8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Adjournment of Parliament
– Has the Prime Minister yet decidedhow long Parliament shall adjourn during the visit of the Prince ofWales?
– Last week the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) put into my hand a question on the subject, which, answering offhand, I misapprehended, and apparently consented to an adjournment over the whole period of the Prince’s stay in Australia. I had no intention to do that, and, by leave of the House, I shall take an early opportunity to make a general statement on the subject.
– In view of the statement which has appeared in the press during the past few days regarding the development of Papua and German New Guinea in the matter of oil production, I ask the Minister if he will give permits to Australian prospectors toseek for gold and other metals in German New Guinea ?
– No permits will he granted to any one until our mandate in regard to German New Guinea has been finally settled. Whatever may be done then will be a matter of policy.
– As there is a shortage of shipping on the Australian coast I desire to ask the Minister in charge of shipping whether it would not be possible to utilize in the Inter-State service the wooden ships constructed in the United States, to the order of the Commonwealth, and which are nowfor sale?
– I understand that the five wooden ships to which the honor able member refers have been sold, but I will obtain for him definite information on the subject.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the necessity of making Australia self-contained so far as sugar supplies are concerned, is the Government prepared to render every assistance to stimulate the production of sugar beet in Australia?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
It is not considered that further Commonwealth assistance could reasonably be given to the sugar-beet industry which is already assisted by -
The Commonwealth Government through the import duty of £10 per ton on beet sugar, and £6 per ton on cane sugar.
The State Government of Victoria in which the only beet-sugar factory in Australia is situated.
During the years 1903 to 1913 a Commonwealth bounty on sugar beet was in operation, but it failed to lead to production on a large scale.
The existing duty, coupled with the high price of sugar, and the assistance now rendered by the State Government, should be sufficient to stimulate this industry.
Issue to Teachers
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the smallcost involved in printing, he will cause a proof copy of all Hansards issued to be forwarded to the head masters of all public and State schools in Australia?
– The matter is one for determination by the President and Mr. Speaker.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– It is not proposed to allow the club to re-open at present.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Whether it is possible to provide benefits under the War Service Homes Act for munition workers who did not enter into an agreement with the Commonwealth of Australia or with the Minister for Defence?
– The War Service Homes Act does not include these classes, and consequently it would not be possible to extend the benefits of that measure to them.
Facilities in Country Districts.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– On the 15th inst., the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) asked me the following questions : -
I then promised to have inquiries made, and am now able to supply the following answers : - 1 and 2. I am not able to say.
The following papers were presented : -
Adriatic Question - Correspondence relating to. (Paper presented to the British Parliament.)
Defence Act -Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 56.
Public Service Act-Promotion of T. L. Legg, Attorney-General’s Department.
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired under, at Goulburn,New South Wales.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 16th April, vide page 1317) :
Clause 11 -
The Commission may exercise such powers, and shall perform such duties as are conferred upon itby this Act, or as are prescribed ….
Upon which. Mr. Tudor had moved-
That the words “ or as are prescribed “ be left out.
.- The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), on Friday last, intimated that the Government could not see their way to accept my amendment. I still take the view that the words which I propose to omit would give to the Commission too wide a power, and I shall vote against their retention.
.- I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) that it would be dangerous to retain these words in sub-clause 1. Our object at the present time, when we hear on every hand a cry for economy, should be to prevent the creation of new Departments. From small beginnings a Department quickly develops into one of great magnitude. It begins with an office, a table, and a chair, and a departmental head having been appointed, he must have a messenger to announce callers, and to ascertain whether he is in a suitable frame of mind to receive them. The departmental head cannot take off his own coat and hat ; he must have some one to do that work for him, and he must have a clerk, a lady typist, and other officers. A new Department having been created, it becomes necessary, in order to justify its upkeep, to transfer to it duties previously performed, perhaps quite satisfactorily, by other Departments. The work of the Commission should not extend over many years. For instance, vocational training will not occupy its attention for more than a couple of years, and, although it is proposed to transfer the administration of war pensions to the Department of Repatriation, I think such a transfer is unwarranted, and should be opposed by the Committee. If the subclause were allowed to stand as it is, it would be possible to transfer to the Department almost any duty. It would even be possible for the Minister to take upon himself the construction of a railway line. I am opposed to the creation of a large Department; expenditure saved is revenue gained, and the Minister should agree to give the Departments only the ordinary opportunities of making regulations instead of conferring upon them this unlimited power.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand as printed (Mr. Tudor’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That sub-clause (3) be struck out, and the following sub-clauses inserted in lieu thereof: - “(3) All real and personal property, securities, and funds, and all rights of action in respect of any such property, securities, and funds, vested, in pursuance of any Act repealed by this Act, in the Minister or in a State Repatriation Board, or in any person on behalf of or in trust for the Minister or any such Board, shall, upon the commencement of this Act, become vested in the Commission, subject to the trusts upon which the same are held by the Minister or by that Board or person.
All the rights of State WarCouncils in respect of advances made by them under the Australian SoldiersRepatriation Fund Act 1916 shall, upon the commencement of this Act, become vested in, and exercisable by, the Commission.”
As this Bill repeals the existing Repatriation Act, it is necessary to make this amendment in order to protect certain vested interests an regard to money and property, and advances made by the State authorities. This amendment will vest in the Commission property and interests that formerly were vested in the Minister.
.- The clause gives certain rights of action to the Commission in respect of matters over which the Government previously had control. The effect of the amendment is to so widen the operation of the clause as to affect all transactions from the commencement of repatriation by the State War Councils and other organizations. I see the necessity for the Commission being able to follow goods, advances, and so forth in its own Department, but I do not wish it to have power to deal with what may have been done in a voluntary way before the Commonwealth Government took a hand.
– There must be some power of the kind given to the Commission.
– I can see necessities for power so far as concerns operations and money granted under Acts passed by this Parliament, but I do not wish to see power on the part of the Commission to go right back to the inception of repatriation on a voluntary basis, when there was no clear definition of what was a gift and what was a loan. For instance, in the case of widows, the State War Councils made absolute gifts of money for the purpose of erecting homes, and I am apprehensive that these gifts may be treated as advances.
– There is no such intention.
– I have been personally associated with the establishment of a good many widows’ homes, and I do not wish anything of that kind to occur. Some of these transactions have been closed and the titles actually handed over.
– This clause applies only to advances for property.
– I am speaking of gifts for property.
– A gift is one thing and a loan is another.
– The honorable member is afraid that transactions that have been closed may be re-opened? The clause refers only to outstanding advances.
– I would be satisfied if the Minister would say that such gifts as I refer to will not be treated as advances.
– That cannot be promised until the Commission examines into the cases.
– I am not speaking of money granted under Commonwealth Acts, but to money given by the State War Councils.
– This clause does not add to any powers that are now exercised.
– I am satisfied that the Commonwealth has no power in regard to the transactions I refer to, and I merely mention the matter in order to insure that no legal right of action will lie under the amended clause.
– The clause applies only to advances made by the State War Councils under the Australian Repatriation Act 1916, and does not give any right to the Commission to convert a gift into an advance.
– To-day there may not be on the records ofthe Department anything to show whether there has been a gift or a loan.
– The Commission must be guided by the facts of the case, which will show whether there has been a gift or an advance. The object is not to embarrass bona fide transactions; the idea is to vest in the Commission the right to collect outstanding moneys which are loans or advances granted for specific purposes by the State War Councils.
– The State War Councils operated without any constitution - it was a loose arrangement.
– It is impossible to express any opinion in regard to those actions of the past, but the object of the clause is only to give power to recover moneys distinctly paid as advances.
– Whether recorded as repayable advances or not?
– The facts of each case must be examined; the constitution of a War Council is one thing, and a particular transaction of a council is another. The clause gives the same right as the
War Councils had to recover advances, and nothing more; gifts will remain gifts. If a transaction has been closed it cannot be re-opened. The clause deals only with outstanding claims in connexion with advances made under the Act of 1916.
– Why is it considered necessary to vest property in the Commission instead of in the Minister, seeing that this is a temporary Commission, and that the property will probably have to be revested at the termination of the Commission’s term of office?
– According to clause 7 this is a permanent Commission, a body corporate with a common seal.
– I am glad to have that information. I do not think that Parliament has been hitherto aware that in passing this Bill it will be creating abody which will last for ever. A knowledge of that fact would have been exceedingly useful to the Committee in its consideration of certain of the earlier clauses.
– There can be nothing to prevent Parliament from repealing the Act at any time. Corporations must be established as perpetual bodies. This procedure is for legal purposes.
– It appears to me that the office of a Minister is more permanent than that of a Commission. However, if, in respect to the vesting of property the factor of perpetuity is essential from a legal point of view, I must remain satisfied.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 -
.- The Government have been persuaded to indicate the salaries to be paid to the members of the Commission. This clause deals with the creation of State Boards. In all probability the time of the members of the Boards of the smaller States will not be wholly devoted to the work of repatriation. Can the Government provide information, at this stage, concerning the basis of payment, particularly in respect to those Boards whose time will not be fully occupied?
. -I am doubtful of the wisdom of appointing three members to each of the
State Boards. I fear that we are setting up an organization out of proportion, in size and cost, to the work to be undertaken. The Boards’ duties would be as efficiently carried out by one man as by three. In fact, the work probably would be more speedily attended to. The large annual expenditure in connexion with old-age pensions requires the supervision of only one Deputy Commissioner in each State; and hitherto the duties surrounding the administration of Repatriation have been adequately carried out by one Deputy Comptroller in each State, assisted by an honorary committee which, in some instances, has been a committee of delay. I do not see the force of appointing eighteen highly-paid officials for the whole of Australia, whose work could be more efficiently done by half-a-dozen.
– The representation of returned soldiers will be the same upon the State Boards as in the case of the Commission itself. If there is to be only one member of each of the State Boards, either the returned soldiers or the Government will have to do without representation.
– This same work is being done nowby returned soldiers in every State.
– Why cannot a returned soldier be at the same time a representative of the Government?
– The Government take the view that there will be a greater factor of safety and efficiency in the establishment of Boards of three.
– What proportion of a Board’s time will need to be devoted to the work of repatriation?
– In the larger States the whole of the time of the Board, probably, will be occupied; but in the smaller States such may not be the case. That is why the Bill does not provide for the payment of fixed salaries. It may only be necessary to make payments of fees, on the basis of so much per sitting.
– By stringing out their sittings three days a weekthe Boards could make as much as if they were receiving fixed salaries.
– The honorable member should give the future personnel of the Boards credit for honesty. He has a very poor opinion of human nature. I cannot agree to any proposition for the reduction of the numbers upon the Boards. For a long time there has been an agitation to endow the State Repatriation Boards with more power. It would be a retrograde step now to cut down either their scope or their numbers.
– The Committee has agreed to the appointment of three Commissioners. Seeing that I expressed disapproval of the constitution of the Commission upon that basis, I must now announce my agreement with the honorable member for
Illawarra. One Deputy Commissioner in each State has been carrying out the work attached to the payment of old-age pensions in every instance faithfully and satisfactorily. I fear that the appointment of a Board of three in each of the six States will merely establish the nucleus of a considerable array of officers entrenched within a ‘big Department. The more closely one examines this measure the more is one impressed with the danger of creating a source of heavy and permanent departmental expenditure. The foundation work of repatriation has been already completed. It seems absurd, , therefore, that a great Department of State should now be reared.
– The existing work of the Repatriation Department will not be added to.
– There is no assurance of that. If we appoint new officials in all of the States we will be bringing into being a new Department with considerable ramifications throughout Australia.
– But the honorary Commissions have been doing the work which the State Boards will be called upon to do.
– If the work has been done in an honorary capacity hitherto we have all the more reason for avoiding the creation of unnecessary expenditure now. We ought to seriously consider whether it is essential to have in each State a Board of three. There will be a number of officers under the Central Commission, and on top of this ‘staff each State Board will have its subordinates, so that we may be creating an endless number of officials. In my opinion, one man can deal with requests from returned soldiers more expeditiously and more fairly. than can two or three. At the present time the war pensions are under review. Thousands of cases are dealt with each week. If two men, sitting on opposite sides of a table, were dealing with them, and discussing whether this man should receive so and ‘ so, or his dependants such and such, they would certainly occupy a great deal more time in reaching finality than would one man. I think one. Commissioner in each State will be quite sufficient. My great desire is to avoid the serious delays that will occur- if there are three members on each’ State Board. A gentleman who is dealing with pensions in one of the States, one of our finest officers, and one who knows all the ramifications of these soldiers’ cases, and how long it takes to deal with them, is emphatically of opinion that the soldiers will have to wait an unduly long time for the redress of their grievances if there is more than one man dealing with them. If the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) will move an amendment to reduce the number of members of State Boards I shall support him.
– I rise to support the .suggestion of the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond).
– I cannot agree to it.
– While it is eminently desirable to have three Commissioners on the Central Commission, with the object of giving special representation to the returned soldiers and to the Government and perhaps to some other interest, we have to bear in mind that, to a very great extent, State Boards will be subsidiary bodies appointed for the purpose of carrying out the instructions of the Central Commission.
– They are to be entirely independent.
– If they are to be independent bodies, then we shall have seven Commissions instead of one, an obviously impossible position. There must be some misunderstanding as to what is the real position of the Central Commission and the State Boards. If, as I understand, the latter are to be subsidiary bodies, with certain administrative functions, I fail to see how the argument which applies in the direction of having three members on the Central Commission applies to the State Boards. We are all desirous that the Returned Soldiers League shall be adequately and fully represented on these bodies.
– .Should not the Government also he represented?
– I quite agree that the Government should also he .represented; but what is to prevent them from appointing a returned soldier in each State as ‘Commissioner or Deputy Comptroller? I shall be only too pleased to hear further arguments from the Minister, but it seems to me that if we pass the clause as it stands, we are creating superfluous billets for two men in each State, when all experience goes to show that, in the matter of carrying out instructions given by a Minister or a Central Commission, one man is more fully responsible, and can do the work better, than three men. I seriously ask the Minister to postpone the clause for the time being, and give it further, consideration.
.- I am not at all satisfied with the reasons given by the Minister for having three members on each Board. In fact, the only reason he has advanced is the desirability .of having a returned soldier on each Board. At the same time, he claims that the Government should have representation. Surely that is not sufficient reason for creating a number of Commissions, each consisting of three men, where one man would be sufficient to do the work required to be done? The Government will have all the representation they desire if they appoint a returned soldier as Commissioner in each State. There are sufficient returned men who could do the work well and satisfactorily, not only for their fellows, but also for the Government. I shall support any amendment to reduce the number of members of State Boards to one. If the appointment of three men would expedite the work of repatriation, I would he prepared to support the clause as it stands; but I am not at all satisfied that three men will do the work any better than one could do it. Again, if the members of these bodies were to be given the administration of the War Service Homes Act, or the control of land settlement, I would willingly support the proposal to have three Commissioners; but, in my opinion, the limited amount of work they will have to undertake is not sufficient to warrant the appointment of seven Commissions to administer repatriation in Australia. In Tasmania the main difficulty lies in the fact that it sometimes takes months for a returned soldier to get a reply to a communication addressed to the Repatriation Department. Sometimes no reply is forthcoming. We have looked for the appointment of a Commission that would co-ordinate the work, render it more efficient,and deal with it more expeditiously than has been possible under the existing method. I regret that the Boards will not have full control of land settlement, though I recognise that the difficulty in giving them that control has been created by the indisposition of the State authorities to surrender their control. I am sorry, too, that the Boards will not have the . supervision of the war service homes scheme. But if their powers are to be limited, I think it will be sufficient to appoint one officer for each State, and I shall support an amendment to that effect.
– I think that the Minister must admit that on no occasion has repatriation been made a party question; I am certain that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) would bear me out in that statement.
– I do not think that Senator Millen would have provided, for Boards of three unless he had considered that three men were needed.
– I think that Boards of three are provided for because of the opinion that there should be a returned soldier on each of these Boards. Undoubtedly, the Minister will in any case control the Commission, and the Commission will lay down lines of policy which will apply to all the States. It is not to be supposed that the State Boards will each lay down a special policy for its own State. We could not, for example, have one set of conditions applying to New South Wales and another to Victoria. This being so, there is no reason why the State officials should be very highly paid men. Whoever may be appointed, they will not be better than those who now administer the Pensions Department, and they will not have to deal with cases any more difficult than those which are submitted to the Pensions Department.
– In the past the difficulty in connexion with the State Boards has been that they have been shorn of authority.
– Under the State Boards are the Local Committees, which have wished for powers which have not been granted to them. Now we are starting afresh with what will be a new Department. The Minister will be bound to direct the policy of that Department, and it will be for the three Commissioners to give effect to his policy. But the same lines must be followed in each State. I am sure that we do not need State Boards of three members each merely to give opportunityfor the appointment of returned soldiers. There are many returned soldiers in the Public Service who could do the work. I appeal to the Ministry not to say bluntly that they will not accept any modification of the proposal, andI suggestthat the matter should be withdrawn for the present,so that it may be reconsidered. It is too much to have a Commission and six Boards, consisting in all of twenty-one persons, administering this Act. The expenditure which this arrangement would impose upon the country is unwarrantable-
– I support the Government in this matter. It is easily conceivable that the continuation of local administration will secure greater efficiency and give greater satisfaction than anything else. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has recently had for his motto “Decentralization with economy,” but in this matter he seems to be advocating centralization and the disregard of economy. I ask honorable members to remember the excellent work that has been done by the Repatriation Committees in each State, where the greatest brains have been at the service of the Government, and the greatest devotion to duty has been shown. It is undoubtedlybetter that administration should be as far as possible in the hands of local bodies in each State, administering the Act subject to the Central Commission. I am not prepared to hand over the interests of returned soldiers and others entirely to the Central Commission, when they can be better looked after by local bodies. In the long run the system provided for in the Bill will prove economical. It is not proposed to set up a salaried Board in each of the six States. The honorary work done in the past has been very efficient, business men having given an enormous amount of time to it, for which the community should be grateful to them. In the future there will not be so much to do ; but the work ought to be paid for. I ask the Minister whether those who do it cannot be paid much as directors are paid, amounts being set down for the year which may not be exceeded.
– The Bill makes that possible.
– Senator Milieu, because of his experience of repatriation, is much better able to judge than we are whether these Boards should be formed of three or ofone person. Therefore I shall stand by the clause.
– I ask the Committee to vote for the clause as it stands. At present there is a Central, Commission consisting of seven members, and State Boards, each having seven members, and then there are the Local Committees, the intention being to secure the framing of uniform regulations by the Central administration, and to leave it to local bodies to administer the law according to the needs of the case. That organization has done excellent work. The State bodies have not been associated with the administration, which has been left entirely to the Minister and his officers. The Minister, however, now sees the need for reorganization, and it is proposed to create a Central Commission, which will be charged with the administration of the Act. It will consist of three persons, and will be subject to the Minister, so that parliamentary responsibility may be preserved. The Commission is to have not merely advisory powers, but administrative powers also, and therefore it is necessary to make it as thoroughly representative as possible, and strong enough to properly administer the Act in the interests of the soldiers and of the community. The intention of the arrangement was to vest in one authority the control of the many different matters affecting the well-being of the soldier, so that those concerned could go to that one authority instead of having to apply, as now, to several.
– A soldier cannot go to the proposed Commission for a war service home or fora grant of land.
– The provision of land is a matter within the province of the State authorities, and the housing arrangements referred to come under another authority. Under the Commission will be the State Boards, each having three members. They will not be administrative bodies, but will have certain adjudicating functions. They will, for instance, decide questions relating to pensions.
– That is the only function they will exercise.
– The powers exercised to-day by the State Boards under regulation and extending over a very wide area will be exercised by the new State Boards. Is it to be supposed that one person could adjudicate on all the pensions applications, and deal with all the other applications for assistance that will be made in any one State? It is because we desire localization and not centralization that we provide for State Boards under the Central Commission.
– Will a man in Riverina or at Broken Hill be convenienced by the appointment of a State Board sitting in Sydney?
– There may be good reasons for rearranging the areas of jurisdiction; what is now under discussion is whether one or three persons should be appointed at the head of affairs in each State. In view of the adjudication powers which are vested in the State Boards, we think that they should consist of three members. The applications for assistance made on behalf of soldiers are innumerable. All these applications, together with the pensions applications, will be dealt with by the Boards. It would be ridiculous to leave these matters to the decision of one man in each State, and yet to have Local Committees of fifty or sixty members to determine questions of minor importance. Take, for instance, the position in Queensland, which is hundreds of miles away from the central administration:
– Would the Minister divide each State into three provinces for the purposes of this Board ?
– That is another matter. There is much to be said in favour of dividing a large State like Queensland into three provinces for some purposes, but that is not the point immediately under consideration. We have to decide whether it. would be wise to leave to the decision ofone individual all repatriation matters arising in a large State like New South Wales, with its vast population and varied interests.
– If we agreed to State Boards of three members, would the Minister favour an amendment providing that, for the purposes of the Board, each State should be divided into three provinces ?
– Let us deal with one matter at a time. In the interests of the soldiers themselves, it is desirable that we should have State Boards of three members. I recognise that the State Boards have been acting in an honorary capacity, and have done magnificent work. In Queensland, but for the way in which members of the State Board have subordinated their own interests to the public welfare, much of this work would not have been carried out. There is a limit, however, to the extent of the sacrifice we may require of public-spirited citizens. The work ought to be well done, and we should pay for it. The scheme for which the Bill provides will allow of the appointment to each State Board of a representative of the soldiers, who will be able to appreciate their “trials and difficulties, and who will be looked up to by them. It will also enable the appointment of a man of business capacity to advise upon each application, and the appointment of a third man to deal with other phases of repatriation. Our object should be, not to reduce, but to strengthen as much as we reasonably can the collective wisdom of those engaged in the administration of repatriation. Western Australia, like Queensland, is remote from the Seat of Government; and if we had there a Board of one, he might hesitate to decide questions of importance, and refer them to the central administration. This would lead to delay.
– That would not occur if the right man were selected.
– The difficulty is to get the right man.
– Then it would be still more difficult to obtain three good men for each State Board.
– I am convinced that we shall get the best results from State Boards of three members each. It is a mistake, on the plea of economy, to destroy efficiency.
– We are raising the cry of efficiency.
– The plea of economy has also been urged. Efficiency will be best secured by the appointment of State Boards of three members. It must not be forgotten that certain questions of adjudication will have to be determined by these Boards, and I am convinced we shall get the best results by passing the clause as it stands.
.- I cannot approve the arguments put forward by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom). I would’ remind the honorable gentleman, who has made it clear that the State Boards will have to deal with war pensions, that in New South Wales, the largest State of the group, the administration of war pensions has been carried out by the officer in charge of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Department. In addition to his ordinary duties, he has had to deal with thousands of applications for war pensions, and has fixed the allotments for widows and children of deceased soldiers. This work he has almost completed. There now remain only five hundred or six hundred men in the Randwick Hospital whose claims have to be decided ; yet it is proposed to create a State Board of three members to deal with the work. The honorable gentleman says there is safety in numbers, and that therefore we should have three members on each State Board. I would point out in reply that the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in New South Wales has so’ far administered with the greatest satisfaction the invalid and ola-age pension scheme, as well as war pensions. Neither he nor his staff has been compensated for the additional work thus carried out. Why does not the Minister go further and urge that we should have three Deputies PostmasterGeneral in each State?
– Does the honorable member think there is any comparison between the duties to be carried out in each Department ?
– I do.
– The Deputy Controller of Customs in each State has to determine far more important matters than will come before the State Repatriation Boards.
– Yes; Mr. Barkley, the Deputy Commissioner of Trade and Customs m New South Wales, has the decision of matters of vast importance.
I am not fighting -the Government on this question. It should be above party consideration, and 1 as representatives of the people, we should see that no waste takes place. Let us try to improve the measure in the interests of the returned men and the country as a whole. I hope that we shall decide against the appointment of three members to each State Board, since I am convinced that the men will get a batter deal from one man than they would be likely to secure from a Board- of three members, who, in many cases, would be haggling with each other as to what should’, be done.
.-I regret that I cannot bring my opinion on this subject into conformity with that of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom). The honorable gentleman is to be complimented upon his statement of the case, but it must not be forgotten that repatriation has hitherto been administered upon a voluntary basis in each State. The local voluntary committees are not to be abandoned. Hitherto there has been no permanent paid officer at their head in the several States. There will now be in each a permanent responsible officer, and, to my mind, the whole question of efficiency ag well as of economy will depend upon the selection of a capable man for the administration of the Act, and the regulations drawn up under it. We could certainly afford to give a better salary to one than we could’ give to three. If it is difficult to obtain the services of one capable man for such a duty as this, it will be still more difficult to secure three. Much time will be spent in discussing the issues at stake if the members of the State Boards do not clearly understand the Act and the regulations. The administration of one good man .is generally more expeditious than that of three.
The honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), who will not be present this week, desired me to urge the Government to give consideration, to the payment of certain fees to secretaries of Local Com- mittees in big districts. The success of the movement depends largely upon these men.
– There are 800 of them.
– I am aware of that, but I am bringing forward this matter at the request of another honorable member. At a large conference of representatives of Repatriation Committees held in Perth, it was moved that an allowance in respect of stamps and other out of pocket expenses should be made to secretaries of Local Committees, but that motion was rejected. Now that the war is over some of the committees are becoming somewhat weary. They have done excellent work, and it would not be out of place for Parliament to carry a resolution thanking them for their splendid services during the war. I put it to the Government that some of the money that it is now proposed to expend on State Boards of three members might well be devoted to the giving of some slight consideration to those who have hitherto worked in a purely honorary capacity as secretaries of Local Committees, and who have paid their own out of pocket expenses. If three commissioners are to be appointed for each State, a staff would be necessary. I would infinitely prefer to select a staff capable of carrying out the routine functions well, and to have one executive mind controlling the Department. With a competent staff, a commissioner in each State would be able to direct the whole of the work of the Department more efficiently than would a Board of three. If such a scheme failed we could pass an amending Bill providing for the appointment of a Board of three members in each State. I think it wise to start with a Board of one.
.- Many honorable members seem to be taking strong exception to something that has already been done. I refer to the transfer of war pensions to the Repatriation Department.
– That transfer has not yet been approved by the Committee. It is provided for in a later clause.
– It would be a mistake for the Committee to make any alteration in the system of administration for which the Bill provides. The
Repatriation Committees in the several States are on a voluntary basis. I do not agree with that principle. It is not reasonable to ask men to give up a great deal of their time to the local administration of repatriation. That may be all right for men in business, but on these Boards will be representatives of the workers who cannot afford to give their time for nothing.
– There are plenty of men who will give up their time in return for what the soldiers have done for them.
– That is true, but it must be recognised that the men on the State Committees to-day give their time. The administration of repatriation cannot be compared with the administration of the Postal Department. The Repatriation Boards will be dealing with all sections of the community, and if we do not get representatives of the trade unionists and the employer to work together we shall not make a success of the scheme. In the various States the Repatriation Committees deal with the technical and vocational training of soldiers, and it is essential that upon the Boards there should be representatives of others than returned soldiers, so that the case for the worker and the employer may be put. If only one Deputy Commissioner is appointed he will be a Government representative, and the two big interests which are essential to the success of repatriation - the trade unions and the employers - will have no representation. The two work well together to-day, and for that reason no trouble is experienced in placing men in different avocations. They meet at the committee table, and decide matters for their State without appealing to Melbourne. Yet it is proposed that all this responsibility should be vested in one man, without giving representation to the other interests whose co-operation is essential to the success of our repatriation effort. Some honorable members have objected that the Bill is creating new officers, which will mean additional appointments. That is not so; the three members of the Board in each State will take the place of the existing Committee of six in each State, and I assume that the officers who act to-day in conjunction with the State Committees will continue to act, and that Mr. Bell will continue to be the official head of repatriation in South Australia.
I hope honorable members will not ride to death the doctrine of economy. It is absurd to talk about economy when we are asking men to give up their time to assist in the administration of this repatriation scheme. I do not think it will be necessary in a State like South Australia to pay the members of the Board a regular salary, but .it is essential to pay them a regular fee, so that when they sit all day they will not be out of pocket. Of course, if the representation on the Boards is restricted to a certain class, men will be found who will do the work without remuneration ; but there are other desirable men who cannot afford to give their time for nothing. The Government recognise that fact to-day, and many men who represent working-class interests on the Repatriation Committees and other bodies are paid for their time. All that the Bill proposes to do is to reduce the membership of the existing Committees from six to three, and to settle definitely that we shall recompense each member for time lost in doing this work.
.- The plausibility of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) did not carry much weight with me. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) has drawn the attention of the Committee to the various Departments in each State that are successfully administered by one Deputy Commissioner. The Commonwealth Bank is a noteworthy instance of that policy. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) referred to the attitude of the Senate, but it must ‘be remembered that the Senate has not the financial responsibility that this House has. If I thought that the appointment of a Board of three would conduce to greater efficiency I would support the. clause, but I am convinced that better results will follow the system of control by one Deputy Commissioner iri each State. The local organizations in Sydney have done splendid work, and laid the foundation upon which the State Boards can build. They have been of great assistance to the soldiers, but they have had no definite policy laid down for them by Act of Parliament. They have had to create special machinery, and to make the soldier understand that the State was prepared to do as much for him as possible, but that there was a limitation to the assistance it could render. All tha State Boards will have to do will be to administer in accordance with the guiding principles laid down in this Bill. They cannot create any precedents or do anything other than what the law prescribes. People will think this Parliament has lost its sense if it creates Boards comprising twenty-one members for the administration of the Repatriation Department. Even the Board that controls the Australian Navy comprises only three members. The State Boards will have before them a definite policy laid down by the Act, and certain regulations framed by the Commission.
– I am not agreeable to reduce the personnel of the State Boards from three to one.
– The Government have my sympathy because, I suppose, they have promised jobs to some men.
– The honorable member is saying something that is absolutely incorrect.
– I have heard returned soldiers say that they think a lot of ‘billets are to be distributed.
– The honorable member has a nice sense of rumour.
– I hope the Committee will consider the cost that is involved in this scheme. Nothing that Ministers have said justifies the .appointment of three men in each State. I therefore move -
That the word “ three be struck out and the word “ one “ inserted in lieu thereof.
– These men will have power to distribute scores of thousands of pounds.
– But only in accordance with the Act; they cannot make their own regulations.
, - The Committee is animated with the idea of securing the utmost efficiency in the matter of repatriation, and the question is whether the greater efficiency will be obtained by the appointment of three men or of one man. So far as one can gather from the Bill, the main functions of the Boards are merely of an advisory character, for there is no administration permitted to them. It is quite true that by clauses 19 and 26 certain functions are delegated to the Boards, the latter clause giving them power, subject to appeal, of adjudicating so far as the pensions are concerned, upon the capacity or incapacity of the soldiers, and so forth. The Boards are entitled to exercise those powers in addition to such other powers as may be prescribed by regulation by the Commission itself. From the point of view of decentralization these Boards are vital to the efficient working of the Bill. I have the utmost confidence in the Local Committees because of the local knowledge they can bring to bear in furnishing the Boards and the Commission with information and advice. The State Boards will have to concentrate the work done by the Local Committees, and the latter will be responsible to the Boards, and, therefore, it is of the utmost moment that the Boards should be of a representative character. This I regard as the real point of the whole scheme. If a Board consists of one man alone, he will probably be a departmental officer, and largely subject to departmental views. He will, of course, take his instructions from the Department and from the Commission, and will consciously or unconsciously be permeated with the ideas of the Department. If, on the other hand, each Board consists of three men we are enabled at once to have a representative body.
-What would the honorable member call a representative Board?
– The first essential is a representative of the soldiers who will supply information of a personal character, and be the link between the local Repatriation Board and the various organizations of the soldiers. Then, again, there should be on the Board a man of business capacity and special experience in repatriation work, selected from outside; and doubtless his position will be of an honorary character. The third representative will be a departmental man, and the three will constitute a Board of a comprehensive and highly representative character. I repeat that a representative Board such as I have indicated is the greatest guarantee of efficiency, and is more calculated to give complete satisfaction than could possibly the autocratic adjudications of any one individual,
The most humorous suggestion made in the course of this discussion is that the appointment of representative Boards involves extravagance. Surely such a view as that cannot be seriously advanced? The members of the Boards will doubtless be paid by fees of, practically, a nominal character, and will be capable of giving more valuable advice, I venture to say, an any single departmental officer could do. Representative Boards should be the guiding principle in our decision in this matter, and, therefore, I think the Government are acting wisely in the proposal they have made to the Committee.
.- The special pleading in connexion with these proposed Boards is surprising. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) is apparently able to give the Committee more information regarding the payments to be made to the members of the Board than the Minister (Mr. Poynton) himself is in a position to afford.Not a word have we had from the Minister as to what these payments are to he - whether so much a sitting or by way of fixed salary. It would appear that the honorable member for Kooyong has not studied the Bill, for, as a matter of fact, provision is made for the appointment of members of the Public Service, who may be returned soldiers; and if the Boards are to consist of three members each, the work will be sufficient to take up all their time, for which, of course, they must be paid. It is already rumoured that the Chairman of the Commission is to be paid £1,500, and histwo colleagues £1,000 each; and I suppose that the Chairman of a State Board will be paid £800 or £900, and the other two members, probably, £600. One would think from what has been said that the duties of the Board extend to every kind of provision made for returned soldiers, whereas their duty, practically, will be to decide as to the pensions.
– The Bill says the contrary. Read clause 19.
– Clause 19 provides-
A Board may exercise such powers and shall perform such duties asare conferred on it by this Act or as are prescribed.
But clause 26 provides -
Each Board shall be charged with the duties of -
If the honorable member for Kooyong is relying on what is to be prescribed by regulation, this only shows that the information giventotheCommittee is faulty. I take it that the duties I have just read are the principal duties that the Boards will have to perform. At the present time, a member of the staff of the Old-age Pensions Office in each State is doing the work; and I ask honorable members whether a Board of one or a Board’ of three is the more likely to result in the greater expedition? The complaint in the past has been that of delay in almost every branch of repatriation administration, and particularly in connexion with land settlement, where, indeed, it is so serious as to appear almost deliberate. The officers at present doing this work aremen experienced in work of a similar kind; and we should be incurring unwarranted expenditure if we appointed Boardsconsisting of three members. It is true that the returned soldiers have asked for representation on the Boards; but I am sure that the great bulk of them, if they were consulted, would tell us that it is delay of which they have to complain, whether it be in connexion with pensions, vocational training, land settlement, or any other branch of the work. I do not wish to ride the “ economy” horse to death. Thereis economy and economy. Some phases of economy pleaded for by certain honorable members find no support from me, but there is one form of economy the practice of which at this moment is essential in the interests of the country and of the returned soldiers. There will be more appeals from a Board of three than from the decision of one man.
– The honorable member is wrong in suggesting that the Boards will deal only with the matter of pensions. They will be concerned with the forty and more different activities which come within the scope of repatriation.
– The fact remains that whether we appoint one man, or three, or six, the Board will be largely dependent, for its actions in respect to every returned soldier, upon the records of the Defence Department - upon the papers presented by the soldier himself. Ministers appear toobject to the considerable care which honorable members on both sides are seeking to give to this measure. When the Bill was being dealt with at its second-reading stage, Ministers emphasized that it was one which lent itself readily to consideration and improvement in Committee. The second-reading debate was concluded, therefore, with as little delay as possible. Now it is for the Committee, in its combined wisdom, to endeavour to mould a satisfactory measure. We know the fate always in store for an amendment moved from this side; but it would appear that even when an amendment is proposed by an adherent of the Government its chances are no better. The party whip is cracked, and the clause must pass as the Cabinet has framed it. That kind of thing was never tolerated by this side. I recall divisions, when Labour was in power, when followers of the Government crossed over in support of the Opposition against their own Government. Nothing like that ever occurs nowadays. The whip is cracked, and docile followers of the Government to-day immediately come to heel.
.- Were the appointment of State Boards to be considered only in relation to the matter of pensions,I would vote against this clause as drafted. But in view of the tremendously wide scope of the activities of repatriation I intend to support the Government in its proposal to establish State Boards having a membership each of three, which will take the place of the present voluntary Boards of seven. I hope the Government, in making the appointments, will have regard not only to the soldier aspect, but also to the broad principle of making effective the scheme of repatriation. I am impressed with the necessity for appointing an industrialist upon each State Board. Vocational and technical training is a very important phase of the work, and will be the longest surviving feature of repatriation; and I know of no individual better equipped to advise than one who is familiar with the ramifications of industrial life, and is sympathetic with the view-point of trade unionism in relation to vocational training. I regard the State Boards as being the direct link between the soldier and the benefits to be conferred upon him under the Act. It will be the Boards, and not the Commission, or the Minister, which will determine every individual case. It will be highly unsatisfactory, and indeed foolish, to appoint only one man for each State, whose erroneous judgments might cost the repatriation scheme vastly more than the salaries of a Board of three. The Boards will require to have regard for the welfare of returned men in every avocation. Considerable knowledge, experience, and sympathy will be among the attributes of a successful Board. Are these not likely to be combined more adequately in three than in one person ?
– In my view only one honorable member has touched the vital point at issue in respect to whether the State Boards shall comprise three or consist of only one man. I refer tothe honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), but I do not agree with his argument. This Bill has been drafted with the object of fully and adequately repatriating our returned men. The question is, will the “ digger “ be more content with a decision given upon his case by one man than by three? I feel sure that he will prefer to be dealt with’ by three rather than be turned down upon the judgment of one. I am confident that a State Board, constituted as the Bill proposes, will furnish considerably fewer appeals to the Commission than would one individual. The appointment of only one man for each State will involve hundreds of appeals, with consequent considerable delay in dealing with the cases of hundreds of returned soldiers.
– I agree with the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) in respect to the necessity for having an experienced industrialist upon each State Board. If the Boards are to be composed upon the basis suggested by the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), the representative of the trade unionists will be cut out, and, that being so, the State Boards cannot hope to prove as successful as in the past.
– Who says there will be no representative of the industrialists ?
– The honorable member for Kooyong remarked that there would be a representative of the soldier, then a business man, and then an official. Where will the worker come in ? Unless there be an industrialist upon each Board, who will be able to contribute the benefit of his knowledge of trade unionism, and of the practical side of vocational training, I feel confident that the unions will not be prepared to accept the proposed new organizations - at any rate, with the same readiness as in the past. When trade unionists have been asked to appoint their representatives they have done so forthwith. When cases arising in specific trades or callings have required consideration, unionist workers have appointed their representatives long before the employers have seen fit to do so. Numbers of men desired, upon returning home to Australia, to enter the boot trade, and in this connexion a Shoe Trade Industry School has been established. The workers have voted £200 or £300 to assist in its establishment, and they have a representative on the sub-committee controlling it. The vocational training schools will not work as smoothly if a State Board is to be constituted as the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) has suggested, but no exception would be taken to the appointment of one Commissioner in each State, whether he be an employer or an employee. All sorts of sub-committees could be appointed for the various industries. They exist to-day. The committee in control of the building trade vocational school does not exercise any control over the bootmaking vocational school .
– Smooth working in vocational training will not be secured by having one Commissioner in each State instead of three members of State Boards.
– With the appointment of three members to State Boards there will still be the necessity for these subcommittees.
– If the industrialists are represented on the existing subcommittees,and there is an appeal from the decision of a sub-committee, it is wise also to have a representative of the industrialists on the State Board which deals with the appeal.
– The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) said that the ‘ digger ‘ ‘ will he more satisfied with the decision of a Board of three than with the decision of one man; but the man who feels that an injustice has been done to him is no more satisfied with the verdict of twelve men than he would be with the judgment of one man. The number of appeals will depend upon the success of preceding appeals. If the Central Commission reverses the decision of a State Board, there will be numerous appeals from the decisions of State Boards. If, on the other hand, the judgment of the State Board is upheld, there will be very few appeals lodged. I have already asked for information as to the salaries to be paid to members of State Boards.
-It is reported in Sydney that each Board member is to be paid £800 per annum.
– These Boards will be called upon to deal with a certain number of matters. Administration of war pensions will be continuous work. Pensioners are obliged to go before a Medical Board from time to time to be examined in reference to the state of their disability as compared with their condition at the granting of their pensions. Evidently the Government believe that the work of these State Boards will be completed much more speedily than that of the Central Commissioners, whose term of office was to have been five years, because they propose that the tenure of office of a member of such a Board shall not be more than two years. The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) was successful in having the period of office of a Central Commissioner reduced to three years, but in defending the Government’s proposal the Minister (Mr. Poynton) asked whether it would be possible to get good men to accept appointments for the limited period, whereas, apparently, he now contends that the Government can secure the services of good men on State Boards for the limited term of two years. We are told that the Chairman of a State Board is to be paid £800 or £900 per annum, and that the other members of such Boards are to receive £600 or £800.
– That information was not supplied by the Government, but came from an honorable member on your own side.
– I have asked the Minister for the information, but cannot get it. If the salaries which have been mentioned are to be paid to members of State Repatriation Boards, whose principal work will be to administer war pensions, then I claim that the Deputy Commissioners who have hitherto been doing this work so smoothly are altogether inadequately paid at £500 per annum. Furthermore, as the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) has pointed out, if it is deemed necessary to appoint a Board of three to administer war pensions, why should we not also appoint a Customs Board in each State to replace the Collectors of Customs? I shall vote for the amendment, because I believe that better work will be done by one man than by three.
Question - That the word “three,” proposed to be left out, stand part of the clause (Mr. West’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 14 - (2.) A duly authenticated organization, recognised or acknowledged by the Minister as being a body representing returned soldiers throughout the Commonwealth, may, in respect of each State, submit to the Commission a list, containing the names of not less than three persons, from which the organization recommends that a selection be made of a person to be appointed as one of the members of the Board for the State in respect of which the list is submitted, and the Governor-General may appoint a person, selected from that list by the Commission, to be a member of that Board.
– I propose to leave out the words “A duly authenticated “ in sub-clause 2, with a view to inserting the word “ Any “ in their stead. This will bring the clause into conformity with clause 8.
– On a question of order. Last Friday I was inadvertently shut out from moving an amendment, and I wish, therefore, to know now whether the Minister’s amendment will debar me from moving the omission of the first fifteen words of sub-clause 2 with a view to the insertion in their place of the words “ A ballot shall be taken of “ ?
– The honorable member might achieve his object by moving to amend the Minister’s amendment by the substitution of words for the word “Any.”
– I, too, wish for a ruling from the Chair on the question of procedure. On Friday I was prevented from moving an ‘amendment which would have given to all the returned men the right to ballot for the selection of a Commissioner, and I do not now wish to lose the opportunity to move a similar amendment affecting the selection of soldiers’ representatives to the State Boards. My proposal is to strike out sub-clause 2, and insert another provision in its place.
– Perhaps it will be most convenient for the Committee to deal with the proposal of the honorable member for Maribymong (Mr. Fenton), but instead of stating the question in the ordinary way, namely, “ that sub-clause 2 stand as printed,” I will put the question “that sub-clause 2 be omitted.”
– If the Committee determines not to omit .sub-clause 2, will it be possible to move to amend it?
– If sub-clause 2 is not omitted, it must stand part of the clause, and cannot be amended.
– I move -
That sub-clause 2 be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following subclause: - “ (2) A selection by ballot shall be made by returned soldiers throughout each State of a person to be appointed as one of the members of the Board for the State, and the Governor-General may appoint the person selected to be a member of that Board.”
I understand that “ may,” not “ shall,” is the proper word to use in enactments affecting the Crown, but that “may” in these cases means “ shall.” My object is to give to all soldiers, whether members of organizations or not, an opportunity to vote for the selection of a representative on their State Board. Whatever difficulties there might be in the way of balloting throughout Australia for the selection of a Commissioner, they will not be so great in regard to ballots confined to the various States. There are returned men who have declined to join the soldiers’ organizations, looking to Parliament to do the right thing for them. Quite a number of trade unionists are in that position. I believe that there are at least four soldiers’ organizations, and under the Bill as it stands each would send in lists of names.
– I cannot accept the amendment. The Committee has already determined the method of appointment of the Commission, and although it is true that the specific issue in this instance was not put to a vote, the principle for which the clause provides has in reality been affirmed. The proposal made by the honorable member is quite impracticable. It would be very difficult to devise the necessary machinery by which every returned man would be able to record his vote, apart from any organization. We could not! get into touch with the men unless they were registered by an organization or some other authority.
– They are already registered on the electoral rolls.
– They may be on the rolls, but there is nothing to show who amongst those on the electoral rolls are returned soldiers. The clause as it stands provides for the efficient representation of returned sailors and soldiers by means of a selection made by organizations constituted by the sailors and soldiers themselves.
.- I am pleased that the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has again brought forward this proposal. I supported the claim that soldiers should be allowed to choose their own representative on the Commission, irrespective of whether or not they belonged to any organization, and despite the Minister’s statement I can see no objection to the adoption of the same principle in this case. On one of the State rolls crossed swords appear opposite the name of every returned man. In that State we thus have a ready-made roll of returned soldiers. Even in the absence of such a guide we could adopt the procedure followed at mass meetings of returned men, and restrict the admission to the various halls at which the voting took place to those who could produce their discharge. If that course were adopted, it would be immaterial whether a man belonged to the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, the recentlyformed Returned Sailors and Soldiers Democratic League, or any other association formed to safeguard the rights of returned men. He could vote quite independently of any organization. There are” quite a number of these associations in the» States, and they could meet in conference and determine upon the selection of a representative for the whole of the returned soldiers on each State Board. The amendment provides for the recognition of a democratic principle that is observed in connexion with all working-class organizations. In all industrial organizations it is recognised that those whose interests are most concerned should have the right to select their own delegates. There is no real obstacle in the way of this’ proposal, and neither the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) nor any one else should attempt to cloud the issue. The question is whether the returned men themselves shall select their own representatives or whether the Minister or Commissioner shall make a selection from eight or ten names submitted by the various organizations. If the final selection were left to the Minister or the Commissioners, the man most amenable to them would secure the selection, irrespective of the wishes of the rank and file outside. If it is right that the returned men should be represented at all on these State Boards, it is right they should select their own representatives.
.- The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) has just claimed that since all democratic organizations select their own representatives, the returned sailors and soldiers should be allowed to select their own representatives. That is what is proposed in this case. The whole tenor of the honorable member’s argument was that democratic organizations throughout Australia had no difficulty in choosing their representatives for any purpose, because they were organized. The Government propose to allow organizations of returned men to select those from whom they think a final choice should be made. They do not propose to allow the whole scheme to fail for lack of organization. If, as proposed by the Opposition, we extended the principle beyond the organizations of returned men, and provided that a ballot of all returned sailors and soldiers, irrespective of any organization, should take place, the scheme would’ break down. Every one knows that our returned men are scattered all over Australia, and that it would be quite impossible so to reach them as to secure their fair representation on these Boards except by means of their several organizations. I should be glad if it were possible for every returned man to vote directly on the question .of representation, but I recognise that it is not. We must allow their organizations to make a selection, just as selections are made by industrial organizations.
– But the clause does not provide for anything of the kind. A final selection will be made by the Minister.
– A selection of the most suitable men will be made in the first place by the organizations of returned sailors and soldiers, and from their nominations a final selection will be made by the Minister.
– And what will be the position if there are a dozen organizations ?
– If there are a dozen organizations it is impossible to have a dozen representatives on the Board. It is absolutely essential, in the circumstances, that a final selection should be made; and who could better make that selection than the Minister?
– The men themselves.
– It is impossible for them to do so. Where there is no organization we can have no selection. I notice that there has been a strong tendency on the part of honorable members of the Opposition to cut down the benefits of the Bill as much as possible except in relation to the machinery for voting for representatives on the Commission and State Boards. They have tried to cut down everything making for the benefit of the returned man and the broadening of this measure. If they would allow the organizations of returned men to do this job for themselves, and would broaden their own views as to the benefits to be obtained by returned men under this Bill, the men would be very thankful.
.- The remarks just made by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) would seem to suggest that a returned soldier is about the worst parliamentary representative that the returned soldiers could have.
– The returned soldiers do not think so.
– I shall not enter into a controversy on the point. The whole question at issue is whether we desire to have on each State Board a man who will be acceptable to the rank and file of the returned sailors and soldiers, or a representative of the “ blue ribbon “ of the organizations - a representative of a particularly strong organization with a political colouring - the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League. The argument advanced by the honorable member for Robertson was one that should induce him to vote with us on this question. He says that there are so many organizations of returned soldiers that it would be impossible for each to have a representative on these Boards. That being so, the individual organizations cannot determine the selection. They will simply send in the names of two or three men, and an arbitrary decision will be arrived at by the Minister. The or ganization that can present the best case, politically or otherwise, to the Minister will very likely secure the selection of its nominee. My desire is to lift this question out of the ruck of party politics, and consequently I hold that satisfaction can be given to our returned men only by allowing every soldier the right to a direct vote on the question of who shall represent him. If that were done, neither the Ministernor any one else could challenge the right of the man elected to sit on the Board. It is quite idle to talk about the impossibility of reaching the returned soldiers in connexion with the taking of a vote of this kind. The Government can find the returned men very quickly when they want them. There is no organization so effective and complete as. that of the military. To each soldier a ballot-paper could be sent, and his discharge would be his elector’s right. In constituting this Commission we should aim at avoiding bickering and giving as much satisfaction as possible to every returned soldier, regardless of the organization to which he belongs. The only way in which that can be done is by giving every man a right to ballot for his representative on the Commission, the man chosen -to be beyond the Minister’s power of veto.
.- Honorable members opposite are indulging in a lot of make-believe and raising imaginary difficulties in the way of taking a’ ballot of all the returned soldiers. The soldiers who were flesh and blood, and did such good work at the Front, seem to have suddenly disappeared; we are told that many of them cannot be found. Yet only a few days ago this House passed a Bill for the payment of a gratuity to soldiers. If there is anything in the point raised by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming), how shall we find the soldiers in order to pay them their gratuity bonds? The soldiers can be easily found; all that is necessary is an intimation through the public press that they are entitled to record their votes as to who shall represent them on the Commission. An easy and ready way of tracing every soldier would be to publish an announcement that on a certain day the soldiers would be paid their gratuity in cash; I predict that if that were done not many would be missing.
Question - That sub-clause 2 be omitted (Mr. Fenton’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Poynton) proposed -
.- The majority of honorable members have decided that it is better to hand over to an organization the power to select the soldiers’ representative on the Commission instead of taking a ballot of the soldiers themselves.
– That is because of the lack of a perfect opportunity to take a ballot.
– That is not the position. The majority of honorable members are apparently more anxious to keep in favour with the executive of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League.
– The honorable member is imputing motives.
– We are in favour of the soldiers joining their union.
– The majority of honorable members have decided that they will not give the rank and file soldiers an opportunity of selecting their representative on the Commission. They know as well as I do that no ranker will ever have an opportunity of attaining to that position. It will be reserved for some officer.
Mr.Groom. - Many rankers became officers.
– Those promotions depended upon certain circumstances. I had intended to move an amendment which I think would have made the issue clearer than would the amendment which has just been negatived. But I realize that the numbers are against me. Honorable members opposite have made up their minds that so long as the National party remains in power the soldiers will not have an opportunity to ballot for the choice of their representative.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr. Poynton) agreed to -
That in sub-clause 2 the words “ recognised or acknowledged by the Minister as being a body” be left out;that the words “that list” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ any list so submitted.”
Clause further amended consequentially, and, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 15 and 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 -
A Commissioner, an Acting Commissioner, or a member of a Board, shall be deemed to have vacated his office if -
Amendment (by Mr. Poynton) proposed -
That after theword “ any,” sub-clause 1, the word “ paid “ be inserted.
.- This clause is intended to prevent the Commissioners engaging in any private business, and I presume it applies also to members of the Boards.
– -A member of a Board might be called upon to devote only a portion of his time to the repatriation work.
– Then we have no right to prevent such a man engaging in any other business.
– This clause applies to a Commissioner or Acting Commissioner.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move -
That paragraph (a) of sub-clause (2) be left out.
This provision appears to be in accordance with a similar section in the Constitution as applying to members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives. I desire the paragraph to be deleted because a representative of the soldiers on the Board might find himself, through no fault of his own, but by reason of his position as a member of a soldiers’ organization, the subject of legal proceedings, the result of which mightbe his declaration as a bankrupt. Under such circumstances, if the clause is allowed to remaia as drafted, he would lose his position as a member of the Commission. For instance, it will be remembered that some little timeago the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League took action against certain of its members, and legal proceedings were threatened against officers of the organization. One of those officers happened to be a member of Parliament, and though he may not have known of the action taken, or have been in favour of it, he might, by reason of it, have been placed in the position of a bankrupt, and, therefore, I contend that the clause as it stands is not reasonable.
– Would a man. not resign his official position in an organization if he were appointed to the Commission?
– Not necessarilyno more than a union secretary or a union president is called upon to resign his position on being appointed to some industrial board or other.
Amendment (by Mr. Poynton) proposed -
That paragraph c be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following: - “ (c) he, in any way, otherwise than as a member, and in common with the other members, of an incorporated company consisting of more than twenty-five persons -
i) becomes concerned or interested in any contract or agreement made by or on behalf of the Commission; or
participates, or claims to be entitled to participate, in the profit of any such contract or agreement or in any benefit or emolument arising there from.”
Sitting suspended from6.30 to 8 p.m.
.- I understand that in nearly all the States the company laws, particularly as regards proprietary companies, differ. In Victoria there may bo proprietary companies in which 90 per cent. of the shares are hold among two or three persons. Those individuals probably would be those most closely connected with the business, and, apart from the advantage accruing to themselves in safeguarding their interests, there is a considerable factor of safety also for the employees. It is obvious that if the majority interest in a concern were taken out of the hands of those who had been carrying it on, some change might be brought about whereby employees would be dismissed or would suffer some other serious disability. For the purposes of this clause I would prefer the membership of an incorporated company set forth as “ consisting of more than fifty persons.”
– The verbiage at present is identical with a section of the Federal Constitution.
– Unless the Repatriation Department intends to begin manufacturing on its own account, I cannot see how any person concerned therein is likely to be interested in any contract with which the Department may have to do. In support of mypoint may I cite the position of the Victorian Treasurer, Mr. McPherson, who, I understand, is largely interested in the firm of McPherson’s Proprietary Limited. His company deals in such items as implements and tools. If the Committee accepts this clause, men of the type of Mr. McPherson, eminently suited to carry on the affairs of repatriation, would be excluded.
– Does this clause go further than the law dealing with contractors in Parliament?
– I believe it does. I urge the Government to be very careful in providing for the selection of members of the Commission, and of the Boards. Well-known public men, otherwise eminently fitted for appointment, may find themselves ineligible because they are associated with interests contrary to the terms of this clause.
– The honorable member will be interested in a comparison between the position of a member of the Commission and of a member of Parliament. The situation with regard to the latter is set out in section 44 of the Constitution -
Any person who . . . has any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth otherwise than as a member and in common with the other members of an incorporated company consisting of more than twenty-five persons:
I desire to emphasize the words “ otherwise than as a member.” Wehave followed the same verbiage in this Bill.
– Take the case of an individual who holds a very large interest in a firm.
– If he holds such interests, and the firm has a contract or agreement of the class referred to, he will he excluded.
– There maybe a proprietary company of twenty-six persons in which one individual may hold 90 per cent. of its interests.
– There must be a stage at which to fix the border line, and we have chosen the limit in this respect exactly as in its application to a member of Parliament. The same provision will he found in quite a number of Acts.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Poynton) agreed to-
That after the word “ thereof” in sub-clause 3 the following words be inserted : - “ or in any benefit or emolument arising therefrom.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause18 agreed to.
A Board may exercise such powers and shall perform such duties as are conferred on it by this Act or as are prescribed.
.- I move-
That the words “or as are prescribed “ be left out.
– That will be cutting out the whole business.
– Surely we intend to confer upon the Boards only the powers set forth under the Bill. The Government may bring in regulations covering any number of things. I object to the Government and the Government Printer running the country. Between them they can regulate an Act out of existence. Regulations may be framed in direct opposition to the spirit of the Act itself.
– This clause contains the definite statement that “ a Board may exercise such powers and shall perform such duties as are conferred on it by this Act.” There is only one clause in the Bill which confers any powers on the Boards. That is clause 26, which provides for the Boards to deal with pensions. The object of this particular clause, however, is to enable the Boards to deal with all those matters, under the regulations, such as the present State Boards have been accustomed to handle. The amendment of the honorable member for Yarra, if agreed to, would have the effect of depriving the State Boards of their powers. His intention, however, is that the Boards shall have conferred upon them the fullest possible authority, under the regulations, to deal with the innumerable classes of soldiers’ applications which will be constantly coming before them.
– What can the Boards do apart from the Act?
– This measure states that regulations may be made, and that, thereunder, powers may be given to the Boards to deal with almost innumerable phases of repatriation such as the present State Boards have concerned themselves with.
– Matters entirely outside of the Act?
– I call the attention of the honorable member to clause 47, which sets forth that the Commission may make recommendations to the GovernorGeneral for regulations providing for a number of things, which are then set forth.
– Things, therefore, which are in the Act.
– The power to make regulations is to be given, under clause 47. Those regulations must deal with the matters prescribed in that clause.
.- The Bill makes no attempt to define the duties of State Boards, but under clause 12 the- Commission is given a power of delegation, and its functions may be passed on to State Boards. I had expected the Minister (Mr. Poynton) to explain whether there was to be any variation in the functions of State Boards as compared with the existing Boards. There is to be a vital difference between the newly-created Commission and the old Commission. The latter had the power of formulating policy, but the Minister was a member of the Commission, and the Commission’s policy became the policy of repatriation. Under this Bill, however, the Minister is to solely determine the policy of repatriation, and the Commission will merely give effect to it and use the State Boards for that purpose. In the past the complaint of the State Boards has been that they have been somewhat of an excrescence on repatriation work. Men with a good general knowledge have been acting .on the Boards, but they have not had the power of initiation, and have had very little power of recommendation. On one occasion the Victorian Board resigned, feeling that it was quite useless for the purpose of carrying out any functions. I hope that the Minister will give us the carefully-considered policy of the Government in this regard. I hope that the State Boards, which will be in close touch with the soldiers, will be real active administrative bodies, and if directpowers of administration are not conferred on them, I trust that under the delegated powers they will be effective bodies, and not merely consultative
Boards with the right to make recommendations, but with no authority to give effect to them.
– Since this Parliament has assembled we have heard a great deal, particularly from the gentlemen in the corner, about reverting to constitutional government. The War Precautions Act was a very small measure with very few clauses, but it will surprise honorable members in the corner to know that the regulations issued under it would fill this chamber Mr. Fisher, who was the Prime Minister when that measure was passed, and his Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) tola the House that the Bill would be all right and that the Act would be carefully and properly administered; but as it has been administered honorable members of the Opposition have been practically leg-roped and hamstrung. My idea is that we should put as much as we can into the Bill and have very few regulations. I noticed in the press about a fortnight ago that all the soldiers in this House had formed a party. What does the chairman of that party (Mr. Fleming) think about this measure, which so vitally affects returned men ? Is he fighting for the soldiers or for regulations? I represent a lot of returned soldiers, and they have been in communication with me about the Act. I want to see them get a fair and square deal. We can only do it by ‘ cutting out as many regulations as possible and putting the provisions in the Bill.
– We should have done so at the very beginning.
– Then what harm can there be in doing it now ?
– Even if we do so, the words “or as prescribed” will still be necessary.
– No one knows better than the Acting Attorney-General that the less regulations there are the better the Statute is. The regulations issued under the Public Service Act are scandalous. One week a regulation is gazetted, the next week it is altered, and the following week it is repealed and a fresh start is made. The same thing will occur under this Bill. The measure should be made as simple as possible, so that anyone and everyone may understand it. The nick and shovel work of repatriation has already been done, and well done, by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen).
– And the great bulk of it has been done under regulations.
– But that does not matter. The Minister knows well that regulations may be made to upset the purpose of an Act. I agree with the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) that the State Boards should be given as much power as possible, because they know more about the conditions and the individuals in the various States than can be known in Melbourne. At the same time I want to see their powers set out in the Bill itself and not in regulations. I want this measure to be a model Bill for the repatriation of our soldiers, and I sincerely trust, for the ,saKe, not only of politicians, but also of the soldiers, we shall have as few regulations as possible.
.- The amendment shows that the Government’s chickens are now coming home to roost. It is- true that an Act cannot be administered without regulations, but the amendment is easily understood in the light of the history of this Administration. As the Minister pointed out, almost every Bill introduced by Labour Governments contained -the necessary power to make regulations, but it is not to the discredit of Labour Governments, as it is to the discredit of this Government, that that power was misused, and that regulations were secretly made which had the most far-reaching and, in some cases, most oppressive effects. This Government has carried the practice of legislating by regulation to such an extent that now it is content to present the mere shell of a measure for indorsement by Parliament, leaving the actual legislation to be done under rules made “ as may be prescribed.” That is a sufficient reason for the amendment, which is designed to direct the Government -ho put ite legislative intentions into print for the consideration of Parliament.
– Then this is a party amendment !
– Had the Bill emanated from a Labour Government I would not object to the phrase in the clause, because I know the history of Labour politics; but with my knowledge of what took place under the War Pre.cautions Act. and under other Acts passed by this Government - the making of secret enactments, which would fill many tomes - I am not prepared to sign the blank cheque put before me. The Government should .have told the Committee what the powers of the Commission and of the Boards are to be, and not, as the Minister for Works and Railways has suggested, wait until Parliament is in recess to legislate in regard to them.
– That is a perversion of what I said.
– The Minister, in an interjection, asked what was to be done when Parliament was in recess, when they may want to pass regulations which Parliament would not have an opportunity of discussing. As a protest against the action of the. Government in presenting a mere legislative shell, leaving the actual legislation to the framing of secret regulations, I shall vote for the amendment. I want Ministers ‘tlo’ understand that we have not forgotten recent history, and that from now on we shall insist upon our constitutional right to have legislative proposals submitted in print for our consideration in this Chamber, instead of having legislation, turned out in secret from a sort of sausage machine. Men have been arrested, tried, and imprisoned under regulations of which they may have had no knowledge, and which the Government would not have dared to bring forward for discussion in Parliament.
– They tried me under one that they had not gazetted.
– They would try and, if possible, imprison the honorable member under regulations of which only one Minister might know the purport. Whenever a certain amount of public excitement arose, and there was some little agitation at a public meeting in the city, representations were made to the Prime Minister, who immediately turned the handle of the machine and put into force what was virtually an Act of Parliament in the guise of a regulation. The Opposition reminds the Government of the past, and invites it to amend its ways in the future. It asks also to be told what is meant by the Bill, and refuses to give the blank cheque that is asked for.
Mr. HECTOR LAMOND (Illawarra) T8.371. - The honorable member for Batman has thrown light on the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition. He says that regulations are necessary to the effective- working of the mandate of Parliament.
– That is true.
– Some of those associated with him have declared that the Bill should not. be regarded as a party measure. Yet, because of something that was done under an Act passed by a Labour Government, they refuse to give to this Government a power which the honorable member for Batman admits to be essential to the working of any Act. To vote for such an amendment would be to pass a vote of censure on the Government. The honorable member has declared it to be the purpose of the Leader of the Opposition, not to perfect the Bill, but to show the public that his party has . no confidence in those who will be responsible for the regulations made under it. That is to drag the measure into the arena of the impurest party politics, and there is nothing that we should be more reluctant to do, seeing that the measure was introduced to benefit our soldiers, who came, not from one party, but from all the parties in the Commonwealth. No one knows better than the Leader of the Opposition that powerto make regulations is essential to the working of an Act, and he has introduced many Bills containing practically the sameprovision as that to which he now objects. The finest thing that Parliament didduring the war was to pass a Repatriation Bill which was a mere legislative skeleton, leaving it to the Minister and his officers to work out the whole scheme. The success which has attended their efforts is far beyond the expectations of those who passed that Bill. If the question is asked, “ Can we trust this Administration to make regulations in the interests ofthe soldiers?” I would remind the Committee of the gibe of the Leader of theOpposition the other night, that this Government was here merely to register the decisions of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League. That association gives probably a truer reflex of the opinions of our soldiers, both inside and outside of it, than can be got from honorable members opposite.
.- The more we intrust to an executive power to make regulations the more we barter away the rights of Parliament. No Act can be worked without regulations, but to give a blank cheque in regard to the power to make regulations is to let the control of public affairs pass altogether out of the hands of Parlia ment. I object on principle to government by regulation, and shall vote for the amendment, because I think that the words “ as prescribed,” which appear here, there, and everywhere in the Bill, allow for the framing of regulations which may surprise even the honorable member for Kooyong. Even he will have no opportunity to object to regulations framed under this power. They will be turned outinrecess by the printing press, and I believe that steps will be taken to do by regulationwhat really is not provided for in the Bill. That has happened in the past. Already notice has been given of the intention to bring in a Bill to indemnify a number of persons who committed illegal acts in the name of the Government. Is it not time that we ceased to allow Governments, Labour or otherwise, to rule the country by regulation ?Whenever I can cast a vote to curtail the power of the Executive, and to increase the power of Parliament. I shall do so.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Tudor’s amendment) stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided -
Ayes . . . . . . 34
Noes . . . . . .18
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 20 agreed to.
Clause 21 - (1.) The Commission may appoint such officers as it thinks necessary for the purposes of this Act. . . .
.- I desire to know whether it is proposed now to have in respect of both the Central Commission and the States Boards chief officers corresponding with the present Controller and the Deputy Controllers? How is it proposed to officer the Department? The Controller and Deputy Controllers were given certain powers of decision. Are these powers now to be delegated to the Commission and the State Boards?
– I understand that the administrative powers of the Deputy Controllers will remain as they are to-day, but that certain work which now falls to their lot will be taken over by the Commission. I know of no other alteration of their duties.
Mr.Fenton. - Can the Minister state whether under this Bill the Department will require more officers than are at present employed?
– The Minister has not answered the question I put to him. We are setting up new tribunals and providing new machinery, and the Minister should be able to tell us whether in the circumstances the Controller and Deputy Controllers in the States will be necessary.
– The position is that certain work now carried out by the Controller will on the passing of this measure be taken over by the three Commissioners, while the State Boards will take over certain work now being carried out by the Deputy Controller in each State.
– But is there to be a chief executive officer in respect of both the Commission and the State Boards?
– There must be executive officers for general administrative purposes.
– Who is to be the chief executive officer under the new arrangement?
– The chief executive officer, I take it, will be the Chairman of the Commission.
– We have, for instance, in Victoria three Railways Commissioners but there is also a Secretary for Railways, who is the chief executive officer of the Commissioners. The Bill displaces the Controller.
– The Commission will take over the work of the Controller, but there must be a secretary of the Department.
– I wish to ascertain what will be the position of the officers now employed by the Repatriation Department. Scores of returned soldiers were employed by the State Boards and practically promised employment for three years. Are we to understand that these men will now have to take their chance of employment in common with all applicants for the various positions in the Department, despite the fact that many of them left good jobs to enter the service?
– Save that the Commission will take the place of the Controller, the existing repatriation officers will continue as before. The general work of the office must go on as before.
– I wish to know definitely whether the whole of the present officers of the Department will be taken over by the Commission.
– The Bill provides for a change so far as the administrative head is concerned, but the general administrative work must continue.
.- Sub-clause 1 of clause 21 provides that -
The Commission may appoint such offcers as it thinks necessary for the purposes of this Act.
And under sub-clause 3 it is provided that officers employed under the Act shall not be subject to the Commonwealth Public Service Act, but shall be engaged for such period and subject to such conditions as are prescribed. It will thus be seen that whatever strange things may be prescribed, pursuant to these great powers, patronage so far as the employment of officers is concerned will rest with the Commission. We should not lightly depart from the principle of competitive examination for positions of emolument which was adopted in the Public Service Act. As the result of very sore experience, we were driven to lift Public Service appointments out of the arena of personal or political patronage and to place them on the sounder ground of competition. Therefore I move -
That the following words be added to subclause 1: - “but shall nevertheless be guided, as far as practicable, by the results of competitive examinations held for the purpose of determining merit.”
– The words “ as far as practicable” spoil the amendment.
– I recognise that, in respect of some of the senior appointments, it may not be thought desirable or necessary to hold examinations. I hope the Committee will indicate its adherence to the general principle of fair competition, and that the Commission may be reminded to give effect to that wish in a fair and generous spirit.
Mr.Higgs. - Will the honorable member indicate the subjects in which he wishes the candidates to be examined?
– I take it that the positions will be of a clerical character akin to those filled usually by officers of the Public Service, and that they will require at least a fair, and if we can get it, a high standard of intelligence. Some test of the intelligence and capacity of the officers to be employed should be applied.
– Would the honorable member compel the present officers of the Department to submit to the same examination ?
– I have used the words “ as far as practicable.” The amendment does not impose on the Commission an absolute obligation to hold examinations in every case, but it indicates that, generally speaking, in appointing the rank and file of the Service for the purpose of administering this scheme, the test of competition should be applied.
– Ninety-nine per cent. of the officers of the Department are exsoldiers who were away from Australia for four or five years, and the examination provisions of the Public Service Act were relaxed in respect of them.
– I do not wish to interfere with the principle of preference to returned soldiers, but we should also associate with it a standard of efficiency. I hope I may assume that the returned soldiers themselves are no more anxious than anybody else that inefficient bunglers should be appointed to these positions.
– I am not quite sure whether the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) wishes the amendment to be retrospective, so that we must get rid of some of our officers, although they have been giving every satisfaction, unless they can pass some prescribed examination. A few moments ago the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls) sought an assurance that the positions of present officers would be secured. The honorable member for Batman was very careful not to commit himself as to the form which the examination should take.
– That is a matter to be prescribed, if ever there was one.
– At any rate, I cannot accept the amendment.
.- I regret to have to oppose the amendment. A new Department has been created in which a number of employees have been engaged for several years. The amendment would offer a convenient means of getting rid of some of them. For instance, an age limit might be prescribed which might exclude a large number of the present officers, some of whom are good men, with ripe experience. I am not very favorably disposed towards Public Service examinations. Once a man has entered the Service by examination, he is there for life; at any rate, he cannot be shifted without a lot of trouble. Under the system proposed by this clause an officer can be employed as long as he gives satisfaction, and when his services are no longer satisfactory the Commission may discharge him.
– In any case these will not be permanent positions.
– No, but if a. person entered the Department by examination under the Public Service Act he would regard his appointment as permanent. I regard the whole repatriation scheme as a. temporary measure.
– The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) is more optimistic thanI am if he thinks that the Repatriation Department will be only temporary. We shall all be very much older before that
Department ceases to be. I admit that in such a Department a certain amount of elasticity is necessary. But if the officers are to be removed entirely from the control of the Public Service Commissioner the door will be opened wide for political influence.
-T he appointments will be made by the Commission.
– Yes, but I am confident that most honorable members will be worried a good deal in connexion with any appointments that are to be made.
– A lot of these appointments are already made under the existing administration.
– The Government propose that the Repatriation Commissioners shall take over the administration of war pensions. Under the pension system the magistrates are, I think, in every case public servants. Are we to create an additional set of magistrates in addition to the men who have been doing the work, who understand it, and who know exactly the type of claimants they have to deal with? We have already safeguarded the positions of members of the Public Service who enter the service of the Commission by guaranteeing them their accruing rights.
– But the honorable member forgets that the appointments to-be made by the Commission will not necessarily be permanent.
– I know that; but the Bill preserves the rights of the appointees under the Public Service Act. Honorable members will see in the Public Service Commissioner’s report that at least one-third of the officers of the Service are temporary or exempt. Of course, a lot of them are filling such positions as those of cleaners, and are necessarily exempt. Any person appointed by the Commission could be made exempt likewise. If it is desired- that these appointments shall be only temporary they can be made so as readily under the Public Service Act as under the clause that is proposed.
– That would involve an amendment of the Public Service Act,
– No. The Public Service Commissioner may appoint any person temporarily for not more than six months. The appointment may then be extended for three months, and if it is shown- as it would be shown by the Minister in respect of appointments under this measure - that it is advisable in the interests of the Department that the officer’s services should be further retained, that can be done. For instance, skilled men who were engaged in the vocational training of returned soldiers could be made exempt officers. I have no desire to displace any man who is already employed in the Department, butwe should be careful not to open wide the door for political patronage. Honorable members recollect the abuses that took place in the State Public Service under the old system of political appointment, and any member who has had Ministerial experience will admit that those who have entered the Public Service by examination are at least as good as those who entered by other means.
– Is it not likely that there are already as many men in the Department as are. likely to be required?
– I admit that this provision may never be operative, but I am anxious to safeguard the position, and for- that reason will vote; for the amendment.
– This is the first timer we have proposed to grant power to anybody but the Minister or the Public Service Commissioner to make appointments outside the Public Service Act.
– The Railways Commissioners do so.
– That is so; but the position of the Railways Commissioners is entirely different, and I am anxious to safeguard the position of those who will have to legislate in the future.
Question - That the words proposed tobe inserted be so inserted (Mr. Brendan’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . ..20
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- Why is there a difference between the treatment of ‘Commonwealth officers who may be appointed Commissioners or members of Boards under clause 20, and the treatment of subordinate, officers referred to in clause 21? By clause 20, if an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service is appointed Commissioner or member of a Board, his term of service counts as ifhe had been in the Commonwealth Public Service throughout, although he is not a Commonwealth public servant during that term. In clause 21, however, which deals with subordinate officers, the same language is not adhered to, nor is the same result achieved. These officers retain all their accruing rights to the date of appointment under the Bill, but the period of appointment does not count subsequently as if they had been members of the Public Service to the same extent as in the case of the Commissioners. They are given leave of absence during their term of office under the Bill, but there is a difference between the treatment they receive :.and the treatment given to officers who may be appointed Commissioner or member of a Board. ‘There is no doubt from the wording of the clauses that this difference is designed, and it means that the subordinate officers arenotgiven such favorable consideration under thismeasure as are the more highly-paid officers.
– The more highly-paid officers are notpermanent.
– I quite understandthat, butthey are treated in a more favoured manner subsequently, when their term of office has expired.
Mr.Groom. - I think the honorable memberhas -not read the whole of the clause. I refer him to sub-clause 5.
– I have read the whole of the clause.
– In what respect are officers better treated than others ?
– The honorable member need only read the two clauses to which I have referred to ‘see that they are worded differently; and that is for some purpose. In the case of the subordinate officers subclause 5 of clause 21 reads -
An officer of the Commonwealth Public Service who becomes an officer under this Act shall not thereby be required toresign from the Commonwealth Public Service, but may be granted leave of absence for the period of his employment under this Act, and the period of leave so granted shall, for all purposes, be included as part of the officer’s period of service.
Sub-clause 7, which refers to the position of all officer after the expiration of his service under the Bill, reads -
In determining the , status and salary to which the officer shall be advanced, the Public Service Commissioner shall take into consideration the time (if any) which the officer served as an Australian soldier and the period of his service as an officer of the Department of Repatriation.
This is what I desire to have explained. There seems to be power vested in the Public Service Commissioner, under clause 21, to appoint the officers to positions at an advanced salary subsequently; the Public Service Commissioner is given a discretion. In the case of the higherpaid officers, however, the Bill itself defines what their position shall be, and they are to be considered as having been Commonwealth public . servants throughout their period of service under the Bill. I suppose that there may be a considerable advance in salary of a public officer appointed a Commissioner or member of a Board. Will such officers continue at the higher rate of salary when their period of service under the Bill expires? If so, why does not the salary of the subordinate officers continue likewise at the higher rate, assuming that there was an advance when they were appointed under the Bill? Then, again, sub-clause 4 of clause 21 provides-
An officer of the Commonwealth Public Service or of the Public Service of a State who becomes an officer under this Act shall retain all his existing and accruing rights.
How is it proposed to retain the “ existing and accruing rights “ of a State public servant, when there is no provision in this clause similar to that in clause 20, which treats the officers there referred to as transferred officers?
– If the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) looks more closely into the clause he will find there is not that dissimilarity of treatment to which he has referred. The honorable member omitted to read sub-clause 6.
– I read the whole of the clause before I rose to speak.
– The honorable member did not tell the Committee he had read all the sub-clauses.
– Honorable members would assume I had read them.
– We can only judge by what the honorable member said; and he did not say he had read that sub-clause.
– Does the honorable gentleman wish me to tell the Committee everything I read before I rise to speak?
– When the honorable member advances an argument, we presume he refers to the clause, and if he omits to refer to a portion of the clause, the presumption is that he does not think it relevant tohis argument. I am pointing out that there is a sub-clause which is relevant to his argument, and which he did not read. Sub-clause 6 makes all the difference. It states -
Upon the termination of the employment under this Act of any such officer, who has not been dismissed for misconduct, he shall be entitled to re-appointment to a position in the Commonwealth Public Service with such advancement in status and salary beyond those held and received by him in that Service immediately prior to his appointment under this Act, as the Public Service Commissioner in the circumstances thinks just.
– Why is not that same wording employed with respect to the Commissioners and members of the Boards?’
– If the honorable member will again examine clause 20, he will see that so far as a Commissioner or member of a Board is concerned -
If an officer of the Public Service of the Commonwealth is appointed his service as Commissioner or member of a Board shall, for the purpose of determining his existing or accruing rights, be taken into account as if it were service in the Public Service of the Commonwealth, and if an officer of the Public Service of a State is appointed Commissioner or member of aBoard, his service as Commissioner or member of a Board shall, for the purpose of determining his existing and accruing rights, be taken into account as if it were service in the Public Service of the Commonwealth and as if he had been an officer of a Department transferred to the Commonwealth and were retained in the service of the Commonwealth.
That is to say, when the officer of the Federal Service becomes a Commissioner or member of a Board, he retains his existing and accruing rights, and his service as Commissioner is regarded as if he had been in the Public Service throughout.
– The reference to which the Minister is calling my attention has to do only with State servants.
– That is not so. I am now quoting from clause 20. The purpose is that if we take a man from the Public Service and place him under the repatriation scheme, he shall not be prejudiced by being transferred.
– Does that mean that if the Government appoints a State officer upon the Commission, and he loses his job, the Government will take him into the Federal Public Service?
– We take him, with his existing and accruing rights, only during the time of his service as a member of the Commission or Board.
– But you do not use that same language in clause 21, referring to the lower-paid officers.
– We say that-
An officer of the Commonwealth Public Service or of the Public Service of a State who becomes an officer under this Act shall retain all his existing and accruing rights.
The Commonwealth may desire to borrow a departmental officer whose qualifications fit him for the purposes of adminis tration. We transfer that officer, and it is only fair that we should see that, when he is so transferred, his term of service with the Repatriation Department shall be regarded as service performed in his own original sphere.
– Suppose the Commonwealth authorities borrow a State departmental officer, is there an arrangement to preserve his accruing and existing rights under the State?
– There is provision in clause 49 for agreements to be made with the States concerning their officers.
Mr. HECTOR LAMOND (Illawarra) 1 9.36]. - There is another phase which requires attention. The Repatriation Department is already at work; the interests of officers now employed should be specifically protected. And there is another section of the Public Sendee which, possibly, may suffer, and which should be properly provided for. I refer to the officers of the Pensions Branch, who are now dealing with soldiers’ applications.
– They will be taken over also under this Bill.
Mr. FENTON (Maribyrnong) ‘9.37].- Certain officers associated with the Oldage Pensions Department have been engaged in investigating war pension claims. Will they be taken over and allotted similar duties under this legislation?
– I understand that practical] v all of the officials who have been attending to war pension matters will be taken over.
– Boards of three men in each State will now supersede the Deputy Controllers. If the new Boards do not include the State Deputy Controllers, it appears to me that the latter will be deprived of their positions. What provision has been made for them ?
.- - The Minister failed to touch the point which I specifically raised. I pointed out a distinct difference between the treatment proposed to be meted to the Commissioners and members of the State Boards, and to the lesser officials. Clause 20 proposes to confer better conditions upon a Commonwealth public servant who may be appointed a Commissioner or member of a Board than clause 21 essays to give to subordinate officers of the Commonwealth Public Service who may be appointed to subordinate positions under the repatriation scheme. . It is laid down distinctly in clause 20 that, although the Commissioners will not be officers under the Public Service Act, their services under the provisions of this measure will be taken into account in ascertaining their existing and accruing rights. At the termination of their period of service under the repatriation legislation, will the Commissioners continue to be Commonwealth public servants?
– Suppose an official is appointed for three years, his appointment will last for only that exact period. If he is a member of the Public Service, and goes back to his old Department, his status will have been preserved for him.
– If a Commonwealth public servant is made a Commissioner, at the end of his term of office, he will still be a Commonwealth public servant, with’ certain existing and accruing rights. What are they? Will he be entitled to the same salary as he drew when he was a Commissioner ?
– No; the accruing rights will be rights of leave, and so on.
– I would prefer an assurance on the point from the Minister. I have so far ascertained that the pers-on in question, at the termination of his service as Commissioner, will- remain in the Commonwealth Public Service. Will his salary remain at the same figure as when he was acting as a Commissioner ?
– Not necessarily.
– Then he may return to a lower salary than he has been drawing hitherto. That is not as I read the clause, however. I read it that his service as a Commissioner will count as though he were a Commonwealth public servant during that period, in order to ascertain what are his existing and accruing rights. But a subordinate officer’s period of service, apparently, is not to fully count as though he had remained throughout that term a Commonwealth public servant. He may be given leave of absence when this measure becomes an Act. ‘
– And the period of leave so granted will, for all purposes, be included as part of the officer’s period of service.
– As his period of service, . exactly; but not as affecting all hia existing and accruing rights. Subclause 6 sets out that upon the termination of a subordinate officer’s employment, he is to be entitled to re-appointment to a position in the Commonwealth Public Service, with such advancement in status and salary beyond those held and received by him in that service immediately prior to his appointment under this measure, as the Public Service Commssioner may think just. That is not the position with regard to the Commissioners and the members of the Boards. They are to be given the fullest rights, as if they had been, during their period of office, members of the Commonwealth Public Service. There is a differentiation in favour ofi the higher officials.
– The honorable member for West Sydney has made it clear to me that there is a distinction contained in clause 20, as against the phraseology of clause 21, giving preferential treatment to the higherpaid officials. The difference between the clauses is that all the accruing rights of the man in the Public Service receiving £800 a year are preserved just as if he were still a public servant until he returns to the Department in which he was employed prior to his appointment as Repatriation Commissioner - ifhis accruing rights amount to £100 or £200 per year he will get them - but a junior officer, a clerk in the Pensions Branch of the Treasury who is transferred to the Repatriation Department, is not to have his accruing rights protected. Upon his return to the Treasury Department he will get just that treatment which the Public Service Commissioner chooses to mete out to him. If there is to be no distinction between the two classes of officers, why should not both clauses be the same ? The officer occupying a junior position in the Service should get the same fair; square deal as is meted out to the “ top dog.”
– The wording of the two clauses is similar. Sub-clause 4 of clause 21, which the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) omitted to read, distinctly provides that an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service who becomes an officer under the Repatriation
Act shall retain all his existing and accruing rights. Clause 20 provides -
The Commissioners and the members of the Boards shall not be subject to the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1902-18, but if an officer of the Public Service of the Commonwealth is appointed Commissioner or member of a Board his service as Commissioner or member of a Board shall, for the purpose of determining his existing or accruing rights, betaken into account, as if it were service in the Public Service of the Commonwealth.
As for junior officers, clause 21, sub-clause 4; provides -
An officer of the Commonwealth Public Service or of the Public Service of a State who becomes an officer under this Act shall retain all his existing and accruing rights.
In the case of both classes of men their existing and accruing rights are preserved.. Then sub-clause 5 provides -
An officer of the Commonwealth Public Service who becomes, an officer under this Act shall not thereby be required to resign from the Commonwealth Public Service, but may be granted leave of absence for the period of his employment under this Act, and the period of leave so granted shall, for all purposes, be included as part of the officer’s period of service.
The officer does not leave the Commonwealth Service, and, as is provided in sub-clause 7, in determining the status and salary to which he shall be advanced upon re-appointment to a position. in the Commonwealth Public Service, the Public Service Commissioner shall take into consideration his period of service under this Act. His period of service in the Repatriation Department, although treated as leave of absence from the Commonwealth Public Service, is to be deemed to have been service in the Commonwealth Public Service, and all his existing and accruing rights are maintained.
– Then why not use the same words in regard to the Commissioners and members of Boards?
– Because we are dealing with different matters.
– Of course; one is the “ top dog “ and the other is not.
– The suggestion is unworthy of the honorable member, and will not mislead anyone. In one case we deal with quite a new matter, the creation of Commissioners and Board members. In the other case we are merelyreproducing section 13 of the Australian
Soldiers Repatriation Act. There is no preference given. There is no intention of preferring one set of officers against another. They are all placed on the same footing.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 22 (Definitions).
– This clause affords the Committee the first opportunity it has had of separate reference to the “administration of war pensions. I hope that we shall have from the Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Poynton) a elear enunciation of policy, that there will be no overlapping of Departments. There is already a branch of the Treasury Department administering pensions, but apparently, in order to group all soldier activities under one head, it is now proposed to transfer the administration of war pensions to the Repatriation Department. I voted with the Government on clause 21 against the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), feeling that in voting for the amendment 1 would have been supporting the creation of permanent officers under the control of the Public Service Commissioner, and it would then have been too late for me to raise a protest against this portion of the Bill. I want to hear a statement from the Government that the period of service of the officers appointed under the Repatriation Commission to administer war pensions will cease when the general activities of repatriation cease, and that automatically the pensions work will revert to the Treasury. Otherwise, we shall again be creating what the country has been objecting to for years past - namely, the duplication of Departments, not merely the duplication of Federal and State Departments covering one sphere of activity, but ridiculously creating two Pensions Departments in the Federal sphere of activity, I object to the appointment of further permanent officers when we already have permanent officers for the administration of pensions generally, and it has been the experience of honorable members on both sides that so far the work has been satisfactorily performed. No assurance has been given that greater facility or expedition will be provided or displayed by the transfer of this branch of pensions work to the Repatriation Commission. I would oppose the transfer if it were merely to be done for the purpose of justifying a paid Repatriation Commission, and I would seek to have Part III. of the Bill omitted. I want the Government to say that they do not propose to create and perpetuate two Pensions Departments in the Federal sphere. If they propose to do so, I cannot support this portion of t(he Bill. If, on the other hand,’ the Minister says that, having carefully considered all the needs of the soldiers, he finds that it will be more economical and effective, and of greater advantage to’ the soldiers, to have the whole of these activities grouped temporarily in one Department, I cannot press my objection.
– I sympathize with the contention put forward by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers). I do not like the complexion given to this Bill that the proposed transfer of the pensions administration will take the form of the creation of a permanent Department. The work of repatriation is of a temporary nature, although it may continue for a very considerable time. We have recognised the temporary character -of the Department’s work in the creation of the controlling authorities, but should we take from the Treasury the administration of war pensions, and hand it over to the Repatriation Department, we should give to_ the latter a permanent character. The interests with which the Department will have to deal are sectional, and some of them may cease to exist after a comparatively short period of years ; but the administration of pensions must continue for many years. I wish the Minister to satisfy the Committee that there is a sufficient reason for transferring the War Pensions Branch from the Treasury Department, where it has been exceedingly well administered, to the Repatriation Department. I am as strong as anybody could be against the creation of unnecessary Departments, and the country is making its voice heard unmistakably on the question.
– At the present time applications for war pensions are dealt with by the Treasury Department, but, in nine cases out of ten, the soldier who applies for a pension .also makes application to the Repatriation Department on some other matter. When I was in charge, complaints were frequent about having to make inquiries on related matters in a number of offices when they might have been dealt with under the one roof.
– A great many pension applications are dealt with by means of correspondence.
– Yes, but I have had letters from soldiers, portions of which I have had to re-write because they dealt with a number of matters which had to be referred to different Departments. One letter might contain matters which had to be referred to the Defence, the Treasury, and the Repatriation Departments. I am informed by those who know more about repatriation than I do, that what is proposed will not entail any disturbance of the present existing pensions machinery, and will not disturb the personnel of the Pensions Department; that it ip a change of roof rather than a change of personnel that is proposed. The proposed reorganization will insure to the returned soldier and’ his dependants economy of working, and expedition in dealing with the business in hand. Under the present arrangement two or three Departments have to be communicated with, but under the proposed arrangement everything can be done by communicating with the Repatriation Department. What is proposed will not duplicate the pensions staff, or increase it, and will insure greater expedi- tien in settling claims.
– When the other work of the Repatriation Department is concluded, we shall have two pensions offices, that administering war pensions under the Repatriation Department, and that administering old-age and invalid pensions under the Treasury. Surely the Minister would not justify the maintenance of a Commission merely for the payment of war pensions.
– It seems likely that the work of providing employment for returned soldiers will be the first business of the Repatriation ‘Department to come to an end, and that the vocational training work will be the next; the payment of pensions will last longest of all. But it will be within the competence of Parliament to put at any time the War Pensions Branch again into the Treasury De- partment
– Will the Minister give an undertaking that on the completion of the other activities of the Repatriation Department, the war-pensions work will be given back to the Treasury?
– I am willing to do that, and shall be thankful if my life is spared long enough to see the end of the war pensions; but I do not wish to mislead the honorable member, and must, therefore, tell him that I. cannot give any guarantee in respect of future Parliaments. No Parliament, however, would allow an unwarrantable duplication of Departments to continue for any length of time. In the meanwhile, it will be a great advantage to have pension matters dealt with under the same roof as other repatriation matters.
.- If the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) is satisfied with the Minister’s statement, and will not move to delete this provision regarding pensions, I trust that some other member will take - the matter in hand. Apparently the Government intends to create two pensions Departments.
– There will not be two pensions Departments created.
– At the present time, so far as Melbourne is concerned, all pension matters are dealt with in the offices in Brooks Robinson’s buildings in Elizabethstreet. Now, according to the statement made by Senator Millen when introducing this Bill in the Senate, there are only 17,000 soldiers to return to Australia, “and the bulk of the sick and wounded have already returned, while the cases of the dependants of those who were killed have been dealt with. At least 75 per cent, of all pensions cases in every State have been finished, and to hand over the administration of war pensions’ to the Repatriation Department would be a mistake. As the honorable member for Wakefield has suggested, it would give the Repatriation Department a justification for continuing in existence after its real work had been done. Honorable members know what a scandal attached to the pension system of the United States of America, where forty years after the Civil War there were more pensioners receiving war pensions than there were persons who had fought in the war.
– That could not happen under the Bill.
– No. But as the representative of a. large city electorate, where as many pension cases must have arisen as in any other constituency, I say that no
Department of the Commonwealth ha3 worked better than the War Pensions Department. What is proposed is the transfer of a certain number of officers from the offices in Elizabeth-street to the Repatriation Department offices .in. St. Kildaroad. If this would benefit the soldiers or their dependants in any way, I would not object to it, but I cannot see that it would. The only difference it will make to a pensioner will be that, instead of presenting himself at the end of six ‘ months in Elizabeth-street, he will have to present himself at the St. Kilda-road offices, where he will be examined by the same men as under the present arrangement would examine him in Elizabethstreet. As for the paying .of pensions, that is done throughout the Commonwealth at the various post offices. Nothing will be saved by the proposed change, and I fail to discover any justification for handing over the pensions administration to the Repatriation Department, when not more than one-fourth of the whole number of cases remains to be dealt with.
– Many of the cases already dealt with will be subject to review.
– That happens in regard to all pensions. We are doing more to finally fix pension rates under this measure than Ave have done before. We are fixing under a schedule to the Bill the pension rates payable in respect of those who have received certain injuries, and are thus leaving less than ever to the discretionary powers of the magistrates. If the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) is not prepared to move in the direction suggested by him, I hope that some one else will do so, in order that we may show by our votes that we are opposed to any duplication of effort in respect of the Pensions Department, which has been wisely administered.
.- I am not satisfied with the form of the assurance given by the Minister that we are not to have at the end of the repatriation activities of the Commonwealth two distinct pension Departments, with a commissioner and deputy commissioners, together with their respective staffs, dealing with invalid and old-age pensions, and a Commission and State Boards dealing with war pensions. The hesitancy shown by the Minister leads me to believe that we are to have two Federal pensions Departments controlled by two separate Ministers with separate staffs and different methods of ‘ adjustment. If it were not for the schedule provisions already agreed upon and which vastly enhance the pensions and allowances hitherto provided for, I should move for the. omission of the whole of Part III. of the Bill. To do that, however, would be to strike out the new pension rates provided for in the schedule, and I am not prepared to take that responsibility in order to bring about a change of administration. The responsibility is too great. I hope, however, that the Government will recognise that many of their supporters, firmly object to the duplication of Federal Departments. It has been bad enough in the past.
– The honorable member could meet the object he has in view by moving the omission of the first three words of the clause.
– I have risen to suggest that an arrangement be made for loaning to the newly-created Department so much of the staff of the pensions branch of the Treasury as may be necessary to administer the war pensions. These officers might very well be loaned to the Repatriation Department until the dismantling stage is reached. Apart from the fact that the Commission will have to deal with the remaining 25 per cent, of claims yet to be disposed of and to carry on technical and vocational training, the major portion of its work will be that of dismantling. It should arrange with the States to carry out the final administrative work. It should arrange, for instance, with the State medical institutions to take over the residue of the work on the medical side, and I see nothing to prevent officers of the Treasury Department now dealing with war pensions being loaned to the Repatriation Department to carry on the pensions branch. When the great bulk of what I may describe as the soldier work of the Commission had been completed those officers would be able to return to the Treasury. There can be no justification for two separate Federal Pensions Departments.
.- The provisions of the Bill providing for further duality of Departments occasion me much anxiety. My experience has not been such as to make me welcome any interference with the present system of administering war pensions. In New South Wales we have a Pensions Department second to none in the Commonwealth. I cannot say what has been done in the other States, but no Department with which I personally do business can claim anything like the capacity and efficiency of the Commonwealth Pensions Department in New South Wales. Punctuality, courtesy, promptness and efficiency constitute apparently the keynote of the service. If there is any delay in connexion with it, it is usually due to medical officers or magistrates who have to conduct examinations in country districts. In New South Wales during the last four years over 90,000 applications for war pensions have been received and dealt with. The war pensions now current number 67,000, and represent an annual liability of £1,925,000. This work has been dealt with in addition to the ordinary work of the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Branch. Over 50,000 oldage and invalid pensions are current in New South Wales, representing an annual expenditure of£1,970,000. We have altogether 117,000 war pensions and invalid and old-age pensions in New South Wales alone, representing a yearly expenditure of £3,900,000. In addition the Department has to deal with something like 50,000 applications a year for the maternity allowance, involving a further expenditure of about £250,000. They are doing that work now. The machine is absolutely efficient. No matter what duality of Departments is created, it is certain that we cannot better the efficiency now shown by the Pensions Department in New South Wales. That being so, is there any necessity to create a second edition of the present Department? Every honorable member has had experience of the Repatriation Department generally, and my experience is not at all a happy one. You send your letter along, and you may get an acknowledgment, or you may not. Even if the matter is finalized, in most cases the member making the representations receives no word from the Department.
The thing is done direct with the applicant, leaving the member who has the matter in hand absolutely in the dark as to what has become of it. We have horrible examples of duality in the State and Federal Taxation Departments and Electoral Departments, and here the Government arecreating still another Department to bring about more confusion. It may make jobs for a few more returned soldiers, but I venture to say that the administration of the war pensions under the new system will not be to the benefit of the soldiers themselves. I want to testthe feeling ofthe Committee on this matter. I am not sure that the Committee will welcome the transferring of the war pensions from an already efficient Department to a department not yet created. If the change is made, a certain number of officers should be transferred from the Pensions Department in each State to the Repatriation Commission. If that is not done, it will be the same as with other Repatriation Departments throughout Australia. My idea is to ask the Committee to leave out the whole of clause 22, leaving the Government to withdraw the Bill and redraft it. There is ample power under the War Pensions Act to-day to bring the new schedules into being by means of regulations. As, however, there are provisions in the clause which, perhaps,shouldbe preserved, I shall move, as a test -
That the first line of the clause be left out.
– I intended to propose an amendment which would take precedence of the amendment of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley). My idea was to insert at the beginning of the clause the words, “ This part of this Act shall be administered by the present Pensions Department.” The objection I see to striking out the whole clause is the probable loss of the clauses and schedules relating to an increase in the pensions. I am sure the honorable member for Darling does not desire that.
– You have already repealed the War Pensions Act by passing clause 3.
– I believe the feeling of the majority is that the administration of the war pensions should remain with the existing Pensions
Department. I do not think there is any other objection to the clause. I intend, therefore, to move an amendment to the effect that this portion of the Act shall continue to he administered by the present Pensions Office.
– Iwill accept that amendment, and ask leave to withdraw mine.
Amendment,by leave, withdrawn.
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
I appeal to honorable members to endeavour to shorten the debates a little. The consideration of the Repatriation Bill is stringing out indefinitely, and I think we ought to make up our minds to dispose of the Bill this week.
– I suggest that theMinister should speak to his colleague who is in charge of the Bill.
– I suggest that the honorable member should speak to some of his confrères, who seem to have made up their minds that by concentrating work in one office instead of two we shall duplicate work and staff. Just how concentration under one roof will duplicate work, I have yet to learn.
– Order !
– I am speaking of the way in which the debate appears to be hanging fire. There is stilla lot to be done in connexion with the Repatriation Bill, and the Government would like it out of hand this week. Every honorable member knows that soon we shall be having holidays-
– For the whole period of the Prince’s visit, I hope.
– I hope we shall have a reasonable adjournment, and one befitting the occasion. But honorable members must recollect that there lies upon us an obligation to do a certain amount of work before that happy period arrives. I appeal to honorable members to help us to push through some of the measures so that we may have a longer holiday. To-morrow private members’ business will take precedence until the dinner-hour, after which, I understand, grievances will be discussed. I suggest that, in view of the urgency of this measure and of other urgent business to be done before the House takes a holiday, honorable members should forego their grievances to-morrow.
– That would be an awful effort of self-sacrifice.
– Honorable members had two grievance days recently on the Estimates, I am. only appealing to honorable members to help us tomorrow, and to finish the Repatriation Bill this week. That is a fair request to make in the circumstances, and I make it very earnestly and in the interests of the business of the country.
.- The Minister for the Navy cannot complain, of delay in connexion with the Repatriation Bill. Apart from the speech of the Minister who introduced it, the secondreading debate did not occupy more than a couple of hours.
– I am told that that was due to accident.
– It was an accident so far as Government members were concerned, but I. do not know of any Opposition member who wished to speak, and was absent when the opportunity arrived. So far as the Committee stage is concerned, I think that when we have disposed of the principle which was being discussed whenprogress was reported we shall have broken the back of the Bill. I am surprised that the Minister for the Navy after his long experience in Opposition should ask honorable members to abandon their opportunity to air grievances to-morrow. Three weeks ago we had no grievance day, and I do not think we had one six weeks ago-
– You had two grievance days on the Estimates recently.
– Very little of the time was occupied on the Estimates. I do not think that the Repatriation Bill will meet with any vexatious opposition from honorable members on this side. If the Bill is out of the way by Friday no honorable member will be regretful.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.45 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 April 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200421_reps_8_91/>.