4th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– It is stated in to-day’s Argus in a telegram from Adelaide, under the heading “Roll Stuffing, Labour Officials Charged “ -
The final report of the Select Committee appointed to inquire concerning certain alleged irregularities in electoral claims was brought up by Mr. Moulden (Chairman) and read. It staled that the evidence was of a startling nature…… The evidence disclosed a method of unlawfully placing names of alleged electors upon the electoral rolls, which might, if unchecked, become a serious menace to one of the fundamental principles of electoral law and representative government.
I ask whether any of the persons mentioned in the Committee’s recommendations have been acting in any capacity for the Commonwealth Electoral Department?
– I have given instructions to have careful inquiries made as to whether any of the persons implicated by the Committee’s report are in any way connected with the Federal electoral administration. The Department of Home Affairs is most anxious that the character of officials acting in that capacity shall be clean.
– Has the Minister taken steps to provide for the redistribution of seats, where necessary, in accordance with the census returns? If so, have Commissioners been appointed, and is he at liberty to disclose their names?
– I have taken action, and appointments have been made in one or two of the States. I shall give the honorable member the names tomorrow.
– Will the Prime Minister cause to be prepared and laid on the table a detailed list of the telephone and telegraph works on which it is proposed to spend £2,000,000 during this and next year?
– The request is unusual. The Estimates gave the general headings, and the expenditure must be in accordance with .the items. To ask for a detailed statement is unreasonable, and to lay such a statement on the table would be to set a bad precedent, but Ministers will give to honorable members or the House any particular information which may be desired.
– On the Estimates the sum of £104,000 is set down for the construction and extension of telephone works in New South Wales, and the Prime Minister mentioned another amount last night. I ask for a statement which will give honorable members information regarding the works on. which it is proposed to spend the special appropriation of £600,000. I do not ask for any information beyond what it is usual to give when Estimates are under discussion. My suggestion is made with a view to assisting the Prime Minister.
– I’ am glad to have assistance from the honorable member. The practice in dealing with the Estimates is for the Treasurer or other Ministers to furnish information as it is asked on particular items.
– The ,£600,000 to which I have referred is part of £2,000,000 which is to be spent during this and next year. Last night the Government’s proposals were subjected to criticism, partly because so little expenditure is to take place in Queensland. I wish to know how the money is to be spent ?
– Detailed information has been given regarding the .£700,000 placed on the Estimates for this year. It is intended to place another .£700,000 on the Estimates for next year. These two amounts, with the sum of £600,000 referred to, make up the £2,000,000 of which the honorable member has spoken. All information asked for will be given.
– In view of the horrible and awful reports, apparently from_ authoritative sources, which have been “ published regarding the conduct of the belligerents in the war now taking place between Italy and Turkey, will the Prime- Minister consider the advisability of urging the Home Government to make representations to them, and, failing a satisfactory reply, to the other European Powers, in order that there may be international intervention, so that what is a disgrace to our civilization may be put an end to?
– They might bring up the record of South Africa.
– If they did, there would be nothing to fear on our side.
– The honorable member has asked a question upon a very serious subject. I feel that I shall best ‘preserve the dignity of this Dominion by following the example of the Prime Minister of Great Britain, who, when a like question was asked in the House of Commons, replied that he thought that at this juncture the discussion of unofficial reports was inadvisable in our own interests and in those of civilization. I have read what has appeared in the newspapers, and the reports appear to be those of independent and trustworthy correspondents. We all regret that atrocities such as those described should take place, and I venture to say that both sides deplore them, but I do not think that any action we might take at present would have any but a disadvantageous result.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs if he can see his way to have a search made for the derelict which has been sighted in the Great Australian Bight.
– Although the Commonwealth has not taken over the control of navigation, I think that we are bound to do all in our power to provide for the safety of shipping on the coast, and I have approved of the trawler Endeavour being sent to search for the derelict, taking with her a man competent to use explosives, for the purpose of destroying her.
– Does not the Minister think that a reward of £400 or£500 should be offered for the destruction of the derelict, which is floating in the track of the steamers trading between Western and South Australia?
– I think that the action we are taking is the best in the circumstances.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Min ister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
With reference to the reply given by the Minister on the 20th October last as to the rectification of Tariff anomalies -
Whether the Government intend to deal with anomalies in the Tariff this session?
Whether the Minister has had any replies to his circular to manufacturers on the subject; and, if so, what number?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Papua - Ordinances of 191 1 - Coroners.
Bankers’ Books Evidence.
Disaster to French warship Liberte - Telegram of sympathy from Commonwealth Government and Despatch from British Ambassador at Paris conveying the thanks of the French Government.
Summary of the Final Report of the British Royal Commission on Tuberculosis.
Department of Home Affairs -
Schedule No. 5, containing Information in regard to Sites, Principal Works, and other Matters throughout the different States of the Commonwealth dealt with by the Department of Home Affairs, compiled from the Minister’s “ General Digests.” (31 Oct., 1 91 1.)
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 19th October, vide page 1645) :
Clause 3 - “ Net profits “ means the profit made after full and due provision for current expenditure has been made, and does not include the proceeds from the realization of assets or the conversion of reserves or any portion of reserves.
Upon which Mr. Greene had moved -
That all the words after the word “ means,” line 1, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ profits which may be lawfully distributed as dividends.”
– I do not think it is necessary for me to say much more in recommending this Bill to the Committee. I have already pointed out that it will be of considerable benefit to shareholders of banks, and also of great benefit to the public, if shareholders in banks from time to time take advantage of its provisions. I do not wish to occupy more time than is absolutely necessary in discussing the measure because I am anxious that it shall, if possible, be passed through its remaining stages this afternoon. I hope that the Committee will agree to the amendment and reserve any criticism they may have to offer until we reach clause 4 which practically contains the kernel of the Bill.
– How much are the trustees to be paid?
– I do not know thai there would be any payment; in all probability there would be none. If any payment were made to the trustees I should imagine it would be a very small sum, and it would be paid out of the actual amount raised under the terms of clause 7. Very little trouble would be involved in working this particular scheme.
! - I cannot understand why. having regard to the extraordinary degree of intellectual capacity centred in the promoters of this measure, it has been necessary for the honorable member in charge of the Bill to propose this amendment at the present stage. It will be noticed that the clause as it stands provides that - “ Net profits “ means the profit made after full and due provision for current expenditure has been made, and does not include the proceeds from the realization of assets or the conversion of reserves or any portion of reserves.
Why was such a provision necessary? Is it the habit of banking companies to regard as net profits money obtained by the realization of assets?
– No, and that is why these words have been introduced. They cannot lawfully distribute their assets as dividends.
– I was wondering how the words came to be introduced. Senator Walker who introduced this measure in another place is a director of the Bank of New South Wales, and I was anxious to know what was the practice of the banks which he had in his mind.
– He did not draft the clause.
– -The honorable member has not told us whether there has been any demand for this Bill other than the desire of the very amiable senator who introduced it. I have tried to discover where the idea originated. The only discovery I have been able to make is that at the time of the bank smashes in 1893, when some of the shareholders were called upon to pay up their uncalled liabilities, somebody thought it would have been an excellent idea if a measure of this kind had been in existence to provide a reserve liability fund. That is the only instance I know of where anybody, with the exception of Senator Walker, has expressed a desire for the passage of a. Bill of this kind. Does the honorable member for Richmond know of any meeting of shareholders or of directors being held to consider the Bill?
– I have a great number of authorities of different sorts, which the honorable member could have read last year in Hansard.
– I read last year’s Hansard, but all I saw in that regard was a few letters sent to Senator Walker expressing belief in the Bill. The senator, however, quoted no high authority. None of the directors of the principal banks - the Bank of New South Wales, for example - expressed an opinion on the subject. Has not the Bank of Australasia, or the Union Bank, or the Queensland National Bank, any opinion on the measure? When the Bill was in Committee previously the honorable member for Richmond said -
In most cases the shares of the banks were originally subscribed by men of substance, who could have met their liabilities had they been called on to do so. But, as time has passed, the shares have got largely into the hands of small investors. Bank shares have been regarded as a first-class security, and now, in many instances, are held by persons who derive their sole income from their dividends. The honorable member (for Maribyrnong) would be surprised, if he went through a bank share-list, to see how many women figure as shareholders. In many cases their whole living, or a considerable part of it, is derived from the dividends. But the point I am making is that many of the shareholders are persons of no substance, or of only small means.
What are we to infer from that? What is the object of the Bill? Originally, according to the honorable member, the people who held bank shares were men of substance. They got in on the ground floor, so to speak, and when they had managed to work up the bank business to dividends of 10 or 20 per cent., their shares, for which about £20 each was paid, were sold on the market at £40. It is a well-known fact that when shares returning 10 per cent, on the paid-up capital are put on the market, they will bring double their paid-up price. Later on I shall quote instances of shares paid up to ^20 being worth ,£40 on the market today. Where the dividend is 10 per cent, on the paid-up capital the return to the investor in that case is only 5 per cent. Here we get at the real meaning of Senator Walker’s benevolent proposal. According to the honorable member for Richmond the people who have bought these shares from the men of substance are small investors who derive their sole income from the dividends. Can the Committee imagine a philanthropist bringing forward a Bill which, if it is going to do anything, will deprive those small investors of part of their sole income? Take the case of a bank paying a 10 per cent, dividend per annum. Imagine a husband saying to his wife, “ We have saved £1,000 I shall invest that in a bank, because bank shares are a very sound security. The dividend is 10 per cent, on the paid-up capital, but we shall get only 5 per cent, on our investment. Instead of getting ^100 per annum we shall get £50, so that if anything happens to me you will have ,£50 per annum for the rest of your life.” But Senator W-alker comes along and says “ No, we are going to take ^5 of that.” His proposal is to take at least r per cent., and he might take 2 per cent.
– No; he does not say so.
– I am very much obliged to my courteous friend for giving me the lie direct, but 1 have here a table which’ Senator Walker read in another place. I suggest that the honorable member for Richmond should read it before venturing again into this House to mislead honorable members.
– The honorable member mistakes altogether the meaning of my interjection,
– It is of no use for the honorable member to try to shuffle out of his direct contradiction. Senator Walker has very kindly furnished me with three or four copies of his various speeches He asked a well- known actuary to work out the period within which it would be possible to build up a reserve fund, assuming that 1 per cent, or 2 per cent, of the dividends per annum was set aside. That shows the whole object of the measure.
– In how many years?
– The honorable member just told me that Senator Walker did not propose anything of the kind. If he does not know his subject he must give notice of any further questions. He might take the advice which he tendered to me, and read Ilansard.
– Would it not be a good thing for a shareholder, if it made his investment more secure, to put aside a few pounds per annum for that purpose?
– I shall deal with that aspect of the question. First, let me ask, what is the reason for these uncalled liabilities? For example, there is £40 of uncalled capital in connexion with the shares of one bank, £12 10s. in another, £15 in ^another, ^20 in another, and so on. The Bank of Australasia has a reserve liability of ^40 per share; the City Bank, £10 ; the English, Scottish and Australian Bank, £12 10s., and I ask, What is the reason for this? I take it that the banks were given a charter providing for a reserve liability, because it was believed that this would act as a check or control on the directors, and restrain them from entering upon any risky speculation. I can well believe that bank directors, knowing that they are voted to their position by the shareholders, and that, if they make any mistake, ruin may be brought on their institution, are more likely to adopt sound banking with a reserve liability than would otherwise be the case. In the absence of any reserve liability, directors might be induced to take risks, and advance ^£200, 000 to a person who already had an overdraft of ^100,000, or take upon themselves to finance gold, copper, or tin mining ventures, feeling that, as the funds were all paid up, no harm could be done. That is the view I offer to the honorable member for Coolgardie as one reason why we should not do away with the reserve liability.
– I never suggested doing away with the uncalled liability.
– The Bill is to make sure that the money is there.
– I do not wish to get away from the main point that Senator Walker, in introducing this Bill, is attacking the widow and the orphan - the small investor whose sole income is. derived from the bank dividends. Not only is there a reserve liability in some cases, but there is also an unpaid portion of the capital which may be called up at any time. Let us take the” case of the unfortunate widow with two or three children, who receives .£100 per annum in bank dividends as her sole income. Senator Walker proposes that that income should be reduced to £90, and it is possible that, a widow with a house of her own might not be able to face the situation and provide for her two- or three children with that amount.
– I must ask the honorable member to confine himself to the Bill, and not to discuss Senator Walker.
– I merely desire to point out what may happen to people of small means under this Bill. A widow under such circumstances as I have indicated, might be inclined, in a weak moment, to mortgage her house in order to make up the loss incurred. Does the honorable memberfor Richmond recollect the Gospel according to St. Matthew, chap. 23, verse 14? -
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer : therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.
Did the honorable member for Richmond, or Senator Walker, think, when they introduced this measure, that it was possible the widow might have her house taken from her? There is another aspect of the case. There are people who are not of small means, and who do not derive their sole income from bank dividends. Is a shareholder, who has his wits about him, going to hand over his 10 per cent, dividend to trustees ? The honorable member for Richmond said that it is not very likely that these trustees or directors will be paid ; but I believe not only in the payment of members but in payment of directors and of all who do good and efficient service for the community. There is no doubt that if trustees do this work they will expect to be paid, and I suppose they will receive about £1,000 per annum. Is it likely that shareholders will allow their dividends to be retained by the bank for all time? Are they not much more likely to take the view that they can use the money themselves to much better advantage, and to demand the full dividend? I suppose that investments of a sound character, outside Government securities, return about 5 per. cent. One can hardly imagine a shareholder saying to the directors of a bank, “ I notice that my dividends amount to £100. As I cannot trust myself with so much money, please put £10 into a fund to meet a liability,” which, according to the honorable member for Richmond, is not likely to have to be met, the banks being so sound. To prove what I have stated about the earnings of the banks, I wish to make a quotation from the share list of Messrs. Joseph Palmer and Sons, stock and sharebrokers, of 96 Pitt-street, Sydney. The following table is of interest : -
I have a second table, giving, in addition to other particulars, the yearly dividends and returns on investments. Honorable members will notice that, although a company may be paying 20 per cent, in dividends, an investor in its shares does not get anything like that return. For instance, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company makes a profit of 10 per cent., but as its paid-up shares of £20 are worth about£45, investor to-day gets less than 5 per cent. Then, although the dividends declared range from2½ to 20 per cent., the return from investments ranges only from to 6 per cent.
The reserves that I have read out represent on paper some millions of money, but the eminent King’s Counsel, the honorable member for Flinders, told the House when he spoke on this measure a little while ago that these reserves are most misleading. He told us that a “ reserve “ -
Does not point to any goods, or any sovereigns or to anything in particular. It merely means that there is an amount-not represented by any appropriated assets of the company - which has not been distributed in dividends. The word “ reserve “ is extremely misleading to many people, generally conveying to a large section of the public an idea that there are some moneys or funds put aside. That is not the case.
I have read out amounts running from tens of thousands to millions of pounds which are set forth to-day in the balancesheets of the various banks as representing reserve funds. But the honorable member for Flinders, with all the responsibility which his position imposes upon him, says that they represent no goods or sovereigns, or anything in particular. That brings me to the great danger that we shall run in passing this clause. It will rest with the directors to decide how much is to be set aside in this reserve fund, and they, as a matter of fact, are the only people who know whether or not their bank is solvent. We see at the foot of every bank balance-sheet a certificate by the auditors to the effect that “ the foregoing is a true and correct account of the bank’s affairs according to the books.” This form of certificate first came into use about eighteen years ago. Previously the auditors used to give a certificate to the effect that “ the foregoing is a true and correct balance-sheet showing the state of the affairs of the bank.” Every auditor used to sign a similar certificate without much consideration until a couple of them got into gaol. The auditors then protected themselves by altering their certificate in the way I have indicated, so that it now reads that the balance-sheet gives a true and correct account of the bank’s affairs “ according to the books.” Honorable members can well imagine what a clerk who writes a good hand can do under direction in the way of bookkeeping. He can. produce a work of art, and that was sometimes done prior to the banking smash. I wish to point out to honorable members, who are inclined to give way, and to fall in with the idea entertained by a certain legislator, who would like to go down to posterity with his name attached to at least one measure, that the directors of a bank” alone know whether or not it is solvent. As a matter of fact even they hardly know whether it is or is not, because as a bank manager once said to me, “ The difficulty is to get branch managers with common sense.” We all know what is the position of a bank manager in some of our unfortunate lonely little towns where, through sheer loneliness, men are sometimes driven to drink. A bank manager so situated perhaps meets a neighbouring squatter, or some local business man, who, after they have had a drink or two, says, “ You had better let me increase my overdraft by £10,000 or £15,000. I have any number of sheep and cattle on my run, and everything will be all right.” In a weak moment the branch bank manager consents to the overdraft being increased, and in due course forwards a report to head-quarters. The bank’s inspector probably accepts the report that the assets of the borrower are as represented, and the directors, believing that their institution is perfectly solvent, continue to pay dividends; but even they do not really know whether or not the bank is solvent. On the dictum of the directors alone depends the amount of the dividends to be paid ; and we can well understand the temptations of these days of “ rigging the market “ - an expression which, I regret to say, we sometimes see in the press. People we will assume are looking for a safe investment, and they say, “ Well, here is a bank paying a dividend of 10 per cent., per annum, which will give me on my investment a return of ‘5 per cent.,” and they invest accordingly. But what may not an evil-minded director do? There have been such gentlemen, as those who remember the banking smash of 1893 well know. Some of them were ordered to spend a little time in Darlinghurst, largely for the good of the community.
– Only the little chaps; not the big roosters.
– That is true. Some of the smaller fry were convicted, but some of the bigger fellows got off. Some of the bigger men in Queensland were brought to trial, but the presiding Judge took a merciful view of their case, probably because they were very aged, and their acquittal was secured. It is important to remember that this Bill will leave it in the power of the directors of a bank to say at any time, “ This year we will pay into this special reserve fund 2 per cent, of the amount that would otherwise be available as dividends.” That, of course, would mean that the return on the investment would be reduced accordingly, and a bank returning, as I have shown, per cent, would return only 1½ per cent. Then the poor widows and other shareholders would no doubt go to Messrs. Palmer and Sons or some other well-known firm of sharebrokers, and say, “ Don’t you think we had better sell our shares? We can get only so much per cent.” Finally they would put their shares on the market, and down would go values. Shares which brought, perhaps, £40 before might fall to ,£35, /”2s, or £20. But the men “ in the know “ - the men who had rigged the market - would be able to say, “ We know that these shares are all right. We canbuy in at £20, and next year we will pay a dividend at the full rate, and refrain from paying anything into this reserve fund.” In these circumstances I hold that the Bill embodies a bad principle. I see nothing to recommend it, and I therefore propose to vote against both the amendment and the clause as it stands.
.- When this Bill was before the House last session I took strong exception to it, because I did not think that the proposed appointment of trustees would meet the desire of quite a number of people who have invested in banking shares in the past and have suffered. The amendment is more concise and explanatory than the clause as it stands, and I shall therefore vote for it. I have not taken any part in the debate on the measure this session, but so far as I am able to understand the position, the Bill will be an advantage to all banks that have their head offices in Australia, and are controlled here, as against those whose head offices and controlling power are in the United Kingdom or elsewhere. I have here a list of banks having a majority of shares, in number and value, as well as their head offices and boards of management, outside the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. Some of these have also more than one class of shareholders; and this proposed permissive legislation could not for these reasons be taken advantage of by them. Among the number is the Bank of Australasia, the English,. Scottish, and Australian Bank, the London Bank of Australasia, the Union Bank of Australia, the National Bank of New Zealand, and the New Zealand Bank. With the exception of the lastnamed all have their head offices in London. The reserves and undivided profits of the Bank of Australasia amount to £1,825,000, as against a paid-up capital of £1,600,000. That would really more than counterbalance the full liability of the shareholders. Although the shares are paid up, there is still a reserve liability of the shareholders, under their charter, of £1,600,000. In the English, Scottish, and Australian Bank the paid-up capital is £539,437- It has reserves and undivided profits of £245,000. The London Bank of Australia, which has ordinary and preference shares, has a reserve fund of £102,000, with a liability for uncalled capital of £736,000. The paid-up capital of the Union Bank of Australia is £1,500,000. The undivided profits and reserves amount to £1,450,000. It has no uncalled capital liability, but it has still a reserve liability of £3,000,000. That is only payable in the event of the bank liquidating, which I hope will never happen. The National Bank of New Zealand has a paid-up capital of £475,000. The reserves and undivided profits amount to £460,000. There is a direct liability upon the shareholders for uncalled capital of ,£750,000, but no reserve liability. The Bank of New Zealand, with its head office in Auckland, has a paid-up capital of £500,000 and reserves of £1,034,000, or actually double the amount of paid-up capital. The liability for uncalled capital on the shares is £500,000, and there is also a reserve liability of £1,000,000. All this liability may to a certain extent assure depositors and investors in the various banks of their greater stability, but to my mind it would be far better to adopt the plan suggested in this Bill, the whole of which meets with my full approval, and I have given some attention to it. It would certainly be wise, if this Bill is passed, for any one who has money to invest to put it into the shares of banks to which the Bill will apply, at the current rates, because as the reserve liability is gradually wiped out by the apportionment of the profits, as indicated by clause 3, the shares of those banks will rise in value. The Bill will give extra stability to the Australian banks, but its operation may not be quite fair to nonAustralian banks doing business here, which at present are on an equal footing in all respects with local banks. They will be at a disadvantage in that they cannot take advantage of this law, which is applicable only to Australian banks, and also to banks having more than £100,000 of permanent paidup capital. The following purely Australian banks would also be debarred from taking advantage of this law, owing to their having either less than ,£100,000 of permanent paid-up capital, or more than one class of shares : - The Ballarat Banking Company, an institution which has established itself firmly in Victoria and paid very fine dividends; its paid-up capital is only £85,000, but, of course, it could bring itself within the scope of this measure by making a further call of capital to the extent of .£15,000; the City Bank of Sydney, in regard to the shares of which there is some difficulty which I have not had clearly explained to me; the Commercial Bank of Australia, which has ordinary and preference shares, a distinction which will prevent it from taking advantage of the measure; the National Bank of Australasia, to which the same thing applies ; the Royal Bank of Queensland, which has 4,609 ,£10 preference shares fully paid up; the Victoria Land Bank, which has ordinary and preference shares ; and the Colonial Bank of Australasia, to which the same disability applies. That is the Bank in which I had the privilege of serving as an officer, and from which I was glad to get away, as I would rather be a member of this House. The honorable member for Richmond will agree with me that it is much more pleasant to be one’s own master and a member of this House than to be an officer even of a bank.
– The people are our masters.
– They are masters who are more just, and do not debar human beings from marrying at a certain age. After eliminating the foregoing, the following Australian and Tasmanian banks would remain eligible to take advantage of this measure - The Bank of Adelaide, paid-up capital £400,000, reserves and undivided profits £399,000, liability for uncalled capital £125,000, and reserve liability £625,000 ; Australian Bank of Commerce Limited, paid-up capital £958,172, reserves and undivided profits ,£3,500, uncalled liability nil, reserve liability nil ; Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Limited, paid-up capital .£1,500,000, reserves and undivided profits £1,450,000, liability for uncalled capital £1,500,000, reserve liability nil ; Commercial Bank of Tasmania, paid-up capital £175-000, reserves and undivided profits £193,000, liability of shareholders for uncalled” capital £525,000, reserve liability nil; Bank of New South” Wales, paid-up capital £2,700,000, reserves and undivided profits £2,040,000, liability of shareholders for uncalled capital nil, but reserve liability of shareholders £2,500,000 ; National Bank of Tasmania Limited, paid-up capital £152,040, reserves and undivided profits ,£46,000, uncalled capital liability £80,000; North Queensland Bank Limited, paid-up capital £100,000, reserves and undivided profits £23,000, uncalled capital liability £250,000; Queensland National Bank Limited, paid-up capital £413,296, reserves and undivided profits £94,000, liability for uncalled capital £320,000; Royal Bank of Australia Limited, paid-up capital £300,000, reserves and undivided profits £143,000, liability for uncalled capital £900,000 ; Bank of Western. Australia., paid-up capital £200,000, reserves and undivided profits £547,000, liability for uncalled capital nil, reserve liability on shareholders £200,000. I have obtained a number of opinions from leading bank managers in the city, of which the following are examples -
Liability of Shareholders for Uncalled Capital.
In the case of the limited liability companies this liability has the effect of restricting investment in these companies’ shares. In the case of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Limited this liability is practically covered by the reserves. The reserves are, however, mainly invested in the business, and, rightly speaking, should be treated as capital. The actual reserves are those specially invested plus the liability of shareholders for uncalled capital. In a limited liability company this latter protection may be very shadowy - that is, the shareholders may have no tangible assets other than the moneys they have invested in the shares.
The effect of the proposed law would be to allow companies to continue to use their existing nominal reserve funds in the business, or even distribute these reserves by instalments amongst shareholders, at the same time building up a fund in the hands of trustees which would completely extinguish any nominal liability for uncalled capital. This would have a tendency to stimulate investment in such companies’ shares, and after it had been in operation for a year or two would cause a material increase in the price of such shares.
The average man- who has a current account does not go into the question of the liability of the shareholders of the bank. I cannot remember ever being asked, when filling up a deposit receipt for an investor, what was the paid-up capital of the bank or the amount of the liability of the shareholders. I have asked a good many tellersand those in charge of the issue of deposit receipts about this matter, and I have not met one who has been asked within the last five years any question as to the reserve liability or the uncalled capital liability of the shareholders. Another opinion which is worth quoting is the following -
Reserve Liability of Shareholders.
It will be seen that the three banks which are not limited liability companies and have practically the whole of their capital paid-up are the only ones that have any serious reserve liability. They are -
Bank of Adelaide, reserve . liability,. £625,000.
Bank of New South Wales, reserve liability, ,£2,500,000.
Western Australian Bank, reserve liability, ^200,000.
These banks have been incorporated under special Acts of Parliament. Their reputed reserves are either equal to or in excess of their paid-up capital, but these reputed reserves are mainly employed in the business and are therefore such only in name. The principal safeguard which depositors have in these cases, apart from the solvency of the banks, is the responsibility of the shareholders. The proposed law will have the effect of permitting the present reserves to be appropriated or gradually diminished, perhaps in providing for already ascertained losses, or in paying increased dividends to shareholders, while at the same time a fund is being built up which will ultimately relieve shareholders of all liability, and it will be no longer incumbent on directors to provide reserve funds at all.
I have also been furnished with the following opinion, which I shall give in order that I may hold the scales as evenly as possible, although I do not agree with all of it -
The Bill makes an unfair discrimination in favour of certain institutions - buttressing them in such a way that they obtain an unfair advantage as compared with others, and, at the same time, relieving them from a responsibility which others are bound to continue to carry. The carrying of the measure must have the effect of increasing the market price of certain shares through the prospect of relieving holders of a substantial liability which they should certainly be compelled to bear. Then there is the bad moral effect likely to be created through absence of responsibility- If shareholders desire to reap handsome profits they should surely be compelled to take some moderate risk in the making of such profits. 1 consider that the fact that the shareholders put their money into the shares is an earnest, so far as they are concerned.
It will be observed that only a few of the banks have portion of these funds specially invested. Would it not be well to compel banks to invest the whole of these funds in Commonwealth or State bonds?
I have no objection to that suggestion,
And the Bill has my full appreciation in -its provisions with reference to the investment of the funds. When the measure was introduced last session, I was of opinion that the trustees should be nominated by the Government ; but I am content to take this Bill as a measure of justice which will do a great deal of good. If any honorable member really desires to understand the Bill, he ought to ask any stockbroker or other dealer. in shares if he ever met an investor who inquired deeply what liabilities they would incur when they paid the necessary cover for the shares. I think that, after such inquiry, it will be seen that only on extremely rare occasions, if ever, are such inquiries made. I shall vote for the clause as amended, though I may have one or two suggestions to make later on.
.- I am rather surprised at the perseverance displayed in support of this small measure, in view of the fact that we are contemplating passing a comprehensive banking Bill in the near future. Under the circumstances, I think it would be well if this measure were withdrawn at once. I beg to intimate now that in the event of the amendment of the honorable member for Richmond being agreed to, I shall move the insertion of the following words after “ dividend”- after having allowed for depreciation of properties and increased salaries for employes.
I shall not attempt to traverse the ground covered by the honorable member for Capricornia, but I should like to read one or two extracts from a letter written by a gentleman who thoroughly understands the banking business -
It is a notorious fact that the twenty banks operating throughout the Commonwealth have been making enormous profits for years past. These profits would be much larger if presented properly and accurately -
These words were written after due deliberation, and convey considerable meaning for they are invariably whittled down before presentation to the shareholders by means of ingenious special appropriations to inner reserves contingent accounts, transfers to London, suspense accounts, and the hundred-and-one methods known and practised by bankers.
It is most desirable that shareholders, especially in financial institutions, should be thoroughly acquainted with all the details of the business in which they have invested; and my own opinion is that the proper way to deal with banking is by such a measure as I have already indicated as likely to be introduced. I intend to move the amendment because I think that, whenever a banking Bill of any kind is placed before us, we ought to try to incorporate some of those reforms, which practically the whole of the community, and particularly employes in banks, have been desiring for years. My correspondent further says -
It is important that the shareholders of a bank, and indeed the public as well, should be accurately informed of the true financial position of any institution which is borrowing millions from the people and Government of the Commonwealth.
A number of people are inclined to take exception to the word “borrowing”; but as a matter of fact the rank and file of the people, who are the working classes, really supply the coin which the banks use to make huge profits for a few. I am informed that sometimes directors themselves do not exactly know into what particular corner certain secret reserves have been placed, and if that be so, what of the shareholders or the public generally? I intend to move a further amendment providing that before any profits are distributed the books of the banks shall be audited by Government officials, in the same way as are municipal accounts. If the investing public knew that the affairs of financial institutions were subject to Government inspection, they would feel much greater security than under the present private and perfunctory method.
– What about the Commonwealth bank?
– The Auditor-General will have a say in that matter, and the accounts will have to be kept in correct fashion. I am sure none of us desire a repetition of the financial disasters of the early nineties. We are within, I suppose, six months of the introduction of a modern banking Bill, and I think it is practically a waste of time to deal with piecemeal legislation of the kind before us. I should like to read just one more extract -
It is surely an implied rule, in the absence of other conditions to the contrary, that all the shareholders of a banking company should stand on the same footing, and should possess the right to know the real profits of the company in which they hold shares.
It seems only right that all investors should have a perfectly clear statement of the affairs of the companies ici which they have invested.
Debate resumed from 26th October (vide page 1879) on motion by Mr. Bamford -
That a Royal Commission, selected from members of this Parliament, be appointed to take into consideration all matters pertaining to the employment of white and coloured labour now, and to be, employed in the Australian pearlshelling industry, and in respect of the general conditions under which such industry is now conducted.
.- In as few words as possible I desire to offer the strongest support to the motion that a Royal Commission be appointed; and I hope that the Government will see that the resolution is carried into effect at an early date.
.- I trust that the proposal of the honorable member for Herbert will receive the support of the House. The pearl-shelling industry, although absolutely dependent on the legislation and administration of the Commonwealth Parliament and Government, is by no means familiar to honorable members and to the public, because it is carried on in the remoter parts of Australia, chiefly at Thursday Island, off the Queensland coast, arid from Dirk Hartog Island to beyond Broome, off the coast of Western Australia. Naturally its conditions vary, and despite this variation it has been attempted to apply to it a uniform set of regulations. I regret that the honorable (member for Herbert has stated that the pearlers have not attempted to meet the (desires of the Government by trying to substitute white for black labour. Whatever may be said of the Thursday Island pearlers, about whose work I know little, I can affirm, from intimate knowledge of the pearlers of Western Australia, during the last seven or eight years, that they have made every attempt to give effect to the Government regulations, although these have operated harshly upon them. Many of them are convinced that to substitute white for black labour, especially for diving, is impracticable, if not impossible, but, nevertheless, they are willing to put their hands into their pockets to pay for the experiment. More cannot be expected of them. Had the honorable member for Herbert read carefully the proposals of the Western Australian Pearlers Association, he would not have said what he did. Amongst other things the members of the association say -
It is the intention of the Association to make every endeavour to obtain within the Commonwealth a supply of white labour suitable for the requirements of the training station, and, at the same time, thoroughly test the possibilities which, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the Northern countries of Europe may afford for obtaining a good class of men.
By having each vessel of the fleet entirely manned by whites, every man, it is hoped, willobtain not only a training in diving and tendering work, but a knowledge of local navigation” and seamanship essential to the proper performance of his respective duties. On each man attaining proficiency as a diver or tender, endeavours will be made to find employment on pearling vessels belonging to members of the Association, the vacancies thereby occurring in the training station being filled by further recruits. The Association believe that under no other method is it’ practical to effect the change from Asiatic to white divers without dislocating the whole industry, and imposing extreme hardshipon the many small proprietorships comprising it.
As the full text of the statement- has been published in Hansard, I shall not read more of it now. What I have read proves my assertion, and disproves what has been said by the honorable member. The Western Australian pearlers may have not succeeded in getting white divers, but they are difficult to obtain. When the Pericles sank, off the Leeuwin, a year and a half ago, it was almost impossible to obtain the services of a white diver. How, then, can it be thought easy to obtain white divers to live the lives that have to be passed on the pearling boats, and to descend to the great depths at which the shell is found? The industry receives little sympathy from persons who are prepared to subsidize other industries largely at the expense of the taxpayer. Pearl shelling is a very perilous vocation. Storms and typhoons frequently devastate the fleets, and destroy hundreds of lives. Within the past three years, there have been two big storms, in which much, property has been destroyed, and many lives lost. The impression used to prevail that pearl shelling is carried on by large companies, making enormous profits ; that it is a business for rich men. At one time three or four companies operated almost exclusively on the north-west coast of Australia, but now the industry is carried on by comparatively poor men, many of the pearl shellers being carpenters who, having got together a little money, havebuilt luggers at Fremantle, and had them taken round to Broome or Derby. With the exception of one firm in Broome, noone owns more than three or four boats. Again, although the industry is profitable when shell is fetching a high price in London, it is difficult to get even black labour for it, and it is subject to stringent regulations, and there are also the- losses from storms to which I have referred. The Department of External Affairs has on occasion relaxed its regulations. When the town of Broome was almost destroyed by a cyclone, it allowed the black labour engaged in the pearlshelling business to be employed on shore in rebuilding the place, and, on the whole, there is no cause for complaint. But, wanting local knowledge, the departmental heads are entirely dependent on the advice of the officer on the spot at Broome, and sometimes that gentleman is disposed to interpret his instructions too literally. In one case an employer, having four or five black divers whom he wished to send back to the islands, desired to ship them from PortHedland, but as the departmental instructions say that seamen divers and tenders who have been shipped at Broome must be discharged there, the officer refused to allow these men to be discharged at Port Hedland. Vessels do not call frequently at the ports on the north-west coast, and the discharging of these men at Broome would have meant their maintenance for three or four weeks, and the extra expense of the fare from Broome to Port Hedland. Such an instruction would not be enforced were the Minister fully acquainted with local conditions. If Parliament wishes the industry to continue, we should ascertain by personal investigation what conditions are best for it, and for the Commonwealth. If, on the other hand, it is determined towipe it out, that determination should be made known, and compensation should be paid to those who will suffer by it. On the other hand, if we permit it to be carried on we ought to try to devise conditions that will enable it to be continued -without imperilling the policy of a White Australia. As I understand that the time allotted to the consideration of general business, Orders of the Day, has almost expired, I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 2nd November (vide page 2194), on motion by Mr. Ryrie -
Upon which Mr. Kelly had moved -
That before the word “ warrant,” line 4, the word “ commissioned “ be inserted.
.- Since Thursday last, when I asked for leave to continue my remarks on this motion, my attitude in regard to it has been continually misrepresented. In the first place, a statement was made in the local press that I deliberately talked out the motion.Hansard shows, however, that whilst I was speaking the honorable member for Wentworth suggested that as the time allotted to the consideration of private members’ business had almost expired I should ask leave to continue myremarks at a later date. It shows, further, that I promptly adopted that suggestion, but that the honorable member for North Sydney objected to leave being granted. Since then the honorable member for North Sydney has written to the daily press of Sydney a letter, in which he makes the statement that the Minister, through his representative, deliberately blocked discussion on one occasion, and that his followers had now talked out the motion. The honorable member for Wentworth, and the honorable member for North Sydney, who claim that they are anxious to see justice done to the officers and men of the Naval and Military Forces of the Commonwealth, are not going the right way to assist them. I rose last Thursday to support this motion, and there are many members of our party who are also in favour of it. The honorable member for Maranoa supported the motion, and also the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, so that it is really a gross misrepresentation of the facts to say, as the honorable member for North Sydney and the honorable member for Wentworth have allowed it to be said in the press, that we deliberately tried to talk out this motion. The facts are that the motion was not talked out, and that it still remains on the businesspaper. Former Parliaments recognised that it was their duty to do somethingin connexion with this matter, as shown by the fact that section 123 of the Defence Act 1903-10 provides -
Funds may be established in such manner and subject to such provisions as are prescribed for providing for the payment of annuities or gratuities to members of the Defence Force permanently injured in the performance of their -duties, and for the payment of annuities orgratuities to members of the Permanent Forces who are retired on account of age or infirmity .
That principle having already been recognised, it is only fair that a Select Committee should be appointed to inquire into the matter. [Debate interrupted under sessional order. ~
.- I move -
That, in the best interest of the public and of the Commonwealth Postal Service, the report of the Royal Commission on Postal Services should (in a general sense) be adopted by this House.
I need not inform the House that I regard this as one of the most crucial periods in my existence as a. public man. During my political career I have had occasion to address this and other Parliaments upon matters of very serious concern to the welfare of the people, but on no occasion has it fallen to my lot to face such an exceptionally heavy task as that which now lies before me. It is no exaggeration to say that, for practically four years, I have been soaking myself, so to speak, in the affairs of the postal services of Australia ; and after such a lengthy term of critical and minute observation on one of the most extensive inquiries ever held in this country, I think I may well claim the indulgence of .honorable members while I endeavour to do justice to the subject that I have taken in hand. I may briefly summarize the subjects to which I intend to address myself. In the first place, I shall give a short review of the trials and vicissitudes of the Royal Commission, of which I had the honour to be a member. Next will follow a brief history of the PostmasterGeneralships under both State and Federal control ; and thereafter I shall give an indication of the condemnation of the system by the Public Service Commissioner, and 6y the Public Service Inspectors. I shall also deal with Mr. McLachlan’s evidence on the question of salaries, and other matters of importance in relation to the Department. I propose then to review the Ministerial changes that have been made since 100S, when the Commission entered upon its inquiry, as well as to indicate the departmental changes that have been made since that date. Questions appertaining to Boards of Inquiry that have received a’ttention during that period will next engage my consideration, together with questions by the Public Service Commissioner, dealing with rates of salary, classification, &c. Honorable members will thereafter be given the results of the system, or lack of system, under the old regime; and I hope also to deal with the opinions of Sir Robert Scott. Mr. -MeLachlan and Mr. McKay - the three most prominent officers of the Commonwealth service - concerning what the management of this great institution ought to be. In the next place, I shall review the Public Service Commissioner’s latest report on the Report of the Royal Commission, as that gentleman had a. double deal, so to speak, as. compared with all others who had to place their case before the Commission. Finally, I shall endeavour to sum up the actual’ situation. In attempting to give a brief history of the Commission, I may be pardoned by the House if I have to be somewhat severe in my observations. It is a painful, but nevertheless a necessary duty to perform, in order that honorable members may know the difficulty that will beset them when at any time they endeavour tosecure means of doing justice to some big Government concern. I hope for the indulgence of the House while I attempt one of the most arduous tasks that has ever fallen to the lot of any Parliamentarian. It is to me particularly arduous, inasmuch as I stand practically alone. I have a full recognition of my infirmities, and I appreciate also my limited capacity, due, to some extent, to restricted education, and to the fact that I have had to spend the greater part of my life in an occupation involving: hard physical toil. With these drawbacks. I appeal for the consideration of honorablemembers. The magnitude of my task may be understood when I point out that the shearers’ dispute, although it does not involve machinery anything like as intricateas that relating to this great Department, has taken, not hours, but; days, to presentto the Court. The advocates of the respective parties have occupied days in presenting to the Court the points involved in that dispute, although, compared withthose covered by the report of the Royal Commission, they ave comparatively few in number. The Postmaster-General’s Department was described by the late Public Service Inspector of New South Walesas being of infinitely vaster proportions than is the machinery of any railway service in the world. I mention these factsto show that I have before me no easy task in endeavouring to marshal the whole of the essential evidence so as to put it as concisely as possible .before the House. I have also laboured under a difficulty in- that I have had no assistance in the preparation of this case, such as I might have had if one of my late colleagues had been returned to this House at the last general elections. I am the only member of the House who occupied a seat on the Commission, and have not had an opportunity to distribute any portion of the work involved in this connexion amongst others who could have assisted me, had they been re-elected to Parliament. I think I shall be able to show that the criticisms of the Commission, although visibly melting at the present time, have certainly been very considerable. It is my desire to place this matter before the country, which is interested in it, in such a way that its importance may be realized. It is now about four years since I accidentally came into contact with the affairs of the General Post Office. There was no material trouble in my own electorate. I had generally been able, by vigilance and attention to duty, to alleviate the difficulties which undoubtedly occurred from time to time in that vast area, but they would not have been sufficient to warrant me in attempting to diagnose the cause of all the troubles in the Department. It was when I offered to take up the work of the present AttorneyGeneral, on his leaving for England on the Navigation Commission, that I was brought into close contact with the Postal Department of New South Wales, and became cognisant of facts which I had seriously to consider on behalf of that gentleman and his constituents. My curiosity was aroused by what I heard, my interest by what I saw. Eventually I came to the conclusion that there was something so radically wrong with the whole machine that nothing short of a searching inquiry would ever effectually remedy the disease. It became apparent to me that a Royal Commission was the only way in which we could get to the bottom of the trouble. I tabled a motion, which remained on the notice-paper for some time. I endeavoured to get the Government of the day to acquiesce in it, but they did not see their way clear to do so. In order to thwart my efforts, they appointed what they called a Cabinet Committee of Inquiry, to investigate this vast concern. The futility of that appointment was palpable to any one who knew the task that had to be faced, and the partial report of the Committee was of little value to the Department or to the Government. Subsequently I met with very strong opposition from the Govern ment, but determined to persevere. It is a matter of history that I took advantage of the Standing Orders to move a motion for the appointment of a Royal Commission. The Government of the day were adamant to my private appeals, although I was friendly to them, and as they would not concede the point, I moved for the Commission in the House in the way I have indicated. The Government opposed it, and it will be remembered that, while the honorable member for Ballarat, who was then Prime Minister, was endeavouring to thwart my efforts, the wily members of the then Opposition were also trying to “ dish “ him. The Leader of the Opposition and his deputy were watching the political barometer very closely, and when the honorable member for Ballarat saw that he had to choose between being dragooned by me or by the Opposition, he decided that he would prefer the treatment of a friend to that of an antagonist. He then withdrew his motion, and allowed me to proceed. I can never forget that day - a day of excitement such as has rarely been equalled in this Parliament. Time after time I was appealed to by Ministerialists and by members of my own party to compromise, but I realized that there was no room for compromise on questions of this kind. The issue at stake was too big. There was too big a body of people affected. The general public had been suffering for too long, and therefore I had no option, as a representative of the people, but to go right on with my work. It was remarkable on that occasion, when I came in a little late after going through the last interview, to find how solid the Opposition sat. One would have thought they were the Labour party. Not one man moved. We, as a Labour party, could have envied them the solid way in which they eventually voted in support of the proposition. Six of my friends from this side passed over with myself to the other side, and four of them have since been elevated to office. Those four, I may say, did not specially favour the motion, but had some other fish to fry. The other two that came over with me I knew I could rely upon to see me through under any conditions, but at any rate those two, who were desirous of achieving the end that I was aiming at, together with the four who voted for the motion for an object which I need not mention, but which they have since secured, or nearly secured, helped me to carry the motion against the Government. I have never seen the honorable member for Ballarat so angry as he was on that occasion. Bitter were the recriminations that were cast across the chamber, and one Minister came to me and said, “ You have killed us.” I said, “ Not so; you attempted suicide, but there is still a hope for you “ - and there was a hope. The Government at first made it a vital question. They were going out upon it. The Governor-General was summoned from Kosciusko in a hurry. He got back in a hurry, too; but an hour before he arrived some one reached the stool of repentance, with the result that the resignation of the Government was not handed in. They did not go out, and the Royal Commission was granted. That is the pleasant part of the episode. To the unpleasant part I should prefer not to refer, but it must be done. The public man who is afraid to do that which hurts some one’s feelings is either a coward or an imposter, and I do not profess to be either, whatever else I may be.
It is the subsequent history of the Commission that troubles me. Prior to taking my seat on the Commission, I heard, from a quarter where I did not seek for information, that the Commission would be of no avail to me; that we would be allowed to go on for a. time, until a financial report was submitted, and that when that report was accepted supplies would be stopped, and the Commission would die. That was either an act of treachery or an act of conspiracy, but such was the information conveyed to me unsought. I knew that the gentleman who told me could not have made it up, but must have learnt it from an inner circle. Being on my guard, and feeling that probably the Government, in their resentment against me for taking the action I did, were determined to prevent me from carrying out the object I had in view, I immediately reviewed the personnel of the Commission, mid wrote to the then Prime Minister, the honorable member for Ballarat, a strong protest against the chairman who had been selected. I also wrote a letter in protest against the secretary who had been nominated. He - and I say this in the light of nil the evidence that has been taken-had been one of the chief mischief-makers in the centre of trouble in New South Wales. For that reason T felt that he was not entitled to be there, and I intimated to the Commission that if he remained secretary I would not remain a member. The result was that bv the next sitting that secretary had gone. However, we still had the chairman. We mk preliminary evidence in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane. We returned to Melbourne while the House was sitting, and went on with our work. It was while we were sitting in Melbourne that the second bomb-shell was hurled into the camp. It came from the chairman of the Commission, who brought forward, without instruction by the Commission, without consideration by the Commission, and without consulting the Commission, the prophesied “ financial report.” He threw this document, which he called a report, on the table, and his mandate was that the Commission must consider it. When he told me that it was a report on the financial position of the service, my hair positively stood on end. I said, “ A report on the financial position of the service, when we have examined only one accountant out of seven ; when we have hardly more than scratched the surface of the question of the finances !” That question could not possibly have been reported upon at that stage, and the position became ridiculous in the extreme. I told him that so far from considering the report, as he called it, I would not even read it. I knew that it was an imposition, and, unfortunately, in keeping with the warning I had received in the early days of the Commission. The chairman sought to force the document through the Commission, but that body decided, after some trouble, to postpone its consideration until we met in Hobart, after the session closed. Before the House rose, however, something happened. The Government went out, and when we got to Hobart the report went out, too. Then the second trump card was played by these gentlemen. It was the resignation of three members of the Commission. That was looked upon as the death-blow of the Commission, and it would have been to most bodies of that kind. It was not fatal to this Commission, however, because there remained on it some members who were desirous of going through with the task they had undertaken. Those three men resigned, and what is more - I am going to state it, although it may hurtwhen they reached the mainland from Tasmania, the chairman made it his business to go to the Governor-General and appeal to him to end the life of the Commission. Had it not been for the ex-member for Dalley, who happened to be in Melbourne at the time, also going to the GovernorGeneral and stating the case, the Commission would have lived no longer. When the Governor-General heard, the case from the man who had gone on the Commission honestly to carry out his duties, and at once decided that the inquiry must proceed. And it did proceed, with four members, the ex-member for Dalley being elected chairman. Our troubles, however, were not at an end, for we were castigated by the press, and subjected to never-ending humiliation at the instance of newspapers all over the country. Day after day, and week after week, we were attacked; and never in history was there so consolidated an attempt to wipe out of existence a Commission appointed by the highest tribunal of the country. Then, having gone through all this, our position was made still harder by the knowledge that, of the Commissioners, there were at least two who would have ended the Commission. Actuated largely by their personal interests and their vanity, they struggled to take action of a character which, but for the casting vote of the chairman, on more than one occasion, would have thwarted us in carrying out the duties with which we had been charged. Altogether, it will be seen that we had a hard and thorny road to travel. As I have said, we had the press against us, and country newspapers were invited to publish articles manufactured in Melbourne, behind which step there was, it was strongly suspected, a prominent officer. Not only had we internal troubles, but we had to face cold treatment from honorable members of this House, who, at least, should have given the Commission credit for trying to perform their high duties. We had a hard task to perform, involving great concentration of thought and effort; but we were ridiculed and calumniated on every hand by those who knew better, but who had the power. Our path was strewn with difficulties such as have beset no Royal Commission in the history of the Commonwealth or the States.
I congratulate this and other Governments on the way in which they have followed the chart laid down on an ocean that had had no chart before - the chart laid down by the Postal Commission. When the Commission was appointed, there was nothing to guide a PostmasterGeneral as to what was best for the emancipation of the service. Since that time, however, previous Governments to a degree, and the present Government to a greater degree, have had this chart at their command ; and I congratulate, not only .the Minister, but the departmental officials, and the Public Service Commissioner, on having so largely adopted it for their guidance. While, however, I make this acknowledgment for the way in which the ship has been prevented from striking the rocks, and brought into somewhat more placid waters, I cannot compliment them on hav ing adopted suggestions without any acknowledgment or recognition of their indebtedness to the Commission. In the outside world such action would be regarded as piracy or plagiarism; but here it seems to be a virtue. What I have stated in this connexion is a fact, and it is no use pretending otherwise. That fact should be stated, though not for my benefit; for, after I have made my speech and performed my task to the bitter end - having clone what I believe to be my duty - I care nothing for what politics may offer me.
I desire now to pass from this rather un pleasant part of the history of the Commission, and to deal with the great Postal Service itself. This is the greatest public service in Australia, involving an expenditure of nearly £4,000,000 per annum. This Department is acknowledged by Mr. McKay to be of greater magnitude than any railway service. Its ramifications enter into the life of every man, woman, and child in this country, and into their relations with their brethren in other parts of the world. Yet all along the line, from the days of State control onwards, this great Department has been made” the plaything of Governments. There has always been an idea that the man who was unfit for any other office, was fit for the position of Postmaster-General. I have looked through the history of the PostmastersGeneral of Australia ; but I do not desire tto mention them in detail. In South Australia there was, at one time, an up-to-date Postmaster-General, and the results of his administration are still to be seen. In no other State, however, can we point to any Postmaster-General who has been instrumental in redeeming the decadent service of which he had the honour to be the head. In the Commonwealth there has been the same old story. From the time of Senator Drake, our first Postmaster-General, we have had men appointed who have never given any serious portion of their lives to the consideration of the vital issues that underlie the success of such a Department. We have had eleven Postmasters-General in eleven years. I have endeavoured - and I say this with all humility - to master the great problem, and to grasp it to its very roots. This has taken me four years during which neither I nor my wife has had a holiday. Honorable members will understand, therefore, why I am pleased to be now nearing the end of my tribulation. We have had Postmaster- General after Postmaster-General; but, as a matter of fact, there is no manager of this great
Public Service. The Minister^ of course, is supposed to take the place of a manager ; but I care not how able, adaptive, or industrious a man may be, he has no time, in administering a Department of this kind, to study the great problem as it ought to be studied. It has been proved again and again that the Postmaster-General is merely the instrument of the official heads, and is, therefore, liable to continue conditions that have been our bane for years.
– It is like a ship without a rudder.
– The Public Service Commissioner said that the Department is like a ship without a captain - that, though there were captains in the States, in the persons of tlie Deputy Postmasters-General, there was no commodore. What business concern in the whole civilized world, doing £4,000,000 worth of business per annum, could we find conducted without a manager? What business house, with great branches like that of the Post Office, would dream of leaving the control to one manager, when there is work enough, and probably more than could be grasped by three of the ablest administrators, organizers, or financial geniuses that could be obtained in any part of the world ? The present method is like taking a man from the stokehold, putting him on the bridge, and expecting him to navigate the vessel., I desire honorable members to note particularly what Mr. McLachlan said when he gave his evidence before the Commission. ‘ Mr. McLachlan, unfortunately, is one who can read the political barometer with more precision than any man I know in this country, as is shown by what has taken place. Mr. McLachlan, when giving his evidence, said, “ I blame the system “ ; but when he was asked who was responsible, he replied, “ I do not know.” When Mr. McKay was examined, he also said the troubles were due to the system, the responsibility for which he placed on the Deputy Postmasters- General and the Central Office. When we asked the Deputy Postmaster-General and the Central Office who was responsible for the troubles, they said, “ The Public Service Commissioner.” When we asked subordinate officers who was responsible, they blamed first one, and then another. It mattered not how we tried to get at the cause of the trouble, the responsibility was always transferred. All we heard was that it was the system that was at fault. To show that I am not unfairly treating the Public Service Com missioner, let me refer honorable members to questions 48891-2-3.
– I would remind the honorable member that if he wishes anything to go into Hansard he must read it ; it is not enough to give a reference.
- Mr. McKay also blames the system. This is part of his evidence - questions 47884-5 -
Who is responsible for that lack of discrimination ? - In my opinion, no one is responsible, lt is due to the general system.
Who is responsible for the general system? - Perhaps one would have to go a long way, probably to the Deputy Postmaster-General, and eventually to the Head of the Department, to locate the responsibility for conditions which, in my opinion, are improper.
Mr. McKay cannot say who is the author of the system. Evidently, it had no author, but grew, and was growing until the intervention of the Postal Commission. The Public Service Commissioner-, Mr. McKay, and other prominent officials, sheltered themselves behind the system. I ask honorable members to pay particular attention to the evidence of the Public Service Commissioner, especially in view of his criticism of the Postal Commission’s report. He was permitted to read all the evidence, and to call to his assistance his inspectors, and was made the last witness, that he might be in a position to reply to everything. When examined on the 25th November, 1909, he read a statement which, being tendered after he had been sworn, became his evidence. In this statement, dealing with postal assistants, he said -
Under the Commonwealth classification postal assistants are in a much better position; they commence at a salary of £60 at 18 years of age, and advance to a maximum of £150 per annum, which, in view of the nature of the work performed, is fair remuneration for the service rendered.
He has since stated that it is not fair remuneration. Again, referring to clerical assistants, he said : -
Under the State, when performing similar duties, they could only have advanced by annual increments of £10 and £15 to £125, whereas under the Commonwealth, they have advanced by ;£’2o increments to £160, and many of them have received long service increments to £170.
Not only did the Commissioner consider that the clerical assistants received the remuneration to which they were entitled by reason of their services, but he upheld the rates and conditions of the sorters. Since then he has shown his readiness to adjust his sails to the breezes that blow, and by a so-called re-classification has taken away the barrier between the junior and senior sorters. Formerly a junior sorter could not become a senior sorter until he had passed a difficult test, but the test is now dispensed with, and junior sorters can rise to be senior sorters, and to a maximum salary of £180 a year. At the same time, however, the position of despatching officer has been abolished, these men being made senior sorters. As despatching officers was a position created by the Public Service Commissioner himself, with a view to the recognition of superior service, they were entitled to receive £200 a year, but as senior sorters, they cannot get more than £180 a year. The Commissioner has made this change with a view to placating the larger number, and to re-establish his popularity with the service, for whose troubles lie is chiefly responsible. Dealing further with the sorters - page 2299, the Commissioner said : -
It must -be recognised that the conditions of the sorting class in every State have been considerably improved since Federation, ,and that no warrant exists for conferring further advantages upon these officers.
In igi 1, the Commissioner realizes th? need for trimming his sails again, and acknowledges the justice of the case presented on behalf of the sorters. I would point out that the tree which figured in one of his reports some time ago, to show that every man in the service could climb from the foot to the topmost branches, has fallen. Its every branch has been lopped off. When the Commission began its work, the maximum salary of a letter-carrier was £138 a year, and men could rise from that position to become junior sorters, with a minimum of £144 a year. The sorters to-day are still at a minimum of £144 per annum, while the letter-carriers have a maximum of £156 per annum. Therefore, a lettercarrier who becomes a sorter will receive a lower salary.
– Is that called promotion ?
– “ Engineering “ more correctly describes the process. The Public Service Commissioner has left one weak link in his re-modelling of the service. The evidence given by the sorters regarding the conditions existing in New Zealand was largely contradicted by him in a circular which he issued ; but the officers of the Department published another circular, in which they established their position by showing the exact conditions that exist in New Zealand under the recent classification. That, of course, was not palatable to the gentleman who had so assiduously endeavoured to make it appear that they had misrepresented their case before the Commission. I do not know whether that is why the sorters have been picked out for special treatment, but, save for a slight advantage gained by the juniors, the sorters as a body have secured less recognition than other classes. The scale of wages paid to sorters in New Zealand is as follows: - In Grade 3, the sorters rise from £110 to £140 by three yearly increments of £1° each ; in Grade 2, their salaries increase from £150 to £170 by two annual increments of £10 each; in Grade 1, the salaries are increased from £180 to £200 by two annual increments of £10 each; and the despatch clerks rise from £200 to £220 by two annual increments of £10 each. That is the scale under the classification scheme of 1908. An attempt was made to lead the public to believe that the men had not faithfully presented their case when before the Commission; but, by the production of these, the actual facts, they have now established their position. This scale shows that a sorter in New Zealand is allowed to receive up to £180 per annum, and that, on becoming a despatch clerk, he may receive up to £220 per annum. The Commissioner declared that the postal assistants of Australia were well paid when their maximum pay was £150 per annum. Even that was not the maximum when we commenced our inquiries, but as soon as the Public Service Commissioner saw that the evidence pointed strongly to the inadequacy of the salaries of these men he raised the then existing maximum, not by annual, but by long service, increments, extending over twelve years, at the rate of £6 per six year period. In that way he got rid of what I described as the sweating rates that prevailed in 1907. Postal assistants, according to the Public Service Commissioner, were worth only £138 per annum in 1907 ; but in 1908 they were worth £150 a year, and to-day they are worth even more, since he has raised the maximum to £168. He now indicates that he proposes to grade them, and to provide for a maximum salary of .£180. If a postal assistant is entitled to a maximum of £180 per annum, surely no one can say that the sorters are being adequately rewarded ! Many men do not fully realize what the work of a sorter involves. A good many people regard it as comparatively easy. They may be surprised to learn, however, that a sorter in New South Wales, for instance, must carry in his mind something like 4,000 postal addresses, and that he must be able to sort at a given rate without more than 2 per cent. of errors. If the percentage of errors is continuously greater he receivesa black mark. The work is certainly most strenuous.
– Are the men who bring down the gold from Bendigo sorters ?
– They were formerly regarded as sorters, but the Commissioner has improved their position - on the recommendation of the Commission, I presume - and they are now known as senior sorters. Coming to the position of the letter-carriers, the Public Service Commissioner is reported, at page 230i of the Minutes of Evidence, to have said, when before the Commission : -
It cannot be said that these officers are inadequately paid at existing rates . . . and there is no justification for any further concession.
That statement was made prior to the report of the Commission being issued. At that time the letter-carriers were receiving £138 per annum, with increments; but today their salary is fixed at £156 per annum. The Commission recommended a payment of£150 per annum, but the Commissioner went one better. He displays a tendency to go either a little above or a little below our recommendations, the object evidently being to show that he is taking independent action. Let us look for a moment at what he has done in the Telegraph Branch. He contended that his proportional grading system was perfect, and that it was the only way in which each man could be allocated a fair reward for the services he rendered. When he saw the storm clouds gathering, however, what did he do? He abolished the plan on which he had sought to work that particular branch of the service, and introduced another system more in accordance with the recommendations of the Commission. Nevertheless, in evidence given by him before he knew what we were going to report, he contended that the proportional grading system was all that could be desired, and that the officers working under it were properly and fully rewarded. We recommended that those officers in the fifth class should go up to £210 per annum. The Public Service Commissioner would not go so far, but soon after the Commission began its inquiry he, raised the remuneration from £160to£180. When we began our labours they were receiving only . £160, but he increased this amount to £180 by long-service increments of£10 each. Since then he has adopted a system under which they will receive, not £210 per annum as recommended by us, but . £200 a year. Yet he said that they were amply paid when they were getting only £160 per annum. The Postal Commission considered that £210 should be the maximum pay in the fifth class; the Public Service Commissioner now fixes the maximum at £200 per annum. We also said that fourth class officers should be able to go up to £285, the increased pay being granted for merit alone. Mr. McLachlan did nothing to indicate how he was going to treat the fourth class officers. The presumption is that they will be restricted, and that, as in the case of the despatch officers, the senior men will be placed at a maximum of . £210. And so he juggles with his classification, taking off a little bit here and adding a little there. In every case his conclusions practically refute the evidence that he gave before us when he had nothing to guide him as to what our findings would be. I comenow to the linemen - the men employed in the Construction Branch - concerning whom the Public Service Commissioner said, as. reported at page 2302 of the Minutes of Evidence -
It is considered that the present grading of linemen in the Commonwealth service is based on fair and equitable conditions, and that no good reasons exist for saddling the PostmasterGeneral’s Department with an increased expenditure not warranted by the work performed.
In other words, in 1909, the Commissionersaid that these men were not entitled to receive any better remuneration, but in1911 he gives them all that the Postal Commission recommended.
– Did not the Public. Service Commissioner have available the same evidence as the Commission had ?
– The departmental evidence was available to him long before we commenced our inquiries, and I propose to show, by a reference to his latest report, what type of man. he is.
– No Public Service Commissioner could sift the Department as the Royal Commission did. It: would take a man all his time to do that. He would have no time for anything else.
– That supports my contention that there is a necessity for a complete change of the whole system. I absolutely agree with the honorable member, but the Public Service Commissioner does not. He holds that he is the right man in the right place, and that he can do what the service requires. I propose now to refer to the telegraph messengers. It will be remembered that a difficulty arose in regard to the dismissal of these boys on reaching the age of eighteen. Just as they were beginning to show what they were made of, and to be of service - just as the Department was likely to reap the benefit of the training it had given these youths - they had to be discharged because of some idiotic provision in the regulations, which made it imperative that, if there was no other position available for them, they should be retired. Mr. McLachlan, in his report, stated that it had been suggested to him that the age should be extended to twenty years. Since, however, he saw the Postal Commission’s report, he has not only extended the age to twenty years, but has abolished the whole arrangement, which should have been abolished years before, and the Department is now at liberty to secure the services of the boys that it trains, and keep them to fill positions which, to a large extent, had been left unfilled in days gone by.
– That was done by legislation.
– I presume the Public Service Commissioner took as a recommendation the action of the honorable member for Calare in moving the extension of the age to twenty years when the Public Service Bill was before this Chamber. We cannot do anything even by legislation without consulting the Public Service Commissioner, because he is the “ boss of the show,” and we must obey him or, at least, consult bini. We have his striking opinion on relieving staffs expressed at page 2303 of the report -
A suggestion has been made by one of the Associations that each officer should be relieved by an officer of his own division and class, and, as far as possible, in the same subdivision of class. Such a proposal is preposterous and impracticable, and only serves to indicate the lack of knowledge of the general working of the service and the expenditure involved.
That opinion has already been considerably revised, and a relieving staff has been appointed. Such a staff was most necessary, but was most scandalously neglected, particularly in New South Wales. In that State I found boys receiving nominal salaries doing relieving work in offices where they were exposed to temptations to which they ought never to have been exposed. 1 found many things going on in that State which would not be tolerated by any business man, and services being exacted that would not be accepted from any ordinary employed I have seen men getting £160 a year relieving postmasters at £400 a year for months and months at a stretch, and in one or two cases for years, and never rewarded for the greater responsibilities cast upon them. This was one of the standing disgraces of the Department, which was never sought to be remedied until the Commission began to lay bare the facts.
– Has it been remedied ?
– Yes, to this extent, that a relieving staff of so many officers of a certain grade has been proposed, high grade officers relieving in high grade postoffices, second grade in second grade, and so on. Therefore, what the Public Service Commissioner said, before he knew what the Commission’s report was going to be, was preposterous, is practically, although not perhaps wholly, adopted by him and those who are administering the Department to-day. The Public Service Commissioner then went on to indicate the system whereby the selection of officers was achieved under the Public Service regime. He said the system was perfect, that there had never been any trouble about the officers who had been allocated positions by him, and quoted Queensland as an example. He said that in that State some men were sought by the Chief Officer to be put in a superior position, which he claimed they were not entitled to, and which the subsequent permanent Deputy PostmasterGeneral also decided that they were not entitled to. He used that as an illustration of the fact that the recommendations of the then Deputy Postmaster-General were not reliable, but he did not mention the fact that subsequently, when things began to mould themselves into shape, practically all of those men who had been denied promotion were given promotion by the very same Deputy Postmaster-General. The recommendation of the Public Service Inspector, on which the denial of the promotion was based, was negatived only when the Deputy Postmaster-General fully realized the quality of the staff upon which he had to rely in the carrying out of his duties.
I come now to something which will be rather a surprise to the House and the country. The Commission made 175 recommendations. Of these, 130 have a reasonable chance of being adopted. One hundred and three have already been adopted. Eight of the remainder deal with matters which come within the purview of the Minister of Home Affairs, who has apparently not yet decided what he is going to do about them. They deal with improved buildings, improved sanitation and ventilation, improved designs for country buildings, and specifications that will be more uniform and in keeping with modern requirements. Three of the recommendations affect matters under the control of the Treasurer. One of these is to the effect that the deficit of £2,300,000, which was the result of the first six years of Federal control of postal administration - a deficit arrived at by an honest comparison of receipts and charges - should be wiped off, because there is no hope of it ever being met in any other way.
– What does the honorable member mean by “ deficit “ ?
– I refer the honorable member to a table attached to the report showing how we arrived at our conclusions, which have not since been challenged by any financial authority.
– Does the Postal Department owe the Treasurer the amount you mention ?
– The Postal Department was worked at a loss to the public revenue of £2,300,000 for the six years, when the proper charges that should have been made to the Department are taken into consideration.
– Is it correct to call that a deficit?
– If the honorable member looks into the question he can decide whether it is the correct term or not. I regard it as correct, and use it accordingly. I admit that we inherited some disabilities from the States, which, with the exception of South Australia, shirked their responsibilities prior to Federation, knowing that the postal services were to pass under Federal control. Maintenance and construction were allowed to fall behind; but, whilst that was the state of affairs when we took the service over, practically the same condition was still in existence when the Commission began to make its inquiries. There was, therefore, no set off that could be allowed for a service that was no better after six years of Federal administration.
– Is that deficit arrived at after debiting capital expenditure and works done?
– Yes ; it is arrived at, after taking into full consideration, as must be done, the interest due to the States on that part of the transferred propertiesrepresented by the postal services and equipment.
Another recommendation is that the Treasurer shall not have power to cut and chopthe Estimates of the Postal Department at his own sweet will, irrespective of what injury he does to the Department or the penalties that it will have to pay in thefuture on account of his action. There are three other recommendations towards which, the Government are favorably disposed, and there are thirty-four which have not been agreed to. Of those thirty-four someare not indispensable, although it seemedto the Commission that they would be useful if adopted. One of them was that officers should be compelled to liquidate the just claims of their creditors. I presume that the Government and the Department and the Public Service Commissioner do not think that is a fair proposition, and, therefore, have not adopted it. Another was that all staff matters be placed in charge of a staff- committee. That, of course, comes under the heading of theBoard of Management, and, therefore, isnot adopted, because the Board of Management idea has not yet been adopted.
– Does the honorable member expect that the Government will adopt it?
– I am not expecting, anything. I am leaving the matter to thepublic to judge when they know the facts. We also recommended that the right of appeal be preserved to officers, and a departmental arbitrator appointed to deal with appeals. We recommended that tea money be abolished, and extra services bepaid for. That has not been wholly adopted, but the conditions in that regardhave been materially improved by thePublic Service Commissioner since then. No fewer than 134 of our recommendationshave been adopted, or are under consideration. When the Hobhouse Commission inquired into the position of the employe’s inthe British Post Office there was no hesitation on the part of the British PostmasterGeneral in immediately showing hisappreciation of the work which had been done by the members of that Commission. As soon as he had read the Report, which did not take him long, he came down to the House of Commons, and, although it involved an expenditure of £1,000,000, he at once moved its adoption. He did not givea crumb here and a crumb there, but he- told the House that the Commissioners had done work which entitled them to recognition and appreciation; and the Report was adopted by Parliament in less time than it has taken the Commonwealth Government to consider some of the more simple issues raised.
– The British Commission was appointed with the hearty approval of the Government of the day, whereas the Australian Commission was not !
– Is that any reason why there should be any lack of appreciation of the value of the work done? The work of the Australian Commission is proved to have been necessary and to have been well done, by the fact that 134 out of 175 recommendations have been accepted. The Commission was clearly entitled to credit at the hands of the Government for a determination that knew no limits to get at the bottom of the trouble in the Department. I have here a list of the Ministerial changes that have been made, and if any one would take the trouble to read through the evidence-
– Good God!
– The honorable member may say “ Good God “ ; but any man wishful to dd justice to the country, and interested in the work, would not hesitate to take the short cut I am prepared to show him to find a basis for the statements I am now making. The Ministerial Department has been most vigorous in picking the fruit of the tree - more vigorous than any other section interested.
– Then to that extent the Government has done good work?
– And the honorable member for Gwydir should not grumble !
– I am not grumbling, but merely stating facts. If the honorable member for Calare worked for two years without any appreciation of his effort, and practically no reward, he would think the ‘ boss ‘ ‘ was not too kind to him.
– The honorable member will never get any other treatment all his political life.
– I am not looking for reward. I have paid a heavy penalty for the action I took in this matter, notonly personally and at home, but elsewhere. I have here a list of the changes made by the Ministerial head since the Royal Commission began to lay bare the troubles that existed - ‘that is, changes made in the Postal Service by the Minister since
January, 1908. The words used in this list are not mine, but are taken from the authentic reports supplied to me by the Department.
– They are changes made long before the Commission’s report came out.
– That is not so.
– Most of these changes were made a very considerable time before the report came out.
– How does the honorable member know what I am going to read ? Here we have a sample of how the honorable member can prejudge a case.
– Not at all ; we heard of the honorable member’s complaint afterwards.
– The farce to which the honorable member for Kooyong, as a member of the late Government, was a party, in appointing a Cabinet Committee, will stand as one of those cunning devices of an Administration to get out of a difficult position.
– It took the wind out of the honorable member’s sails anyhow.
– It took no wind out of my sails. It was only a subterfuge of a Government that could not act straight to a supporter. The first Ministerial change is -
Increase of delegated powers to Deputy PostmastersGeneral.
– The point is whether the Government would have made those changes if there had been no Royal Commission.
– Would the Government have so acted if they had not been provided with a chart?
– The Government did act.
– In those matters the Government did not act until the Commission had inquired. The increased powers are -
Inflict fines under Post and Telegraph Regulations; appeal through Secretary to Minister.
That was a change made after 1908, and not before the Royal Commission began to inquire. I have this on the authority of the Department, and I thrust the fact in the teeth of the honorable member for Kooyong, who tries to take credit to which he is not entitled.
– Was the evidence published in the newspapers as it was given?
– Then rauch information could be gleaned from that.
– Undoubtedly the Government were watching the Commission very closely ; there never was a busier time in the Department, the office of the Public Service Commissioner, or the office of the Minister. Let me relate one little incident to prove my case. The immaculate exmember for North Sydney, in 1910, came, with the honorable member for Ballarat, to defeat me in my electorate if he could. This immaculate ex-member on the platform gave a typical reason why I should not be returned. He told the electors that it was not necessary to return me to Parliament to produce or deal with the report of the Postal Commission, because the Government, he said, were “ picking the eyes” out of it as the evidence was given, and by the time Parliament met there would be nothing left to report on. These were the tactics used by a member of the Government which preceded the present Government. When we find a gentleman like the ex-member for North Sydney, whom we would never credit with stooping
– Is the honorable member alluding to Mr. Dugald Thomson?
– He and I were never together in the honorable member’s electorate.
– No; each went to a. different part of the electorate; and it is unnecessary to say that wherever they went I increased my majority. Other changes made are -
To discriminate re lowest tenders.
To accept tenders, grant preference, &c.
To establish allowance post and telegraph offices, money order and receiving offices, maximum £100 instead of £50.
To establish telephone exchange at semioffirial and allowance post-offices.
To establish new mail services and authorize deviations up to £100 instead of ^50.
To sign on behalf of Postmaster-General contracts for telephones.
To deal with cases coming within sections 103c, 104, 105, and »o6 of the Post and Telegraph Regulations, where persons elect to be dealt with by Postmaster-General as per section 156 of Act.
To sell condemned stores or material, &c, to value £100, instead of ^50.
More used to be spent in selling stores than the stores were worth -
To sign for Postmaster-General contracts for material, repairs, &c, in connexion with telephone lines.
To deal wilh expenditure re works repairs of telephone and telegraph lines without submitling to Central Office.
That used to be the clogging part of the machinery -
Power delegated under section 8 of the Post and Telegraph Act to Chief Electrical Engineer to deal with all routine matters re telegraph, telephone construction, maintenance and equipment, also all matters re working of above and telephone exchanges, other than questions involving policy of Public Service Act.
That was not done prior to this date. Power was given where previously men had been fettered - where men had been asked to control a Department without any power to act. Now we come to the departmental changes -
Granting cash bonuses re suggestions of officers from £1 to £10, higher amounts to be further considered.
There used to be a limit of £1 as a reward for a suggestion.
– Some officers have got £25.
– I think that recently some grants of that “kind have been made. Hitherto the best has not been got out of the employes, who have been offered no encouragement. Many have made available most valuable discoveries, thus saving hundreds of pounds to the Department, but have received either no reward, or a miserably poor reward.
– I understand- that in this connexion a distinction is made between officers and men.
– That is true; the higher the officer the higher the reward. At present, however, I am dealing only with the men in the lower grades.
Telegraph messengers to be granted half holiday each week where practicable.
This change was indicated, but not particularly recommended, by the Commission, because it had practically been made by the Postmaster-General before we reported -
Improved methods re schools of instruction to train for telegraphic positions.
Anybody who reads the report of the Royal Commission will see where that suggestion came from. Will honorable members believe that in 1907, with the great demands made on the telephonic and telegraphic services, there was practically no means provided to give instructions to juniors who desired to qualify themselves for higher positions? In this great Department, valuable raw material was allowed to go to waste for want of guidance. ‘ I am speaking of the training of the boys. In all advanced countries opportunities are given for proper training, and classes are established under the direction of the best experts, but in the old days of our postal service the boys were left to pick up knowledge as best they could, and were compelled to learn in their own time. The inferiority of the Service to-day is due to the unpardonable neglect of its heads in the past to give junior officers the training they needed for the proper performance of their work. Other reforms are -
Granting £1 per month to cooks in country line parlies.
Granting leave for attending military camps.
Formerly there was no grant for cooks, and the granting of leave to attend drills or camps was at the discretion of the higher officers. To-day the men must be granted this leave. That, of course, is necessary, seeing that we have compulsory military service. These are further reforms -
Test cards for sorters to be placed in envelopes.
Encouraging engineering officers to study electrical science by refunding fees paid for tuition.
It would be better for the Department to have its young officers under the supervision of,, and taught by, its own experts. With regard to travelling, the determination, is -
First class fares under Public Service report 158 to be granted at the discretion Deputy PostmasterGeneral, and liberal interpretation exercised.
Formerly only the higher officials were allowed first class railway fares, the men on the lower rungs of the ladder having to travel second class, but, owing to the recommendation of the Postal Commission, first class fares are now to be allowed in many cases. Honorable members will understand that in the tropical parts of Queensland travelling is an irksome duty, and the second class carriages are not very comfortable, nor is the company very select, being composed of varied nationalities. The Department now enjoins -
Special vigilance to detect and tax insufficiently prepaid mail matter.
Some thousands of pounds of revenue were being lost because a great deal of mail matter was insufficiently prepaid. This was reported by an officer, without notice being taken of the report for some time, but he ultimately was called as a witness before the Commission, and since then this change has been made.
– Was he dismissed in consequence? That would have happened in the old days.
– He is still in the Service, though I do not think he has been promoted. New rules ate -
Advances to be made to line repairers to cover travelling expenses.
Cost of removal or transfer of members of line gangs and families to be borne by Department.
Supply of uniform; rates of wages and conditions of labour determined by Wages Boards to be observed.
The last is a reform for which the Minister is responsible. New instructions are -
Female telephone attendants not to be required to work later than 10 p.m.
Letter carriers’ and porters’ loads to be reasonable.
The first of those instructions is due to the complaints that were made of the excessive hours that were being worked. As to the loads of letter carriers and porters, the Commission found that they were beyond reason. I have seen loads which the men could not carry, but had to drag. Another reform which has been initiated is the -
Introduction of labour-saving appliances where necessary.
Had the Department been up to date, it would have utilized, as ordinary business concerns do, the latest labour-saving devices. Then this instruction has been issued -
Three months’ supply of telegraph poles to be held at principal telegraph centres.
In the old days it often happened that the carrying out of contracts was delayed through want of poles, or green poles had to be used. Provision is now to be made for -
Employes, line construction and maintenance, to be insured by contractors.
Supply of first-aid cabinets for line parties.
Formerly injured men got no compensation, and means were not provided for saving life, or relieving pain. Another reform is the -
Establishment of pole depots at suitable centres.
The moving of poles from one place to another greatly increased the cost of lines. The new arrangement will reduce expenditure on construction,, and should reduce the guarantees required from those asking for telephone communication. It has been determined -
To discontinue condenser service where it seriously impairs telegraphic working.
It was shown by the evidence that, by reason of the overloading of the telegraph lines under the condenser system, double rates for telegrams had become the rule instead of the exception. The Department has determined that -
Country linemen are to be afforded opportunities to transfer to city parties.
There were no country parties in Victoria until just before the inquiry commenced. Now there are four or five. Formerly the work was done haphazard. The linemen employed in the country, however, complained that they never had the chance to get back to the city. Two more reforms are -
Collective tendersfor all States confined to the supply of sulphate of copper.
Manufacture of mail bags, harness, &c, to be undertaken by Commonwealth Harness Factory.
We recommended the establishment of factories to provide all the requirements of the service, so far as that might be possible. It has been determined to grant an -
Increase of initial allowance to telegraph messengers from £26 to£39, from 1st March, 1911, also to assistants at semi-official postoffices.
At one time messengers were being paid 10s. a week, but in consequence of an exposure of the conditions applying to some of the semi-official offices the pay was raised to 15s. a week. The boys who were getting10s. a week were often given the important work of letter delivery, and were sometimes found playing marbles while the letters intrusted to them were being blown away by the wind. It is now resolved that-
Preliminary training of telephone attendants is to be given after instead of before appointment.
Postmasters without assistants are to be granted full number of days in lieu to be added to annual leave.
In 1906 and 1907, a great many men were working overtime, for which, after much agitation on my part, some thousands of pounds of compensation were paid, but the evidence of country postmasters revealed a system of sweating unexampled in my knowledge or reading. They sent in returns which were attached to the report of the Commission, but they have not received compensation. In future, however, overtime is to be added to their annual leave. There has been an -
Alteration re private box fees.
Commission allowed to private bag holders on not less than £1 of stamps.
Uniform conditions re issue of duplicate postal notes by chief officer in each State.
Formerly there was no uniformity, and each State had a different system. It has been determined that -
Furniture to conduct semi-official offices is to be a charge on Departments.
Semi-official offices are to be abolished practically in consequence of the recommendation of the Commission. Two more reforms are these -
Boys under 16 years not to be employed to relieve men acting as letter carriers.
Carbon copying process to be extended to reduce clerical labour.
The old practice was to set clerks to work to re- write copies ; the Department never thought of adopting the copying processes which have been in vogue in commercial houses for decades past. Other changes made are -
Supply of typewriters to selected officers where clerical labour is involved.
Abolition of back-stamping of letters.
That was a change made by the exPostmasterGeneral -
Parcel post facilities to be extended to all receiving offices.
That is another reform proposed by the Commission -
Mail services where loss not more than 50 per cent. of estimated revenue or does not exceed
That is an improvement made by the exPostmasterGeneral -
Provision re return of unclaimed newspapers.
Another Ministerial proposal -
Planning of buildings to secure effective extension.
One of the recommendations of the Commission -
One hundred per cent. of postage each way as based upon estimated revenue on new mail services.
Before the Commission entered upon its labours, when a new mail service was required the estimated revenue was based on the amount of outward postage, the inward postage not being taken into account. Subsequently it was decided to allow 50 per cent, in respect of both inward and outward postage - clearly a more equitable plan. To-day, owing to penny postage, however, that has to be increased to 100 per cent., otherwise a material loss would be shown -
Mail contracts over £100 - contract to be carried out by the contractor or a member of his family, the former provision as to disallowing the employment of a son of the contractor under eighteen years of age being discontinued.
Under the old system a contractor was not allowed to employ a son who was under eighteen years of age, and this often re- suited in hardship. A contractor might have a son under that age who was quite competent to do the work, but he was not allowed to employ him. The provision as to age, however, no longer applies. Other changes are -
Abolition of acknowledgment to apply to all parcels.
Charges for information re postal notes.
That is one of the ex-Postmaster-General’s innovations -
Action to secure prompt and correct delivery of mail matter.
To prevent accumulation of letters at postoffices.
To employ extra hands.
To prevent overworking of sorters and letter carriers.
I was glad when that last-named change was announced. An attempt has been made to prevent overworking, but little has been achieved -
To regulate sorting and delivery to obviate late hours and long periods of duty. which went on until 1907-8 -
Book receipts for registered letters to be adopted generally.
Previously loose receipts were given, although any business house would have adopted the book system -
Deposit from newspaper proprietors to cover value of papers posted in one night.
Re increased frequency of mail services, if revenue equals 75 per cent. of cost of service, or public concerned makes good the loss.
I give the Ministry great credit for having introduced this change. The old system imposed on many residents of country districts serious disabilities in securing delivery of mails. The ex-Postmaster-General deserves credit for having realized the inequity of the old system -
Issue of a Commonwealth Post and Telegraph Guide.
Prior to the advent of the Commission, there was a separate post and telegraph” guide in respect of each State, and the system created a network of confusion. Since our inquiry, however, a Federal Post and Telegraph Guide has been issued, as was urged in the report, and it gives information regarding the whole Commonwealth -
Abolition of2½d. charge re missing postal articles.
That was one of our recommendations -
Restriction re letters addressedposte restante to a period of six months.
That is another recommendation which was strongly urged.
Improvements re letter receptacles and facing table versus baskets or secure box.
Application of extra payment to allowance and semi-official postmasters for telephone exchange duties.
Adoption of uniform scale of payment to allowance postmasters on basis of work done.
Economy re parcel mails.
Additional postage facilities at General Post Offices to facilitate sorting.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
First Order of the Day, Government business, called on under Sessional Order.
– I desire to move -
That Government business be postponed until after the consideration of the motion standing in the name of the honorable member for Gwydir.
– In order to allow the honorable member for Gwydir to continue his speech on the motion submitted by him this afternoon, it would be necessary to postpone, not only Government business, but the further consideration of all business standing in the name of private members. The honorable member continued to speak to his motion until the time allotted under the sessional order for the consideration of private members’ business had expired, so that, in accordance with the procedure now adopted, his motion is really at the bottom of the business-paper.
– I am prepared to move that both Government business and the remaining private business be postponed until after the consideration of the motion submitted by the honorable member for Gwydir.
– Unless special steps be taken, the motion standing in the name of the honorable member for Gwydir cannot be dealt with until to-morrow, since it has been placed at the bottom of the business-paper. Originally, when a motion was talked out, it disappeared from the business-paper, but since I have occupied the Chair,I have followed a different course. It seemed to me to be unfair that any honorable member should be able to talk out, and so cause to disappear from the business-paper a motion of which possibly the whole House was in favour, and I, therefore, adopted the practice of placing at the bottom of the business-paper a motion which had been talked out. The honorable member for Gwydir continued to speak’ to his motion until the time allotted for the consideration of private members’ business had expired, and his motion has, therefore, been placed at the bottom of the businesspaper.
– Perhaps, with the concurrence of the House, we might suspend the Standing Orders in order to allow the honorable member for Gwydir to continue his speech.
– What is the urgency of the motion ?
– We gave the honorable member an assurance that to-day and tomorrow would be allotted to the consideration of his motion.
– We have had no notice of that arrangement.
– The Prime Minister made a statement to that effect in the House some time ago. If the Opposition will not agree to my proposition, the position will be that the House will resolve itself into Committee of Supply, and, on the Estimates relating to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, the honorable member for Gwydir will be able to complete his speech. I would suggest, however, that, in the special circumstances, leave be given for the suspension of the Standing Orders. I am prepared to move that they be suspended.
– Such a motion would have to be carried by an absolute majority of the House. Probably the difficulty could be overcome by the Minister moving, with the consent of the House -
That Orders of the Day, Government business, be postponed until to-morrow; and that the notice of motion by the honorable member for Gwydir take precedence for the remainder of to-day’s sitting.
I am prepared to accept such a motion, but I would point out that the business of the House would be conducted in a more agreeable way, and it would certainly be more in keeping with the dignity of the Chamber, if some effort were made to ascertain the exact position under the Standing or Sessional Orders before such propositions are submitted. I have already made an alteration in the procedure originally adopted in this House, in order to allow honorable members greater latitude, and I again find myself placed in a most awkward position owing to no fault of my own. The honorable the Minister may move in the direction I have indicated, but it will be for the House to decide whether the motion should or should not be carried.
Motion (by Mr. Frazer), by leave, proposed -
That the Orders of the Day, Government Business, be postponed until to-morrow, and that the motion of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Webster) with reference to the report of the Royal Commission on the postal services have precedence for the remainder of to-day’s sitting.
.- I am disinclined to oppose the Government in their desire to allow the honorable member for Gwydir to proceed, but I certainly think that they are adopting a most extraordinary attitude in proposing to postpone the consideration of important Government business in order that a private member may deal with a matter concerning which he has expressed his opinions over and over again.
– The Prime Minister, in the presence of the Leader of the Opposition, said that he would set apart two days for the discussion of this question of postal control.
– I am personally opposed to this procedure. I do not think that the honorable member for Gwydir has any right to expect the House to postpone the consideration of general business of importance in order that he may ventilate his views on this question. He has spoken on the subject over and over again.
– I have not.
– However, I do not desire to object to any course which the Government may think it necessary to pursue, as they are responsible for the conduct of public business in the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative..
– I am grateful to the Opposition for the consideration they have extended to me on this occasion. I should certainly not have expected the concession had not the Ministry led me to believe that my motion’ would be given precedence over all other business this evening. The next items on the list of departmental changes made since the Commission began its inquiries in 1908 are -
Economic means to convey letter carriers over ten minute distances, to and fro by tram omnibus, or contract vehicle, al Department’s expense.
The effect of that is to expedite the work of the Department, and save the officers from the necessity of carrying heavy loads for great distances -
Inspectors of letter carriers to be appointed.
They have been appointed -
Reform re collection of porterage charges on telegrams.
Uniform form of certificate re copies of telegrams, improving method of check.
Steps to improve method of dealing with InterState telegraphic traffic.
Matters re Press message despatch.
Refunds on repeat telegrams to be made at once.
The latter is a Ministerial action outside the scope of the Commission -
Telephone trunk lines, utilized to transmit press telegrams.
Adoption of uniform telegraph forms.
Telegrams to take preference over telephone trunk line conversations.
Wheatstone instruments to equip at least one circuit between all Capitals.
That is one of the great innovations that have been made in the Department to the advantage of the public. Some people may think that the Commission’s inquiry has had to do largely with the welfare of the Postal service itself,, but it has been of equal interest and benefit to the public whom the Department serves. In no case has greater relief been given to the public than by the introduction of Wheatstone instruments into the Telegraphic Branch. Formerly, on congested lines, the public had to pay double rates to get their messages through; but now the introduction of the Wheatstone instruments enables the business to be done more rapidly, and the public are assured of a reasonable service at the ordinary rates. Strange to say, when the Commission were inquiring into the matter, there was an obsolete Wheatstone apparatus lying idle in the Sydney General Post Office. No one seemed to care whether it was worked or not, or to be aware of its advantages. There was only one Wheatstone operator, and he was the only expert, in the whole Commonwealth. He was stationed in Western Australia. He has since been appointed teacher of Wheatstone operating, and is travelling through the States instructing the staff. The public are benefited by practically every recommendation in the report, even by those which relate most closely to the service, because, if a service feels that it is justly rewarded for its labours, the public are bound to receive better attention and better resuits -
Direct duplex working between Melbourne and Brisbane through repeaters at Sydney.
That is another change that will expedite public business -
Out-door supervisors of messengers to be appointed.
This is a reform which affects the welfare of the public, because previously there was no supervision of messengers, and the appointment of supervisors enables the public to be better attended to, and the messengers to do their work more expeditiously -
Limit of cross check telegrams to five days instead of nine days per month.
That is a saving of revenue which is very beneficial to the public-
Appointment of wireless expert for three years.
That is a Ministerial act -
Department provide sleeping requisites for telephonists.
Continuous service on revenue of£150.
Abolition of telephone coupon system.
Two-mile radius telephone from exchange.
The two last are Ministerial changes -
Exception re seven years’ guarantee to lines costing not more than£100.
That was a matter which was urged very strongly in the recommendations of the Commission -
Separate rooms for telephone exchanges wilh continuous services.
This also is of great benefit to the public. In country districts, previously, the telephone exchanges were stuck in any corner of the big offices ; and this, and the obsolete character of the appliances, all militated against a good service being given to the public. By having separate telephone exchanges with modern switchboards, proper attention can be given to those who use the telephones. Therefore, as distinct from the benefits to the service itself, the public come in all the time -
Improvement re tenders, sealed pattern instead of maker’s name.
That is another safeguard against imposition by contractors.
Adoption of hygienic appliances for use with telephones.
That is a Ministerial change.
Alteration in connexions common battery telephones to reduce effect of extraneous noises.
Under guarantee, deposit 75 per cent. of estimated difference between estimated and minimum revenue instead of the whole difference.
That reform is of great advantage to all country districts. Formerly no allowance was made with regard to making up the estimated loss on a telephone connexion. A concession of 25 per cent. has now been made, which will enable many districts to get telephone communication which they would not have got before.
Connecting lines to be credited with331/3 per cent. of total revenue from new business.
That is another innovation which means economy of working and a saving to the public.
Reduction of telephone lines in country districts partly erected by Postmaster-General.
Night telephone attendants, no duties to interfere with ordinary work.
Basis for fixing hours of telephonists under present varying conditions.
Asbestos blankets for fire extinguishing in telephone exchanges.
Up to this time the provision against fire was absolutely nil. The arrangement was most unbusinesslike, but now asbestos blankets have been provided for the purpose of putting out fires when they occur at the switchboard at any of the exchanges, which .they are liable to.
Tea money allowed where two meal hours occur during period of duty.
Tea money used not to be allowed under the old conditions, unless an officer could prove that he had been on duty for several hours after the usual time at which his services should cease.
Broken time limited to fourteen hours.
There was no limit before in this regard. The Department worked its officers in many cases - I do not say on the average - for very long hours. The limit has been brought down to fourteen hours now, which, in practice in the great body of cases, means about eleven hours for broken shifts. We recommended a reduction to twelve hours maximum.
Minors not to be prosecuted without PostmasterGeneral’s approval.
Minors used to be prosecuted without rhyme or reason by irresponsible persons,’ the Department being put to great expense and trouble, and the whole Service being in some cases dislocated.
Official offices instead of semi-official in charge of General Division officers.
Simplification of official correspondence.
When we were inquiring into this question any one who saw the different methods adopted in the different States in regard to correspondence would have marvelled how the Department could be so behind the times. Some of the States had a decent system, while others were not at all in accordance with modern commercial requirements.
Personal allowance of semi-official postmasters raised to ;£rio per annum.
Semi-official offices being abolished, that does not apply.
Casual or exempt employes, eight shillings a day.
This went one better than our recommendation.
Tests for promotion of sorters and senior sorters, facilities provided for practice in sorting, &c.
Those are matters to which I referred in speaking of facilities, which were formerly denied, having now been provided in large offices for men to acquire knowledge to fit them for advancement in the ranks of sorters.
Appointment of chief accountant and staff to reorganize departmental accounts, to secure uniformity and provide balance-sheet and profit and loss account.
Imagine a great Department like this, spending £4,000,000 a year, and having no uniform system of accounts 1 When we had the Accountant of the Service before the Commission, we asked him to give us an indication of the revenue and expenditure in the three main branches of the Service, and business men will marvel when I say that the reply we received was: “ I cannot do it. The Department has never kept separate accounts, and, therefore, no information on that vital point can be given to the Commission, nor could any information be given for the guidance of the various Ministers who have had charge of the Department.” Such a condition of affairs is almost unthinkable. Nevertheless it was a fact; but since that time an accountant, who, I believe, is a capable officer, has been appointed, and he is now doing things which ought to have been done from the beginning of Commonwealth administration.
Officers called out at night to attend line troubles to be paid overtime.
Officers used formerly to.be called out at all hours of the night to serve the Department and convenience the public, even after doing their ordinary day’s work, but they were not entitled to any payment therefor. They are now paid, as they ought to be, for the extra services they render.
Detailed instructions issued for taking store stocks.
That was one of the weakest links in the whole administration of the Department. We found, in the Stores Branch, a lack of system and method in bookkeeping, stocktaking, and the checking of stores. In every State there was a hybrid system, which was practically no protection to the revenue; and there was .consequently a. loophole left for manipulation at any time by the men employed. As a matter of fact, in Western Australia, one employe, without being detected, took enough copper wire from the departmental stores to fence his selection. He was not found out until the investigations of the Postal Commission caused the officials to make some inquiry, and they discovered that many pounds’ worth of material had been purloined over many months. This case shows the loose system that prevailed all through the service ; and but for the honesty of the men generally, the Commonwealth would have suffered to a much greater degree. The next change is -
Regulations and forms dealing with the purchase, receipt, custody, inspection, disposal, and accounting in connexion with stores, adopted.
All States brought into line re use of money order account for paying moneys, received, and paid out from this account.
Only New South Wales had adopted the system; though in South Australia it was in practice to a certain extent, none of the other States had fallen into line. There was the cumbersome method of sending money to the country to meet liabilities, with all the risk of loss and unnecessary bookkeeping. Now payments are made by money order, which provide their own check.
Uniform forms re money orders adopted.
Revenue and expenditure classified, adopted by Conference re expenditure.
There never had previously been any classification. After the report of the Commission was issued, a Conference was appointed to deal with revenue and expenditure. Here was a Department spending £4,000,000 per annum, and yet there was no classification of the revenue and expenditure. There was no means of ascertaining the financial position of the Department; and even to-day there is no such record. There have been two Committees - a Committee of experts and a Committee appointed by the previous Government - and each has been condemned by the Public Service Commissioner as ineffective, and as entailing an absolute waste of public money. Both Committees have issued reports, but these have proved not worth the paper on which they are written. Instructions have been issued to classify the revenue and expenditure. A public accountant from a railway service has been appointed chief accountant of the Commonwealth; and, although he has been at his work for nearly twelve months, there is no result as yet. He is, however, I believe, getting the system into order; he is laying the foundations of a system ; but even now as I say there is no result showing the actual expenditure and revenue. Can we imagine a Public Service Commissioner, or a Minister, without any guiding star to the financial situation ? Such a state of affairs is unbelievable to the ordinary commercial or business man; and yet neither the Minister nor the Treasurer to-day can ascertain to what extent each branch of the service is paying, or is not paying -
Detailed instructions re methods of ascertaining the value under classified headings of the departmental assets existing on rst July, 1911.
This means that for the first time a legitimate attempt is being made to discover the departmental assets on the first day of the financial year. At present, there is no knowledge of what the assets of the Department are; everybody is in the dark, and would have continued to be in the dark but for the appointment of a chief accountant, as recommended by us.
System of ledger accounts embracing the whole of the financial transactions of the Department designed to show the financial position of the Department and results of working the Department’s business, have been laid down.
Ordinary business methods have been laid down for the first time in the year of our Lord 1911.
Uniform charging of expenditure items; all forms used by Department to be put in blockform to prevent waste and expedite handling.
In other words, there has been waste in handling, and there is an attempt being made to prevent it.
Adoption of uniform buckram label for InterState mails.
Re letters addressed to deceased persons being sent to dead letter office - postmaster to advise relatives re proper procedure.
In many instances, letters addressed to deceased persons have been sent to the Dead Letter Office, without any intimation being given to those who addressed them; but now that is to be changed. That practically is the list of the improvements and amendments that have been made by the Department itself. If these changes were necessary - and I say they were - what was the condition of the Department before they were made? It was very nearly in a state of chaos.
Now we come to the changes made by the Department.
Reduction of red tape re files of papers in which Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner was concerned, saving time and expense.
There is a lot of red-tape yet to be abolished, not only in the Postal Department, but in all other Government Departments. I am glad to say, however, that some of this tape is being cut away in the Department immediately under discussion ; and it is time that was done, for the Department has been tangled up in redtape for so many years that one wonders how it is now to be liberated.
Duties assigned by Permanent Head to the various Deputy Postmasters-General.
I find that it would be more convenient and fitting to deal with the question of organization when I come to discuss the Board ot Control, and the management, and deal with the final problem of how the Department is to be managed in the future- of whether this Parliament is wide-awake enough to recognise the importance ot the recommendations made by the Commission.
As to the question of furlough, it may not be known to honorable members that officers who have served twenty years, and whose record is good, are entitled to six months’ furlough on full pay, or twelve months on half pay, as a reward for their diligence. Previously, however, if an officer died before he obtained the furlough to which he was entitled, there was no means of handing over an equivalent to those dependent on him. I find that the payment depends on the recommendation of the Permanent Head and the certificate of the Public Service Commissioner; but a new scale has been adopted, and the recommendation of the Permanent Head eliminated, it being now left to the Chief Officer to say whether the furlough shall be paid for. Indeed, more has been done; because, in the case of death, an equivalent will be paid to those dependent on the deceased officer. Thus, some degree of justice has been done in a manner which common sense and equity dictate.
– That is not general, though it may be done in particular cases.
– It is adopted as part of the recommendation.
– A recent interpretation is that this furlough is not allowed unless the officer is coming back to resume duty.
– An officer is not allowed to go away on furlough merely to get out of the service when he is not entitled to retire.
– I was referring to cases where an officer dies when he is entitled to furlough.
– Another change is-
Boards of Inquiry
Permanent Head on advice of Chief Officer may impose penalties, curtail leave, or Public Service Commissioner may reduce grade and salary, &c.
That is an improvement in administration which I need not discuss.
Vacancies to be reported to Inspector by Chief Officer, wilh opinion thereon. General tie up, Chief Officer reports, then confers with Inspector, report to Commissioner if not agreed, re port to Permanent Head, he forwards to Commissioner, who recommends to Governor-General, and all have again to be informed.
That is the sort of red-tape we find in regard to vacancies in the General Division. Same process re Clerical and Professional Division.
Offences of temporary employes to be dealt with by Chief Officer, and he shall advise Inspector, eliminating the Permanent Head and Commissioner.
The Public Service Commissioner was the gentleman, who, in giving his evidence, said that everything was “ all right in the garden “ - that salaries, conditions, grading, and everything else, was tip-top; indeed, there was hardly anything he would admit to be wrong.
Officers in Western Australia who do not receive a district allowance may be paid a special allowance equal to 5 per cent., of salary.
That was done at the instigation of the honorable member for Coolgardie. Further reforms are -
Altering the personnel of boards of inquiry.
That was necessary, and, indeed. essential
Public Service Inspectors may approve of transfers exceeding three months.
Formerly, there was no approval, men being transferred on the ipse dixit of any one -
Chief Officer in lieu of Minister to have power to grant leave.
Formerly, the Minister only could grant leave -
Special allowances approved by Chief Officer in place of Permanent Head.
A reform suggested by the Commission -
New procedure to be followed in filling staff vacancies.
Further extension of power to Chief Officer. Alterations of subjects of examination under section 21.
The Public Service Commissioner, when giving evidence, said that the examinations were not too difficult ; but he has since acknowledged the need for altering them, as recommended by the Commission -
Abolition of receipts for less than 5s.
Power to reprimand or caution extended.
In the General Post Office, Sydney, what was called the “blue terror” prevailed, officers being fined for trivial offences. If the practice of fining has not been abolished, it has been curtailed.
– That was recommended by the Commission - an Appeal Board under the Board of Control. To continue my statement of reforms -
Deferred increments, Commissioner to decide when due re seniority.
Leave of absence to attend camps.
Rates of salary, Professional Division, fixing minimum at £180.
The Commission recognised that the salaries paid in this division should be at least £20 a year higher -
Raising age of approval for messengers 14 to 16, instead of 13 to 15.
That is a recommendation of the Commission -
Fees in certain cases of officers abolished.
Formerly, officers were required to pay fees on presenting themselves for examination for promotion to a higher class or grade -
Long-service increments granted to Clerical Division at maximum of £180.
Removal expenses of transferred officers, fixing maximum allowance of weight of furniture.
At one time, no hard-and-fast rule was in existence -
Absence of officers to be entered in attendancebook, except when on official business.
While we must treat our officers justly, we must see that the public is fairly served, and provide against malingering or neglect of duty -
Monthly return of fines and punishments to go to Commissioner by Chief Officer not to the Permanent Head.
Alteration of scale of marks re examination for General Division.
Another barrier removed -
Prescribed scale of travelling allowances, making Clerical and General Division uniform, re the minimum from 7s. to 8s. per day.
Formerly, there was no equitable arrangement. The Commission recommended 7s. a day, but the Commissioner has gone one better, making the allowance 8s. a day all round. The Commission recommended what it believed to be just and equitable, in view of all the circumstances -
Alteration of the scale of marks re examination to another division.
Examination abolished for advancement of telegraphists beyond £120.
Vacancies caused by retiring officers going on furlough to be filled without waiting actual retirement, thus obviating the necessity of acting appointments.
The last is one of the most important changes that have been made. At one time, when a Deputy Postmaster- General was on the eve of retiring, he was allowed six months’ furlough, and his successor was appointed temporarily to fill his place. Finally, New South Wales was what was called a widowed service, nearly every man in 1907 in the higher positions being merely an acting officer. The Public Service Com missioner thought the regulation wise and equitable, but he has since consented to alter it -
Compensation to officers acting for more than six months, pay to be between present and minimum salary of higher position.
There used to be much sweating of relieving officers. Men getting from £120 to , £160, and in some cases only£110, were relieving officers much more highly paid. Some getting £160 were doing the work of others with salaries of , £400, without any reward; and others were relieving for years, taking big responsibilities, without compensation. The Commission recommended that, after three months, a relieving officer should be paid the minimum salary of the next higher grade; but the Commissioner has provided that an officer must be relieving for six months before he receives such minimum.
Payment of tea money independent of evidence of actual expenditure.
At one time men received only the amount which they could prove they had expended. If they had spent less than the allowance, they got only their actual expenditure -
Allowance granted to linemen in camps who did not previously receive the same.
Nominal advancement to officers on furlough to preserve seniority.
Officers in charge of mail vans to be senior sorters.
Abolition of grading.
Regulation of what shall constitute an off-day
Dr day in lieu.
District allowance revived.
Casual artisans and mechanics to be paid rates fixed by Arbitration Court or Wages Board.
The Commission had nothing to do with the latter.
Minimum wage granted irrespective of period of service.
It was stated, in evidence before the Hobhouse or Chamberlain Commissions in the Old Country, that there should be a minimum wage for all above a certain age ; that when men had reached an age at which they ought to take up the duties of citizenship, the fact should be recognised in their pay. In England, an increase is given without seniority being attained or an examination passed. At twenty-three, a man obtains an increase because he ought to have undertaken additional responsibilities of citizenship. I was anxious that the principle should be recognised here. The Commissioner regards the married man as a more useful officer than a single man. Therefore, to secure a good service, marriage should be encouraged. Formerly, a person who had been in the service for three years, and had attained the age of twentyone, received a minimum’ wage of ,£110; but now the minimum is .£126 on attaining the age of twenty-one, without regard to length of service- -
Temporary relief officers to receive allowance.
Advisory Boards to decide qualifications of sorters.
If the Advisory Boards are composed of experts, the sorters need have no fear.
Temporary telegraphists’ rates go to 8s. minimum and ros. maximum per day.
These wages were raised because it was pointed out that temporary telegraphists were not paid in proportion to the services rendered, and the conditions under which they were employed.
Abolition of iS-year limit for retirement.
Temporary employes (adult) to receive 8s. per day.
Method of calculating overtime to letter carriers altered.
The system that formerly prevailed was something in the nature of a Chinese puzzle; but it has been somewhat improved.
Uniform system of grading position of post and telegraph offices occupied by the officer next to postmaster in seniority.
Time and half pay where telegraphists are on duty seven or more consecutive days, for Sunday half-day’s pay and time in lieu abolished.
Uniform allowance for all men on duty away from station, including exempt casual, temporary, and permanent men.
These privileges applied only to a certain extent to the permanent men. They now apply to all men engaged in this service.
Hours of supervising officers in mail branch to be the same as those of the staff they control.
Formerly the supervising officers in many cases were expected to remain on duty for hours after the staff had ceased work. It is now recognised that, not only the staff, but the supervising officers, are entitled to justice at the hands of the administration. These constitute the changes that have been made in what the Public Service Commissioner declared to be a -perfect service, so far as administration was concerned. I do not mean to suggest that he said that everything was perfect ; but it was difficult to get him to admit that there were any imperfections. If he did make an admission of the kind, he usually qualified it with the statement, “ If the position is not what it ought to be, it is certainly better than it was under the State regime.” He would then endeavour to prove his contention by bringing to his assistance the ex- ploded theory of averages. The Commissioner’s resort to the theory of averages tosupport the excellence of his administration, as compared with the condition of affairs in pre- Federation days, provides an. amusing study. I come now to his classification scheme. I have already quoted opinions expressed by the Public Service Commissioner when being examined on oath before the Commission, as to the wages that prevailed in the several branches of the service. I am now going to read what is reported to me by the Department as to the changes he has made - changes that are altogether out of keeping with the statements which he made on oath. Let it be remembered that those statements were made, not in the early days of the Commission, but in November, 1909. The Public Service Commissioner was the last witness to be examined. We adopted that course, in order that he might have die last word on the subject. In the first place, he has fixed the minimum salary of the fifth class at £60, instead of £40, and the maximum; has been raised from £160 to £180. The latest proposal is to adopt the Commission’s recommendation and to raise the fifth class of the clerical branch of the sendee up u> £200 a year. That is the decision of the Commissioner. I take it that it will be adopted by the Government, and that .£200 a year will in future be the maximum. It is worthy of note that the proposal agrees with the recommendation made by the Commission, which considered that £200 would: be an equitable return for the services of diligent and deserving officers in this class.
Postmasters, Grades XIV. and XV., fixed salaries of ;£i20 and £140, abolished ; and postmasters in Class V. permitted to advance to £180. Proposed further increase of maximum to £200.
The salaries of postmasters are also to be increased. Another change made is -
Number of grades above 5th class reduced from twelve to six.
I was astonished to find that there were no less than twelve grades of postmasters. Since the cost of conveying every postmaster to a new position has to be borne by the Department, one could not help wondering why an administrator should have seen fit to fix upon no less than twelve grades. The Commissioner, however, has now seen the error of his ways, and has reduced the number to six. The Commission recommended that the number should be reduced to five, and the Commissioner has gone as near as possible to our recommendation without actually adopting it. Con»- ing to the telegraphists, we find that the maximum of the fifth class has been amended as in the Clerical Division, by being increased to £200 per annum. The Postal Commission recommended that the maximum of that class should be £210. Further changes made by the Commissioner are -
Proportional grading to be abolished and 4th class officers to be paid ^210 and upwards, according to the value of their work.
All clerical officers of 21 years of age to receive not less than ;£no per annum irrespective of service.
General Division minimum raised from ^138 to ^144 per annum.
Bar at £156 removed and maximum of £168 obtainable by annual increments.
It will thus be seen that the General Division are to come up from the original maximum of £138 a year in 1907, to £168 per annum. According to a paragraph in the newspapers, it would also appear that the maximum salary of assistants is to be increased to £180, as provided for in Grade 7, Regulation 104, which applies to senior sorters and senior mechanics. The jackofalltrades in the Department, who had very few to speak for him on the Commission because of his isolation - the man who could not marshall his evidence owing to want of organization - is, therefore, to get a fair deal. The salary of £180 a year is in excess of our recommendation. We recommended that it should be £150; but we certainly indicated that the duties of these officers were very varied, and that there should be some classification for them. Some of these men rank next to postmasters; they do telegraphic work, and possibly counter and financial work, and are, therefore, more valuable to the Commonwealth than others who discharge merely routine duties -
Assistants and postal assistants, minimum raised from £60 to £j2; adults receive ^126 irrespective of service.
We agree that the minimum should be raised, and the Commissioner, in order to show that he was able to see further than we could - although he could not see what we wanted him to see at the time - has undertaken to raise the minimum from j£6o to £72. Thus a youth will enter the service under improved conditions -
Adults receive £126 irrespective of service.
Maximum raised from £138 to ,£15°-
Grade bars removed.
Advance to maximum by regular increments, and postal assistants to go to a maximum of £180 a year.
New positions of senior assistants and senior postal assistants created. Minimum salary £132, maximum £156, by annual increments.
These officers are to advance to the maximum, not by increments that may be given at the will of the Chief Officer for the State, but by annual increments. So long as an officer performs his work satisfactorily he will be entitled to an annual increment as provided by the latest classification scheme of the Public Service Commissioner. Then, again, other changes made are -
Battery men raised from £60 to £72 ; adults £126. Maximum raised from ^125 to ^150.
The Commissioner could not see the necessity for any of these changes a little over eighteen months ago -
Grooms, salary raised from £110 to £126.
Grooms in charge, minimum raised from j£i2o to £144; maximum from ^132 to £156; annual increments.
Labourers from £110 and j£i20 to £126.
Linemen, minimum from £114 to £125; maximum ^126 to £150. Regular increments. Grade bars removed. Allowance granted to officers in travelling parties.
We have here a wholesale adoption of the recommendations of the Commission. After reviewing the evidence given by the Commissioner, one cannot but marvel” at the way in which he is able to accommodate himself to conditions existing from time to time, and brought about either by the Government of the day or by the political winds that happen to be blowing. I say without hesitation that if ever a man displayed a remarkable aptitude for adjusting himself to conditions that appeared to be most popular, and popularizing himself with the service when he saw that there was no alternative, that man is the Public Service Commissioner. These linemen have got practically all that we recommended, and that which he said would not be warranted. Line foremen have been granted a maximum of £180 instead of £162. while other changes are -
Line inspectors, minimum increased from £170 to ^19,2.
Letter-carriers, minimum increased from £60 to ^72 ; adults ^126, irrespective of service, and maximum increased from £110 to £i$o.
Advance to mechanics on passing efficiency . test.
The door is thus opened for advancement -
Mail drivers, minimum increased from £60 to £?2 i adults ^126 irrespective of service, and grade bars removed. Maximum raised from £126 to £150.
All these grades upon which the Commissioner set so much value have practically been removed. One would have thought that the Commissioner was engaged in grading butter, having regard to the many grades that he set up in each division. They were set up, apparently, to prevent officers getting too far ahead. Many of these barriers have been removed under this readiustment, and even proportional grading has become a thing of the past. Men may now advance, as recommended by the Royal Commission, according to merit -
Minimum of mechanics increased from£114 to£132, grade bars removed, and advance to £156 per annum by annual increments.
Sailmakers, minimum increased from £114 to £126, and maximum from£126 to £150. Regular increments.
– That is a lot of money for a sailmaker.
– It means an advance of nearly10s.aweek.
– Evidently the Commissioner did not think that sailmakers were worth very much before.
– There were many whose services, apparently, were not thought to be worth much before we commenced our inquiry. I come now to other changes made by the Commissioner -
Telephone monitors, minimum raised from £114 to £126, and maximum from£126 to £150. Regular increments.
Telephone supervisors, minimum raised from £132 to£144, maximum from£138 to£156, and from £156 to £168 as per grade.
Telephonists, minimum from£32 to£39, adults£110, irrespective of service.
Those are rates for the women of the service, who have not been overlooked since the Commission began its inquiries.
Telegraph messengers, minimum raised from £26 to£39, maximum from £52 to £60.
Pole-dressers, minimum from £120 to £126, maximum from£32 to £150.
Time after time the Public Service Commissioner declared that the wages he was paying to the pole-dressers were an ample reward for the services they rendered. In spite of that repeated assertion, he has now acknowledged that they are entitled to the wages of a tradesman, as those figures show.
Ship mailmen, minimum raised from £120 to £126, grade bars removed ; maximum £150 to
Storemen, minimum from £120 to £126, grade bars removed ; maximum,£138 to £150.
Typists, minimum raised from £60 to £72. adults receive £126 irrespective of service ; maximum from£120 to£150.
As will be seen, the claims of both men and women typists are also recognised. He has not missed any of them this time, although he massed them all formerly -
Watchmen, raised from £120 to£126.
Cleaners also advanced.
I would rather have handed all those details to Hansard than have read them in full, but it was necessary for me to read them in order to put them on record, and have them published, so that all those interested may see what is being done, why it is being done, and how it is being done. I have not had an estimate made, but I should think that the difference between the rewards given to the service under this socalled new classificattion, or as I would rather call it the breaking down of the old classification, and the pay previously given to the service, must be at least £250,000 per annum. To that extent the Postal Service benefits. If the pay now given on the Public Service ‘Commissioner’s own classification, based on our report, is a fair reward for the services rendered, what must the position of the service have been before attention was drawn to it by constant agitation in the course of the Commission’s inquiry? The service must have been absolutely sweated in those days ; but the Public Service Commissioner turned round and said that “ Of course they did not do anything, because they were waiting for the Postal Commission’s report.” He practically belied that statement in his own evidence, when he said, on oath, that these increases were not warranted, and that the additional money would not be earned. Now that the service benefits to that extent even by the concessions that have already been made, they ought, I think, to be much more contented and energetic. Now that they have a chance of advancing by merit, the men and women in the service ought to work to achieve the best results possible, and to give the public the very best services that are in them. Apart from the question of salaries, look at the changes which the Public Service Commissioner has made in the administration. I have not yet dealt with organization, because that fits in with the more vital question of control and management, and when we come to consider the changes in organization, as well as the other changes, absolutely not a shadow of the old conditions - not enough even to identify them - is left. Those old conditions were the outcome of nine years’ efforts at administration by this public servant. If his system, his methods, his rewards, his classification, his grading are now all thrown to the winds, I would like to know what there is left standing to the credit of his reputation as an administrator of the affairs of a great service of this kind. The Public Service Commissioner says, and his Inspectors repeat it, for they evidently all learn the same tune, that the Public Service Inspectors are best qualified to judge the merits of the services rendered by any officer in the Department. I admit that after a thing is produced it is easy for a man to justify his position as a critic by altering some little detail, just as the Commissioner has altered his programme in this case to make it appear that he is omnipotent in this Department. In the first classification on which the Postal Service was based, the men were classified, and had the right of appeal to an Appeal Board, but they had to appear in person. They had no one to represent them. I do not mean to say that the Board treated them badly, or did not try to help them, but in any large body of men there are hound to be some nervous individuals who cannot put their own cases properly, and they would be liable to have their appeals cast out by reason of that infirmity. Mr. McKay, the Public Service Inspector, told us that he inspected the work of every man in the service in New South Wales before that first classification was made, and in spite of the disability under which those who appealed laboured, no fewer than 33 per cent, of the appeals were allowed by the Board. Mr. McKay was therefore wrong in one out of every three cases, and probably the proportion would have risen to one in two if all the men had been able to put their cases before the Board as they should. If that gentleman, after watching and inspecting the work of every officer, as he said he did, could not arrive closer to a just decision than that, he cannot be as well qualified to judge the value of the services of the officers as the head of a Department or the heads of branches would be if they were properly qualified to occupy those positions. There is therefore a duplication of work, and a duplication of expense, in that regard, without any corresponding advantage to the Department or to the country. Let us take the case of a senior Public Service Inspector of New South Wales. I wish to illustrate what has been the result of this magnificent reign of Mr. Duncan McLachlan, our Public Service Commissioner.
– The best man you ever had.
– I know he is a particular pet of the honorable member, and probably I shall have a word or two to say on that point a little later. A Department is generally judged by results.
– The honorable member is talking rubbish.
– The honorable member was amongst those Ministers who never thought this Commission would come to fruition. The result has been rather a disappointment to all of them.
– I do not know that it has been fruitful yet.
– I have shown that the tree has been bearing a magnificent crop. I have placed before the House some of the results. I have shown the state of the Department under Ministerial control, under departmental control, and under the Public Service Commissioner’s control ; and I have indicated the changes that have now been admitted to be necessary to bring the Department into something like working condition.
– Arid now it is under Webster control.
– lt is not under my control at all, but I am pleased to say that I have had something to do with relieving both the general public and the service itself from what would have been a very unfortunate position had things been allowed to continue in the old way. Let us now look at the system and what it has produced. Here we have a Public Service Inspector, Mr. McKay, dealing with some of the leading officers who climbed to the top of the tree under Mr. McLachlan’s system of promotion. When Mr. McKay was examined about the qualifications of one officer to take up the position of senior postal inspector, he . gave certain evidence which I shall quote. There is an anomaly in the State of New South Wales. That large State is subdivided into a number of districts, in which inspectors have to do the work of supervising the services of the officers of the Department. The most remarkable feature of this administrative system is that there is no connexion between the metropolitan area and the country districts, although the interests and the work of both are interdependent. The metropolitan area is under a senior inspector, and the country is run under individual inspectors. How uniformity of administration or action is to be obtained under such conditions is a problem which the Commission could not solve. The witness was asked with regard to that officer -
Is he a typical man for the position of senior postal inspector?
The answer was -
On some points the senior inspector is a very competent man -
That might mean at the table - but in others he is not so competent, but one has to take the best man available.
The next question was - ‘
As senior inspector is he responsible for the district inspectors of the State?
The answer was -
No, but he should be.
Therefore, the gentleman who had control of the Public Service in New South Wales, and who was responsible for making the machinery work smoothly, said that a certain officer had no control, but should have, and was “ the best man. available ! “ In other words, it means that the officer was the best of a bad lot ; and this is the result of years of administration under the supposed refined system of advancement - that instituted by the Commissioner. Now we come to question 47875, which shows how the service is run, according to Mr. McKay -
Is it not a fact that up till recently many offices had not been inspected in the country for a great length of time? - That is quite true, and I think the service suffers in consequence. I think it is absolutely essential for the proper conduct of the work of the Department to have frequent inspections of offices.
Mr. McKay knows what ought to be done, and he thinks it ought to be done, and yet it is not done. That is the system under the control of the Public Service Commissioner, the Central Office, and the Deputy Postmasters-General ; and while we have a man with power and no responsibility, we cannot escape results of the kind. The Commissioner is prepared to appoint officers, but evidently he is unable to see that the officers are put to duties which they can discharge effectively. Yet we are told that we have to speak in an undertone when we refer to the Commissioner and those associated with him. Questions 48116 and 48117 and 481 18 deal with the absence of power to remedy anomalies -
Xs there a disability owing to dual control as between the promotion of the staff as laid down by the Commissioner and the administration of the Department? - I think I have called attention to the fact that, although the Commissioner or his inspectors may direct attention to anomalies in the working of a Department, the_ Commissioner has no power to enforce a rectification of those anomalies, but he can refuse to grade a staff, or to supply additional staff, even though it be desired by a branch of the Department.
Do you consider that a weakness in the Commonwealth Public Service Act?- Yes.
Have you any means of overcoming it? - The only means would be to amend the law, so as to give the Commissioner power of enforcing something he regarded as necessary.
Here we have men in wrong positions, who are not giving the country their best services; and yet there is no power to make a change in the interests of the public. When we have regard to the type of officers produced under the old order, we cease to wonder at the results. I notice that the Public Service Commissioner complains in his report that the Royal Commission cut short his examination. I wish to tell the House, however, that the Public Service Commissioner had eighteen months’ or two years’ notice, and was permitted to make his statement in writing. He was supposed to give us the best in him, and he had months in which to prepare, with the help and advice of his inspectors. He had the evidence Pf every witness before him.; and his statement occupied eighteen and a half pages of closely-printed material ; yet he complains now that there were lots of things he intended to say, and which he had no opportunity to say. I may remark that I myself had him under examination for eight hours, and then I had not finished. The Commissioners did agree to meet again, and resume the evidence by the Public Service Commissioner, but that was in 1 9 10, when we had to go to face the electors. Two of the Commissioners did not come back to Parliament, though two did ; and, in any case, the newspapers, Parliament, and people generally began to demand our report. Some of my comrades must have been frightened, for they decided not to continue, on the ground that the written statement of the Public Service Commissioner ought to contain all he had to say. That is why that gentleman’s examination was not resumed. If he had anything “up his sleeve” - and he implied he had - it was not creditable on his part to keep it there when he had a chance to put it into his statement. If he was merely waiting for an inspiration from somebody else as to what he ought to say or do, he was evading his responsibility as a witness before the Commission. Yet the Commissioner complains in his report, which I have described as “ lamentations and apologies,” that his examination was cut short. The Public Service Commissioner is the greatest man at reporting I ever knew, and his reports are marvellous in their construction. One thing stands out prominently in them, namely, that Duncan McLachlan is always on top ; that everything he does is right, or, if it is not, it is better than is done in the States, and, therefore, every one ought to be satisfied. As to the opinion of the Publice Service Commissioner and his Inspectors, who say that they can judge what an officer is, I read the following evidence on page 23.11 -
Have you any knowledge of the fitness of the telephone manager in Brisbane for his position ? -
This is the evidence of Mr. McLachlan, who fixes the salaries, and who says he gets his knowledge only from papers supplied.
I have only the knowledge that I gel from the official papers about him, and it is said that he is not the best man for that particular position. The Department would like to have a better one.
But the Department evidently had not a better man, or he would be known to the Public Service Commissioner, who is responsible for the advancement of officers. If there were better’ men in the service, then one should have been sought, even if he were low clown in the scale of seniority. The following is question and answer No. 49950 : -
If Mr. Watson is inefficient, cannot he be removed? - 1 would not say he was so inefficient as that. He can conduct the business. The Commonwealth Public Service Inspector is of opinion that a more up-to-date man should be in the position.
This officer apparently gets along somehow, although the Commissioner is convinced that a better man should fill the position. There is a traffic manager in New South Wales in the telephone service, and this is said of him by Mr. McLachlan -
Are you aware that Mr. Nelson, the electrical engineer in New South Wales, maintains that the telephone traffic manager in Sydney is not the right man in the right place?- I believe he holds that view, but it is not uncommon for professional men to think that because an officer does not know as much as a professional man does technically, he is not a good man, whereas it might be the other way about.
Mr. Hesketh, who is a technical man, and, I admit, of high attainments, said in his evidence that it is essential to the proper working of a telephone exchange that the manager shall have technical knowledge; and in one case we found a manager so qualified, and his exchange and its administration were a great improvement on what was found under other conditions. Why did the Public Service Commissioner not get a better man ? We may assume that the service could not produce one. Here is another, and, perhaps, the most heartrending instance of a general state of inefficiency. It is shown in question and answer No. 48971 -
Is either death or retirement the only way by which an improvement can be effected in the officers in the Commonwealth Public Service? - That is so.
Evidently the only way in which the officering of the Postal Department can be improved is by death or retirement. Fancy that being said of a Department with 13,000 permanent hands. Amongst these must be men who must deteriorate from time to time, owing to their own fault or otherwise ; and yet there is no means of removing them to make room for better men.
– Does the Commissioner say that ?
– He says-
It is most difficult to get a man out of the service, or displace him from the position he is in.
Imagine a man trying to carry on business” without being able to discharge employes who are not capable of doing their work.
– Is it fair to make the Commissioner the only judge of an officer’s capacity ?
– I have not made him the only judge; this Parliament did so when it placed the service under his domination. To show how hopeless is the state into which the system has drifted, and how poor are the products which the gardener has reared after years of cultiva- tion, I instance the fact that, when a new Deputy Postmaster-General was needed for Western Australia recently, on the retirement of the former occupant of the office, the Commissioner had to go down several grades to get him. The next man to the Deputy Postmaster-General in each State is the Chief Clerk, who is supposed to be the understudy of his chief, and capable to act as substitute when the chief is on leave, or otherwise absent. Next in rank to the Chief Clerks come the Chief Accountants, and then the Chief Electrical Engineers. The Western Australian position could not be filled by any of the Chief Clerks, by any of the Chief Accountants, by any of the Chief Electrical Engineers, or by any of the Mail Branch Managers. The Commissioner had to take the Assistant Mail Manager in New South Wales, who was getting a salary of about £360, and promote him to the position at ^700.
– He is a good man.
– Yes. The recommendations of the Commission are being adopted, and merit is being recognised, without regard to the tree of promotion which figured in one of the Public Service Commissioner’s reports. But this case illustrates the weakness of the service. A position on the top branch having become vacant, none of the four men on the second branch was capable of filling it, none on the third, fourth, or fifth. It was not until the sixth branch was reached that a capable man was found. That shows how ineffective the selection of officers by the Public Service Inspectors has been. They are supposed to supervise and correct the recommendations of the Deputy PostmastersGeneral ; but they do not do it. We had the Chief Clerks before us. I do not wish to injure any one; but 1 have my duty to perform, and it cannot be done in kid gloves. One Chief Clerk came before us, and we commenced to examine him ; but he was so hopeless that we had to let him go. Nothing was to be got out of him, because there was nothing in him. He was a standing joke. In Western Australia, we found a man of similar type. As to the man in Queensland, the least said the soonest mended. He had been the head of the Staff Committee. The nearer the men are to the throne, the sooner they get the crown. This man had risen more quickly than a man in the lower ranks would ordinarily rise, and had attained a position which, in my judgment, in that of the Commission, and in that of the Commissioner and his officers, he was not capable of filling. The only Chief Clerk worthy of his position was the man in New South Wales. The Public Service Inspector recommended him highly for promotion; but the Department jockeyed him out of it. He is an able, honest public servant in every sense of the words, and has for years been a slave to duty, carrying the burden of administration in an acting capacity for half the time during the past five years. By reason of some influence which cannot be analyzed, he was driven, as he admitted in his evidence, to withdraw his name from an application for promotion, feeling that he would not be able to work happily with those who were hungering for it.
– What evidence did he give to that effect?
– The Honorary Minister can refer to his evidence. Were I to read every question and answer, I should never finish. This is evidence to which I direct attention - question 49009 -
Taking the officers to whom I have referred, such as the telegraph manager in Queensland, telephone managers, and chief clerks, would those men set a standard that would induce the staff to possess a higher appreciation of their duties to the Commonwealth ? - In certain cases they would not. We live in hopes of getting better men when they go out. There is room for improvement.
What an admission of weakness ! There is hope of improvement only when men occupying prominent positions in the various States leave the service. The Department cannot get rid of them. We found that, there was no such thing as accountancy in the service,” and only one duly certificated! accountant. iHe was tired of his job. He made a report which, had it been acted on in the early days of Federation, would have prevented a great deal of trouble; but one accountant has no chance against so many so-called accountants who are not qualified. In the Department a man cannot rise higher than the high water mark, and if heis where the tides are low he cannot risevery high. Men have to conform to the standard set to them, and a brilliant man iscrushed down, or crushed out of the service by his superior officers. Bright mert who could not tolerate the system have left the service at the first opportunity, to seek better employment elsewhere. The Public Service Commissioner complained of the character of the employes in the clerical division in New South Wales in 1902 and 1903, saying that the standard was low, and the creation of the State regime, but God knows if anything could be lower thanthe standard produced by his regime. Although he contended that their standard was low, and that they were inefficient, he took away twenty of the brightest lads, and put them into the Customs Department, making a weak service still weaker. As I have mentioned, I asked the Chief Accountant whether he could tell us how the Department stood, what we owe, what we have in hand, and so on, but he could not tell us. That was three years ago, and we do not know the position now. The men in the Accountancy Branch were not fit for their work, and the service was like a shipwithout a rudder. The accountant should be the “ king pin,” the guiding star of the. administration; but in Tasmania an accountant drawing £500 a year, after sub- mitting a statement which he swore was hisown, could not tell us anything about it; and we ultimately discovered that it was drawn up by an inferior officer, getting, about £260 a year, who was the only mar*, who could explain it. The other man fainted off, to get out of the difficulty. When you find an officer like that at the head of a Department-
– Is the honorable member sure that he was the man?
– The name of the mar* who occupied this high position was Octa- “vius Lord.- One would hardly expect to find another case of the kind in. the course of such an inquiry ; but we did. We went to South Australia, where there was supposed to be an accountant in charge of the big financial branch of the Department. This accountant submitted to us a statement which we subsequently found had been compiled by some one else. He swore to it ; out later on could not identify any part of it. Subsequently, we had before us an officer of the Audit Department, who admitted that he had prepared every line of the statement. The man who had presented it to us as his own statement, thinking that he could bluff us, was unable to explain any part of it, and did not seem to be familiar with the simplest proposition in it ; yet he was at the head of an important “branch of the service. Is that not sufficient to prove what this system of controlling the :service by a Commissioner has produced? Is it any wonder that the Department should have occupied the position that it did in 1907 ? Unless radical changes are made, not at the bottom, but at the top of the service, we shall return again to the old state of affairs.
– The Act must be amended.
– That, too, must be changed. If we are to have a service that will be a credit to the country, and which will be up to date and efficiently and economically managed, we must have in charge of it men who stand at the very head of their profession, and who will be ready to reward the deserving officers. A young and “brilliant officer should be placed in the posiition for which nature has fitted him, irrespective of his age or any question of seniority.
– Who is going to be the judge of that?
– The man who knows :his work.
– Where are we going to :find him?
– I am surprised that the honorable member should ask such a -question.
– The honorable member -would also give the foreman power to sack -a man if he did not suit him?
– Yes j but under the -existing order of things there is no such power, and a man may remain in the service until he is removed by death or reaches the retiring age.
– Does not the honorable member think that we must amend the Act?
– Yes ; but we must have, in addition, at the head of a Department a man who is qualified to judge.
– How would the honorable member find him?
– Surf ,y the honorable member would not be con’.ent to stick in the mud because he could not see any clear way of getting on to ..olid ground.
– We have the whole world to choose from.
– We have, if necessary ; and good men are to be found. I do not desire to give all the examples that I could put before the House on this phase of the subject, but there are one or two more quotations which I propose to make. The Commissioner was asked -
If a man said, in effect, that he was responsible for a statement, and it was afterwards found out that he was not, would that man be lit to control a body of men.
He replied, “ No. I should say he was a very weak man.” Yet such a man was the product of management of the service by a Public Service Commissioner. He was asked, further, in regard to Mr. Kinmond, central office accountant -
As central accountant, does he practically occupy the position of your proposed chief accountant ? -
He replied -
Yes, but as I say, it wants, in my opinion, a very much bigger man. Mr. Kinmond might do as an assistant to such a man, but he is not the type of chief accountant that I have in view, although he is exercising that position to-day.
That was prior to the adoption of the Commission’s recommendation by the appointment of an accountant from the railway service of Western Australia. The Commissioner admitted that he had to put in these positions men who were much too small, although bigger men were necessary. Regarding the power of the Public Service Commissioner to select officers, and the necessity for a Public Service Inspector to supervise the work of departmental officers in selecting men for different purposes, the Commissioner had a great deal to say. He urged that such powers were absolutely necessary. He always kept in front the importance of his presence on the ship, yet he admitted in answer to question 49325 that during the whole of his seven years’ administration he did not think there had been twenty refusals of applications for increased staff in Sydney. Imagine the necessity of a Public Service Commissioner and a staff of officers for the purpose of rejecting twenty cases in a State like New South Wales, where there are- nearly 5,000 officers. Twenty cases have been disallowed in seven years, and there is no proof that the Commissioner was right in all those cases. All the circumlocution and all those safeguards which he says are so necessary in the public interest, have resulted in his having to refuse the recommendations of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of New South Wales in about twenty cases during a period of seven years. Surely that ought to be enough to convince any one that to continue that sort of service is not only unwise, but absolutely unjustifiable. In answer to another question, the Public Service Commissioner said that there was not much trouble now. The Deputy Postmasters-General and the Public Service Inspectors are now in almost total agreement on all questions. Is it not truly marvellous? A few years ago when there were a few vacancies for Deputy PostmastersGeneral, we had a scramble going on in the Department. We had one man cutting another man’s throat, and each striving to get into favour. The result was that die recommendations of the officers then officiating were more closely scrutinized than at any other time. When the office of Deputy Postmaster-General of New South Wales became vacant, the Public Service Commissioner recommended Mr. McKay for the position. He recommended not a man in the Department, but an officer in his own branch of the service. It was ruled by the authorities, however, that Mr. McKay could not legally occupy the office. The Public Service Commissioner was advised that he could, and possibly Mr. McKay would have been the best man for the position, but because of this legal disability, . a worse man, according to the Commissioner, obtained it. There we have another illustration of the remarkable power which the Public Service Commissioner is able to exercise with regard to officers in his own Department. Another vacancy arose in Victoria, and again the Public Service Commissioner recommended that the position of Deputy Postmaster-General in this State should be filled by the then Public Service Inspector for Victoria. It was held that he could not take the position, and the result of that ruling is, according to the Commissioner, that the service secures an inferior officer for want of a merely nominal amendment of the law. I am not here to say whether or not these Public Service Inspectors would have been the most suitable officers to appoint to these positions, but I do know that the progress of a man in the Department of the PublicService Commissioner is very rapid. He isunder the eye of the administrator of the service, and has a better chance of advancement than has a man in any other part of the public service. The position was the same in Queensland, under the old’ staff system. I spoke about the senior inspector in New South Wales not being ableto make inspections anywhere outside the metropolitan area. I may mention that Mr.. Golding, the Electrical Construction Engineer, was also confined to the metropolitan area. We found that he had no power to control country districts which wanted? guidance and development, and that there was no continuity of supervision. The work in country districts was left to thesenior lineman or any employes who chanced to be able to give details. Therewas no connecting link between them and the officer charged with the administration of the metropolitan area in this regardOnly recently we had in New South Wales electrical engineers who for months had noengineering work to do. They had simply to engineer a pen over a piece of paper. They were doing clerical work, and were deprived of the opportunity to develop their special knowledge, which was really lost to the Department. This is the way in which the Department has been administered as the result of the system I am now discussing. Of course, it was said that these men have grown up in the system ;. but the trouble is that they do not grow bigger. The system, we are told, will not produce bigger men, and, therefore, wehave to put up with the best we can get. The Public Service Commissioner said in reply to question 49158, “ I took the best that was offered to me.” That iswhat he always said when he found himself in a difficulty. He admitted that a particular man might not bethe best that could be produced, but he said, “ The opportunity exists in the Department, but men do not rise to it.” I suppose they rise to a certain standard and cannot get any higher.
– Perhaps there is noincentive to rise.
– That seems possible when we examine the improved scale as now introduced by the Commissioner. We have Sir Robert Scott and Mr. McLachlan, the one Scott by name, and the other Scot by nature; one running the Department, and the other supposed to be running it. Sir
Robert Scott, of the central office, alleges that the whole system of control by Commissioner is absolutely ill-adapted for a service of this kind. Mr. McLachlan retorts that Sir Robert Scott knows nothing about it. Those are the opinions of the two men at the top, but I was glad to find, as shown in the answer to question 49377, put by me to Mr. McLachlan, an agreement on at least one point -
On page 131 of the Minutes of Evidence, the following evidence was given in regard to Mr. Young, and the overtime worked in Sydney : - 3723. Do you not think that the Permanent Head of the Department should have made himself acquainted with the disability under which the then Deputy was labouring? - I think it would have been impossible. The Permanent Head is tied to his table to an even greater extent than is the Deputy.
What is your opinion in regard to that matter? - That evidence is a corroboration of what I said all along. It is impossible for the Secretary to thoroughly do the managerial work of a large Department.
In other words, he says he is tied down, the Secretary is tied down, and the Deputy Postmaster-General is tied down. I should like to know who is loose in the Department. All those men admit that they are tied down, cannot do their work, and have no opportunity of effecting proper supervision, regulation, or organization. They plead that it is impossible for them to do, even if they are able to do it, the work which they are called upon to discharge in their positions. What a humiliating admission for men of their standing to make ! Things that are tied together do not generally agree, and those gentlemen, tied down, agree at last.
I come now to the crux of this problem - the question of the management of the Department. It is marvellous how those three Scots - Mr. McLachlan, Mr. McKay, and Sir Robert Scott - are interested in questions of management. The two Macs are specially in evidence, as the canny Scotsman always is when there is anything to manage at all. They agree that the present condition is absolutely impossible - that it is hopeless to expect the Department ever to succeed under the Secretary. They are both positive on that point. When asked what system should be substituted, Mr. McLachlan suggested a manager to take charge, with the Secretary under him. Mr. McKay also recommended a manager. When Mr. McKay was asked if he would go to other countries for a manager, he said, “No.” When asked if he thought he could find a man in Australia capable of filling the posi tion, he said, “Yes, one.” When asked who was the one, he said, “ Duncan McLachlan.” I do not know whether there is any family relationship between those two men, but if there is not, there ought to be, because of the kindly feeling they have towards one another when a question of advancement is at stake. When Mr. Duncan McLachlan had to fill the office of Deputy Postmaster-General in Sydney, which was practically a steppingstone to the Secretaryship, he wanted to put in Mr. McKay, so that Mr. McKay would subsequently become Secretary, and Mr. McLachlan would have been king of the other place. They would have managed it all between them. However, he did not get the position. Mr. McKay said that only one man with a broad outlook was available as manager, and that was Duncan McLachlan. When we asked Mr. McLachlan whom he would recommend as manager, he said the man he had in his mind’s eye as being able to do the work was not in the Postal Service, but was in the Public Service ! Of course Mr. McKay has since become “ the real McKay “ in the Land Tax Department, and so is out of the way. Mr. McLachlan recommends a manager for the Department, but the Royal Commission recommend the appointment of a Board of Control. We say that a Department of this kind cannot now, and never will be, effectively conducted unless there is a man at the head of each branch of the service. Let honorable members try to imagine what the Department will become in a few years with the expansion of population that we hope for. The Department now employs 20,000 permanent and temporary employes, with a population of only 4,000,000 people. Can any man say how many it will employ when we have a population of 20,000,000, which we hope to get within the next decade or two? Are we to provide only for to-day, and not for the future? Charged, as we are, with the administration of the affairs of the people, are we not bound to look ahead ? The Department is capable of expansion in many directions before it becomes equal to the Postal Services of other countries. There are many other ways in which it could meet the convenience of the public, which have not yet been attempted. If we extend its usefulness, bringing it into touch with every home in the country, carrying its ramifications through the bush and back-blocks to the isolated settlers everywhere, will it bc possible to find one man capable of managing it all? It will be enough for one man to look after the postal facilities alone. That branch of the Department alone spends between £1,000,000 and £2,000,000 sterling a year. No progressive American would think of running a business of £4,000,000 a year, with three great branches, with only one manager. A man who suggested such a scheme to him would be regarded as insane. Yet in this community the Public Service Commissioner, while acknowledging all the defects of the system hitherto followed, wants to put the Department under one manager. That is an absurdity when we consider the great responsibilities involved in the administration of the Postal, Telephonic, and Telegraphic Services, with wireless telegraphy developing rapidly, and likely to become more intimately interwoven with our daily life, with telephony spreading and carrying the voice of the people to the most distant and isolated quarters, with the day of the automatic telephone at hand - a development to which we recommended in our report that keen attention should be given, and which is destined to further popularize the use of the telephone - and with all the possibilities of change and advancement that the genius of man may accomplish. Are we to leave the management of all this in the hands of a man who has had practically no experience, no training, and no knowledge of the fundamental requirements of a big Department of that kind ? We of the Postal Commission, who had no axe to grind in this matter, and gave the best of our services and intelligence practically free to the people of this country, have no object in advising the Government and Parliament to do anything but what we believe to be right. We have had far more opportunities than any of the officers of the Department in investigating the whole of the surroundings of this case. What opportunity have Postmasters-General, even if they have the capacity of giants, of grasping the magnitude of this question? Therefore, the recommendations of the Commission should have weight with the Government and the Minister. If the Minister has any respect for the members of the Commission, any regard for the evidence they took, or the conclusions they arrived at, then his duty is to pay serious attention to that all-important section of their report, namely, the Board of Control. We want, at the head of the Postal Branch, a man who is, first of all, a born organizer, a man with financial knowledge, who will see that the accounts are kept in a proper condition, who is able to handle men, and who has a general knowledge of administrative affairs. Men of that class are found in other countries, and can be found here. We want a man to take charge of the Postal Service solely. We want an expert to take charge of the great Telephonic Service and Telegraphic Service. When we get those three men, charged with the responsibilities of those three branches of this large Department, this Parliament will be able to receive their reports, and to know something of what is going on - a knowledge which it has not had in the past. They will be responsible to this Parliament, which will hold them to their trust. Having put men qualified for the duties into those positions, we shall have nothing to blame ourselves for, we shall have done the best we can to remedy the evils that we know to exist, and to bring about a lasting and beneficial reform in the great Department with which I have had the honour to deal to-night.
– We want continuity of policy also.
– Continuity of policy will follow as night follows day, or the sun follows the moon. With such a body of practical men continuity of policy would be assured. Whilst we recommend a Board of Control, it is only to manage the Department, and not to interfere with the policy. The policy of the service must be preserved to the Minister and to this Parliament, which is responsible to the people of this country.
– That is the political policy.
– The political policy, and practically the policy regarding such matters as minimum wage and other important questions.
– How does the honorable member distinguish between policy and business ?
– The policy of such a Department cannot be established by regulation. It must be fixed by law, and the only body that can make that law is. this Parliament, which will act at the instance of the Minister. . The conduct of the Department would be established by regulation. Its business would be established by the Board of Management, and so we should get the whole position complete.
At present we have this glorious and latest production of the Public Service
Commissioner. I would not say a hard word unjustifiably against any man, but when we have an official who has given the evidence I have read, and who makes the statements he did subsequently, I am warranted in dissecting the position in the keenest way of which I am capable. This is a memorandum prepared by the Public Service Commissioner on the Postal Commission. In that memorandum the Commissioner said -
It is perhaps sufficient to remark that a number of the changes of administration indicated by the Royal Commission were under consideration prior to the advent of that body.
That is a. very vague statement, because there is scarcely anything under the sun that is not a long time in the incubator before it is hatched. What we required was his evidence when he had the chance to give it. It is not enough for him to say that things were premeditated or under consideration ; he had the chance to tell us in his evidence what the proposals were. He did not, however, take advantage of that opportunity, and only tells us now, when he knows what the report of the Commission contains, what was contemplated. That, in my opinion, is not straight dealing. He further says -
As a matter of fact, the appointment of the Royal Commission was the signal for holding in abeyance all changes except those of a manifestly urgent nature.
If that statement is true, it indicates that he did not give the Commission what he professed to give on his oath, namely, the utmost he knew of the Department and of the intentions of those who administer it. If that be so, then he is an officer who is not worthy of admiration. There was no doubt he was waiting for the report, but he was waiting for the guidance that it would give him. He further on says -
It was, of course, recognised by the Government -
I wonder which Government, because there have been two or three since -
It was, of course, recognised by the Government, and by the Public Service Commissioner, that it would be unwise and impolitic to introduce any proposals seriously affecting the working of the Public Service while a Royal Commission ‘was engaged in investigating the condition of ‘the Department, and such proposals had perforce to be held over until such time as they could be fairly carried into effect.
I have previously read a list of the proposals which were adopted between the beginning of the inquiry and the date of our report; and there is no doubt that those who had control carried out all the suggestions that they could read into the evidence.
The only. thing the Commissioner “did not do was what he said did not require to be done, namely, to put the service in a better condition in the interests of the public. Yet the Public Service Commissioner has the audacity to put a report like this before intelligent men. The Commission were quite willing that any suggestions that could be gathered from the evidence for the good of the service should be adopted. The Public Service Commissioner is on the horns of a dilemma ; if he did not do what ought to have been done, he neglected his duty ; and if he did it, and did not say so when he was giving his evidence, he . was deceiving the Postal Commission. Under the circumstances, there is no warrant for this report, which is an effort of the Public Service Commissioner to justify himself in the eyes of the public and of those who employ him. In the course of the report the Public Service Commissioner does what a lawyer does - he abuses the other side in order to make his own look the brighter. Every time he refers to the Postal Commission he seems to say, “It is evident they have not been able to grasp all the facts as they are exhibited in ordinary administration.” It is “ Duncan,” and “Duncan” all the time. He practically blames the associations in the following words-
In analyzing the evidence placed before the Royal Commission, and reading in connexion therewith the recommendations of that body, the conclusion arrived at by the Public Service Commissioner is that there has been a tendency to attribute greater weight and importance to the views of Public Service Associations than would appear to have been justified on the merits of the statements submitted.
Who was to judge - he or the Royal Commission? Would he have liked the Commission to call each individual, and to have thus protracted their proceedings indefinitely? The Royal Commission took the course recognised in modern industrialism, and examined the officers of the associations in order to get some concrete proposition - something worthy of consideration. The Public Service Commissioner blames us for not inquiring as to the numbers in the associations. I happen to be in a position to know the numbers pretty well in every association in the Postal Service; and I do not see what right the Public Service Commissioner has to sit in judgment on me because I did not proclaim the fact from the housetops. It matters not, however, what the numbers in the associations arethe witnesses called represented the men.
The Public Service Commissioner had the opportunity to counteract any evidence to which he thought consideration was not clue. Further on in his report, he tries to hide behind the law, and says there are many things he could not do because of the law. But what of those things he has done without the law since? He tries to shelter behind some legal disability which does not exist. Then, again, he says -
It is certain that in the fulness of time the circumstances of the transferred Departments will have altered very materially as vacancies occur and officers trained under modern conditions of management rise to positions of importance and responsibility.
When the young men rise and grow, he hopes that, in days to come, we shall have officers who will do credit to the Department. But what is the Department to do in the meantime ? No doubt we can keep it going if we have plenty of oil on the wheels. If there is a Government in power with plenty of money to meet the demands of bad management, we, no doubt, can tide over the difficulty. But, if ever the time arrives when the Treasurer has to consider the position of the finances, we shall feel the results of present mismanagement, and discontent will once more permeate the service, as it ever must do when there is no effective control and no proper understanding between the staff and those at the head. He further says -
There was justification for larger additions of staff than were provided by Parliament. Much could have been done by efficient administration to improve the organization and management of the Department, so as to obtain better results.
What an admission ! But this, of course, was not because of Mr. McLachlan - only the management and organization were deficient. The Public Service Commissioner thus tries to excuse himself for the position into which he has got. The most pitiful wail of all comes later on when, in reference to the Board of Control, he endeavours to show that such a body would mean a vast increase in the staff - from seven to twenty-two. The Public Service Commissioner, however, does not give us any idea of the number of officers who are employed on staff business, advising the State Deputy PostmastersGeneral. He tries to prejudice the proposal by making it appear most costly, and as tending to multiply, to an enormous extent, the difficulties and duties of the Chief Officer. As a matter of fact, however, the Deputy Postmasters-General are supposed to do that work to-day, and would, under our proposal, be relieved of it. The Staff Committee would be appointed to perform the duties, and there would be a Board of Management, as a Board of Appeal. I shall endeavour to show, in a few moments, exactly what the Chief Officer is called upon to do to-day; and it is marvellous that the Public Service Commissioner should try to throw dust in the eyes of those who read this report. He says that the Chief Officer has - to furnish the Public Service Commissioner during the month of March in each year in accord with section 2r (4) of Public Service Act 1902 a report upon the conduct, diligence, and general efficiency of each officer in 5th class of the Clerical Division.
Now before a Chief Officer can furnish a report he must understand what he is reporting about. Before he can estimate the diligence, efficiency, and conduct of an officer, he must know what work that officer is doing. If he is doing what he is bound to do by law, what is the meaning of this clap-trap about the impossibility of a Staff Committee doing it under the control of a Board of Management? These are some of the duties of the Chief Officer -
Duplicating Public Service Inspectors.
To report re unfitness or incapacity of an officer to Public Service Commissioner.
To report re promotion of officers from 5th class to 4th class, Clerical Division, and from F to Class E, Professional.
To report re transfers of officers within the 5th and 4th classes, Clerical Division, and Class V, Professional Division, and all cases of transfer or promotion in General Division of officers below Grade XI.
In all cases of promotion to the third anc higher classes, Clerical Division, Class D, and higher classes, Professional Division, Grades XI. and XII., General Division, and (4) transfers within such classes or grades in addition te transfers within Class E, Professional Division, recommendations should be submitted through the Permanent Head or Chief Officer.
Negotiations re leasing of premises when indorsed by Central Office, agreements, &c, to be performed by Deputy Postmaster-General direct with Secretary to Department of Home Affairs.
Electrical engineers to communicate direct with postmasters re new works and maintenance ; also with Chief Electrical Engineer direct re plans, specifications, material, statistics, to facilitate business.
Direct communications between Chief Accountant, Central Office, and Electrical Engineer, on routine matters affecting Department’s accounts.
Deputies apply for special advances direct to Treasury, instead of Central Office.
By Chief Officer in place of Permanent Head.
Granting 24 days’ extra leave for unavoidable overtime worked in remote centres; leave to accumulate to 48 days;
Additional allowance, added to travelling allowance in certain cases.
Cleaning allowances, and also bicycles, £10 and£4 respectively ; also, horse allowance liberalized, and 15s. per month for typewriter.
Full record to be kept, no payment for bringing up arrears of work winch properly comes within the scope of their ordinary duties. Time off in lieu, overtime to the extent of twenty hours in any financial year may be paid without reference to the Commissioner.
No overtime until 88 hours have been worked in two weeks, applies to principal telegraph offices, where there are change of staff, no overtime for country offices without express sanction of Chief Officer. This only applies to Clerical and Professional Department.
Annual report on 5th Class Officers re conduct, diligence, and general efficiency of each officer, Permanent Head may assign his powers to Chief Officer, who will submit, through In. spector, to Public Service Commissioner.
Transfers exceeding three months to be submilted to Public Service Inspector.
Officers in remote localities to get preference in transfers.
Vacancies to be reported to Inspector by Chief Officer, who is generally called upon to advise Inspector, and through him, Public Service Commissioner.
Re increments General Division, Chief Officer still to advise on general claim of officer.
Classification of Professional Division.
Subject to favorable report by the Chief Officer, every officer of the Professional Division in Class F with twelve months’ service shall be eligible to receive annual increase on the recommendation of the Commissioner, such increase not exceeding £20 until he reaches , £160 per annum.
Abolition of section 119, re non-competitive examinations and exemptions of certain officers.
Temporary employment. - Permanent Head or Chief Officer to select, remuneration subject to review by Public Service Commissioner.
Depends on recommendation of Permanent Head and certificate of Public Service Commissioner. New scale of proportionate furlough adapted. Eliminate Permanent Head.
Those are only a few of the many duties imposed on the Chief Officer. The Commissioner is attempting to mislead, by throwing dust in our eyes, when he says that men cannot do what he must admit they are practically doing now, and so effectively that, according to him, there have only been twenty cases of refusal in New South Wales during seven years. His statement throughout is always, “ I intend to do this ; I had that in mind; I have hatched out the eggs as quickly as possible.” Unfortunately, he has claimed to be the producer of the eggs, whereas he has been only the incubator ; but every egg has proved fertile.
– The honorable member suggests that, while he laid the eggs, the Commissioner has done the cackling.
– The Commission produced the eggs, but the Commissioner has cackled as it he had laid them. They say that the hen that cackles never lays. There is one humiliating passage in the Commissioner’s report which I would have rather cut my hand off than have written, had I been he. It is this -
As a matter of fact, the Commissioner’s evidence was abruptly terminated owing to the travelling arrangements of the Royal Commission, and, although some indication was given that the taking of his evidence would be resumed at a later date, this was not done.
That statement is made to cause it to be thought that the Commission did not do its duty, and did not give the Commissioner every chance to be heard. On the contrary, he had nearly two years in which to put his views before the Commission. The evidence was submitted to him, and he had officers to dissect it. He put before the Commission a statement covering eighteen and a half closely-printed pages, but if he did not give us what he had to give, he was unfaithful to his duty. As a matter of fact, he was not sorry to get a spell. I myself was becoming a little weary. It takes one all his time to hold the Public Service Commissioner, and to keep him in hand for eight hours is an ordeal. I shall not read other portions of the evidence of the Commissioner and Mr. McKay on management, but I refer honorable members to questions 48861, 48864, 48865, 48866, 48868, 48876, 48877, and 48892. The questions to which I refer honorable members for Mr. McKay’s evidence on the point are 47750, 47754, 47755, 47758 - that is the question in the answer to which he says, “ Mac is the man” - 47759. 47768, 47769. and 48991 These are the questions, the answers to which contain the opinion of these two eminent administrators with regard to the position of manager. They want one manager of the Department. I do not know what the Government propose to do. They have done pretty well up to date in connexion with subordinate matters, but I am waiting to learn whether they will deal with the fundamental question affecting this Department in a manner which will do credit to them, and to all concerned. Unless they do so, they, and we, will have to return to this subject before many years are over. In view of the knowledge we now possess, we shall be unable to excuse ourselves by saying that we did not know what was required, and it will go hard with the party who, having the power to make the necessary reform in the management of this Department, neglected to do so. Mr. Mclachlan himself admits that there must be a manager. It is impossible to run this Department successfully under a secretary, as we are trying to do to-day. Let honorable members imagine the kind of secretary we have. He is mainly a clerical officer, though he is now at the head of the Department. He has had little, if any, experience in telegraphy, and other sciences, the officers connected with which he has to control. He went with the PostmasterGeneral of the day to attend the International Postal Conference, which was held on the Continent, and when he came back, and presented himself as a witness, and was asked, “ Can you tell us anything of the systems that are in operation in the older countries of Europe, or in England,” this man, who was aspiring to be head of the Department, and had had the opportunity of his life to make rapid inquiries into the systems and methods in operation in the countries he visited, answered, “ I do not know ; I did not inquire.”
– Who was this?
– The present Secretary of the Post and Telegraph Department.
– Was he sent Home to get that information?
– No; he went Home with the Postmaster-General to attend the Postal Conference, but he had a good deal of time at his disposal. Junior officers df the Department who went Home at their own expense took far more interest in the Department than this aspirant for the highest position in it. They went Home in their own time, and spent their own money gaining information which we did not possess in Australia, and they submitted it to the Postal Commission when they were asked to do so, for the advancement of the country and the benefit of the service. While these men could do that, what was done elsewhere was apparently a matter of no concern to the gentleman who was aspiring to be at the head of the service. He was one of the system. It was good enough for him, and he did not care about other systems at all. It had produced him, and he did not wish to inquire into innovations and system’s he knew not of, and could not understand, probably, if he had investigated them. These are the hard facts we have to face. I say to the Government, “ Do the right thing, and go the whole way. Appoint a Board of Control, remodel the service, and put it under the control of men capable of conducting it. Let the staff be governed by men in close contact with them, who will understand their work, and be able to assess its value. Let the whole management of the Department depend in sections on three managers. Let the policy be dictated by the Government or Parliament, and let three competent men be responsible for the management of the service. Put the finances of the Department in order as quickly as possible, as any business men would dOj and then, in Australia, we shall have a post and telegraph service of which any one might be proud.” If this were done I say, unhesitatingly, that it would relieve members of this House of a great deal of worry and trouble. If it be contended that what I propose would permit the introduction of political influence, my. answer is that, by the adoption of the recommendations of the Postal Commission, political influence would be more effectively kept out, because there would be no need for it. It is brought to bear in connexion with a department of this kind, Only when injustice is rife, and men are without a means of redress. With’ such a board of management as I have referred to, the conduct of the Department would be such that there would be no need for men to come to this Parliament per.sonally, or collectively, for the redress of grievances. Such conditions as those which have naturally sprung from the lack of system followed in the past, could not possibly be reproduced under the system recommended by the Postal Commission in their report. I appeal to the AttorneyGeneral especially in this matter. It is through him, very largely, that I am to-night moving the adoption of the Commission’s report. Had it not been for the service I offered to render him when he was away in England I should never have been brought into contact with the centre of trouble which existed at that time, and would not Have been induced to focus my attention on this great question. I thank the honorable gentleman for giving trie the opportunity to do plenty of work for nothing, and for opening to me the door for an investigation of the service. The Sydney General Post Office is still in the honorable gentleman’s electorate, _ and he bas a greater individual and political concern in the matter than I have. I appeal to him, therefore, not to stop half-way. Let the Government appoint, not one manager, but a full board of control, and let us have this great Department conducted as though it were providing for the next twenty years, instead of a day. I have nothing further to say. I have done my duty. I have done my best to fight the battles of the Postal Commission . in this House against all odds. . I have done my best as a member of the Commission, and have laboured day and night. I have often been pointed at as working night after night, not excepting Sunday night, in this building in the effort to master the condition of affairs in this Department. I have been away from my home, deprived of its comforts, and my people have been deprived of my company. The work has been to me a labour of love without any hope of reward. I have been engaged in it now for four years, and, God knows, I am proud to-night to have arrived at the end of my task, and to be able to say that, for the future, the week-end is my own. Q have done my best for the country I have the honour to be a representative of, to advance the interest of the Government and the party to which I belong, and to help to improve the condition of affairs in a very important public Department. I have done al] I can to put the position clearly before the House. I am sorry that I have taken so long, but I was determined to do my duty. I have striven to lay before the House, in an unbiased planner, the conclusions at which I have arrived. I now leave the Government, with the information at their disposal, to act as they think fit ; but, in future, it can never be said of me that, whilst I had obtained certain information regarding the working of this great Department, I made no attempt to use it for the betterment of the service, and to forward the interests of the country and of the Parliament, and for the satisfaction of a conscience which I have always had, and trust shall continue to have, to guide me in the discharge of my public duty.
Debate (on motion by Mr, Frazer) adjourned.
Bill returned from Senate without amendment
House adjourned at 10.48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 November 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1911/19111109_reps_4_61/>.