour and credit does not build her navy out of loan. Germany does, and Germany is loading herself with a debt which will saddle posterity with an almost insupportable burden of interest charges. Great Britain builds hernavy out of current revenue, and her Liberal party is now engaged in a fight, on which they will be appealing to the people directly on the question of the just and proper incidence of taxation.
Mr.Wise. - Is not Canada proposing to provide her defence in the same way?
– The honorable member for Gippsland is quite correct. To adopt a loan policy for defence purposes is an ancient way of doing things. We have already a public debt of £250,000,000, a lot of which I admit has been borrowed for the development of Australia, and so has been for the good of Australia. I do not often agree with the right honorable member for Swan, but when he was Premier of Western Australia he took the only course open to him and did the correct thing by his broad policy of borrowing for local development. He did well for Western Australia then, but there is an immense difference between borrowing for reproductive works and protecting the loan by means of a sinking fund, and borrowing to construct a navy which becomes obsolete within ten years, especially when we know that once we start to build a navy it will mean an expenditure of not only three and a half million pounds, but many million pounds more as the years go by. We do not start a navy for the purpose of dropping it when it is worn out. The proper ideal of an Australian navy is one which will be kept efficient and strengthened, so that in years to come we may have a fleet which is honestly” effective and powerful enough to protect our shores. If this proposal is adopted it means the inception of a borrowing policy to build not only the navy of to-day but the navy of the future. I am opposed to that. If I am asked what people should pay for it, I say, “The people of to-day.” If I am further asked, “ What source is the money to come from?” I reply, “If the Customs and Excise revenue supplies the cost of upkeep and the expenditure on our land forces, surely the least that this Parliament can do is to ask the wealthy people of Australia to pay a direct tax, with which to purchase a navy.”
– Did they not nearly subscribe the money voluntarily for a Dreadnought ?
– No, that fund was a bit of a fizzle.
– About tenpence in the £ was paid up.
– The honorable member for Yarra ridicules the amount subscribed, but it was a bad policy to ask the people of Australia to provide defence by voluntary subscription.
– Not a single penny was given in Victoria.
– Perhaps the Victorian people could not afford it, but we should not send round a subscription list for a navy, like a collection for a church. It is a matter of policy, and that policy should be of a direct character. The wealthy should pay their fair and just share towards the cost of a navy. I do not ask them to pay any more, but if the navy is purchased by means of a loan they will be allowed to escape their responsibility, because the interest on the loan will be met, not by them, but by the masses of Australia out of the Customs and Excise duties which they pay. It will be only an encouragement to retain high revenue duties. I said years ago that I would resist the inception of a loan policy, and that the cost of defence should be levied by means of a Federal income tax, a copy of the British income tax, which is levied distinctly for war purposes. In time of war or financial necessity it is increased, but in time of lessening expenditure it is reduced.’ That system could be followed in Australia. We are often told to be obedient imitators of the Motherland, and in this matter we could not imitate her too closely. We ought to take the bold step of saying to the wealthy and propertied classes, “An income tax for defence purposes is required of you.” When trip demand is strong, put the screw on ; when it is not so strong, take the screw off, as they do in Great Britain.
– It is very hard to get it off.
– The income tax is reduced at times in Great Britain. Even if it were not reduced here, the wealthy would not feel the screw half so badly as would the people who paid the money through Customs and Excise duties. I am absolutely adverse to the Government proposal in this matter. It may be due to my want of perception, or my lack of ability to see things in their true perspective, but I cannot understand how the Minister of Defence, the Minister of Home Affairs, and the Attorney-General, who in 1902 were such stout opponents of a loan policy, can to-day ask the House to adopt it, especially for naval purposes. Statesmen, we know, are like navigable rivers. They make bends and concessions to get round their turns, and, as Lowell once said, “ Only the dead and the ignorant never change.”. Therefore, I suppose that on this question of a loan policy, as between 1902 and 1909, I am dead or ignorant, and those three honorable gentlemen are neither ignorant nor dead.
– And the PostmasterGeneral.
– I do not want to bring him into the question. I have no concern with him politically, but I was associated with .the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Home Affairs for years, not only in this House, but in New South Wales. Apparently they see no inconsistency in their conduct, but if I were to vote for a loan policy for naval defence, and allow the wealthy and propertied classes’ to escape their fair share of the cost, I should not be doing a fair thing for the working classes and the masses of Australia. With the Commonwealth in its present position, with Customs and Excise as its only source of revenue, it is criminal to introduce a loan policy, which will have to be followed up by loan after loan. If only one loan were necessary the position might be met, but this is the beginning of a policy which will plunge the people of Australia for all time into a borrowing system. The question has never to my knowledge been pu<- before the electors. To those who say that members on’ this side are breaking their pledges. I reply that I am not aware that they have made any. I do not know whether antiborrowing is still in the platform of the Labour party or not, but I myself hare never mentioned it on the platform. I will, however, take to the electors at the next election no issue with greater pleasure and greater earnestness than this one. I could not conceive of a better cause, even if I were defeated at the POll, than that of fighting upon the platforms of New South Wales against the initiation df a loan policy to meet naval expenditure, whilst allowing the wealth and property of Australia to escape it? fair share of taxation. The loan policy rejected in 1902 did stand to some extent for the people’s good. It could be claimed for it that it was to develop Australia, and to improve and build up certain industries, requirements, and agencies from which the people could expect a return. It was resisted, but the resistance offered on that occasion ought to be as nothing compared with the resistance offered now to the inauguration of a loan policy for naval defence. And how will Australia, appear before the outside world? We are now stepping into nationhood and national life. A few years ago we were an honoured dependency of Great Britain. We were the youngest daughter of the British Empire, and glad to be associated with the Motherland, which looked after our protection ; but in a strong, and sometimes in a flaunting manner, we said that we intended to take the first step towards nationhood on our own account. We took it, but are we to take it like a nation of robust and strong men, or are we to take it as paupers and mendicants, going to the Motherland for a loan for the purposes of defence ?
– Nonsense. Does the honorable member think there is no money in this country ?
– We have money here, but will the loan be floated here or on the London market? If the money is in this country why borrow it and pay interest on it for the purpose of protecting the very people who lend it to us ? The Treasurer’s interjection involves a state of affairs worse than the original position. If we have to go to the Australian edition of Isaac Cohen and Company to borrow three and a-half million pounds, the people of Australia will have to pay interest to Isaac Cohen, to protect whom ? - to protect themselves, and Isaac Cohen also. For a young nation like this, which has rightly determined to put all its young men under arms for its own defence, to determine to borrow money to finance its defence policy is not in accord with my idea of what is fitting. If we want to relieve the Motherland, we shall not do it by going to the money lenders of Great Britain. They are not known for their patriotism, or love of national life. They will lend to any country if the bonds are good enough. They will lend to the bitterest opponent that England ever had. They would lend to-morrow to Russia or France, and they will even lend on the
ToKen bonds of Turkey in order to get a certain amount by way of interest. I as an Australian citizen and native do not care for feeding the maw of the moneylending class of Great Britain, but I do care about relieving the Mother Country of the responsibility of defending the Aus- tralian nation. All I ask is that the wealthy and propertied classes of Australia shall take their fair share of the burden. I do not want them to meet all the expenditure of the Government. To-day the only way in which the Commonwealth taxes the wealthy is by means of Customs and Excise, but under that heading every one is in the one category, with the exception that the wealthy may pay a. little more on alcoholic liquors and stimulants. But the average of £2 10s. per head stands, and the head of a working-class family of six pays £15 per year in Customs and Excise duties. He also gives his sons to the military forces, and will give them to the navy. He will provide for the upkeep of the navy, and now we are asked to adopt a loan policy and to let him also bear the interest charges on the loans. It is a monstrous proposal. I say “ Pay the charge out of current revenue.” If we have not sufficient money available for the purpose, we should say to the States to whom we are returning so freely 25s. per annum, “ Here is an honest charge for the protection of the States as an integral part of the Commonwealth. This money is required to provide not only for the protection of the people, but for the protection of the property in each State, and we ask you to make a special grant for the purpose.”
– We should say to them, “ You do the borrowing.”
– I do not say that. What harm can there be in imposing direct taxation? The battle will have to be fought at the next general election, and I suppose that I shall be found fighting as strongly as any one against this loan policy. At the same time, there will be a Labour man in my electorate fighting me, and also declaring himself in opposition to such a policy. I shall receive from the well-to-do in my electorate no credit for my attitude. They will not vote for me. I do not expect them to do so, but I shall know that I am acting wisely, and I trust that those who join with me in resisting the introduction of a loan policy for the Commonwealth will be successful. We must fight in the interests of our children. We must see that they are not called upon to carry this unjust burden. In their ordinary walks of ife they will have quite sufficient to pay by way of Customs and Excise taxation, without being called upon to bear these additional charges. I would remind honorable members of the battle for freedom which is being fought by Lloyd George, who comes from the country of my ancestors. What cares he for the “ snobocracy “ or the wealthy classes of Great Britain? He says, “I am fighting those who are drawn from the ranks of the unemployed.” That was his reference to the House of Lords, and no better phrase was ever coined in respect of the personnel of that Chamber. He was born in the purple and has lived in the purple, ‘but he talked to the purple as the purple ought to be talked to. The principle of noblesse oblige prevails to-day with the true aristocrats of Great Britain, as I hope it prevails with the aristocrats of Australia. They do not wish to escape their rightful burdens. They are prepared to carry their proper share of the cost of defence, and the Government are taking up a miserable position in proposing a loan policy for naval defence - a policy which means placing an extra charge upon the poor, while the wealthy are allowed to escape. I do not know whether or not the Government intend to submit direct taxation proposals. If they do, I should be glad to see them submit them now. I am compelled to take this stand at the present stage, because I feel that if I voted for this motion merely for the sake of con.veniencing the Government, they would be justified in expecting me to vote for the second reading of the Bill. I put my position to them frankly and honorably. I refuse their invitation to vote for this motion for the reason that by voting for this motion I should really indorse a policy of which I do not approve. To my mind, the policy is a most dangerous one, and I know of nothing that I shall have greater pleasure in opposing on the public platforms in my electorate than this proposition to inaugurate, a loan policy for naval purposes.
.- Although my attitude may . be misunderstood, I sincerely and honestly regret, from a national stand-point, that the Ministry should have introduced a loan policy for naval purposes. From a party stand-point, I am certainly glad, because there is no question on which I should rather go to the people than that of a non-borrowing policy; but from a national stand-point, I honestly regret the course that is now being taken by the Government. Those who were members of the first Parliament find some occasion- for surprise when they compare the attitude of certain honorable members to-day with the stand which they took up when the first Loan Bill was submitted in this House in 1902.” There has .been a lively controversy in Australia on the question of whether or not the Commonwealth should borrow for any purpose. There is something to be said for the policy of raising money by loans to provide for reproductive works, although personally I am opposed to such a policy. It may be open to question whether money should not be borrowed for works which will yield sufficient to pay interest on the cost of construction and provide for a sinking fund; but I have never heard any one on a public platform in Australia approve of the policy of borrowing money for military or naval purposes. When the Minister of Defence moved the second reading of the Defence Bill he stated that the great object of that measure was to secure efficiency, and he concluded by saying that he proposed to ask Parliament to vote ,£1,000,000, which he anticipated would be sufficient to provide for an effective defence force. I said at the time by way of interjection that it would be cheap at the price, and I do not “hesitate to say now that if we could secure an efficient naval and military defence system for ,£10,000,000 it would be cheap. It must be recognised that the Defence Department is the most difficult of all in which to secure efficiency, and that we are more likely to obtain it when the cost of the service is provided out of revenue than we should ‘be if it were provided out of loan money. So soon as a loan policy is initiated even in connexion with the construction of reproductive works, there sets in a certain measure of extravagance, and I am convinced that if we launched upon a policy of borrowing for naval and military purposes we could safely say “ Good-bye “ to anything in the way of efficiency. So far as I am aware, it has never been contended in Australia that we should borrow for avowedly non-productive purposes. When we. find that certain honorable members a few years ago declared their opposition to a proposal to borrow to provide for reproductive works, I think we may safely assume that their opposition would have been much stronger had the proposal been one to raise money to provide for unproductive undertakings. . When the Loan Bill of t902 was before this House the honorable member for ‘Bourke, who is now the Government Whip, said -
There must be some limit, and I believe that, like the South American and North American States, we have reached the limit of our borrowing powers, and the sooner we realize our position the better it will be for us. We ought toderive a lesson from our experiences during the boom period. By a system of excessive borrow- ing, we induced people to suppose that they would become rich, not by production, but by a system of exchange. That was wrong, for we have been told on the best authority that quite one-third of our population were living upon the result of public borrowing. We can only be truly solvent when our population lives on the results of their own efforts in production, and when we cease to borrow year after year in order to pay the interest upon our loans, and, in some cases, even the principal, and for the purpose of carrying out works which are wrongly called reproductive.
I do not think that any one will say that a loan for naval and defence purposes will be reproductive. The Minister of Defence, who was then on this side of the House, also had something to say with regard to the Loan Bill, and I propose to put before honorable members a quotation from a speech made by him, giving one reason why he objected to a loan policy -
I should not have so much hesitation in voting for the Government proposals if I could see the slightest intention to economize on the part of the States. But New South Wales continues to borrow at an alarming rate. The simple question which I put to myself is - “ Ought I to pile up the Commonwealth indebtedness, concurrently with the piling up of State obligations?” I have come to the conclusion that I ought not to do so, particularly in regard to the State which I represent, where there is a huge surplus of revenue which ought to be drawn upon for the construction of necessary public works.
It is possible that the States in the interval have learnt to economize.
– They certainly have as compared with that period. If I recollect rightly the O’sullivan boom was then on in New South Wales.
– It is an open question whether Mr. O’sullivan spent more borrowed money than did other Ministers, but if at that time the Minster of Defence objected to the Commonwealth borrowing for reproductive purposes because the States were not economizing, he would be_ consistent in saying now, if the States are economizing, that that objection has been removed. He could advocate now what he was not prepared to advocate then. We may be wrong in our suspicion ; but there are some of us who feel that the honorable member for Parramatta, if he were on this side of the House, and the Government introduced a loan policy for military and naval purposes; would be its strong opponent. The Postmaster- General seems to have held very sound opinions a few years ago, because, on the question of borrowing, he said -
We are asked where we are to obtain the money ; but, in reply to that question I ask, “ Where is the borrowing for such purposes as are now indicated to cease ?”
We on this side have a perfect right to ask where the policy is going to end, if once we start to borrow for military and naval purposes ? The honorable member for Bendigo on that occasion quoted some figures.
– This is good sport for the honorable member - to quote the Postmaster-General !
– Why better sport to me than to anybody else? I presume that when representatives state their opinions in this House, those opinions are honest? Does the right honorable gentleman object to have his honest opinions quoted ?
– I do not.
– Does anybody else?
– I do not know.
– Is the right honorable member more honest than anybody else?
– I did not say so.
– That could almost be inferred. While the right honorable member would not object to have his opinions quoted, he thinks that other people would object to have theirs quoted.
– I do not.
– Then why did the right honorable member interject?
– Because the honorable member is always talking about the Post and Telegraph Department - he seems, to pick it our specially.
– Surely I am doingnothing wrong in quoting from Hansard. The present Postmaster-General, referringto a statement issued by some society, whichshowed the indebtedness of Victoria, said -
Victoria is indebted to the extent of ^96 per adult of her population] Tasmania, ^98; New South Wales, £100; Western Australia, X115;. Queensland, ,^141 ; and South Australia, &142.
In any case, the figures show that there isalready a very big loan bill against Australia, and it ought to make us pause before we launch merrily into any further borrowing. If works of the character indicated in the papers before us. could be constructed out of revenue or out of savings, or by means of levying a little extra taxation, the people of Australia would gladly acquiesce.
In my opinion, the people of Australia are prepared to tax themselves in order to defend themselves- if we are not, we are not worthy of the heritage we possess. I shall not hesitate to vote against this motion. Some may think that if they vote against it, they will be open to the taunt that they are not prepared to provide proper naval and military defence for Australia. I shall -run that risk unhesitatingly, because I. think that, from the very stait, we should oppose borrowing for this purpose. It has already been pointed out that England is prepared to lay down eight Dreadnoughts in a year, and pay for them out of revenue. In addition to paying for her Army and Navy, England has to pay, I suppose, between £20,000,000 and .£30,000,000 a year in interest on her national debt, practically the whole of which has been created by war. Fortunately, we have no wars to pay for; and, although our debt is heavy, a large proportion of the money has been invested reproductively.
– A great deal of the borrowed money is more than reproductive.
– I am very pleased to hear that ; and it shows all the more reason why we should be able to pay for our own defence, especially in view of the fact that our burden of interest is not like that of England. I shall not hesitate, as I say, to vote against the motion, as I am strongly opposed to the Government going into the loan market for mere military and naval purposes.
.- The Loan Bill of 1902; as honorable members may recollect, was not proceeded with, but was abandoned by the Government. However, the Government at that time proposed to construct certain works out of loan, and the debate centred around a proposed boat harbor at Newcastle. In the division on that occasion, the present Attorney-General, the present Postmaster-General, the present Minister of Defence, and the present Minister of Home Affairs, all voted against a loan policy. The Treasurer neither voted nor paired in the division.
– I was in England, I think.
– I suppose that the right honorable member could have been given a pair.
Colonel Foxton. - Then members of the Government at that time were not denied pairs.
– At that time the Government did not apply the closure, but “played the game “ fairly. The present HonoraryMinister, the honorable member for Brisbane, was not in the House at that time, but, judging from his votes in the Queensland Parliament, he would have supported the Loan Bill. I shall quote the remarks of the present Attorney-General on that Loan Bill.
– I wish I could then have converted the honorable member; but I could not.
– I voted with the honorable member.
– 1 think not.
– There was only one member of the Labour party who voted in favour of the Loan Bill.
– I think the honorable mem-, ber is mistaken.
– I have the division list before me.
– I know I was the only South Australian representative who voted against the Bill.
– The honorable member for Grey, who voted for the Bill, was not then a member of the Labour party; and the honorable member for Boothy was the only member of the party who voted for the Bill. The motion’ against the loan proposal was moved by the then Leader of the Labour party, the honorable member for South Sydney; and I may point out that nearly every member who voted against that Bill was returned at the succeeding election.
– It was a small matter, anyhow-!
– I am prepared to admit that the proposal was’ not so important as the present one; but the words I desire to quote are words in opposition to any borrowing policy. Some honorable members who then voted against a loan are Fusionist candidates to-day. The ex-member for Werriwa, Mr. Conroy, is a candidate for another seat, and no doubt will.be pleased to have to advocate a loan policy against the present member for Macquarie. With the honorable member for the Barrier, I can say that the Government could not have done anything better for the Labour party than introduce this proposal.
– No doubt we did it to please honorable members opposite !
– I know that if the right honorable member could see all the Labour members out of the House, he would be delighted, for honorable members opposite would then”, as in the past, be able to divide the spoils ; they could alternate from one side of the House to the other, and be annoyed with no proposals by the Labour party, who always carry out what they set themselves to do. Notwithstanding what the honorable member for Dalley has said, I think that nearly every member in the House has at some time or other laid stress on the fact that this is a nonborrowing Parliament - that it has not followed the bad example of the States. At the last election 1, for one, said that I had opposed, and would always oppose, a borrowing policy, except in a case of grave national emergency.
– I do not think I said anything about it.
– The right honorable gentleman is in favour of borrowing; indeed, I think he once told us that when Premier of Western Australia, he borrowed £1,500,000 without Parliamentary sanction. 1 regard mis loan proposal as one of the first-fruits of the financial agreement.
– How is that so?
– If the Commonwealth had complete control of its finances, there would be no need to borrow.
– Not if it used money which ought to be handed back to the States.
– The proposed unit cannot be completed within two years.
– But we must pay as we go 011.
– I desire that we should do so, without borrowing.
– How ?
– By imposing direct taxation.
– On land only !
– I have never said that.
– What does the honorable member think a land tax would bring iri?
– You, Mr. Temporary Chairman, would not allow me to discuss that question. Some of the States have not even made valuations for taxation purposes. It is strange that this proposal should be sprung upon us within ten days of the close of the session. It is certain that we shall not continue our sittings beyond the end of next week. If we agree to the Government proposal, it will be impossible for the succeeding Government to go back on it, should the electors displace this Administration with another. I desire to keep the slate clean. The electors could be asked whether defence should be paid for out of revenue or byloan. Some honorable members have in the past suggested that money might advantageously be borrowed for reproductive works, such as railways and irrigation schemes ; but a navy is not a reproductive work. To borrow for the purposes of de fence would make us the laughing stock of other nations. In discussing an earlier loan proposal, the honorable member for Bourke made a very long speech, which I shall not quote. The Prime Minister, who was at the time Attorney-General, and acting Prime Minister, said that the Government contended that its policy was justified by consideration for the position of the States, but the honorable member for Bourke asked -
Which is the more noble policy - for the Government to intervene with a loan, or for the States to levy taxation to make good their deficits ?
The present Attorney-General said on that occasion -
For the last five or six years there were several of us who, in the local Parliament, were determined to put a stop to the borrowing which has been too frequently resorted to during the last fifteen 01 twenty years. It remains for us now to be somewhat consistent with the policy to which we gave expression in the local’ Legislature.
He wound up with these words -
I ask honorable members once and for all to put their foot down and say - “ Unless the loan is one that is needed for conserving our finances or debts, or cannot possibly be avoided, we decline in the very first session of the Federal Parliament to set an example against which we have all been crying out in the States for the last five or ten years.”
I ask the honorable member to put down his foot now, to declare’ once and for all that there shall be no borrowing by the Commonwealth. What would he say, were he now in Opposition, to this proposal to borrow £3,500,000 ‘to create a naval unit which will be obsolete within ten years. Should an accident happen,” we may lose these vessels, and, with them, our asset, while the loan will still remain.
– At the time to which the honorable member refers^ there was a surplus of £888,000. and* it was proposed to borrow £571,000 for petty items.
-There was not a surplus in all the States.
– New South Wales had a surplus of £1,300,000, and it was proposed to borrow ,£221,000 to be expended on her account.
– In that year Queensland did not receive her three-fourths, but was in debit £20,188. The trouble was that we could not construct works in one State with borrowed money, and in another State out of revenue.
– Many of the items for which it was proposed to borrow were petty. There was an amount of £5,000 for a new telephone switchboard.
– The present Prime Minister, in defending the loan proposals to which I am referring, said that to borrow was the best thing that the Commonwealth could do. The Minister of Defence, who was as fond of interjecting then as he is now, said -
The_honorable gentleman advises us to agree to this without prejudice.
To that the Prime Minister replied -
No. For five, or possibly for ten years, we shall be called upon to regard the interests of our constituents, not merely as members of the Commonwealth, but as citizens of their respective Stales, and in connexion with the latter capacity, we shall be bound to consider the condition of, the State Treasuries, and to consult State policies. When the Commonwealth has attained its majority in matters of finance, this obligation, will be no longer imposed upon us. The citizens of Australia will then be treated alike, without distinction of State, in our financial administration. But we anticipate events if we at once cast that full responsibility upon the’ State Governments,’ and shape our policy without regard to their difficulties, particularly at a time of depression like the present.
– Is to borrow on loan to anticipate the true Federal policy?
– It is, to my mind, contrary to what will be the true Federal policy when we shall have shaken off the obligations of the present intervening period and have obtained full command of our resources.
We have yet an opportunity to obtain full command of our resources, though honorable members opposite desire to give it away. I am glad that I looked up the report of the debate, because it shows that the Prime Minister was then opposed to a policy such as that which he fathered a few weeks ago. The present Minister of Defence denounced the policy of borrowing, saying that the more honest course would have been to refrain from borrowing altogether. I understand that the AttorneyGeneral is still opposed to borrowing.
– I believe in the general principles stated in my speech.
– The other night the honorable gentleman voted against his colleague’s proposal regarding the Western Australian electoral redistribution, and I hope he will act similarly to-night. If honorable members opposite were given a free hand, they would vote against the Government proposals. Mr. Justice Higgins, who was a member of the House at the time, said that the argument of the present Prime Minister was very nice and pleasant, as usual, but really came to this, “ Borrowing is a very bad thing. Let us do it now, and possibly not do it again.” As usual, the Prime Minister was very nice and pleasant, but he advised the House to do what he .said ought not to be done. None of those who voted against the first borrowing proposals lost their seats on that account, though some were displaced by Labour members who were also opposed to borrowing. Fifteen of the sixteen members of the Labour party of the day voted against the proposal, including the leader of the party. Others who voted against it were the present Minister of Defence, the honorable members for Corio and Perth, the present Attorney-General, PostmasterGeneral, Speaker, and the Minister of Home Affairs, and the right honorable member for East Sydney. The honorable member for Maribyrnong paired against it. Should these honorable members vote again in accordance with their convictions, the Government will not have a majority.
– The honorable member ought not to expect them to do that. They have not hitherto been allowed to do it.
– I do not know that; but as we are getting near the time of the election some of them will not want to pile up a. bigger burden than they will be able to carry. Men who throughout their political, careers have opposed borrowing except for reproductive works are going now, if they follow the Government as they have done in many divisions this session, to vote for a loan of £3,500,000 for a naval defence policy which no member in this House knows anything about. The Minister of Defence rose to make his speech on the subject the other day, and I voted against the application of the closure to him ; but honorable members- opposite must remember that many honorable members on this side had suffered in the same way, and thought they would give the Ministry a taste of their own physic. I do not forget tha’t on the third reading of the Finance Bill only one member of the Opposition had spoken-
– The whole day was taken up.
– The honorable member is wrong. The member of the Opposition to whom I refer occupied only one hour.
– I was alluding to the honorable member for Mernda, who was in opposition to the Bill.
– He is not a member of the Opposition. I have not yet voted for applying the closure to any one. I do not say that the majority should not rule, but the minority have rights, and I trust that the minority on this proposal will show that they intend to stand up for those rights and debate the question thoroughly. It is one of the biggest proposals ever submitted to this Parliament, and the people should be told that the Government want to bring the Commonwealth into the field as a seventh borrower for Australia, to compete with the six there already. The Treasurer interjected when the honorable member for Dalley was speaking to the effect that it was not necessary to borrow in England or abroad. He said, “ Let us borrow in this country.”
– I did not say that.
– The right honorable member said there was plenty of money in this country.
– The honorable member for Dalley was talking about going to the Mother Land, and I said there was money here.
– If the Treasurer is unfortunate enough to get this proposal through, I trust that he will borrow locally, and not hurry abroad for the money.
– I made no statement on that point.
– The Treasurer is too cunning to admit that the Government do not intend to borrow here, but his own admission is that there is plenty of money in this country if we like to use it. I agree with the honorable member for Dalley that the votes of all those who are opposed to the proposal should be cast against it at every stage, not only on the motion for leave to introduce, but on the second reading, and right through Committee. I shall do my best to see that the Bill is blocked, in order that the people may have an opportunity of saying at the elections whether they favour the Commonwealth becoming a seventh borrower in addition to the six already in existence.
– I expected that the present Government would, at some stage in this Parliament, bring down a Bill for permission to borrow money, but I hardly thought it would take this shape. We were advised early inthe session with regard to certain amounts that would have to be secured to square the ledger, and the Treasurer told us that short-dated bonds would be issued, but we see now that that was simply the shadow before the substance came into view. We have now learned what the Government really intend to do, and I should like to show the House the possibilities of their intentions within the next ten years, once they make a start. I will point out what the Government have undertaken, and what they have promised to do, for I suppose they will keep their promises. It may be said that they never intended to keep them, but they have passed certain Bills through the House, and I take it that they mean to give effect to them. I recognise that the £3,500,000 now asked for is not wanted immediately. I do not suppose that there will be a cent of it spent for two years.
Colonel Foxton. - Nonsense; of course there will.
– Some of it may be spent ; but my opinion is that the operation will be protracted. It is evident, however, that during the next ten years large sums of money will have to be found, and, if the Government follow out their present practice of not making those who benefit most pay taxation, they will borrow. The Government have given us no hint or suggestion as to how they intend to raise money in the future, although they have depleted the revenues of the Commonwealth. If this Government, or those of the same kidney, remain in power for the next ten years, and carry out their obligations so far as the Northern Territory is concerned, they will have to take over an indebtedness of £3,250,000 incurred by the South Australian Government on the Territory. They will have to pay the interest on that money, and become responsible for the debt itself. There is another £2,000,000 already borrowed for the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta. If we take over the Territory, we must also take over that indebtedness from the South Australian Government. Then there is the projected railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, which the House has agreed to construct. That will cost, at the very least, another £5,000,000; and we know that the Government will make no attempt to raise that sum by means of taxation; nor do I know that it would be advisable to do so. If that Bill is passed in another place, and the Territory is taken over, the agreement will have to be carried out, and the railway will have to be built, because it was on that point that the question of the acquisition of the Territory was fought in this Chamber. Then, having acquired the Territory, the Commonwealth must develop it, or it will be useless to take it; over. South Australia has spent up to the present £3,250,000 upon its development, with very little to show for it. We must develop the Territory, and that will cost another £5,000,000 in the next ten years; and if the Tanami field and the Roper River country are to be opened up, it will be necessary to expend still more on railway construction. Again, there is the Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie railway, which will cost another £5,000,000. Surely the Treasurer intends that something shall be done in that direction during the next ten years ?
– It will not cost £5,000,000. It is estimated to cost less than £4,000,000.
– Does the Treasurer mean to say that that line can be built for under £5,000,000? Does he not, as a representative of Western Australia, wish to see it undertaken during the next ten years ?
– Then I can add another £5,000,000 to the list. We have passed a Bill enabling the Commonwealth to take over the Federal Territory from New South Wales, and build the Capital there. Surely that is to be attempted during the next ten years. If it is not, I can imagine what the “ Ma State “ will say. Judging by the fight the representatives of that State have put up inside and outside this House to have the matter settled, they surely intend to have some sort of a city there during the next ten years. Another £5,000,000 will have to be borrowed for that purpose. We talk in millions nowadays; but I suppose this list of borrowings must come to an end some time.
– I heard the same wail for ten years in Western Australia.
– I know what the Treasurer would do if he had the power. If he could make himself the Dictator of Australia, and thought it was demanded or warranted, he would think nothing of launching a loan of £50,000,000 or £100,000,000.
– I should not stick in the mud like the honorable member would do.
– The Treasurer would throw the onus of paying the money on the great masses of the people, instead of on those who benefited most from it. There -is’ no doubt that he .would borrow’ the money, and raise the interest by hook or by crook from the masses, and net from those who could best afford to pay it.
– The great masses of the people are better off under my plan than under that of the honorable member.
– I have grave doubts about it. The right honorable gentleman assisted the development of Western Australia, but he did it under favorable and unique circumstances, with the earth yielding gold to pay for it.
– He did it very successfully.
– I admit if, and we might do the same here if we could discover a few more Coolgardies and Kalgoorlies; but they do not grow like plums on a tree. If we could look forward with any certainty to that sort of thing, I should jump at the chance, as the Treasurer did - that is, so long as we could throw the burden on those who made the money. The Treasurer made some sort of an attempt in Western Australia, although not a proper one, to make those who benefited pay, but they have gone, and it is left for the people who remain to continue the payment. Then, again, we have the proposed naval loan of £3,500,000. I am in favour of an Australian Navy, and I shall probably be told that in voting against this proposal I am voting against that Navy ; but ‘ those who say so will know that the statement is not correct, although they will make it’ for party purposes. I am not afraid of their saying .that I am against an Australian Navy, because it is known that I am not. The general idea was that it would ‘ come gradually. No one expected that the Government would immediately undertake a loan of £3,500,000 for the purpose. We know the money cannot all be spent at once; and the Government should have proceeded somewhat on the lines of the Fisher Government, using the money as they obtained it. The Fisher Government had an idea of raising the motley required, and of using the Commonwealth revenue for the benefit of the whole people. Will the Treasurer or the Minister of Defence tell me that during the next ten years it will not be necessary for them to go on the money market for another loan, for naval purposes? Most decidedly it will be necessary. If they adopt this system of providing for the cost of the navy they will proceed further on the same lines’, and possibly, during the next ten years, they will seek to raise another £3,500,000 for the same purpose.
As has been said during this debate, a navy built to-day may be obsolete three years hence. It has been said that some of the new super-Dreadnoughts built by Germany are really obsolete at the present moment.
Colonel Foxton. - They are not yet built.
– At all events, it has been said that some of the Dreadnoughts just constructed by Germany have been built on obsolete lines. These facts go to show that vessels that we build to-day may be obsolete two or three years hence.
– Apart from improvements or scientific alterations, they will be scrap iron in fifteen years’ time.
– Quite so. I do not think I am going too far when I say that within the next ten years we shall probably be asked to agree to the flotation of another loan of £3,500,000 for naval purposes. I am not going to say that I should approve of a proposal to borrow money for reproductive works in connexion with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, but I should give such a project due consideration. We are told that we shall require shortly to expend an additional sum of £2,000,000 in connexion with that Department. We have the authority of the Treasurer for that statement, but I believe that it will be necessary to find an even larger sum. Every honorable member, I am sure, could add to the list of undertakings which I have sketched, and, assuming that the Government are going to provide for all of them by borrowing, I am convinced that we shall be called upon to agree to the flotation of loans amounting to £35,000,000 in the next ten years. The yearly interest on that indebtedness would amount to £1,400,000. Is there one undertaking that I have mentioned with which the Government do not intend to proceed? Are they fooling the people of New South Wales in regard to the establishment of the Federal Capital? Is the Treasurer in favour of fooling the people of Western Australia in regard to the construction of the transcontinental railway, or do the Government wish to fool the people of South Australia with respect to the development ofthe Northern Territory? If they are going to proceed with these and other undertakings to which they are committed, then they must admit that I’ have not inflated the borrowing necessities of the near future. Have Ministers made any provision for special taxation in connexion with this proposal? If they had, they would have taken to some extent the sting out of the criticism of the Opposition. I listened this afternoon with interest to the splendid speech made by the honorable member for Dalley, and was sorry that more members of the Ministerial party were not present to hear it. The Government have agreed to return to the States at least one-half of our revenue, and when the honorable member for Yarra referred to that fact, the honorable member for Wilmot interjected, “ Would you rob the States?”
– I said nothing of the kind.
– The honorable member used words to that effect. I ask him to remember that the people of the States are the people of the Commonwealth.
– I do, and that is why I say that the Commonwealth should bear its fair share of the cost.
– If the people are called upon to pay, what does it matter whether they have to pay through the Commonwealth or through the States?
– If that is the honorable member’s view, why is he not prepared to support the proposal that the Commonwealth shall raise its own loans to provide for its own works?
– My contention is that the States have exhausted every avenue of taxation except that of Customs and Excise. If the Commonwealth proceeded to obtain revenue from other sources, we should have a duplication of taxation. The Victorian Government have a Land Tax Bill before the State Parliament, and other States are following their example. We should also have, in that way, a duplication of the income tax. The States own the great revenue-producing sources of Australia, so that the honorable member for Wilmot’s argument will not bear a moment’s consideration. I shall have no more to say at this stage; but I shall certainly reflect, as the people will, on the possibilty of loans amounting to £35,000,000 being raised during the next ten years by the present Government, and their successors who indorse their views with respect to the policy of borrowing. We have already six State borrowers rushing into the London money market, all trying to outdo each other in selecting the most opportune time for floating a loan. I take it that the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, if this proposal be agreed to, will also endeavour to select the best time for going on the money. market, and this project, after all, may prove an unmixed blessing. By lessening their opportunities, it may have the effect of preventing the States from borrowing so freely as they do now. In any event, if this proposal be agreed to, we shall have a seventh Australian borrower. I am satisfied that the people of Australia feel that we have enough borrowers at the present time, and I hope that if this proposal be carried, they will not lose sight of it when they go to the polls.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Sir John Forrest and Mr. Joseph Cook do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 7.4.5 p.m. ‘
Bill presented by Sir John Forrest, and read a first time.
– I ask leave to move the second reading of the Bill forthwith. I may say that I am quite prepared to make a statement.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the Treasurer have leave to move the second reading at this stage?
– I object.
– I desire to raise a point for your consideration, Mr. Speaker, and beg to assure you that I do so in the most friendly spirit. About four minutes to the ordinary time for adjourning, you notified to the House that you would resume the chair at the usual hour after dinner. I have not the slightest objection to what you did in this particular case, because I believe it was done with the general concurrence of the House.
– It is frequently done.
– It has been done. Your predecessor, Mr. Speaker, always took the sense of the House on the point, and I do not think that any objection was ever raised to the proposed suspension. While it is convenient sometimes that the House should rise for dinner before the usual time, I can conceive a position in which the usurpation of authority by the Chair might lead to disastrous results in the conduct of business. I ask you, sir, whether you do not think it advisable that the rule followed by your predecessor should be adhered to?
– I am much obliged to the honorable member for bringing this matter forward in the way he has. The usual course has been for the Chair to ascertain the convenience of honorable members. That was done on this occasion, but possibly my words were not heard. I frankly admit that it would be well, at all times, to see that the House is in favour of the course being taken. I wish to assure honorable members that at no time should I desire to take on myself greater responsibilities than those I already carry.
– In my experience of this and other Parliaments, when it is only a matter of five or ten minutes, the Speaker has never hesitated, if it is convenient, to suspend the sitting, and to do so without making any request.
– That has never been done since I have been here.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s Message) :
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of money be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to provide for compensation to be paid on retirement or on decease of certain officers of the Commonwealth.
.- How can the Bill have been circulated, when it has not been read a first time? Until the House has the Bill, it should not be circulated, but should be in the possession of the responsible Minister. I saw a paragraph in the newspapers the other day purporting to give the contents of this measure, and the news may not have been a guess, but quite accurate. It is undesirable in. the interests of public business that any person should be in possession of such knowledge until the Bill is submitted to Parliament.
– Who is in possession of such knowledge?
– In the paragraph in the newspapers I saw the names of the persons who are to benefit under this measure, and that information must have been given by some one to the press. This I regard as amounting to a breach of privilege. I have no objection whatever to deserving public servants, or their relatives, receiving some consideration ; but does the Treasurer not think that the time has arrived when there should be a general scheme drawn up, with a regulated scale, for the payment of compensation to officers, or, in case of their death, the extension of some consideration to their relatives ?
– That is proposed.
– Are we to understand that this will be the last we shall see of this haphazard way of dealing with the matter?
-I hope so.
– This. I think, is the stage at which the whole scheme of compensation to officers should be determined.
– There will be another opportunity.
– But I am afraid that we shall then be told that the provisions of the Bill cannot be altered, and that, therefore, some deserving cases will be left unprovided for. Judging from a report L saw in a newspaper there are quite a number of deserving cases which ought to receive consideration, but which are not covered by the Bill. For instance, in the Post and Telegraph Department of New South Wales an officer, on retiring after a certain number of years’ service, is entitled to a gratuity; but, if he die in harness, nothing is paid to his relatives. Representations in regard to some cases which appeared deserving were made to the PostmasterGeneral by the honorable member for West Sydney and myself some time ago, with a view to something being done to bring about a more equitable arrangement. It appears, however, from the newspaper paragraph referred to, that it is not proposed to deal with those cases in the Bill ; and I should like to know what the intentions of the Government are. Unless some provision is made in this Bill it will not be possible to consider the cases to which I have referred, and, consequently, injustice will be done, not to living men, but to unfortunate widows and orphans.
– Most of the State Civil Service Pensions Acts do not provide for widows and orphans.
– We are asking that some consideration should be shown to those who are left behind by a deceased public servant. We had a notable case some time ago in that of the Chief Clerk of the Inland Mail Branch of New South Wales. That officer was entitled to retire, and wished to do so. But the Department needed his services, and induced him to continue at work, with the result that he died in harness, largely he cause of overstrain, thus forfeiting a retiring allowance which would otherwise have been paid to him. The Minister of the day recognised the justice of the widow’s claim, and provided accordingly. But that is not the only case of the kind which has come under my notice. I recently brought before the Minister one which appealed to me very strongly. A Mr. Wakely was for forty years in the service of the Post Office, and died while in charge of the Edgecliffe office. Had he retired ‘prior to his death, he would have been entitled to a gratuity of about £500, but, as it was, his widow and family got nothing. Cases of this kind should be provided for in a measure like that which the Treasurer wishes to introduce. A general scheme should be provided. Without such a scheme great injustice may be done to deserving persons. I wish to know whether all the cases investigated have been provided for, and, if not, whether it is in*tended to provide for them. This is the stage at which we have a right to such information.
– In my opinion we should have an accident, a compensation, and an insurance fund for public servants, connected with the national postal banking system. Every public .servant could be called upon to con tribute something, as is done in Germany. Cases such as those referred to could then be met. Persons sometimes fail to receive what they are entitled to because of the risk of setting an undesirable precedent.
– We have this matter in hand-
– Has the Government money to meet these claims?
– We hope to deal with them next session.
– As I do not expect to be Treasurer for some time to come, I hope that the right honorable member for Swan will look into these matters. However, I shall not discuss the subject just now, as there is no Bill before the Committee.
.- In my opinion, the Government should have formulated before this some scheme to meet cases like those which have been’ brought forward. I have brought several cases under the notice of various Administrations which, from the Departmental point of view, perhaps, were fairly well treated, but, from my point of view, were not very well treated. I was told that the Government had in contemplation a scheme for providing for cases like that of Mr. Wakely, referred to by the honorable member for Calare, who died in harness after serving the Government for forty years. Had he retired, he would have received compensation, but on his death nothing was. paid to his widow. ‘I am wholly in favour of the Seamen’s Compensation Bill, but if it is a good thing to provide compensation for seamen, it should also be a good thing to provide compensation, where necessary, for public servants. The matter has been talked of for a long time, but nothing has been done. With all the actuaries that we have in our employment, there should be no difficulty in framing a scheme which would meet the case. At the present time no system is observed. Some time ago the Prime Minister obtained a vote of £500 for an officer of the Defence Department, really against the wishes of honorable members, by bringing the proposal forward on a second occasion, after we had once refused to agree to it. It is a reflection on the Government and those in charge of Departments that no scheme has yet been adopted.
– We propose to do something, but we cannot do anything this session.
– We always hear that said.
– We did not find any measure ready when we came into office.
– The last Government was not in power long enough to be able to do anything… One of its Bills, however, is on the notice-paper - -the last in the list, I believe. What is the Government doing with that?
– Ministers recognise the need for a system which will apply to the cases of hardship continually being brought before the House. Without it no satisfactory method of dealing with them can be found, because in no other way can justice and equity be assured. It must be remembered, however, that in many of the cases we are bound by the laws of the States. In the present instance, precedent has been strictly followed. We do not intend to proceed with the Bill to-night, but wish to bring it before honorable members. It establishes no new precedent, but the Government recognise that individual cases should not be dealt with, even according to precedent, until Parliament has laid down the principles to be followed.
– There should be a precedent for the case which I mentioned.
– In that case the retiring allowance was fixed by a State law.
– This Parliament voted compensation to the widow of Mr. Clarke. .
– That was done in accordance with precedent. It must be remembered that the laws of the States, affecting the rights of the public servants transferred to the Commonwealth, differ.
.- I can recollect many instances in which a Ministry has given information regarding a Bill at this stage. Some honorable members may have been privileged to see this Bill.
– I do not think so.
– It has been suggested that representatives of the press have seen it. Time would be saved by giving us an outline of it. What officers are to be compensated, and to what extent?
– Apparently the honorable member does not wish me to make a speech on the second reading.
– No doubt the secondreading debate would be shortened were an explanation given now. The Prime Minister did not hesitate to deal with the financial agreement at a stage similar to this. The Treasurer cannot be permitted to ride rough-shod over the Committee merely because a majority is behind him.
– Friday’s or Saturday’s newspapers published lists of the officers affected by the Bill.
– Why is information which was given to the press withheld from us?
– Copies of the Bill will be available in a few moments.
– We should know now what the Bill contains. It may be necessary to oppose it at every stage. I wish to know something about it, in order that I may know what attitude to take with regard to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Sir John Forrest and Mr. Glynn do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir John Forrest, and read a first time.
Mr. FULLER (I llawarra- Minister of
Home Affairs) [8.10]. - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill, as the title explains, relates to the salary of the Public Service Commissioner, long-service increments in the fifth classof the Clerical Division, and the em ployment of telegraph messengers. It will be remembered that when the first Public Service Bill was framed it was intended that the Public Service Commissioner should have a salary of £1,500 per annum. When the Commissioner applied for the position it was understood that that salary would be paid, but it was reduced by Parliament to £1,200 per annum. The work and responsibilities attached to the office have grown considerably during the last three years. When the Commissioner was appointed he had a stupendous task in classifying, grading and regulating the service, and the experience of his first term of office shows that the work was carried out to the complete satisfaction of the various Governments which have been in power, and of the public, and to the general satisfaction of the service itself. The Commissioner practically has control of the expenditure of about £2,000,000 per annum in salaries and in other directions in connexion with the service, and from that point of view the salary paid to him up to the present has been a very small one indeed. Every Government must largely depend on the efficiency of the Public Service Commissioner, and the judgment which he exercises in carrying out his duties in supervising the enormous expenditure on the service, and also in safeguarding the privileges of the 14,000 officers whom he now has under his control. I am informed that since the present Commissioner accepted office his work has increased to the extent of about 50 per cent., owing to the natural development of the Departments, and the new officers who have been taken over by legislative authority, while the Departments which we are now about to take over will also largely increase the staffs under his control. The task of keeping the different Departments supplied with recruits and conducting the various examinations has also largely increased the Commissioner’s work. The term of his office expired in May last, and he asked the late Government, in reviewing the appointment, to consider the question of increasing his salary. That Government agreed to increase it to £1,500. In accordance with an agreement entered into with him, they undertook to submit to Parliament a Bill increasing his salary to that amount, the increase to date from the time of his reappointment. This Bill therefore provides that the increase shall be deemed to have commenced on the fifth day of May, 1909. The Bill is submitted, apart from what I have said regarding the increase of the Commissioner’s duties and responsibilities, in accordance with that agreement.
– The Quarantine Department is an instance. All those officers are coming over, and will be under the control of the Commissioner. Other Departments have also come into his hands in addition to those placed under his charge when he first took office. The second part of the Bill refers to long-service increments. This question was submitted to the late Attorney-General for his opinion in connexion with the application for increase of salary of an officer in the fifth class of the Clerical Division of the service. That officer, having risen to the highest salary of the fifth class of the Clerical Division, applied for an increase by way of long-service increment. Provision not having been made in the Public Service Act for that position of affairs, so far as officers in the fifth class of the clerical division were concerned, the matter was submitted for the opinion of the then AttorneyGeneral. He pointed out that the Commonwealth Public Service Act of 1902 provides for the division of the Clerical Division into five classes, and divides each of those classes into subdivisions. It provides also that the rate of salary of any officer in a subdivision shall be that assigned to that subdivision in the third schedule. So far as the Clerical Division is concerned the scheme of classification and promotion is based on the divisions and subdivisions of salaries as laid down in the Act, and there is no provision for a long-service increment for the fifth class. The AttorneyGeneral further said -
I am of opinion therefore that the additional £10 could not legally form a part of the salary under the Public Service Act.
The question then arises whether the amount could be legally paid as an allowance or as a payment other than for salary.
There is nothing in the Act to preclude an allowance being granted to an officer in consideration of long service in any particular class.
The Department, recognising apparently that the money could not be paid as salary, obtained an Order in Council authorizing the payment by way of allowance under section 78 of the Act. This, I think, was the proper procedure, because Parliament by voting the money for the purpose of a long-service increment in Class five authorized the Governor-General to apply it to that purpose, and it could only be so applied by way of allowance.
I am of opinion, therefore, that the £10 could be legally paid by way of allowance.
The matter was subsequently referred to the present Attorney-General, who pointed out that -
The conditions of the Public Service are prescribed by that Act, - the Act of 1902 - and include principles applicable to status and remuneration which it is undesirable to modify by the somewhat inconsistent method of special votes in an Appropriation Act. An amendment of the Public Service Act is the proper method of effecting a change of policy.
In accordance with those two opinions the third clause of this Bill is introduced. It provides that -
Where an officer has for a period of three years been in receipt of a salary of one hundred and sixty pounds per annum, he may on the certificate of the Commissioner be granted by way of long-service increment an increase of salary at the rate of ten pounds per annum, and at the expiration of a period of two years from the granting of the increase he may on the certificate of the Commissioner be granted by way of long-service increment a further increase of salary at the rate of ten pounds per annum. All long-service increments provided for in any Appropriation Act and granted to officers in the Clerical Division beforethe commencement of this section shall be deemed to have been granted in pursuance of this section.
The last paragraph is to legalize what has already been done under the opinion given by the previous Attorney -General and indorsed by the present Attorney-General.
– What about the General Division?
– This Bill does not deal with the General Division ?
– Is there tobe no increase in the General Division?
– The Bill deals with three specific subjects - the salary of the Commissioner, long-service increments in class five of the Clerical Division, and the employment of telegraph messengers - a matter in which the honorable member for Calare has taken a special interest, seeing that he introduced in this Parliament a Bill in almost exactly the same terms and having practically the same effect as clause 4 of this Bill. That clause provides - (1.) Every person employed as a telegraph messenger shall, on attaining the age of eighteen years, cease to be employed in the Public Service unless he has passed the prescribed examination before attaining” that age. (2.) Every person employed as a telegraph messenger who has passed the prescribed examination before attaining the age of eighteen years may be allowed to continue in the Public Service as a telegraph messenger until he attains the age of twenty years, but he shall cease to be employed in the Public Service on attaining. that age unless he has been previously transferred or promoted to some other office or position in the Public Service.
The object of that provision is to extend the age during which telegraph messengers can remain in the service, to give them an opportunity of promotion and advancement in the service, from eighteen to twenty.
– Does the Bill prevent lads from entering the service at the present age? My idea is that the age of admission is too low.
– That is not dealt with in the Bill. Honorable members who have read the report of the Public Service Commissioner will realize that there is a great need for the extension of the time in the way provided for. On page 22 of his second report the matter is fully and completely dealt with in these words -
Appointment, Promotion, and Retirement of Telegraph Messengers.
This subject calls for special consideration in view of the criticisms that have been offered both in and out of Parliament with regard to the compulsory retirement of boys on reaching the age of eighteen years, although some of them had passed the examination rendering them eligible for promotion to a higher position in the General Division. In order that the position may be clearly understood, it is necessary to explain what was the State law and practice in this regard and to state the policy adopted in the Commonwealth.
The Commissioner then points out the position as it existed in “Victoria prior to the passing of the Victorian Post Office Act of 1897. A youth when once appointed as a telegraph messenger continued in the service until he reached the age of retirement applicable to all other officers, namely, sixty years. The result was that, owing to the’ great number of telegraph messengers, there was no room in the Departments for their promotion, and a large number of boys who started as telegraph . messengers remained in that position to a very advanced age. The Victorian Postal Department had consequently to meet serious accusations of sweating, these men in many instances being married and having large families to provide for. They had given considerable periods of service, and were being paid merely boys’ wages. The New South Wales Government followed the Victorian example by providing by regulation for the retirement at the age of twenty of telegraph messengers for whom higher positions could not be found. A similar step was taken in Queensland, South Australia. Western Australia, and Tas mania. The Commissioner points out that-
Profiting by the experiences of the States, the Commonwealth Legislature provided for the compulsory retirement of telegraph messengers at the age of eighteen years unless previously promoted to some other position ; and, in order that applicants for employment might fully understand and appreciate the conditions under which they are engaged, they are required, prior to enrolling as candidates for employment, to subscribe their names to the following conditions : -
I understand that under the provisions of section 10 of the Commonwealth Post and Telegraph Act 1901 I must retire from the Public Service immediately on attaining the age of eighteen years, unless I am previously appointed to some other position.
In determining which boys shall retire at the prescribed age, the policy has been to retain only the most efficient for whom vacancies can be found. To this end the regulations prescribe an examination in handwriting, spelling, and arithmetic, in each of which subjects a boy must secure half marks before being eligible for promotion to a higher position in the General Division ; but in order that one who enters for this examination may not be misled, he is required to sign his name to the following : -
I understand that if I pass the examination I merely become eligible for promotion, and that promotion is not thereby necessarily assured to me before reaching the age of retirement.
It will be seen that every boy appointed as a telegraph messenger, or seeking to qualify for promotion before reaching the statutory age, has the position made perfectly clear to him, and it is difficult to appreciate any force in arguments which have been repeatedly alleged that boys enter the service under a misapprehension as to their tenure.
It will thus be seen that boys entering the service as telegraph messengers have to retire under the present Act when they reach the age of eighteen years. It is proposed under this Bill, however, that the retiring age shall be extended to twenty years, so that those who have qualified by examination will have a further period of two years in which to secure a higher position in the service. The Commissioner informs me that up to the present time he has been able practically to provide for all the telegraph messengers who, under the present conditions, have to retire at eighteenyears of age unless an opportunity offers to appoint them to higher positions for which they have qualified. He fears, however, that having regard to the present conditions of the service, and those which are likely to prevail for the next year or two, it will be impossible for him to provide for all of them unless this extension of two years be granted.
– Will two years be long enough ?
– The Public Service Commisioner thinks so.
– Then what is the reason for having in this Bill a clause providing that on reaching the age of twenty years these youths shall retire unless they have been appointed to higher positions?
– If they are not appointed to higher positions they will have to retire ; but the Commissioner thinks that if this extension is granted he will be able to provide for nearly all, if not all, of those, who qualify themselves by examination for promotion.
– If they do not qualify for promotion they must retire at eighteen years of age?
– That is so, but if they do qualify they will be able to continue in the service for a further period of two years, and during that time will be eligible for promotion. These are the three features of the Bill which I have the. honour to submit. In the first place it provides for increasing the salary of the Public Service Commissioner; secondly, it provides for the payment of two long service increments to officers in the fifth class of the Clerical Division increasing their salaries from £160 to £170, and then to £180 per annum, and finally it provides for a two years’ extension of the time of service of boys who enter the Department as telegraph messengers and who qualify by examination for higher positions in the service.
– Will the Minister explain why the increase is limited to the Clerical, and not extended to the General Division ?
– The Bill has been introduced on the advice of the Public Service Commissioner, who has to deal with these matters, and, so far as the payment of long service increments to officers of the Clerical Division is concerned, on the advice of the ex- Attorney-General. It was under an opinion given by him that these increments were’ paid, and the present Attorney-General says that to put the matter into proper legal form the clause in the Bill referring to such payments is absolutely necessary.
– Will the honorable member tell us whether the increments are to continue after the two years’ period provided for?
– They will continue until the salary of £180 is reached. Under the Act the maximum salary is £160, but under this Bill there will be two increments of £10 each, increasing the maximum to £180.
– I do not object to the salary of the Public Service Commissioner being increased, because it cannot be denied that he is worth a good deal more than £1,500 per annum; but since the Government propose to borrow money to establish a navy, since we have no system, such as any business firm would have, to enable us to finance our Departments, it seems to me to be wrong to increase the Commissioner’s -salary by £300 until that state of affairs is remedied.
– So far as that part of the Bill is concerned, it merely carries out an agreement made by the late Ministry.
– If they made such an agreement,’ they did so without consulting me in the caucus, and I take no responsibility for their outside acts. I am speaking as a caucus man just as honorable members opposite now speak as caucus men. The sum of £300 by which.it is proposed to increase the salary of the Public Service Commissioner if distributed by way of £5 increments amongst sixty of the lower-paid men, would do a lot of good. I recognise the Commissioner’s great ability, but whilst the Commonwealth is in a state of financial flux I must oppose any increases of salary except in the case of the lower-paid men. This Bill provides for. the payment of long-service increments to men in the fifth class of the Clerical division, and not to those in the General division. If the ex-Attorney-General agreed that they should be paid only to men in the Clerical division, he must have overlooked his duty.
– That was merely the “opinion given by him on the case submitted to him.
– Then it is not the fault of the ex-Attorney-General that provision was not made for increments to men in the General division. The matter was not brought before him. Had it been, no doubt he would have ordered a slight increase in their case.
– He was not asked to do that.
– Quite so; but there is a wrong on the face of this Bill.
– The ex- Attorney -General -did not introduce this Bill. Why did not the present Minister make inquiries about the matter?
– I am not going to blame either side. Our own party ought to have hunted up this matter. A salary of .£1,500 per annum is not a large one, but ,£1,200 a year is a reasonable PaY, ment to make to the Commissioner until the Commonwealth adopts something like a .business system. When the affairs of the Commonwealth are placed on a business (basis it will be time enough for us to propose a general increase of salaries ; but we must have an increase in the case of the <lower-paid men. Whilst a man receiving £1,200 a year can obtain everything that he requires, the man receiving £,uo cannot. I am reminded of a story told of the late William Vanderbilt, who was worth ,£60,000,000 or ,£70,000,000. One evening he accepted an invitation to dinner extended to him by a friend who was worth only about ,£200,000, and he had as good a dinner as he could have obtained at home. When he returned home that night he cried and said, “ There is nothing to live for ; my friend, who is worth only a couple of hundred thousand pounds, can have as good a dinner as I can get with all my millions.” There is no difference between the position of a man receiving £1,200 a year and that of a man receiving £1,500 a year so far as food and clothing go. If a man eats more than his fill nature steps in and he is sick; if ne wears more than one suit of clothes at a time he looks foolish. I urge the Minister to bring down a supplementary Bill providing for an increment -of ,£5 all round in the General Division, and I guarantee there would be no opposition from this side. Turning to another -provision of the Bill, I wonder if it is a good thing to discharge the boys, who have been temporarily employed, at the age of twenty.
– The Commissioner, who has had charge for nine or ten years, -recommends the provision contained in the Bill.
– The chances -are that at twenty a boy is unfitted for any other calling.
– If a boy is kept on till the age of twenty, he has a better chance of being continued in .the service.
– But I cannot think it wise or considerate to throw a youth on the world at that age, when, as I say, he is, in all probability, unfitted for any other business. It would be far better to discharge him at eighteen, when he is full of energy, determination, and hope.
– A boy may leave at eighteen if he likes, but this Bill is to give him an opportunity to continue till he is twenty.
– I am merely pointing out that there is another side to the question. In my own electorate there were smart willing boys employed, and, although they gave every satisfaction, they had to be discharged for the simple reason that there was no room for them. If a boy is kept on until he is twenty, there is a possibility of his getting married, and then, in the event of his being discharged, he is placed in a very serious position. As to the long-service increments, are there no men in the clerical branch who receive less than £160?
– They start at £40 and rise to ,£160, beyond which they would not advance without this Bill.
– Is there no rise after £160.
– Beyond that they get into another division.
– I am sorry this Bill does not deal with the General Division.
– This Bill was brought in to deal with three specific matters, and will mean the payment of about ,£20,000 additional this year.
– Why should clerks, who are receiving fair pay now, have a privilege over those men in the General Division who receive only ordinary pay?
– There is no provision in the Public Service Act for the Clerical Division in the respect mentioned, while there is for the General Division.
– Is justice being done to the General Division?
– I understand so; I have heard no complaints.
– The evidence given before the Postal Commission does not bear out the suggestion that there are no complaints; but, on the other hand, shows that the Public Service is on the crater of a volcano. I am sure there are no honorable members here who would not like to see justice done to the General Division. The Minister spoke about the
Commissioner having had considerable labour in placing the Public Service on a systematic foundation, and I admit that he had great work, which he performed for £1,200 a year. Now that all the hard work is done, all he has to do is to sit in an office and push a bell; and I ask whether it would not be better to distribute the extra £300 among the poorer-paid public servants, and thus enable them to buy a good Christmas dinner and a few additional comforts? However, I suppose that “the numbers are up.”
.- This Bill is interesting in many aspects; first, as showing how responsibility changes the point of view and the opinions of men. I can remember my friends of the Labour party, when they sat in the corner, opposing most bitterly a proposal, not to increase salaries by £300, but to give an increment of £100 to the heads of three Departments. With office, however, they realized the responsible work these officers have to perform, and they out-Deakined Deakin in their proposal to raise the salaries of what the honorable member for Darwin calls the “ top-notchers.” I do not cavil at that, but congratulate them upon the effect of responsibility.
– Who objected to the increments of £100?
– The proposal was passed with the greatest difficulty, but when in office the Labour party supported the idea.
– DidI object to the increments ?
– Members of the Labour party persistently opposed the proposal ; but the moment they got into office they proposed an increment, not of £100, but of £300 a year for the best-paid official.
– We did not propose it.
– The Bill has been introduced by the Fusion Government.
– It carries out an agreement entered into by the late Government.
– I am in favour of it, and am going to vote for it.
– Some of those sitting with the honorable member are cavilling at it. I consider the Public Service Commissioner one of the ablest and most conscientious men in the Public Service, but he is absolutely overpowered by his work. That was my opinion years ago, and experience has made it a conviction. Recently his health almost broke down.
– If he is overworked, how will an increase of salary help him ?
– I do not know that it will help him. The workis too much for one man, whatever his abilities, knowledge, and experience may be. The Public Service Commissioner has not anything like mastered the details of the Department of the Postmaster-General, as every one who has administered it must be aware. It is impossible for one who is not in the Department to obtain a complete mastery of all its ramifications, since the service extends from the Northern Territory to Southern Tasmania, and employs between 13,000 and 14,000 persons. The confusion and trouble which we have had is due to some extent to the fact that one man is trying to do what it is impossible for any individual to accomplish.
– How does the honorable member know that?
– From my experience as Postmaster-General. I think that my opinion is shared by others who have held that office. I do not find fault with the Commissioner.
– The honorable member is speaking without much knowledge.
– I am speaking with a good deal of knowledge, and some bitter experience. Recently the Public Service Commissioner admitted that he was suffering from strain, and needed a rest. Had there been a proposal to relieve him, it would have commended itself to me more than this one.
– How would the honorable member give relief?
– By appointing one, if not more, Commissioners to assist.
– Would it not be better to give more responsibility to Ministers and heads of Departments ?
– It would; but I am afraid that we are not likely to get that.
– I think that we are.
– That is not a matter which I can go into now. No doubt the report of the Postal Commission will give us an opportunity to consider it. There will have to be changes on the lines suggested. I agree with the honorable member for Calare that consideration should be given to officers of the General Division. We are employing a number of skilled joiners, picked artisans who have to pass a very difficult examination. I was recently informed that they received 8d. a day less than the ordinary artisan outside; that is, less than the average skilled man who is not required to pass an examination.
– And who does not get regular employment.
– The getting of regular employment is some compensation, but I am not sure that it is sufficient. I think that the men in the service should be paid at least the rates of wages current outside. I should like the Minister to look into these cases. Under the State administration these men could become clerks of works, or fill similar positions; but now, when they receive 10s. a day, they cannot obtain further advancement.
– I shall bear in mind what the honorable member says.
– The Minister has not power to do anything.
– He can bring the matter under the notice of the Commissioner, and make a recommendation. A Minister can exert a great deal of influence.
– Ministers should have power to act.
– About £30,000 was given in increments to some of the most poorly-paid public servants, largely because of the influence exerted by Ministers. I am sure that if the Minister inquired into these matters, he would make a recommendation. The Government should be an exemplary employer. Whilst I do not begrudge officers the highest pay earned by the competent discharge of duties, I think that skilled labourers and artisans should be treated similarly. With regard to messengers, I am of opinion that we shall soon be compelled to change our system of admitting officers into the Public Service. If we do not, we shall have too many youths in the Service. When I was Postmaster-General, complaints came from all parts of the Commonwealth * about youths being in charge of responsible offices. In one country town which I visited, at an office with a turnover exceeding .£10,000 a year, the officer in charge is forty years of age, the next officer twentyone years of age, and all the others still younger. It is continually being pointed out to me that the Post ‘ Office is being worked by boy labour, and there is a great deal of truth in the statement. I know that to alter the present system will create difficulties, and increase expense; but now that the school age of boys is being raised by some of the States, we ought to refuse to take lads until they are fourteen or fifteen years of age.
– We should raise the age at which candidates may sit for examination.
– Quite so. The Government will be forced before long to face the task of amending the Public Service Act. The demand for reform will become so great that no Government will be able to resist it. The Bill is a step in advance. The Minister of Home Affairs says that the Public Service Commissioner has informed him that he has been able to provide for nearly all the boys. I should like a more definite statement. I am continually being importuned by parents to prevent their boys, who have passed examinations, and have almost reached the age of eighteen, from being dismissed.
– The present system is criminal.
– A number of boys who have been in the service of the Government from the age of fourteen, to that of eighteen years are dismissed, notwithstanding that they should have made themselves competent for higher service,- and have passed an examination showing that they have done so. Our Factory Acts and modern commercial and industrial conditions put obstacles in the way of lads who at the age of eighteen have not acquired a -knowledge of some particular trade. Can the Minister tell me how many boys have been unable to secure appointment?
– The information is contained in the Public Service Commissioner’s report.
– A very large number of boys, exceeding 100, is thrown out of employment, although the parents have spent money in enabling “them to pass examinations.
– The Commissioner says that because of the expansion of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, owing to increase of business, it has been found necessary to retire comparatively few messengers at the age of eighteen; but that as this state of things is not likely to continue, an extension of time is desirable.
– Only to-day I received a request from Bendigo to intercede on behalf of a lad who is within two days of reaching the age of eighteen, and likely to be thrown on to the world without any calling at his back. I accept this Bill as a step in the way of reform, and believe it will, to a great extent, remedy what is an undoubted evil. But it will by no means solve the problem, and I urge the Minister to look into the points which I have indicated, and to see whether he cannot devise some scheme for having our post-offices especially manned with more experienced public servants.
.- It is somewhat surprising that a measure of this kind is brought on at this period of the session and of this Parliament. It touches just a few in the service, and leaves the rest untouched. Whether it is doing it rightly or wrongly we should be in a better position to know when we received the report of the Postal Commission which has now, for many months, been investigating the affairs of the largest portion of the service. I thought it was understood that Parliament would await that report, and then attempt on the basis of the Commission’sinvestiga ‘ tions to put the whole Service on something like a fair footing. I admit that it is not fair that officers who give their best service to the management of the public affairs of the country should have nothing to look forward to except a salary that is only a living, but my great objection ~to the measure is one which I have found it necessary to raise in regard to the whole management of the Service, whether by the States or the Commonwealth - that is, the unfair discrimination between the man who uses tools, such as the pick, or shovel, or other instruments, and the man who uses only the pen. The latter, who has the most comfortable set of conditions under which to work, much less wear and tear upon his clothing and his health, and with absolutely no risk to life or limb, always meets with the greatest consideration. I admit that in outside occupations his pay is much worse, but in regard to the Public Service of the Commonwealth, and it used to be much the same in the various States, the General Division is always considered to be one that need not be bothered about. I enter my protest against that system being continued. Throughout the Service it is much the same as in the world generally, with the upsidedown social system under which” we live. Society, jumps on the poor fellow that needs most help, and boosts up the man who does not need any. We should reverse that process, and deal fairly with the worst paid and worst circumstanced. I do not say that the proposal in this Bill is unfair, because there are men in the service who could do much better with their abilities outside, and we ought to recognise their work. As they qualify themselves and get older they should be entitled to definite incre ments, which should not be left to thesweet will of the Government that happens to be in power. On the principleof having some definite advance made,. I am with the Bill, but my complaint is that it selects a few for advancement, andi is introduced at a stage of the session whenwe cannot do justice to the whole Service. There are in the General Division numbersof men doing very skilled and risky work,, but I presume because they wear blue dungarees and get their hands and faces dirtythey count as nobodies, although they are just as important as, and generally moreimportant than, some of those in the Clerical Division. They have to stand for the whole of their days at such salaries as- £120 or £126. In some branches some of them cannot rise even to £132, to say nothing of 1 os. a day or £156 a year. There are a few who, with promotions, mayafter twenty years’ service reach £138, but they have to stop at that. I enter myprotest against this differentiation between< classes of employes. The world is beginning to recognise that a man as such hascertain rights, that he has his duties as a: citizen to fulfil, and his family to keep, just, the same as another man who may wear finer clothes and wield a pen while sitting comfortably at a desk. I should like to. know why the Commissioner or the Government are making this differentiation.. The Minister said the Commissioner recommended it, but that is no answer. I havethe highest opinion of the Commissioner, I believe we were fortunate in securing a very able man in him, and I have not ai word to say against his judgment; but notwithstanding all his ability we are hereto take the responsibility of legislation. There has been unfair treatment of thewhole General Division, especially in some of its branches. There is not a word about them in this Bill, but it is proposed that those in the Clerical Division who reach- ^16.0 shall three years afterwards get an. increase of £10 a year until they obtain- ^180, and then wait two years, when theincrements begin again. Has the Minister any information to show how many officers are affected, and what their work is? The Bill is sprung on us at this late hour of the session, and is a bigger matter than appears on the surface. It is spoken of as an instalment of a good thing, but it is not fair to do these things in instalments.
– I am told that it will amount to an additional expenditure of £20,000 this year ; it amounted to £11,000 last year.
– That shows that a good many officers are to receive the increments. I have no doubt they deserve them.
– Long-service increments are provided for in the General Division. The classification stops at £138, and then there are long-service increments up to £150.
– But the officers would have to remain in the service to about the age of 150 to get them. In the Postal Service especially, owing to the way in which the heads of the Department try to keep the expenses down, and through the manner in which the officers are classified, there is very little chance of a man in the General Division getting a long-service increment. He becomes too old for service before he has a chance to obtain it. It is not a fixed arrangement. To obtain an increment a man has to secure promotion, and he is often kept doing work worth a higher salary than he is paid. The officers in charge of the Departments are very careful to protect the public purse, which is, perhaps, to their credit, and many of the heads of Departments protect it to such an extent that injustice is done to the lower paid, for it is always the lower paid that suffer. Some men stay a long time at £110, and yet Parliament passed an Act providing that those who were twenty-one years of age, and had been three years in the Service, should receive £110. It was not intended that that should be the maximum. Parliament anticipated that increases would be provided as ihe men grew older. It is too late this session to go into these matters .as fully as we ought to ; and we must accept the Bill, although it is a partial provision, doing justice to only a few officers; but we are entitled to ask the Government to mete out equal treatment to all persons in the Service. Reference has been made to the action of the Government in reverting to what was the law in New South Wales, allowing telegraph messengers to have a chance of promotion up to the age of twenty-one. We passed the original Act providing a limit of eighteen years of age, largely because the New South Wales provision had been found to work unsatisfactorily. When Federation was inaugurated, I found, as the result of personal investigation, that in New South Wales there were 400 telegraph messengers on the list for promotion, and that there would be room found for only about twentyfive a year. I have often advised parents against entering their boys as telegraph messengers on account of the small chance of openings being found for them. I am looking forward to the report of the Postal. Commission on that matter. The present arrangement is unsatisfactory from the point of view of the boys themselves, who expect to secure positions with some degree of permanency. In spite of the papers which, they fill up telling them differently, they think when they are appointed that they have a guarantee of permanency. While it may suit those running the Department to get this form of labour, we are entitledto consider whether it is a good thing for the lads themselves. It would be wise to have some other system; though I cannot say exactly what would be the best.. I understand that appointments are now given if possible in some other branches under the eighteen years of age provision, and the extension of the age to twenty is to give greater opportunities to provide openings for the lads. I am confident that the Commissioner will do his best for them.
– The Commissioner hopes, by getting this extension of age, to give the boys an opportunity of promotion.
– The openings in New South Wales were very few, and all those who did not get other positions were thrown on to the labour market, unfitted for other work, beyond the age at which they could start to learn a trade. Some of them had taken pains to make themselves proficient,, and had passed examinations. It was, therefore, a -loss to the Department for them to have to go out. Some had qualified in telegraphic work, and yet there were no appointments for them. That systemis satisfactory neither to the youths concerned nor to the Department. If it canbe remedied, the matter ought to have fullest consideration from both points of view. This is the kind of measure that one cannot vote against. It is only a partial advance; but I hope it will be understood that something similar will be done for the General Division. There is nothing about the work of the Clerical! Division requiring greater skill than is necessary in connexion with the work of the General Division. Indeed, much of the work of the Clerical Division requires less skill than does some of the work of the General Division, and I protest against this partial method of dealing with the question, r hope that an early opportunitywill be taken to do justice to the officers of the General Division. We shall have to deal with the whole question on the report of the Postal Commission, and shall be able then to give to it much more time than we can at this stage of the session.
.- This purports to be a Bill to amend the Public Service Act, but it is actually a validating measure. In the first place, it is designed to validate the action of the Fisher Government who engaged the Public Service Commissioner for a further period of seven years, and agreed to increase his salary from £1,200 to £1,500 per annum. The second portion of the Bill again is not to grant an increase to the officers of the fifth class of the Clerical Division, but to validate an act on the part of the Public Service Commissioner himself in paying certain increments to them. Upon examining the Bill honorable members will find that the Public Service Commissioner has been paying certain increments to officers in the fifth class of the Clerical Division, and has. discovered, apparently, that in doing so fie has placed himself in a doubtful legal position. He therefore asks Parliament to indorse his action. I am astonished that the Labour party are not attacking the action of the Fisher Government in renewing the Public Service Commissoner’s engagement for a perod of seven years, and agreeing to increase his salary by .£300 per annum.
– They know a good man when they see one.
– Honorable members of the Opposition have spoken in such a way as to suggest that they are shocked at the idea of the Minister of the day proposing to grant this increase of salary to the Public Service Commissioner, whereas he is simply giving effect to an agreement made by his predecessor in office, who is a member of the Labour party. On what ground did the Labour Government re-engage the Commissioner for a term of seven years, and agree to increase his salary? The increase is a remarkable and significant one. Mr. McLachlan is a personal friend of mine, but I am not governed by considerations of personal friendship in dealing with a matter of this kind ; I recognise that it must be dealt with from a public standpoint. If Mr. McLachlan is entitled to £1,500 per annum - if he is earning that salary - then prior to the granting of this increase he must have been underpaid. The most important portion of his work - that of classifying about 20,000 officers in the Public Service, of whom about . 1.6,000 are engaged in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department - was carried out while he was receiving only ,£1,200 per annum. If he is to-day worth ,£1,500 per annum then he must have been underpaid. On that ground alone, can this increase be justified. It is an increase of 25 per cent., and whilst I believe in making a salary fit the office to which it is related, I can well understand thousands of public servants occupying minor positions being staggered when they learn of this proposal. If the Minister says that Mr. McLachlan has been underpaid, that will be some excuse for the proposed increase.
– I pointed out that the Service had -increased by 50 per cent.
– But that increase has not taken place during the last five months. I desire to deal very delicately with this question, since it relates to matters into which I have had an opportunity recently to inquire. I do not wish to foreshadow the judgment I have come to in regard to certain questions that I have had recently to investigate, but I would point out that the attack made by the Opposition must be directed really at the late Ministry. It is a powerful -.commentary upon their administration that a Labour Government should have gone out of their way to make such a marked increase in the salary of the Public Service Commissioner when, according to the statements of members of the Labour party to-night, the rank and file of the Service have been neglected. They stand condemned on their own utterances. Members of the Labour party who have spoken of the inadequacy of this measure have been condemning their late representatives in the Labour Administration. Every word that has fallen from the Opposition to-night in condemnation of the Ministry’s failure to provide for increments to the lower-paid members of the Service constitutes a most bitter attack on the -late Labour Government. In these matters, I consider not the amount of salary, received, but the return which the country obtains from it. The honorable member for Maribymong said that the House put up a desperate fight some time ago against a proposal to increase by ,£100 per annum the salary of the Secretary of a Department; he forgot to say that what we complained of was not that that officer was to receive an increase, but that the
Public Service Commissioner had been overlooked, and that he had no power to report as to whether or not that increase should be granted. We objected not to the increase itself, but to the method by which it was obtained. I objected to political patronage - to the fact that the Ministerial head of the Department had recommended that the Secretary should receive an increase of £100 per annum, whereas the question of whether or not any other officer in the Service should receive an increase was one which the Public Service Commissioner had to determine. The same argument will apply to-day. At the instance of the ex-Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. McLachlan has had his salary increased by £300 per annum. I am cavilling not so much at the increase as at the method of obtaining it. No reason has been given for the proposal unless it be that Mr. McLachlan has been underpaid.
– That does not follow. If it did, it might be applied to the case of every officer who received an increase.
– There must have been some strong reason for making so significant and marked an increase, but it has not been put before us. I know that the Commissioner is a capable and able officer, and that he has under bis control all the officers of the Public Service from the humblest to the highest. It is somewhat invidious that the man who has under his review the salaries of all the officers of the service should be placed on an equal footing under this Bill, so far as an increase of his salary is concerned, with men whose salaries he has under review.
– I pointed out that the agreement was entered into by the late Government.
– Quite so. The second part of the Bill, as I have said, is designed to validate an act of the Commissioner. It does not of itself provide for an increase in the salaries of officers in the Clerical Division ; the increase has been actually granted by the Commissioner. I would point out that these increments are to be paid only to officers who have been receiving £160 per annum for not less than three years. Such officers are to receive an increment of £to per annum, and after remaining on the £170 mark for two years, they are to receive a further increment of £10. .. Had this been a Bill providing for - instead of- validating the action of the Commissioner in granting - an increase to certain officers in the Clerical Division, I should have been able to make a strong appeal for the equally generous treatment of officers in the General Division. I shall not deal now with that matter; but I shall have an opportunity before long to show by evidence the absolute need for action in that direction. The only new- feature of the Bill is that relating to telegraph messengers. In that respect the Department has been well advised. The clause providing for an examination of telegraph messengers is a wise one. Some years ago I and other honorable members in this House urged that telegraph messengers should not remain in the service after reaching the age of eighteen years. I believe that the honorable member for Maribyrnong was amongst the number who advanced that contention. The argument” then raised was that if a lad were turned adrift after reaching the age of eighteen years, he would be in a very awkward position. It was urged that unless he received promotion he should leave the service even before reaching that age, so that he might have an opportunity to be apprenticed to some trade. We find that the section in the principal Act providing for the retirement of telegraph messengers on reaching the age of eighteen years is working to the detriment of the service. Many high officials in the Department todayentered the service as telegraph messengers ; but under the present system .the parents of many children will not allow them to become telegraph messengers, because they know that they are likely to be discharged either at or before reaching the age of eighteen years. The tendency of the provision in the principal Act has not been toattract the best class of boys to the service as telegraph messengers, and consequently the best class of boys have not been available for permanent employment in the General and Clerical Divisions. It has been a means of depleting the service of lads of the class who used to join it. That is one of the many objections that canbe raised at the proper time to the practice hitherto followed. As a matter of fact, this Bill does not grant any new increments, but merely legalizes those already granted by the Commissioner, who was under the impression that he was em-‘ powered under the Public Service Act te grant them. I am glad that the House has’ been in the humour to favorably consider this Bill; and I hope that the broader question will command attention as close. It does seem beyond the bounds of fair play for honorable members opposite to castigate the Minister of Home Affairs and the Government, when they are simply validating the action of the Labour Government in regard to the Commissioner. What right had the ex-Minister of Home Affairs to enter into an engagement for seven years with the Commissioner and to raise his salary from £1,200 to £1,500 without any further information than that which has been given us to-night? If the Commissioner had announced that he would not continue in his position unless he received the increase, I could understand the position. The increases in the Clerical Division representonly about 6 per cent., while that of the Commissioner means 25 per cent. ; and we cannot expect the Public Service to be satisfied and loyal under the circumstances. What about the Public Service inspectors? They receive from £700 to £800 a year, and, although they are the men on whom the Commissioner has to rely for information and advice, no increase is proposed in their case. This Bill is piecemeal legislation, and is only necessary to validate what I may call the blunder of the ex-Minister of Home Affairs in increasing the salary of the Public Service Commissioner without taking into consideration the whole question of Public Service salaries. The exMinister of Home Affairs was aware that an inquiry was proceeding, on the evidence of which he could test the question whether the Commissioner and the members of the service generally were underpaid or overpaid.
– Did the Commissioner demand a rise ?
– That is for the late Postmaster-General, the honorable member for Barrier, to say. It does seem bad business to increase the salary of the Public Service Commissioner and neglect the rest of the service.
– We cannot go back on an agreement.
– It is a case of the Minister of the day honouring the promise of his predecessor.
– And I have given my reasons for doing so.
– I am satisfied that it was right for . the Commissioner to grant the increments in the Clerical Division, and therefore I shall support the Bill.
– The Commissioner acted under the advice of the Attorney-General at that time, but the present Attorney - General thinks that the proper way is by legal enactment.
– That shows the difference of opinion between the two AttorneysGeneral. It is no use pretending that any one except the Commissioner receives a farthing of increase in his salary by means of this Bill, and his case should have remained in abeyance until the whole service could be dealt wth.
– The increases in the Clerical Division represent about £20,000 this year.
– But these increases have already been made by the Commissioner. If there has been an increase of work for the Commissioner, there has been an increase of work for his inspectors and for everybody in the service. I shall support the measure simply as a validating one.
– I beg to call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
. -I intend to support this Bill on the principle that “half a loaf is better than no bread.” The Public Service Act needs much more drastic amendment than that now proposed. There are several avenues in which alteration is very urgently needed, and these might possibly prove more debatable than the provisions under notice, which, however, are of sufficient importance to warrant support. I hope that it is not even now too late to induce the Minister to widen the scope “of the measure, so as to embrace cases of urgency which must otherwise remain unprovided for. The classification of officers, referred to by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, does not appear to be very debatable, and might well be dealt with in this measure. I have here a list of suggested amendments in the Public Service Act of 1902, and the regulations made under it, agreed to by a Conference of delegates representing the various Federal Public Service Associations in New South Wales. These associations are composed of men who have to work under the Act, and know where it pinches. This list of suggested amendments is dated Sydney, 1st June, 1907, and with it is another document, dated 20th March, 1908, setting forth the reasons advanced for the various suggested amendments. The first document makes the suggestion, amongst others, that there shall be a fifth division to be termed the “Technical Division,” to include electrical light engineers, instrument fitters, telegraphs and telephones foremen, battery - men, and the higher officials in line construction, such as cable fitters, joiners, and inspectors. 1 see no reason why this suggestion should not be acted upon. The technical nature of their work is not now recognised or provided for, and justice cannot be done to them unless a new division is created.
– We have enough to do now in dealing with the matter in front of us.
– If the Minister takes that stand, it is of little use to discuss the matter. The honorable member for Maribyrnong, who was PostmasterGeneral for a considerable time, has asked that something of the kind that I suggest should be done, and it seems to me that we have now an opportunity to do it.
– It may shorten the debate to inform the honorable member that it is not competent for the House to add to the Bill. It was introduced by a message covering the amendment of only certain provisions of the Public Service Act, and therefore other provisions cannot now be amended. The proper time to provide for an enlargement of the scope of the Bill was when the message was under consideration.
– It seems to me a non-contentious matter which might very well be dealt with. The Minister proposes to provide long-service increments in the fifth class of the Clerical Division. But similar provision should be made regarding the officers of the General Division.
– The Act makes no provision for long-service increments in the fifth class of the Clerical Division, but it makes provision for such increments in, the General Division.
Mr.THOMAS BROWN.- In that case the law does not seem to be administered evenly. In 1907 Parliament voted £10,000, and in 1909 £6,000, while this year we are asked to vote £5,000, for Public Service special increments.
– Largely for increments in the General Division.
– Although it was understood that the money would be distributed throughout the Service, I have been informed that hitherto the General Division has not benefited ; and that in the New South Wales Postal Department, at any rate, only officers of the clerical branches have received increments. There are in the “ General Division officers of twenty-five years’ service, possessing clean records, who have not received recognition from these votes. It is proposed to raise the maximum salary of certains clerical officers from £160 to £180, by means of long-service increments. The honorable member for Dalley has pointed out that that has already been done. As a matter of fact, the late Labour Government provided for this increase, but the present Attorney-General, thinking it necessary to legalize what was done, put this provision into the Bill. There are, however, a number of officers in the General Division who are not being fairly dealt with in the matter of increments. According to a statement dated 20th March, 1908 -
The rate of promotion, it is stated, averages about twelve per annum, out of a total of 539 letter carriers in New South Wales. What applies to New South Wales also applies to the other States.
The following comprise the various grades (Assistant) Letter Carriers : - Letter Carriers, 181, maximum salary, £110; Letter Carriers, Grade I., 179, maximum salary, £126; Letter Carriers, Grade II., 179, maximum salary, , £138.
There are also eligible for appointment as Letter Carriers 103 Senior Assistants, maximum salary, £126; 630 Assistants, salary £110; and 16 Mail Drivers, maximum salary,£126.
This, briefly, is the position under the grading system.
The following are two illustrations : -
R. Morrissey, G.P.O., 38 years of age, 16 years service, Assistant Letter Carrier, £110.
J. Reid, Newtown, 35 years of age, 21 years’ service, Letter Carrier, Grade I., salary£126.
– I am informed that those conditions have disappeared.
– If this is a matter for regulation, the Minister should see that justice is done. I have nothing to say against the proposal to give increments to the Clerical Division, and, indeed, think the increments deserved. But the general staff should be treated with equal liberality. When last session I introduced a Bill dealing with the retirement of telephone attendants, and the honorable member for West Sydney another dealing with the question of appeals, we were induced to withdraw those measures to enable the Government of the day to deal with the subjects which they covered. No proposal, however, has been made to alter the system of appeals, which causes great friction.
– I have not had time to do more.
– The matter will have to be dealt with early in the life of the next Parliament. I am glad that the Minister has decided to do something with regard to telegraph messengers. The whole Department was against the view which I originally took in this matter, but experience has taught them that some change must be made. At the present time, officers who have been in the service for three or four years, and have thus qualified themselves for the performance of higher duties, find no avenues of promotion open to them, and have to retire on reaching the age of eighteen. Yet their services are most valuable to the Department. In my electorate, a bright and intelligent lad was appointed as a messenger, and during his service became a competent telegraphist and generally useful in the office. He was actually used to relieve officers whose holidays had accrued; but as soon as he reached the age of eighteen years, he had to retire because the Department could not procure promotion for him. His place was taken by a mere lad who had to learn the A B C of the work. The work of the office had so grown in the meantime, that the postmaster was unable to cope with it with only the help of this youth, who was a messenger pure and simple, and an assistant had to be appointed, lt, therefore, took three officers to do the work done previously by two. It was a hardship to the lad and his parents that he should be retired, because they looked forward to a permanent position for him. He did all in his power to qualify himself for promotion, but had to be retired. The same necessity applied to a number of other youths. I discovered on inquiry that if the time were extended as this Bill provides, it would allow the Department at least two extra years in which to avail themselves of the training which such youths had been given, and in which to secure their services in the higher grades. This can only be done by an amendment of the principal Act. The Public Service Commissioner afterwards endeavoured to meet the difficulty by means of a special examination when vacancies occurred, and a number of these youths got’ back again to the Service; but that was not a desirable method, and the Minister’s proposal will, so far as I can judge, be better. In New South Wales, officers were not required to retire until’ they reached the age of twenty-one, and there was little difficulty in that connexion, as they were fairly well absorbed. The idea of this Parliament was not to continue too long in the Service youths unfitted for the work, and it was thought that it would be discovered by the time they reached eighteen whether they were qualified or not, when those not qualified could te dispensed with. It was found, however, that that arrangement robbed the Department of the services of a large number of desirable youths, for whom it could not provide on the spur of the moment. This Bill will overcome that difficulty, whilst still enabling the Department to weed out those not qualified to” continue in the Service. It provides that when a youth reaches eighteen he must pass an examination to show his fitness. If he can pass it, he gets the benefit of the extra two years. If he cannot, he is still required to retire from the Service when he reaches eighteen. I think that is a provision which honorable members will not quarrel with. Although the honorable member for Dalley seems to think that the Service generally has a grievance in the fact that the Public Service Commissioner has been appointed for another term at an increased salary, I hold that Mr. McLachlan has done a Herculean work in the Commonwealth Service. Everything that he has done is not perfect, but he has shown hisgreat talents and ability as an organizer. He is a most able and capable man, and deserves the money that it is proposed to pay him. If the Service is to be what we wish it to be, it must be under the control and management of a capable man. If the Commonwealth wants the services of such a man, it must be prepared to pay for them. The amount offered is not a large, sum ; and if the Commissioner does his work anything like faithfully and well, he will earn it. I presume that the salary now named will apply also to Mr. McLachlan’s successor. The late Labour Qovernment, recognising the value of his services, and the desirability of retaining him for the Commonwealth, arranged to increase his salary, and this Bill will give legal force to the arrangement. They also made arrangements to increase Hie salaries of those in the fifth class of the Clerical Division from the £160 to the £180 limit, and the Bill gives legal forceto that determination. Whilst I agree with the Bill as far as it goes, it might be enlarged in the interests of the service generally, to embrace the purely technical classification which-
I have indicated, and to provide for an independent Court of Appeal as outlined by the honorable member for West Sydney, using the State Police Magistrates as an investigating Board. The present method is unsatisfactory, costly, and unwieldy, and an amendment of the Act in that direction is urgently needed. Amendments are equally urgently needed in many other directions, but the Minister would be well advised to extend the scope of the Bill to meet the points I have mentioned. By so doing he would make it much more efficient, and it would appeal much more directly to the rank and file of the service as granting a measure of reform which has been demanded and urgently required for many years past.
.- Will the Minister agree to an adjournment of the debate?
– I propose to go through with the Bill to-night. No opposition has been offered to it.
– The honorable member for Calare made a serious statement regarding the diversion to the Clerical Division of money voted by Parliament each year for the purposes of long-service increments to the General Division. I am not here to create a caste in connexion with the Public Service. What have the Clerical Division done that they should come specially under the notice of the Minister, and have provision made for their long-service increments, when the General Division have not received money voted by Parliament for long-service increments for them? Will the Minister ascertain whether the statement of the honorable member for Calare is correct?
– Last year was the first in which any amount was allocated for the Clerical Division, and- the first year in which long-service increments were paid to them. In all previous years the money went to the General Division.
– How much has gone to each division ?
– £11,000 went to the Clerical Division last year. As the Bill refers specially to the Clerical Division, I have not looked up what the General Division got.
– How much went to the General Division during the last three years?
– I can find out ; but as the Bill does not touch that question, I do not see what it has to do with it.
– It has a great deal to do with it. The Minister says that the Principal Act already provides for longservice increments to the General Division, but the honorable member for Calare asserts that money passed by Parliament from year to year for the General Division has been paid in New South Wales to the Clerical Division.
– £11 , 000 lastyear.
– How much was paid to the General Division last year? We should also have that information?
– The ordinary increments paid to the General Division for the last three years amounted to £5,000 per annum.
– So that last year we paid to the Clerical Division £11,000, and this Bill provides for a considerable sum more. It makes a fixed arrangement for a £20 increase. Yet, within the last three years, we have paid only £15,000 additional to the General Division. How was the £11,000 to the Clerical Division paid ?
– According to my information it appeared in the Estimates, for 1908/9 as long-service increments for the Clerical Division.
– It seems to me to be objectionable to single out one branch of the service for special benefits.
– Long-service increments for the General Division are provided for in the Act.
– But I have pointed out that the Clerical Division gets the lion’s share of the increments, and that under this Bill no provision is made for the General Division.
– Because long-service increments for the General Division are already provided for in the Act.
– Why is it necessary for theClerical Division to get £11,000, or more than twice as much as is paid to the General Division?
– Because under the advice of a previous Attorney-General, these long-service increments were paid under a vote on the Estimates, and it was recommended by the present Attorney-General that it was desirable to get legal authority to validate what was done under the advice of a previous Attorney-General.
– The moneys were voted by Parliament on a previous occasion.
– I object to this Bill on another ground also. We have a Royal Commission sitting, part of whose work it is to ascertain what alterations may be required in connexion with the service.
– What has the Royal Commission to do with this Bill ? The Chairman of the Commission made a long speech, and did not object to the measure on that ground.
– The Commission has something to do with the grading of the service, and is certainly collecting information with regard to alterations which maybe required as te increments, long-service or otherwise, in both the Clerical and General Divisions.
– Does the honorable member object to the giving telegraph boys a further term of two years’ service?
– That is begging the question. I brought the case of the telegraph boys before the notice of Parliament years ago, and the Government has been remiss in not dealing with their case.
– Why does the honorable member object when a matter affecting them is brought forward?
– I am objecting to the way in which a part of the service is being treated. Those in the General Division may not have the same social standing as have others in the service, but the curse of our Public Service is the various castes that exist in it.
– I am trying to do something for -the telegraph boys, and the honorable member is blocking the attempt.
– That is a very small matter in relation to this Bill.
– It is a big matter, as it affects a. couple of thousand boys.
– I do not object to the increases for the Clerical Division, but I object to the lack of consideration given to the General Division. ‘The Minister should adjourn the debate until he can get further information. The present procedure is not fair to the House, nor to the service, nor to the Royal Commission. While I am on this subject, I desire to say that I should like to know by what authority, in the face of the fact that a Royal Commission was sitting to deal with this subject, the late Government promised to increase the salary of the Public Service Commissioner? If any general recommendation be made bv the Commis sion, it will naturally be affected by this spasmodic and piecemeal method of dealing with the service. Notwithstanding that the Fisher Government, which I supported, made the promise regarding the Commissioner, I strongly resent Parliament being pledged in such a way. In my opinion the Royal Commission has been flouted. If the Government wish to belittle the Commission why did they not stop supplies long ago? As it is, if the Commission recommends a uniform method of dealing with the service, this piecemeal system of legislating will be found very awkward.
– But the Postal Commission is not dealing with the position of the Public Service Commissioner.
– If the Commission does its work well it will inquire into the position of every officer from the highest to the lowest.
– We had either to allow Mr. McLachlan to retire or to “appoint him for a further term.
– There was no necessity for the late Government to pledge the Parliament in this way. They could have engaged the Commissioner for a further period of seven years at his present salary ; but according to the Minister of Home Affairs they went further and pledged this Parliament to increase his salary by £300 per annum. There was no obligation on their part to do that. If the Commissioner did not care to accept a renewal of his engagement at his then salary he knew what to do.
– And we knew what we had to do.
– Quite so; but 1 am not going to be bound by anything of the kind. It is singular’ that all the heads of the service appear to receive special treatment. As soon as a man in the lower ranks of the service reaches the age of sixty-five years he has to retire. The Department in which he is employed gives him six months’ notice before he reaches that age; but when a man high up in the service reaches the retiring age we are told that he is a genius, and that without him the service would go to the dogs. Under such circumstances discontent must arise. We find that one branch of the service is specially provided for in this Bill. The men in that branch are to receive increments.
-. - So far as that is concerned, this Bill is only to validate what has been done by the Commissioner.
– I thought the Minister would have been glad to learn whether it was true, as stated by the honorable member for Calare, that money voted for officers in the General Division had been paid on the recommendation of the Commissioner to officers in the Clerical Division.
– I have asked for information on the subject, and I understand that that is not so.
– Do the Minister’s officers say that it is not so?
– Yes ; the money voted for the General Division was paid to officers in the division, and money voted for the Clerical Division was paid to the Clerical Division. ,
– Last year £1 1,000 was paid by way of increments to officers in -the Clerical Division.
– And according to information I have received the amount paid this year will be about £20,000.
– I do not wish to discuss the question further. I think that the request for the adjournment of the debate was a reasonable one.
– I do not wish to discuss this Bill further than to say that in my judgment this method of legislating is unwise. To the increments proposed to be paid I have no objection; as a matter of fact, they have already been granted by the Public Service Commissioner as an act of justice to officers in one branch of the service. But those responsible for the proposed increase to the Public Service Commissioner have taken it upon themselves to do something which’ may have to be remodelled at no distant date. Some of the members of the late Government say that they had to do something with regard to the position of the Public Service Commissioner, and that indicates that they had no loophole of escape when the proposition was made that the Commissioner’s salar) should be increased. Evidently they failed to take action until the Commissioner’s first term of service had actually expired. One would have thought that the Minister in charge of the Department would, look ahead and make inquiries in time to enable other arrangements if necessary to be made, so that he would not be exposed to the exactions of any officer. I am not dis cussing the equity of the proposed increase of salary to the Commissioner; but that part of the Bill which deals with that question, and the clause relating to the employment of telegraph messengers, may have to be amended within the next twelve months. The Government would have been well advised had they hesitated to initiate legislation of this character until they had something sounder to go upon with regard to its effect upon the whole service, especially in view of the reform which may possibly be suggested later on. I regret that the Minister should propose to do more than is necessary to legalize an action already taken by the Commissioner, and think that the remaining provisions of the Bill might well have been left for future consideration in connexion with the inquiry now being made into the whole ramifications of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
– I feel that I should like to oppose the proposed increase of salary to the Public Service Commissioner, not because I think he is not worth ,£1,500 a year, but because I believe that no one man should have the power which the Commissioner possesses. Some time ago a Ministerial decision was given as to the payment of certain men temporarily employed in a certain Department.
– Men who were really shipwrights.
– Men who as shipwrights would have received 12s. per day outside the service. I do not say that the work that they were called upon to do required on their part the knowledge of a shipwright, but it was certainly not the work of a labourer. The Minister decided that a fair wage should be paid; but the Commissioner determined that these temporary hands should be employed permanently’ at 8s. 4d. per day. An attempt was made, but without success, to induce the Commissioner to reconsider the matter, with a view to the payment of adequate remuneration to these men. I think that the Commissioner has not given the satisfaction expected. It is not because he has not tried to do so, or is not an able man, but because it is impossible for any one man to properly carry out all the duties intrusted to the Public Service Commissioner under the Act. I think that the Ministerial head of each Department should have more power than he has at present. I know it will be argued that that suggests a return to political influence; but the answer is that it would be no more baneful to the Public Service than is Departmental influence.
– Or social influence.
– I do not know that social influence is brought to bear to any great extent. The heads of Departments develop feelings against certain men, and I think the Public Service Commissioner should take such things into consideration and look beyond the reports from Departmental heads. I may be asked of what use it is to appoint a Departmental head if his report and advice is not to be acted upon. But I think that in these matters the Ministerial head and the Public Service Commissioner should exercise discretion, and that if they did, they would prevent, in some cases, unfair treatment being meted out to certain officers. The Commissioner and his inspectors are supposed to supervise the whole of the Public Service. I suppose that the Commissioner is guided to a great extent by the reports of his inspectors and of the Departmental heads; and if that be so, he cannot claim all the kudos for managing the service well. I raise the same objection as that raised by the honorable member for Grey. I know of men in the General Division who have been in the Public Service for twenty years at £156a year, and cannot hope to get an increase until some one above them dies. I remember that on one occasion, in discussing the Budget, ‘ the honorable member for Flinders contended that no provision should be made for increments unless the state of the public revenue would permit of them. I disagree with the honorable member’s contention. Public servants who enter the General Division at a low wage as youngsters have much greater responsibilities when they reach, say, the age of forty-five years ; and I believe that long-service increments’ above a salary of £156 a year should be provided for in the General Division. In savins this, I cast no reflection on officers in the Clerical Division. Though we may not be able to amend this measure, that will not prevent me from raising my voice against what I consider unfair treatment meted out to a large section of our public servants. I am pleased that the Government have at last proposed to do something for youngsters taken into the Public Service, by extending the age to twenty years in the case of telegraph messengers. Many young fellows who join at fourteen years of age have to leave the service after spending four years in it, and no one will take them as apprentices to any business outside at eighteen years of age. If the age is extended as proposed to twenty years, there will be greater opportunities afforded to find positions for these lads in the service, and the time they have spent in the Department will not have been wasted. The honorable member for Maribyrnong said that the Post and Telegraph Department drew too largely upon the young people of the community. But that cannot be avoided while lads have to leave at eighteen years of age, and while lads of that age are drawn upon to fill positionsbecoming vacant. There is in the Public Service too much of the boy labour which is condemned so much outside. It would be better, if the Department could afford it, to give a slight increase of pay to telegraph messengers up to the age of twenty-one years. I agree that it is right that they should pass a. certain examination, and that their conduct shouldbe fair if they are to be continued permanently in the service. I hope that at some future date the matter will be more thoroughly gone into, and better provision made than is now proposed. I agree with honorable members who have said that what we require is a new Commonwealth Public Service Act. We should deal with the question as a whole, and not in the piece meal fashion proposed in this Bill. Departmental officersacting immediately under the supervision of the Ministerial heads should set about drawing up some scheme for the better regulation of the Public Service.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
– Is the Minister prepared to receive amendments of the nature I indicated, particularly in regard to classification ?
– I cannot receive any amendments outside the particular objects for which the Bill is introduced. I do not think the honorable member would be inorder in submitting them.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Employment of telegraph messengers).
– I move -
That the following words be added : - “ This section shall be deemed to have commenced on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and nine.”
This would have the effect of “permitting some who would be leaving the service now to remain in it for another two years. It would make the provision retrospective to the 1st July.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 (Amendment of third schedule).
– I notice that the Postal Conference, to which I have already referred, recommended that the maximum should be £185 per annum. Is there any particular reason why it should be £180?
– The reason is that the clause provides for two increments of £10 each.
Clause agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the remaining stages to be passed without delay.
Report adopted. .
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I congratulate honorable members on the unanimity they have displayed in connexion with the Public Service Bill ; but it is necessary to point out that even unanimity of this kind will not enable us to close the session in the time we expected. I am afraid I shall have to ask honorable members to sit even longer hours.
– When is it expected to close the session ?
– I should not like to say, but had expected to do so in ten days. ‘ If honorable members will lend me their assistance and will “ pick their pearls “ a little, I trust we shall be able to disperse at about that time or a little later. There is not a great deal to be done.
– We have the whole of the Estimates to pass.
– But with the assistance of honorable members, we can reach the end in the time indicated, which I am sure we all desire.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.59p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 November 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19091130_reps_3_54/>.