8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In reply to a question which I addressed to the Prime Minister yesterday, as to the arrangements that hadbeen made for a conference with persons interested in wool, the right honorable gentleman stated that that conference would take place to-day. I have re- ceived the following telegram from the Secretary of the CorioWool Scouring Company : -
Corio Wool Scouring Company, GeelongFellmongering Commission, practically shut down. No supplies. Can provide work 100 men when supplies available.
In view of the great importance of this matter to the people engaged in the industry, will the Prime Minister stress the necessity for making supplies available at the very earliest opportunity?
– On Friday last I read to the House an official message from the British authorities, as to discouraging the further scouring of old clip wool, with which I said I was not in accord. Honorable members will recollect that on the following day. Sir Arthur Goldfinch, the official incharge of the British Wool Control, replied to my remarks in terms which would not be construed, even by my warmest supporters, as being entirely flattering. It is not usual for heads of Governments to note the observations of officials in other countries, but since Sir Arthur Goldfinch’s observations are in effect criticisms of the policy of Australia, some reply on my part is probably called for.
The British Wool Control has nothing whatever to do with Australian wool, other than that sold to the British Government. With regard to that wool it has, of course, a very great deal to say. In effect the statement made by the British officials was that there was no remunerative market, in England, for scoured wool, and that it would be absurd for us to send scoured wool there. The honorable member’s question may now be dealt with. I was referring on Friday, not to British, but to Australian wool, and I said that it was the policy of the Government to encourage Australian industries, of which wool-scouring is one. It is, however, perfectly obvious that every industry must adjust itself to the circumstances of the world’s markets where the product has to be sold. Therefore, to scour here more wool than that for which a remunerative market could be found, would speedily result in a loss rather than a gain to this country, and would probably involve the wool industry in chaos. The policy of this Government is not to scour more wool than that for which a market can be found. When I said our policy was to encourage the industries of Australia, I did not necessarily mean that we would stop at wool scouring. I apprehend that the criticisms of Sir Arthur Goldfinch would not lie with the same effect against the manufacturers in Australia of, say, wool tops or yarn, as against scoured wool. I hope to be able to make a statement at an early date with reference to the progress that the Government is making with its’ policy of encouraging the treatment of wool in this country - increasing the number of factories making wool tops, and encouraging the manufacture of different classes of yarn.
My answer to the honorable member, then, is that, while the policy of the Government is to encourage the industries of Australia, regard must be had to circumstances. The wool industry is a balanced industry, and, with the exception of a relatively small proportion, a market must be found outside for the products, whether they be scoured wool, wool tops, yarn, or cloth. But Ihope that this country will not take undue alarm at the more or less interested criticisms which they read in the press cables, and will pursue steadily a policy which has for its object the development of Australia. Of course, in that development it must take cognisance of facts. We cannot scour more wool than we can ourselves consume in the manufacture of tops and yarn, and, beyond that, the quantity which can find a remunerative market in Europe. That is the policy of this Government and, I hope, of the overwhelming mass of the people. That policy the Government will continue to pursue.
Position in South Australia.
– I desire to make known to the Prime Minister a very serious circumstance which is presenting itself in regard to the milling trade in South Australia, and in Port Adelaide particularly, owing to the fact that millers are unable to secure adequate supplies of wheat for gristing purposes. I have received a telegram stating that several more mills are closing down, and that others are working on reduced time, and that, altogether, the position is serious. Will the Prime Minister institute inquiries, and, if possible, afford immediate relief by providing ample supplies of wheat for the mills in Port Adelaide and throughout the State generally ?
– If I were the deputy of the Creator, I could do a great deal more in this direction than I am able to do - being, such as I am, merely one of His creatures. I must add, however, that quite recently I placed before the representatives of the four wheat-producing States - which representatives included the Premier of South Australia and the Minister of Agriculture in that State - a proposal for the purchase of 300,000 tons of Australian wheat of the next harvest, of which 260,000tons was to be sold as flour gristed in Australia. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) was present at that conference, which was a conference, in effect, of the members of the Wheat Board, but at which were also present the direct representatives of the four wheatproducing States. I attended asrepresenting the Commonwealth, and as the person from whom the inquiry had been made. I asked that the States should make a firm offer - as I have just indicated - of 300,000 tons of wheat, of which 260,000 tons was to be gristed as flour. It was to be sold on the c.i.f. basis; and, on behalf of the Commonwealth, I offered to provide the shipping, in order that the farmers might sell on a c.i.f. basis, which, otherwise, they would not have been able to do. The States, however, considered it too early to submit such a firm offer. I have persuaded the prospective buyer to remain here for another fortnight from the present time, when the answer has to be given. Upon that answer will depend whether or not the flour mills in South Australia can be provided with wheat for gristing.
Purchase of Saw-mills and Timber Areas in Queensland.
– Do the Government propose to make a statement todayregarding the purchase of timber mills in connexion with supplies for the construction of war service homes; and, if so, is the Prime Minister in a position to say whether the papers in connexion therewith can be laid upon the table of the House today?
– I have been furnished with information by my colleague, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen), which covers the whole matter. Since it is entirely within the Department controlled by the Minister for Repatriation, I asked him to make available information-, for the benefit of honorable members of this Chamber, such as he intends to furnish to the Senate. The particulars are as follow: -
In moving the second reading of the War Service Homes Bill in the Senate some fortnight ago, the Minister for Repatriation announced that the Housing Commissioner was on the eve of completing two deals of considerable magnitude for the purchase of certain timber properties,and that, when completed, the purchase would go a long way towards meeting certain of the Commissioner’s requirements. Although a few outstanding details yet remain to be adjusted, matters are now sufficiently complete to permit of a definite announcement, and also an outline of the new policy which the Commissioner, with the approval of the Government, is being compelled to adopt owing to the difficulty - indeed, the impossibility - of otherwise obtaining supplies either in sufficient quantities or at satisfactory prices.
Under the War Service Homes Act, the Commissioner is empowered to purchase building material; and shortly after assuming office he endeavoured in the several States to make contracts in the ordinary trade channels for the purpose of obtaining, not only supplies for immediate use, but, by means of extended contracts, to make provision for some reasonable time ahead. The result of these efforts was by no means satisfactory. With one or two exceptions, the best terms that he could obtain represented only a trifle in advance of ordinary trade discounts; and, even where arrangements were made with regard to price, contractors failed to deliver the quantities required. It became evident, therefore, that unless he was to be seriously hampered in his operations, or the cost of the soldiers’ homes was to be swollen, some other means of obtaining supplies would have to be discovered.
It was obvious that, . great as the difficulty was in obtaining supplies at satisfactory figures, it would be intensified as he extended his operations unless additional supplies were brought on to the market. Without such additional supplies, the more he purchased, the more would be the likelihood of the market rising. So long ashe remained in the market as a competitor with other builders, the effect of his competition would be to harden the price and to reduce the limited supplies available to the building trade generally. Some relief might have been obtained by importations, but it was not deemed advisable to resort to such a course until other means had first been tested.
After giving the matter full consideration, the Commissioner decided that the only effective way by which he could reduce the cost of his supplies, and, consequently, the cost of houses to soldiers, at the same time insuring adequate supplies without seriously depleting the market, was by obtaining timber areas from which his wants could be directly, supplied.
On6th May, 1920, the Commissioner reported to the Minister for Repatriation upon this matter in the following terms: - “ It has been very evident for some time past that it is impossible to secure supplies of timber at anything like reasonable rates for the erection of war service homes. This is largely owing to the operations of timber combines, who control prices, and who meet monthly, and each meeting for the past six months has produced a further rise in the price of timber. The Government Departments in Queensland and Western Australia have not been any more reasonable than the merchants. “ Owing to the enormous quantities of timber required (80,000,000 super. feet per annum), and to insure continuity of operations at reasonable cost all over Australia, and especially in New South Wales andVictoria, the only policy left to the War Service Homes Commission was to acquire saw-mills and forest areas to meet its own demands, thus insuring supplies at reasonable cost, and allowing thereby the general public to have their original sources of supply for public requirements uninterfered with. “ The scheme for timber supplies has boon developed as the result of very careful and exhaustively conducted investigations in all States with timber merchants, timber merchants’ associations, and State Government Departments, over a period of several months, coupled with a careful investigation of the position in America and the Old World. “ Unless the requirements of the Commission are protected at this stage in regard to timber, I gravely doubt the success of the War Service Homes Commission.”
A submission to this end was presented to Cabinet, and the policy was generally approved, with the proviso that each separate undertaking was to be subject to the approval of the Minister. The Commissioner thereupon proceeded with certain preliminary negotiations, and, having obtained reports from his officers, supplemented by outside inquiries, he recommended the purchase of properties owned by Messrs. Lahey Bros. Ltd.. and Mr. J. F. Brett, of Brisbane. Details of these properties are given later.
In view of the magnitude and complexity of the venture, it was deemed both desirable and necessary to have the proposal checked from its business side, and to that end the services of Mr. A. E. Barton, F.C.P.A., the well-known consulting accountant, of Sydney, were obtained. That gentleman, after exhaustive investigation, recommended, with certain modifications in detail, the purchase of the properties in question.
The price at which Mr. Brett’s property was placed under offer was £245,000, with the stipulation that the vendor was to be relieved of Federal and State income tax resulting from the transaction. The price agreed to be paid is £220,000, half cash and half in war bonds, the vendor retaining the right to the tops on the two properties. The proviso regarding taxation exemption was deleted.-
The “ tops “ are the tops of the trees.
The Brett property consists of 10,057 acres freehold, and the timber rights over an additional area of 7,380 acres, and three sawmilling plants. These are situated at Killarney, Samford, Blackbutt, and Beaudesert. It is estimated, conservatively, that on these areas there are 47.700,000 feet of pine, 54,000,000 feet of hardwood, and 21,700,000 feet of scrubwood.
The Lahey properties consist of 10,412 acres freehold, situated at Canungra, adjoining the Brett property, 6 3-7 acres at Beaudesert, upon which is a saw-milling plant, and5½ acres at Brisbane, upon which are joinery works, timberyard, and offices. The timber on the 10,412 acres is estimated at 50,000,000 feet of pine and 7,000,000 feet of scrubwood. This property includes, in addition to milling machinery, railway siding, tramway, locos., and rolling-stock, traction engine, bullock teams, and waggons. The price originally asked in the case of the Lahey property was £259,700, and the price agreed upon is £243,000, half cash and half war bonds.
The following is the estimate of yield, cost, and savings of both properties: -
Pine. - The pine on Brett’s and Lahey’s properties is 97,000.000 feet in the round. This will produce 65,000,000 feet of sawn timber. On July market prices, after deducting 3 per cent. discount, the quantity of timber, partly dressed and partly rough, would cost the Commission £1,811,875. The cost to the Commission of producing its own pine timber, allowing a sinking fund of 12s. 6d. per hundred, will be £1,283,750. This will result in a saving of £528,125.
Hardwood and Scrubwoods. - These timbers total 83,000,000 feet in the round, which will produce 45,000,000 feet sawn. On July market prices, after deducting 5 per cent. discount, this quantity would cost the Commission £1,005,000. The cost to the Commission of producing its own hardwood and scrubwoods, after allowing for a sinking fund at the rate of 6s. per hundred, will be £819,375 - a saving of £185,62,5. This shows a total saving of £713,750 over the working period. The sinking fund has been worked out to cover not only the cost of timber, but the cost of land and plant. By the time the timber is worked out, the properties will be written right out of the Commission’s books, although there will still remain assets of considerable value, such as 10,000 acres of freehold, various saw-mill plants and a joinery plant. Further, the scrubwoods, many of which are valuable timbers, such as rosewood, silky oak, red and white cedar, beech, bolly-gum, &c, have been reckoned as worth no more than hardwood.
The question of the management of these properties has yet to be decided. Two courses are under consideration. The first, the direct control by the Commissioner, working through a salaried manager; the other, a contract, under which the contractor would undertake to deliver the timber at so much per hundred feet. Each of these methods has alike its advantages and drawbacks, and they are being investigated. Whichever method is finally adopted, preference of employment to returned soldiers will be provided for.
The Commissioner anticipates obtaining from the areas in question 6,000,000 feet of hardwood and 12,000,000 feet of pine per annum. The hardwood is being used solely in Queensland, the requirements of which State being 6,000,000 feet per annum, will be met from these areas. In the matter of pine, the Commissioner’s annual requirements for New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria are 18,000,000 feet. It will, therefore, be seen that, even with this new source of supply available, he will not be over-supplied.
In New South Wales and Victoria redwood imported from America is now used for certain purposes. It is proposed to substitute Queensland pine for this timber. The market price of redwood in New South Wales is 97s. 6d. per 100 feet, and in Victoria, 122s. By this substitution a saving of several thousands per annum will result, in addition to the savings already mentioned.
Particulars of other undertakings, enabling the Commissioner to obtain certain supplies at greatly reduced prices, are being prepared for presentation to Parliament.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer whether it is intended to keep the Peace Loan open for some time longer, in order to enable people in the back country to send in their subscriptions ?
– We intend to keep the loan open until Monday next, and, may be, longer still, for the purposes of the people in the back country in Queensland and elsewhere: Australia is a big country, and it takes a long while to grip and thoroughly organize it. We find that, even yet, we are told from the back parts that further time is needed to gather in more loan moneys. Up to last night we had received about £21,000,000, and I am hoping by Monday - enabling people who are more particularly to benefit by this loan money to make their subscriptions - to be able to announce that the loan -has been fully subscribed. I should like, while on my feet, to express the thanks of the Government to all the varied organizations throughout Australia who have worked with such wonderful assiduity, zeal, and patriotic ardour during the last four or five weeks.
Duty on Machinery.
-I desire to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether there is any foundation for the statement circulated that certain wool manufacturers have made requests to himself or to the officials of the Department, to reduce, or to remove altogether, the existing duty on automatic wool-feeding machines. Is the Minister aware that there are, at least, four firms in Australia who have made, and sold at a reasonable figure, machines, which are proved to be entirely satisfactory, and will he. give his assurance that the policy of Protection to Australian industries will be closely adhered to?
– I believe that there are two classes of wool-feeding machines. One class is used for feeding wool for wool scourers, and the other for feeding wool to wool carding machines. The Customs Department struck out of the by-laws some time ago all wool-feeding machinery. We have been approached by some manufacturers who say that the machines which feed the wool-carding machines are not made in Australia. I am looking into the matter, and I assure the honorable member that nothing will be done contrary to the Protectionist policy of the country.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a cable in this morning’s press stating that an aeroplane which fell in a Paris schoolground killed eight children and severely wounded nine? Should a tragedy of this description occur in one of our capital cities of Australia - as it surely will if indiscriminate flying is continued over the cities - it will throw aviation back for. ten years, which we do not want to happen ; and now that the Commonwealth has, with the consent of the States, taken charge of the air, will the Prime Minister see that the issue of regulations for the control of aviation is expedited?
– I agree with the honorable member entirely that the control of the navigation of the air is now of as much importance as is the control of the navigation of the sea, or the control of traffic on land. The Government, in considering their air policy, which has relation to defence, and also to the development of aviation as a factor in commercial and industrial progress, propose to bring down, at a very early date, a. Bill providing for the necessary authority over it. I agree with the honorable member that no time should be lost in doing so.
– Is the statement appearing in the press this morning correct that the Budget statement is likely to be postponed from tomorrow ?
– Yes. I want to clear the Peace Loan out of the way first, so that we may know exactly where we stand. I hope that the Budget will be delivered definitely to-morrow week.
Purchase of Saw-mills and Timber Areas in Queensland.
– Yesterday I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation whether certain papers dealing with the recent purchase of sawmills in Queensland would be laid on the table, but, as there seems to be a little misunderstanding as to whether the Minister actually promised to lay those papers on the table at once, I ask him now whether such is his intention?
– The honorable member knows that I have not been dealing with the matter. All I can do is to place the honorable member’s request before the Minister for Repatriation, and furnish the honorable member with the Minister’s answer.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether, in relation to the agreement recently made between the Commonwealth Government and the Persian Oil Company, the Minister is in a position to say whether any progress has been made by the said company in the development of the Papuan oil-fields; or, can the Minister afford any information in regard to what is being done in this connexion?
– The Anglo-Persian Company have six geologists at work examining a wide stretch of country. Boring has been discontinued, and is not proposed to be resumed till the recommendations of the geologists have been made.
Building and Sale of Wooden Vessels
asked the Minister in charge of Shipbuilding, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister in charge of Shipbuilding, upon notice -
Will the Minister supply the following information : -
Who drew up the contracts, plans, and specifications for the building of the Commonwealth wooden vessels Burnside and Braeside?
Who perused, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, such contracts, plans, and specifications?
Who supervised, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, the building of the two vessels named?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister in charge of Shipbuilding, upon notice -
– In view of the fact that there are certain matters in dispute between the contractors for the construction of these vessels and the Department, and that such matters are likely to be the subject of arbitration proceedings almost immediately, it isnot advisable to make any statement at the present time.
Pay of Naval Officers
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Employment of Mr. J. A. Fitzsimons
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– In order that the honorable member may be seised of all the facts respecting this matter, I will be pleased to make the file available for his perusal at any time convenient to himself.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the urgent need by settlers of large supplies of rabbit and dog-proof netting, can the Minister supply the House with information regarding -
What firms are now manufacturing wire netting in Australia?
What is the estimated capacity of output in tons of the plants now operating?
What tonnagehas been produced in Australia during the year 1919-20?
If sufficient supplies at a reasonable price cannot be manufactured in Australia to meet present urgent requirements, will the Minister consider the advisability of removing the heavy impost of duty in the 1920 Tariff schedule?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister controlling Shipping, upon notice -
Will he expedite the publicationofthe annual report and balance-sheet of the Commonwealth line of steam-ships?
Primary Producers’ Co-operative Societies.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether it is a fact that primary producers’ co-operative societies have been requested by the Commissioner of Taxation to pay warprofits tax for the years 1915-16, although specially exempted by the amending Act of 1918?
– It is not a fact that primary producers’ co-operative societies are specially exempted from war-time profits tax assessment by the amending Act of 1918. There is no mention of primary producers’ co-operative societies, as such, in the law, but cooperative companies engaged for the main part in the manufacture, preparation, or wholesale distribution of foodstuffs the produce of Australia were always exempted from assessment of wartime profits tax, so far as regards the manufacture, preparation,. or wholesale distribution of foodstuffs the produce of Australia. The amending Act of 1918 specially provided that, in calculating the profits of co-operative societies coming generally within the purview of the law, there should be deducted so much of the profits as arises from business carried on with members of the, company or society. This amendment was not made retrospective, and applies for the first time to the assessments made on excess profits arising during the period 1st July, 1916, to 30th June, 1917.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the fact that freight generally has fallen about 20s. per ton, will he communicate with the Board of Trade requesting a corresponding reduction on the freight for insulated oversea carriage between Australia and England?
– I am unaware that freight generally has fallen about 20s. per ton, but will have inquiries made, and, if the decrease is as stated by the honorable member, will communicate with the British authorities regarding the matter.
Flight of Lieutenants Parer and McIntosh - Aviation Grounds.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Personally, I desire to go further than my colleagues in expressing thanks to Mr. Dawson for his kindly though somewhat belated gift, as a recognition of his appreciation of my many and great virtues, and I now have it where I shall be glad to see a limited number of honorable members.
Charges Against Officers - Auditing of Accounts
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1, It is pointed out that an officer on war service is not entitled to demand a court martial.
The information asked for by the honorable member would not be available without a search of all Australian Imperial Force officers’ records - a work entailing much labour and expense; and it is not considered that any useful purpose would be served thereby.
I may add that I consider it essential that General Officers Commanding should have power to dispense with the services of officers without bringing any special charge against them.
– On the 26th August, the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. McDonald) asked whether I would obtain from the Auditor-General the following information : -
The Auditor-General has furnished me with the following: -
Scrapping War Ships.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
In view of the lengthy statements in the InterState press with reference to the scrapping of certain ships of the Royal Australian Navy, and the evident great interest displayed in the same by the people of Australia, will the Minister make a statement as to the correctness or otherwise of these press articles?
– It is not intended to scrap any modern ship of the Royal Australian Navy. The only ship it is at present intended to scrap is H.M.A.S. Gayundah, now on the sale list.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he is in a position to announce when the system, it is stated, he has in mind to take the place of the travelling post offices, and which were withdrawn by his predecessor, will be brought into operation in New South Wales?
– The system is now being brought into operation on two of the railway lines in New South Wales, and will be extended to other lines with as little delay as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– No such report has been received.
– On 27th August, the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) asked me the following questions : -
I promised that the- information would be obtained. The following are the replies : -
Debate resumed from 7th September (vide page 4259) on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Ryan had moved by way of amendment -
That after the word “ now “ the following words be inserted: - “withdrawn for the purpose of affording an opportunity to the members of the Public .Service of indicating whether they desire to be removed from the jurisdiction and protection of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration as ‘proposed by the Bill.”
– Yesterday I was reminded by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) that I had previously taken a definite stand on this question, and lest there should be any misunderstanding as to what my attitude has always been I repeat the statement I have made more than once, that the Public Service of any country should be regarded as belonging to the whole community, as its corporate title indicates, and- should be absolutely loyal to the public interests, in the highest and broadest sense, on constitutional grounds. It should be the guarantee of the safety and continuity of public administration, whatever Government is in power. Duty and discipline should be its watchword.
– Especially discipline.
– I emphasize that very strongly indeed, and the honorable member ought to appreciate it. Such special obligations and responsibilities on the part of public -servants demand corresponding safeguards and effective protection of their personal and collective interests. This Bill provides for that in a business-like, and satisfactory manner. I believe that the public servants, when they realize what the Bill really means, will welcome it as a splendid reform. From what I already know I believe the public servants generally are not opposed to the measure, but are rather in favour of it. I am sorry that the speech made yesterday by the Minister for. Works and. Railways (Mr. Groom) was pot made earlier: I appreciate very much his explanation of the purpose of the measure, and I think it ought to disarm a good deal of the opposition expressed by some members who evidently had not a grip of the question. The Bill proposes to remove the public servants from the Arbitration Court, but it will deprive them of none of the privileges they enjoy under existing legislation. If the provision contained in this Bill had been made years ago foi the Public Services of the Commonwealth and States, they would never have desired to have access to the Arbitration Court. If any honorable member will regard the question calmly and dispassionately in the light of past history, he will admit that in order to insure efficiency in the Public Service, its officers should not be mixed up in industrial turmoil and domestic strife,
– Surely they are human beings.
– They are, and I believe in treating them in the best possible way.
– The honorable member holds as big a brief for them as does any honorable member.
– Probably a bigger brief, and a more disinterested one. We can have an efficient Public Service only if we have a contented Service.
– What does the honorable member mean by disinterested ?
– The honorable member knows what I mean. I remind the House that twenty years ago
I was desirous of initiating a reform somewhat on the lines followed by this Bill, and I believe I was the first to guide through an Australian Legislature a Bill providing for an Appeal Board for railway servants. That concession has always been keenly appreciated by the railway servants in South Australia. A Bill of the kind now before the House is not inappropriate; had it been introduced long ago, it would have been better for all concerned. I do not propose to traverse the statement made yesterday by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), who covered various points on which I intended to speak, but I wish to emphasize the fact that the appointment of an Arbitrator to deal exclusively With Public Service cases will put Commonwealth public servants in an infinitely better position than they are at present, so far as the hearing of their claims is concerned. It will leadto despatch, which in itself is an important consideration, and will greatly relieve the present congestion of business in the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. As the result of the passing of this Bill, from 25 per cent. to 33 per cent. of the cases which have been long awaiting the attention of the Court will be removed from its jurisdiction and so relieve the pressure. That alone would be a good reason for the introduction of this legislation. The advantage which public servants will enjoy by having what is practically a Court of their own are such as must commend this Bill to them. It is far better that there should be one Arbitrator to deal promptly with their claims, instead of the claims of a section being dealt with by one Judge, and those of another section by a second Judge, with the possibility of conflicting awards. Under this scheme one man will devote the whole of his time to the claims of the Public Service. He will be able to specialize as a judge of industrial conditions in the Service, and will be more readily available than is the Deputy President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, who is liable to be called on at any time to join his learned brothers on the High Court Bench. This Bill needs to be read and construed in conjunction with the companion Bill, which, but for the reasons stated by the Minister, would have preceded it. Taking the two together, there is a possibility of really good work being done in the interests of the public servants of the Commonwealth, and done in a way that will not only win their approval, but secure contentment and efficiency.
– The honorable gentleman who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Richard. Foster) is very optimistic as to what this Bill is destined to achieve. He mentioned, however, that he did not know whether or not the Public Service of the Commonwealth desired the passing of this measure.
– The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) knows what is the desire of the Commonwealth public servants in South Australia, and will tell the House this afternoon.
– But I am dealing with the honorable member’s own statement. If he has any doubt in his mind, he can put himself right by voting for the amendment.
– I have no doubt so far as Commonwealth public servants in my electorateare concerned, and I am quite certain that they do not approve of the amendment.
– There are not many in the honorable member’s constituency.
– Relatively few.
– Those of us who have not many public servants in our constituencies should still be anxious to do the right thing.
– That is what I want to do.
– That brings me to the suggestion which I wish to make to the honorable member that he should vote for the amendment.
– I shall not.
– The honorable member should vote for the amendment in order that we may ascertain the will of the public servants of the Commonwealth. Having regard to the sheaf of correspondence on this subject that I, in common with other honorable members, have received, I have no doubt as to what is desired by them.
– I have no doubt.
– A doubt was expressed yesterday by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr), who said he did not think there was any unanimity on the. part of tha Service with regard to this matter. I would remind him that on either the 12th or the 20th of last month some hundreds of Commonwealth public servants met in the Protestant Hall, Sydney, and unanimously decided that they should be left within the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. They were unanimously opposed to the proposal to appoint a special Arbitrator to deal with Public Service cases. Neither the honorable member for Wakefield, nor any one else, can turn a deaf ear to such resolutions. The circulars we have received on this subject are the outcome of action taken by the various branches of the Service. Each branch ‘passed a resolution which was forwarded to its executive head, and the executive bodies have informed us by means of circulars, that there is practically a unanimous desire- on the part of the public servants of the Commonwealth that they should be allowed to remain as at present under’ the jurisdiction of the Court. So much has been said with regard to the appointment of an Arbitrator that I need deal but briefly with the point. It is easy to realize why the Public Service are opposed to the proposal. In the first place, from the point of view of the public, it would involve the establishment of another Department with all its attendant paraphernalia and a great deal of additional expenditure at a time when there is much talk of economy. From the public point of view, therefore, the proposal is undesirable, and one can also readily understand why public servants do not wish to be singled, out in this way for separate treatment. They have a right to seek the redress of their grievances in open Court. Why should their cases be dealt with, as is practically proposed under this Bill, behind closed doors? I can well understand that heads of Departments do not favour public inquiries. They do not wish to go into an open Court, and the position is the same with regard to the Government. Men who are suffering what they believe to be an injustice, as many public servants are suffering to-day, have a habit of expressing themselves, and rightly so. in no uncertain way. They have also a tendency to indulge in criticisms that are not always complimentary to the heads of Departments or to the Government which is responsible for the state of affairs of which they complain. That being so, there is a desire to shut them off from an open inquiry and to give them a separate and inside hearing. Public servants naturally rebel against such a proposition .-
I wish now to refer to the very scathing report presented by Mr. McLachlan, exPublic Service Commissioner of the Commonwealth, on the Public Service administration. In my opinion that report does a very grave wrong to the public servants of Australia, who can lay claim to a record equal to that of any other body of workers in the world in respect, not only of the war period, but before and since the war.
– Including that of tlie ex-Commissioner himself.
– Yes, I think that his record would suffer if such a comparison were made. I shall not, however, deal with this matter from a personal stand-point. There is much in the report which, looking at it from the point of view of the public, must be deplored. The people desire that there shall be contentment and harmony in the Service, but there is everything in the report that is calculated to make in the opposite direction. If we consider for a moment the conditions of employment in the Public Service to-day we shall see at once how unwarranted the report is. What are the conditions of living so far as public servants are concerned? Are they such as to make for harmony or to obviate industrial unrest? I venture to say that they are not. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) intimated last night that he intended to move an amendment that would provide for some revision of the rates of pay of Commonwealth servants so that their wages might be brought into line with the cost of living. I intend, when we go into Committee, to supplement that with a further amendment in the hope that we shall be able to do something in the direction indicated by the honorable member. I have carefully examined Mr. McLachlan’s report, and have taken out all the figures bearing on the -conditions that are operating in the service. I find from it that the number of employees in the General Division of the Public Service in 1917 was 16,583. Of that total, thirteen received more than £300 per annum, and 1,891 received more than £200 per annum. Those two groups of employees total 1,904. Thus, by their subtraction from the grand total of 16,583 it is demonstrated that there are 14,479 officers in the General Division who receive less than £200 per annum. And, as everybody knows to-day, that is less than a living wage.
– The wages received by numbers of men in the Post and Telegraph Department amount to a perfect scandal.
– That is not too expressive a term to apply to the conditions obtaining in the Public Service.
– But this Bill may help to bring about an improvement.
– I cannot see in what way it is going to do so. Here we are proposing to do something which is against the wishes of the great bulk of public servants. It may be said that, included in the total which I just now mentioned, there are juniors; that is to say, employees under the age of 21, and that, thus, my figures may bear unfairly. I will allow the high estimate of 50 per cent, for juniors, so that, even with that allowance, there are between 7,000 and S,000 adults in the General Division of the Public Service who are receiving less than £200 per annum. That is a fact which constitutes a scandal unequalled, I should think, in any other part of the civilized world. There has been no award granted since the period in, regard to which I have taken my figures, except in the case of the letter carriers. From time to time, however, there have been added cost of living allowances. Even taking those allowances into consideration, there are between 7,000 and 8,000 of our public servants who are receiving less than a living wage. The letter carriers received an award on the 3rd March last, when their wages were based upon the cost of living figures for the twelve months ending’ 31st. December, 1919. The award operated from the 26th April, 1920, and the living wage declared thereon was £182. To-day; the living wage, based on the figures for the year ending 30th June, 1920, is £200. As a matter of fact, it is still higher now, and may be fairly said to amount to £210. I have provided these figures in order to lead up to what I propose by way of overcoming the difficulty, lt is my intention, in Committee, to move for the insertion of a new clause supplementary to the amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan). My purpose in. providing statistical information has been to show the need for periodical revision of wages so as to keep the payment of public servants in line with the varying cost of living.
– The honorable member’s argument is all in favour of the Bill.
– That is the honorable member’s way of looking at the matter, which, however, is entirely different from mine. There is nothing in the Bill to indicate a desire on the part of the Government to bring about periodical revisions of the basis of wages. I intend to move, at the proper stage -
That the living wage be based on the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician, relating to the purchasing power of money to be declared on 31st March, 30th June, ‘30th September, and 31st December in each year; such living wage to apply to all adult members of a Commonwealth Public Service organization registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
At present the Commonwealth Statistician issues quarterly reports setting out the cost of living throughout Australia. If the rates of wages paid to members of the Public Service were to be based upon those quarterly statements, 90 per cent, of the unrest in the Service would be done away with.
– Suppose that the cost of living were to come down ?
– That is not very likely. We are all hoping for it; but, unhappily, the cost of living is more likely to soar still higher; and, when it does, I desire to see that the wages paid to public servants shall be increased automatically. I feel confident that public servants would be only too pleased, if the cost of living were to come down, to agree to accept an automatic adjustment whichever way it may go. Honorable members, are fully aware that the cost of living, if it is not likely to go higher than ever, will remain, in all probability, at a high standard. My proposal, if it were agreed to, would do away with the necessity for the unions approaching the Arbitrator, so saving endless time and confusion.
I desire, in conclusion, to ask the Minister. (Mr. Groom) fdr information upon the subject of dual furlough, which is agitating the minds of many persons in the Public Service.
– That is a matter for an amendment of the Public Service Act generally.
– There is quite a number of persons interested in the point, and it is about time the Government announced a decision upon it. The subject has been under the attention of the Government for quite a long time. Meanwhile, great injustice is being done in respect of persons immediately concerned.
– I received an official refusal regarding this matter only yesterday.
– I am sorry to hear it. The time is overripe for the announcement of a decision. I know of the case of a man who had been twenty years in the Service. When he became entitled to six months’ leave of absence his Department could not arrange for him to get away, so, through no fault of his own, he had to wait for eight or ten years. He then obtained his six months’ leave; but, by the time he had returned, and had completed his next twenty years of service he had reached the retiring age and was denied his second term of leave. Thus a great injustice was done. Can the Minister indicate when finality may be reached upon this matter ? I understand that an amendment of the principal Act is to come before this Legislature before very long. I am against this piecemeal method of dealing with a specific phase of legislation. There should be one effort to revise the whole; of our Public Service laws, rather than that a series of Bills should be introduced. Cannot the Minister indicate when the main Bill is likely to be introduced?
– The sooner we deal with the present group of Bills the sooner we can turn our attention to the amendment of the principal Act. I cannot give a definite date, but the desire is to proceed as soon as possible.
– The matter of dual furlough is so urgent, and is responsible for such injustice, that it should be settled without waiting for the introduction of a Bill to amend the principal Act.
– It was announced some months ago that the Cabinet had come to a decision upon this matter.
– That is so, but we have not been informed of the nature of that decision. I protest against the delay, which is merely prolonging a great injustice to a number of reputable public servants.
.- A good deal has been said by honorable members opposite, culminating in the proposal of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), who desires that consideration of the Bill be postponed until such time as public servants shall have had an opportunity to give expression to their opinions. In my electorate there are such municipalities as Randwick, Waverley, Woollahra, Vaucluse, and so on. That is a large populous district. I have lived there for thirty years, and still live there. J travel in the trams almost every day with public servants, thousands of whom live in the district, and I travel home with them at night, and though I assume they knew this Bill was to be introduced, in not one single instance have I heard any expression of opinion regarding it one way or the other. If the public servants have grievances such as honorable members opposite suggest, surely personal friends of mine, as many of the public servants are, would have said, “ Marks, is it not up to you to get this Bill postponed?” If they had’ made that suggestion with any weight, or even mentioned the matter to me, I should have gladly supported the amendment.
Honorable members opposite have asked, “What is behind this Bill?” This would indicate that they are suspicious of the measure; hut why should they be suspicious? They seem to be always suspicious of any move made by this Government; but surely, after the able speech of the Minister (Mr. Groom) last night, it must be realized that the Bill is practically taken from the present Act, but confers further benefits. Personally, I think that this is an excellent Bill, though I might not, perhaps, apply to it the expression which might be used by my esteemed friend, the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), and describe it as a “ perfectly priceless perfect Bill.” I do not go so far as that but I say that it is a good Bill. As I stated last night, by way of interjection, these are the days of specializing, and in a huge business like the Public Service there should be undoubtedly one man who by degrees may become conversant from A to Z with all the troubles of the public servants, and be ‘able to assist in removing them. The constant settling of grievances must, I should say, render him, as I hope he will prove to be, perfect in his duties, with the result of saving much time and expense. The Arbitrator, like a Special Tribunal, will be able to quickly move from place to place, and get to the root of a trouble; and I sincerely hope that the method adopted will be that of the “ round-table conference.” We do not wish to see this Arbitrator come out of a door on to the Bench in any room that has a resemblance to a Court. As I said on the Industrial peace Bill, when moving ‘a new clause, which I am glad to say is to bc adopted, there should, even under this measure, be carried out the round-table idea. This, I am positive, is the absolute foundation stone of industrial peace, meaning as it does the bringing of the’ parties together. If I .get an assurance that that is the idea to be carried out by means of the Bill before us it will not be necessary to move a new clause in that direction. .
– The Arbitrator may hold his inquiries wherever he likes; it is only when he comes to take evidence that there is anything like a formal Court.
– I understand that the strict rules of evidence are not to apply, and that those awful people the lawyers are to be excluded; at any rate, I take it that is the atmosphere suggested by the Bill itself. I agree with the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) that it ought to be regarded as a case of experts assisting an Arbitrator. I ha.ve had considerable experience of the Marine Court of New South Wales, in which the Judge is assisted by two marine assessors, and there the decision? are very satisfactory. I understand, however, that the- Bill provides for that course of procedure without the necessity of introducing a new clause. According to sub-clause 5 of clause 12, where an objection is lodged, the Arbitrator shall call a Conference, to be presided over by himself, of the representatives of the organization concerned; and I take it that whether it be the electrical or any other branch, it will select the best men possible to sit with the Arbitrator and batter the matter out. He will practically have the assistance, if not of what we might call assessors, at any rate, of two or more men whose advice will be most valuable to him in arriving at a conclusion. It is also provided that awards may be varied; in other words, if the men are not satisfied, they are to be given a second “ try-out,” on appeal; and that I regard as an excellent provision. As to the round-table conference, this Bill in my opinion, comes very close to the practice which I saw myself in operation three or four times during the war, and prior to it, in the United States. In great factories, where there are thousands of employees, a dispute, when it arises, is dealt with at once within the works. In some factories there are three rooms, A. B and C. First, the parties go into room A, and if the dispute is not settled there, it is transferred to room B, and, again if not settled, to the final room C. But the dispute never pets outside the works - the matter is settled on the spot. That is what, in my opinion, is going to be the effect of this Bill; all Public Service disputes will be settled on the spot.
The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has mentioned several matters this afternoon which are beside the Bill but in regard to which I entirely agree with him. One is the question of certain salaries in the Public Service. I hold a very strong brief for the public servants, for I have a great admiration for their marvellous .work during the war, when they were short-handed and overworked, but when they stuck manfully to their jobs until the boys came home being prepared, like we fighting men on the other side to “ carry on.” I cannot express too great an admiration for those men. I have known some hard cases in’ certain Departments. In one case a man, who is still working after forty years’ service, has brought up a family of eight on £3 9s. per week.
– God help him !
– I say that it is scandalous.
– It is nob only scandalous - it seems to me impossible.
– There are no words to express what I feel regarding such cases, but I would use stronger language if parliamentary usage would permit me.. I am trusting that the Bill will meet such cases as those to which I have referred, because it is conditions of that kind that cause industrial unrest. I consider the Bill will do so. Such a payment is below the basic wage, and it is time it was improved Then there was the question raised by the honorable member for Hume regarding dual furlough. In one case I had, which was only settled yesterday, one of the highest officers in the Public Service retired at the age of sixty without a black cross against his name. He had been in the Public Service for forty years, yet all he is given on leaving is six months’ leave of absence on full pay. That is not right; and, without going too closely into the legal aspect, though I have paid some regard to it, I am inclined to think that that public servant lias the chance of a good fight against the Commonwealth. He was taken over from the State Service by the Commonwealth Government at a time - I forget the “ date - when all his State rights were preserved, but, apparently, according to the replies I have received, the Crown Law authorities take the view that section 84 of the Constitution takes away any claim for further consideration. I have my doubts regarding that decision; and I trust that the Government will as quickly as possible introduce the Bill which we are told will settle matters of that kind. I intend to vote for the second reading of the measure, leaving myself open to agree with, any honorable member who may be able to suggest improvements in the clauses.
.- I have always objected to public servants being treated as individuals who are not entitled to the rights that are enjoyed by their fellow citizens; and this Bill only pursues the infamous plan that has been carried out in every State in Australia. Time was when the public servants were called the “ curled darlings “ of the State, but they were not allowed then to take any action in political life. They dared not give their opinion on a political matter, but were treated as pariahs, not fit to exercise the rights granted to their fellow-citizens. No employees were ever sweated more foully, wickedly, and cruelly than have been the public servants. I am glad to hear the words that have fallen from the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks), but by his action in supporting this Bill he is assisting to carry on the infamies of the past, and place the public servants in a corral away from their fellowcitizens. If the’ honorable member does not vote for the amendment his words of sympathy are not of much avail - nothing speaks like acts. I recall a wonderful old miner, who, when an unfortunate man was imprisoned below, with no hope of rescue, was asked to offer up a prayer, and his reply was, “ I do not know much about prayers, but I am willing to give a pound to his widow “- an offer worth an ocean of prayer. Public servants now can go on the political platform if they wish. In Victoria, at one time, a public servant would have been sacked at once had he dared to take any part in political life, and for years the railway employees could not affiliate with their fellow-unionists at the Trades Hall. Yet no one knows better than do honorable members of this House that it is by the efforts pf the working people themselves that their present stalwart position has been won. In this very Chamber, when it was the home of the State Parliament, the present Chief Justice of Victoria (Sir William Irvine), to his eternal disgrace, introduced a Bill which would not allow any railway servant, policeman, magistrate, or other public servant, to have full political rights. In fact, the policeman who arrested a criminal,’ and the magistrate who sentenced him, did not enjoy the political power that the criminal could exercise when he had paid his debt for his fault. The public servants were allowed to vote only in a certain circumscribed way. That was one of the measures of Mr. Irvine, as he then was, and it was subsequently thrown out with ignominy, not only by the Legislative Assembly, under the Premiership of the late Mr. Bent, but wonder of wonders, by the Legislative Council also. It is now proposed to have a special Arbitrator for the Public Service of the Commonwealth. They are not considered fit to go into the ordinary Arbitration Court, but I say, “ In the name of common sense let th.em have the right to go to any Court just as -the man in the street has,” and I shall be very much disappointed if the younger members of this House support this proposal. I am sorry they are not in the Chamber now to hear what I am saying, because if they had only gone through the horror of that period when that vile legislation was placed on the Victorian statutebook, I am sure their vote would be against the Government on this occasion. That Victorian Act was far more drastic than the Coercion Act passed by the British House of Commons, and applied to Ireland: Who could blame the British Legislature for passing their measure, when, on the very day on which the Bill was introduced, the poor dead clay pf Cavendish and Burke was buried? But even that legislation was not as infamous as was the Victorian Coercion Act, which prevented the railway men from holding meetings, and prohibited any citizen from rendering assistance to women and children in want. However, out of that limbo of abomination, the public servant has been raised, until to-day he is, in most matters, the peer of any other citizen. But now we tell him that he is not fit to go into the ordinary Arbitration Court, and must have an Arbitrator for himself.
– The Government did something as bad as that under the War Precautions Act.
– Heaven knows what they have not done under that Act, and what they may do under it until the people who pay have, by the use of the Initiative Referendum and Recall, the full control of this Parliament. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has told us that there* are 14,475 men in our Public Service receiving less than £200 per annum. Honorable members have also heard the eloquent sentences of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster), which might have been culled from one of the writers of the period of Gladstone, but were wrongly applied. The object of the honorable member was to impress on others the need for voting for this Bill, but I warn honorable members that the public servants are not fools. They will mark the men who vote to treat them as pariahs, unfit to go into the ordinary Courts of the land. In Committee I shall seek to amend sub-clause 1 of clause 7 to read as follows : -
The salary of the Arbitrator shall not exceed f 1,000 “a year.
I shall move in this way to secure economy, and because the people, who pay everything, have no voice in the matter. At every opportunity I shall divide the House on the payment of any salary of £1,000 or upwards, and I deeply regret to say that I believe the Minister, who answered a question submitted by me a little time ago on this matter of salaries, was misled by the head of the Department who supplied him with the answer. I use the word “ misled.” It is a mild way of putting it. Outside this chamber I would employ a stronger term. I asked for the number of public servants receiving £1,500 a year and .upwards, and the answer was that there were none receiving over £1,500 a year, and only five men - and they were employed in the Defence Department - whose allowances brought their remuneration to over that figure. There, alone, is sufficient room for economy, but I have since been informed that the Admiral of the Fleet is paid far more than £1,500 a year. If that is so, the answer supplied to the’ Minister was certainly inaccurate. I would like the people of Australia to control, not only our salaries, but also- those paid to every public officer, right up to the GovernorGeneral. I would go further, and say it was about time that we chose our own Governor-General. Every time I have the opportunity I shall harp on the question as to who pays these salaries, and I am pleased to note the fact that the Age newspaper is educating, not only Victoria, but the whole of Australia, to realize that the people, who pay everything, should have the right to a say in all such matters. I have no objection to the appointment of a Judge as Arbitrator, although I hope he will nob be such a silly ass as to go to the tail of a horse for the decoration of hie head. No honorable member opposite will dare to say that those who are engaged in the education of Australians are treated properly. Certainly, education is not a Commonwealth matter, except in regard to the children in our own Territories; but my opinion is that no nation will become properly civilized until the cost of education exceeds the cost of equipping soldiers. The only country in which that has ever been done - and it was only for a brief period, I am sorry to say - is Switzerland, where the people control, not only Parliament, but the President, the Judiciary, and the whole Public Service. For three years Switzerland r>aid more for the education of its young than it paid to the soldiers engaged in the defence of the .country.
– Education is the best kind of defence.
– Yes , and if the people ever get a chance of voting on that matter, I am perfectly certain they will not be neglectful of their own interests and, above all, of the interests of those they love better than themselves - their children. I shall take the opportunity in Committee to move an amendment to limit the salary of the Arbitrator. T cannot be accused of having any personal animus against any individual, because I neither know nor care whom the Government intend to appoint. I impress on the minds of honorable members that we, who receive £1,000 per annum, have to face our creators one day in every three years. The public servant neverhas to do that. I admit that amongst the higher-paid members of the Service are men of genius. For his responsible work the Auditor-General gets £1,000 per annum. Mr. Knibbs, whose name is more widely known throughout Europe to-day than that of any other Australian, also receives £1,000 per annum. I make no complaint of that; but in connexion with some of the new appointments the Government are inclined to be a little overgenerous. Any man can live well on £1,000 per annum. I lived well on £600 per annum for a long time. I intend to endeavour to have the maximum salary fixed at £1,000 per annum until the people themselves have the power, by means of the referendum, of determining this question, and then they may pay what remuneration they think right and proper.
.- I can see no reason why the Public Service should not be catered for by the ordinary Arbitration Court. Repeatedly we have heard the statement bv Government supporters that, although there is much important business to be done, honorable members on this side are constantly delaving the progress of measures. As a matter of fact, we seem to get nothing but Bills dealing with arbitration. Four measures of that character have been introduced during the present session, and each one merely tends to increase duplication and confusion, thus promoting rather than preventing industrial unrest. Why cannot the whole question of arbitration be dealt with in one measure, so that all organizations of employees may go to one Tribunal to have their claims heard ? This proposal to create a special Arbitrator for the Public Service will not tend to the promotion of contentmentand satisfaction in the Service. It apparently originates in the desire of the Government to keep public employees isolated from their fellow-workers, and placed on a different footing. Even if the footing were a better one than that on which outside workers stand, it would still be wrong to discriminate between the men who work for the Government and others who work for private employers. The question of the economic position of the workers, whether employed by the State or by private enterprise, should be dealt with as a whole. One possible reason for the introduction of this Bill is the state of affairs disclosed by the disgraceful figures quoted by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), in regard to the remuneration of postal officials and other public servants. For some time these men have been trying to approach the Arbitration Court. It was due to no fault of their own or the Court that they have not succeeded. The obstacle lay in the constitution of the Court and the wording of the original Act, which made for confusion and congestion in the Court by its limitations and its failure to provide for the appointment of a sufficient number of Judges. It is obvious from the figures quoted by the honorable member for Hume that nearly all operatives in the Public Service are due for a big increase in salary. Of course, the Arbitration Court would not be able to discriminate between them and outside employees. But an Arbitrator appointed under this Bill will be able .to do so. He may, if he wishes, assist the Department to continue their cheese-paring policy and the sweating of their employees in order to produce a credit balance at the end of the year, and a surplus for which the Government may claim credit in the country. There is to be no appeal from the decision of the Arbitrator. Therefore, instead of this scheme conducing to the smooth running of the Departments and the contentment of the employees, it will make confusion worse confounded, and create trouble similar to that which has occurred in some of the States. I have previously brought under the notice of the House the case of a postmaster in a little town in my electorate. He is a married returned soldier supporting u family, and he receives from the Postal Department £131 per annum. It is certain that if he were to appeal to the
Arbitration. Court bis salary would be* advanced to at least the standard wage fixed by the Court. Apparently the Government know what wages are likely to be fixed if public servants are able to appeal to the Court, and they are endeavouring to evade that liability by creating a Special Tribunal to fix the remuneration of all Commonwealth Government employees. “We know that intimidation takes place in the Public Service. If a man employed in a Department makes himself a nuisance by agitating for better conditions he is either dismissed or denied promotion.
– I have heard of instances of agitators being promoted.
– Possibly, but such instances have been very few. A suspicion is created in the minds of the people, that under the proposed system there will be too much secrecy. Inquiries that are now held in open Court will be conducted in camera, and will be shrouded by the official atmosphere of secrecy. Intimidation will be used, and very often men, in order to retain their positions, will have to smother their desires. The public will never know how claims have been dealt with, and there will be no satisfaction. The House has expended much time and energy in dealing with legislation for the promotion of industrial peace. The only means by which that can be assured in connexion with the Public Service is by adopting the amendment in order to ascertain if the public servants themselves will be satisfied with the scheme contained in this Bill. Honorable members may say that we have no right to consult them on this question. Why not? Certainly the public are concerned in .the postal services, but the men who have to rear their families, and to whom an efficient arbitration system means either economic slavery or economic salvation, are surely entitled to say whether the proposed Tribunal will be satisfactory to them, especially as it is alleged by the Government that the Tribunal is being created for the benefit of the Service. I wonder how many employees in the Department will say that any of these inquiries are held for their benefit. I hope the amendment will commend itself to the House
The Government cannot argue in connexion with this Bill, as they did in regard to the Industrial Peace Bill, that the measure is urgent because an industrial upheaval is threatened. The Bill is said to be for the purpose of creating a better feeling and more contentment in the Service. But how can we know that it will have that effect until it is referred to the Service, and Ave are assured that it will not create more dissatisfaction than exists at presents ? I fear there is a grave danger of the Public Service not receiving as impartial a deal from the proposed Arbitrator as it now receives from the Arbitration Court, and for that reason I shall not vote for the Bill until it has been approved by the Public Service organizations.
Mr. MAXWELL (Fawkner) [4.311.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) rightly said that Parliament has established the principle of arbitration for the settlement of disputes in connexion with the Public Service, ‘and the one question we have to determine in regard to this Bill is as to whether or not it represents, the best method of applying that principle. . Many of the speeches that have been delivered have tended to obscure that simple issue. The burden of. a good many of them has been the character of the Public Service. Compliments have been paid to the Service, which I am sure every one indorses. Those who have had experience of the Commonwealth Public Service know that it is well manned and efficient, and deserves the very best at the hands of Parliament as its employer. But that has nothing to do with the Bill. Another question that has very largely occupied the attention of honorable members who have addressed themselves to the Bill is the motive actuating the Government in introducing this Bill. It surely does not matter what motive actuated the Government. The only question is whether or not the Bill is a good one. The Government may be actuated by the most sinister of motives, and yet the Bill may be excellent. It does not matter to us how execrable the motive behind its introduction may be; we must discuss the measure on its merits.
– That is what I did.
– The honorable member not only discussed the motive of the Government in introducing the Bill, but he descanted at large on the attitude that had been adopted by various honorable members on this side towards the Bill of 1911.
– I first showed that the Bill is bad, and then I showed the source of contamination.
– The honorable member did not discuss the Bill on its merits. The: greater portion of his speech was occupied in attributing to the Government motives of >& most sinister character, and in pointing out the inconsistency of honorable members who were supporting this Bill, but had opposed the Bill of 1911. The attitude which honorable members on this side of the House adopted with regard to that measure is of no concern to me, nor am I interested in ascertaining what motives induced the Government to introduce this Bill. I take the Bill as submitted to the House, and the only question that I have to consider i6 whether it is a good or a bad one.
– It provides for arbitration only in name.
– That may be the view of the honorable member, who also gave as a reason why the Bill should be voted out, that it was contrary to the wish of the Public Service of Australia. He declared that they did not want it. To be logical he should say that if it is shown to be the desire of the Service that a special Arbitrator should be appointed, as provided for in this Bill, rather than that they should continue to have their claims dealt with by the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, he will support the Bill,
– That is not the way T put it. ‘This is said to be a good thing for the public servants. My answer is that they are the best judges of that, and that we should let them decide the question for us.
– That may be, and I may say, in passing, that I do not think the reply made by the Minister to the point made by the honorable member was at all relevant. Nothing could be said against a Government which, contemplating a measure of this kind, went to ite public servants and said, “ A dispute arises between us, and we are proposing to settle that dispute in a certain way. Does this meet with your approval?” I should see no objection to such a course if it were necessary, but I do not know that it is. This Bill, as the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) said, has been before Parliament for some time. Public servants are naturally keenly interested in a measure that vitally affects their interests and welfare, and, as a rule, are not slow to express themselves with regard to it. I must necessarily have a very large number of Commonwealth public servants in my constituency, but I have not received from any one of them a telegram, or a letter on the subject, or a request for an interview with me in regard to it.
– That is my experience, and I also have a vast number of Commonwealth public servants in my constituency.
– Perhaps they are too nervous to approach the honorable member. They do not hesitate to approach us if they have a grievance.
– I do not think my honorable friend would say that any of my constituents would fear to approach me concerning any matter that affected his interests.
– Did not the honorable member, like the rest of us, receive a circular on this subject?
– I did not say that I had not received a circular, but I have not received a letter or a telegram from any of my constituents with regard to this subject. Not one of my constituents has approached me with reference to it.
– Did not the organization approach the honorable member by means of a circular?
– I received a copy of the circular to which the honorable member refers ; but in respect to a matter of this kind, vitally affecting, as it does, the interests of public servants, I should have expected that section of my constituents to approach me - and to express a desire to discuss it with me.
– On a question like this we need to think in continents, not in constituencies.
– Quite so. This Bill, T understand, affects something like 20,000 public servants, but the mere fact that I have not been personally approached by any public servant in my constituency at least shows that it is not a matter of very keen interest to them. 1 should say that it is an open question, so far as public servants are concerned, whether they should continue to have their claims dealt with by the Conciliation and Arbitration Court or go before the Arbitrator, for which this -Bill provides.
– I understand that they are practically unanimously of the opinion that they should remain within the jurisdiction of the Court as at present.
– As to that, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell), who has had to leave, has handed to me two telegrams, which throw an interesting light on the situation. The first of these, which comes from the secretary of the Clerical Division of the Service in South Australia, reads as follows : -
Members prepared accept special Arbitrator provided safeguarded in manner requested in circular letter addressed members of Parliament by High Council Commonwealth organization. Award should be retrospective date lodging plaint or Judges’ decision.
There we have a specific expression of opinion on the subject from a gentleman who represents a very large number of Commonwealth public servants. The second telegram is from the secretary of the Telegraph Operators in South Australia -
We not opposed Service Arbitration Bill now before House.
There are two or three other words in the message suggesting that the honorable member to whom it was addressed should telephone a Mr. Wilson, who probably had more information on the subject. In any case, the view I take of such communications is that they indicate that this is not a burning question amongst public servants. .
– It will become a far more burning question after they have had the proof of the pudding in the gating of it..
– That may be; but I would point out that the Bill as it stands gives the Arbitrator very large powers, and provides for a remuneration sufficient to command the services of a man possessing very high qualifications. If the right man be appointed, I should say that there is every prospect of the procedure for which this Bill provides being entirely satisfactory.
There are two principles in the Bill which I should like to see amended. It is proposed, in the first place, that the Arbitrator shall have a tenure of seven years. That, in my opinion, is not sufficient. For such a position we need to secure a man who, in addition to other qualifications, will be absolutely fearless and independent. To give him a tenure of only seven years will make against that.
– Is not that the very point that our party has been stressing - that the Tribunal will not be independent?
– It can be made independent.
– But it will not be independent under the Bill as it stands.
– I am pointing out that I should like this principle to be so altered that the special Arbitrator would be given security of tenure equal to that of a High Court Judge. Assuming that a. man is appointed for a term of only seven years, then, no matter how independent he may be, if, towards the end of his tenure of office, any one of his decisions seems to bear rather in favour of the view of the political party that is coming into power, or has just come into power, he will be credited with bias. It will be said that he has given that decision in order to curry favour with those with whom will rest his re-appointment.
– He might even be unconsciously biased.
– Exactly. My second point is that, in order that this Tribunal may be made as effective as possible, the Arbitrator should have the assistance of two skilled assessors. My suggestion is not that two assessors should be appointed to sit continuously with him, but that assessors should be appointed in respect of each dispute that comes before him. There should be one to represent the Department and one to represent the employees concerned. The answer given by the Minister to that suggestion was that the Arbitrator would have the power at any time to call in the assistance of assessors. The difficulty as to that is that a Judge does not always know that his mind is not properly informed and, consequently, does not always know when to ask for assessors. For instance, during the progress of the hearing of a claim, the Arbitrator might be labouring under a certain misapprehension due to lack of knowledge of the technicalities of the question with which he was dealing. If he sat alone he might come to a determination without having had that misapprehension removed from his mind, whereas, if he was sitting with two skilled assessors well informed in regard to the matter in dispute, that misapprehension, in the discussion of the points that would affect the Arbitrator’s determination, would be discovered and corrected.
– Could not all this be done under the existing law ?
– I believe that it could be done. I do not feel very strongly in regard to this matter. If the Government had said, “ We intend to allow Commonwealth public servants to remain within the jurisdiction of the Court and to increase the number of Judges so that the arrears of work may be overtaken,” I should not have objected. I should think, however, that this will prove the more acceptable scheme to public servants, always provided that the proper man is appointed to the office of Arbitrator. In my judgment, the first appointment to this position will either make or mar the whole procedure for which the Bill provides. If the right man be appointed, then, having regard to the wide powers conferred upon the Arbitrator - to the fact that he will have special knowledge and will not be trammelled by any consideration other than a distinct desire to do justice as between the Commonwealth and its employees - it will be found that the Public Service is more than satisfied.
– Would the honorable member be in favour of giving public servants the option of going either to the Court as at present, or to the Arbitrator, as provided for in this Bill?
– The objection to that is that under such a procedure we might have conflicting or contradictory awards. One of the features which commends this measure to my judgment is that there will be something like uniformity of awards.
– That could be achieved by assigning all Public Service matters to one Judge.
– It could be; but, if that were done, the honorable member will agree that the objection could still be urged that public servants were being treated differently from all other applicants for arbitration. And that is a criticism which we want to avoid. I intend to vote for the second reading. As I have already indicated, I do not feel very strongly upon the matter; but, if the proper man be appointed, I feel sure that the principle will work well. It is quite irrelevant for honorable members to discuss at this stage, and in connexion with this measure, the low rates of wages paid to public servants. My view of the way in which the Commonwealth should treat its servants is that we ought to be scrupulously careful in regard to appointments to the Service. We should go for the best men ; we should insist upon efficiency; and we should see that our employees are treated just a little better, if anything, than those of private employers. If we were to hold those objectives in constant view, there would not be such unrest as exists to-day in the Public Service.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Ryan’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the Bill he now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreedto.
Clause 4 -
Employees in the Public Service, or in any division, class, grade or branch thereof, or in any calling, service, handicraft, occupation, or avocation in the Public Service, or in any division, class, grade, or branch thereof, shall be deemed to be employees in an industry within the meaning of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904- 1918.
– Notwithstandingthe vote recorded against the proposal to refer this Bill to the public servants themselves, I am not satisfied that it embodies their views, or that it will be acceptable to them. All the public servants with whom I have come in contact, many of them men with whom I have worked in various avocations in life, have made it plain and clear to me that they do not desire to be brought under the proposed Arbitrator. They have also intimated their wish to remain under the Arbitration Court, and to have its advantages as in the past. I therefore move -
That the following words be added to the clause: - “ and notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, any organization of such employees may avail themselves of the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration under the provisions of the Arbitration (Public Service) Act of 1911.”
That amendment will give the Commonwealth employees a choice between the two Tribunals. That is a safeguard which they themselves desire. The secretaries of organizations with whom I have come in contact since the Bill was formulated have intimated to me that they do not desire to come under its provisions. They have given very fully the reasons why they wish to remain within the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court, and to my mind they have based their objections to the Bill on very good grounds. There are many anomalies throughout the Bill, which they look upon as an incursion on their rights. They consider that they are being robbed of facilities which they previously had when they could go before the Arbitration Court. They look upon the authority to be created under this Bill, not as an Arbitrator, but as a dictator, which I think he will be, and as a political nominee who will do what the Government want done, rather than adjudicate in the interests of the Public Service and the Commonwealth as a whole. My amendment, if carried, will give them the opportunity of going either to the Arbitrator or to the Arbitration Court as they think fit. In a matter of this sort, affecting thousands of men in all grades of the Service, it is a good thing to grant them that facility. I trust that the Minister will accept the amendment, because better results will accrue to the public as a whole from its inclusion in the Bill. After the speeches delivered on the second reading, pointing out the defects of the Bill, the advantages of the amendment must commend themselves to all the members of the Committee. It will provide an adequate safeguard or safety valve in connexion with the decisions given by the Arbitrator, and it will also prove to the public servants that the Government do not desire to hamstring them. The representatives of organized labour in- the Public Service look on this Bill with hostility and suspicion, and to my mind their suspicion and hostility are wellfounded. They are of opinion that they should be able, to go to the Arbitration Court, and we, as spokesmen for them on this side of the House, desire to give them the consideration for which they ask. Short of the withdrawal of the Bill, the insertion of this amendment is the best thing that can be done for the public servants in order to safeguard the rights and privileges to which they are entitled as employees of this community. I, am sure that any Government that claims to represent the people cannot object to an amendment of this character. If it does, it lays itself open to the charge of fearing that the Arbitration Court would give a fairer decision in the interests of the employees generally than would the Arbitrator whom it is intended to appoint. If the Government docs object to the amendment on the ground that the Arbitration Court would give fairer decisions, it bears out the argument put forward by members of this party, that the Arbitrator is being appointed, not to give a square deal to the Public Service, but to carry out the hamstringing intentions of the Government towards them. It is my emphatic opinion that this, Bill is introduced to give effect to the recommendations of exCommissioner McLachlan. To my mind he did not register a fair decision in making his report. The object of the whole Bill is to limit the advantages that should accrue to the Public Service as the result of the adoption of a humane policy towards them. I have every confidence in_ the Arbitration Court doing the fair thing. I have not that confidence in any Arbitrator that I would have in a Judge of the Court. In the first place, we do not know who the Arbitrator’ is to be, although in his hands will rest the lives, so to speak, of the employees of the Commonwealth. If he is a man of narrow and restricted vision, reflecting the views of the Government, as is likely, seeing that he will be a political appointee, he will not give to the employees that fair consideration which we could expect from a man of high standing, with a thorough knowledge of the law, who occupies the position of Judge in the Arbitration Court. The President of the Court is well qualified, by his long and wide experience, if he retains his present position, to adjudicate in cases of this character. I am certain that the amendment, if it is carried, will make for the smoother working of the Public Service, because it will give the. employees the choice of two Tribunals, in case they do not think they are. receiving a square deal from the Arbitrator.
.- I intend to support the amendment, for I am most anxious that the public servants should have the right to go to either Tribunal, just as I have always held that organizations in Victoria should be permitted to go to a Wages Board or the Court, whichever they desire.
Yesterday, on the second reading, I drew attention to the position of two sets of employees who are under the control of the Commonwealth at the present time. The men employed on the transcontinental railway have recently obtained an award from the Arbitration Court. I fancy their case was heard by Mr. Justice Starke, under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and not under the Arbitration (Public Service) Act.
– They were under the Railways Act. When that measure was passed here, a special clause was put in.
– We save them the right in that Act to go to the Court.
– Will this Bill take away that right from the Railway Service? I remember that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) and myself, with the late Mr. Frank Hyett, then secretary of the Victorian Railways Union, induced the Minister to insert a clause giving them the right to go to arbitration.
– Mr. Watt introduced that clause. I opposed it.
– I am not surprised at that. T am anxious to know whether thatlaw will still stand. I hope the Minister (Mr. Groom) will let me know if the clause, which is quite wide enough to embrace these employees - although I do not think they will take advantage of this Bill - will override the special section that we put into the Railways Act. I shall be glad, also, if he will tell me how it will affect those in the employ of the Commonwealth line of steamers who are employed in the office. I read correspondence yesterday from the Department to a temporary clerical employee. First of all they said that he could obtain no advantage ‘ from the award for temporary employees in the Clerical Division of the Service, and then they told him he could obtain no advantage from the permanent employees’ award. Will those employed by the Commonwealth line of steamers come under this Bill or not? We have a right to put them somewhere.
– And also the employees of the woollen and harness factories.
– T shall be glad if the Minister will inform the Committee whether the employees of the Woollen Factory, the Harness Factory, the Cordite Factory, the Small Anns Factory, the Commonwealth CI “Hh in <r Factory, and of the Commonwealth shipping and railways will come under this Bill?
– I have to point out to the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham), who has proposed an amendment in the form of an addition to clause 4, that that amendment is not at all relevant to the clause. The honorable member, however, could meet his wishes by moving his amendment later on as a new clause, because it is relevant to the Bill, though not relevant to the particular clause now before us.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) asks two questions, the first of which is whether Commonwealth railway servants come under the operation of this Bill. Section 47 of the Commonwealth Railways Act makes the Act of 1911 apply to the railway service. If the honorable member will look at clause 11, sub-clause 5, he will see it there provided -
Any reference in any Act to the Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1911 shall be read as a reference to this Act.
That Aft distinctly applies to railway servants, and the Bill before the Committee incorporates that provision. The second question asked by the honorable gentleman was whether this Bill includes the employees of the various Commonwealth factories and shipping lines. If the honorable member refers to the definition of “ The Public Service,” in clause 3, he will see that it is exactly the same as that given in the Act of 1911. It is as follows: - “The Public Service” includes the Public Service of the Northern Territory and of the Territory for the Seat of Government, and the service of any public institution or authority of the Commonwealth, and includes all persons, employed in any such service in any capacity, whether permanently or temporarily, and whether under the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1902-1918 or not, but does not include persons employed in the Naval or Military Forces only.
– It includes all except those employed in the Naval or Military Forces.
– That. is so. On this point I may be permitted to quote the following opinion of the Crown Law officers : -
The point has been raised as to whether the Bill covers persons employed on the Commonwealth Railways, in the Harness Factory, and persons employed in connexion with shi phu i Idins: operations carried on by the Commonwealth. ‘ The Public Service “ is defined as including “the Public Service of the Northern Territory and the Territory for the Seat of Government, and the service of any public institution or authority of the Commonwealth,” and “ all persons employed in any such service . . . whether under the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1902-1918 or not . . . “ This definition is exactly the same as that appearing in the present Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1911.
Inmy opinion, the words “ Public institution or authority of the Commonwealth “ would include the Commonwealth Railway Service, the Government Harness Factory, and ship-yards carried on by the Commonwealth.
– Are they removed from one Act and placed under another?
– This Bill only confers certain rights on persons who may take advantage of it.
– Could they remain under the general arbitration law if they desired ?
– As far as concerns some of those at present in associations I am inclined to think so. The opinion proceeds -
If this interpretation is correct, there is no doubt that the Bill covers the persons referred to.
In regard to persons employed on Commonwealth Railways, there is another ground for holding that they are covered by the Bill. The Commonwealth Railways Act 1017, section 47, enacts that the Arbitration (Public Service) Act shall apply to the railway servants. Clause 11 (5) of the Bill provides that any reference in any Act to the Arbitration (Public Service) 1011 Act shall be read as a reference to the Bill. It is quite clear, therefore, that the Bill applies to the railway service.
Although the employees on the Commonwealth Railways and in the Harness Factory arc entitled to form associations and to become registered under the Arbitration (Public Service) Act, I understand that they have not largely availed themselves of this right. Apparently, most of them prefer to belong to large associations such as the Australian Workers Union, the Federated Engine-drivers and Firemen’s Union, and the Saddlers Union, which are registered under the ordinary provisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– There is nothing to prevent them joining the other organizations ?
– No; there is nothing now which prevents these men in the shipyards from joining another organization, and they do so ; and the same applies to railway servants. These men have not registered under the Act of 1911, but by arrangement with the Railway Commissioner their cases are heard, and we abide by the decisions given.
– Then the Clothing Factory employees may remain members of the Clothing Employees Union, and an award given for that association applies to them?
– The rule of the Commonwealth is, generally, to observe Commonwealth awards.
– Is there any guarantee that any public servant will take advantage of this Bill?
– There is no guarantee at all, and there was no guarantee under the 1911 Act. That Act was specially framed to meet the case of public servants, and we are re-embodying the provisions of that Act. and substituting an Arbitrator for the Court.
.- It appears to me that the Government could have got some very useful information if they had consulted the records of theConseils de Prudhommes, in France, and their later realization in the laws of Switzerland. In the latter country the employers and employees meet on absolutely equitable terms, fifteen representing each side. Perhaps it would make the matter clear if I read the following description of the method adopted : -
The employers and employed in each group of trades elect their representatives, fifteen from each side, to form a conseil. The numbers choose by ballot a committee consisting of president, vice-president, secretary, and vicesecretary, the presidency and the other offices being held alternately by an employer and a. workman, with the further proviso that, when the president or the secretary is an employer, the vice-officer must be a workman and vice versa.
I think it would have been much better to proceed on similar lines. I have no desire to delay the passage of the Bill, but merely wish to bring under the notice of the Minister what has been done elsewhere. Ours is a new system of only a few years, and must have faults, which time only can mend. The principal fault, apparently, is the difficulty of getting to the. Court, and, when there, the cost of having cases heard; but in Switzerland these matters are settled at a minimum cost of from 1 franc up to 10 francs. I can give honorable members particulars of cases settled in 1901. Out of a total of 6,141 cases there were settled in Courts of Conciliation, 4,245; and in Courts of Arbitration, 1,885; leaving unsettled only eleven out of the total of 6,141 cases. It might be of interest to mention that in 2,230 cases the complaints were made by the workers, and in 120 cases by the employers. All these oases, with the exception of . 2 per cent., were settled satisfactorily. I considered that information of so much importance . that I thought it well to bring it under the notice of the Minister in charge of this Bill. I believe that it would be far better if, in this country, instead of having one general Court of Arbitration, we had an Arbitration Court for each trade and calling. There are ten of these Tribunals in Switzerland, dealing with the following list of callings: - 1, textiles; 2, earth and building works; 3, woodwork; 4, metals; 5, foodstuffs and liquors; 6, clothing trades; 7, paper -making and polygraphic industry; 8, chemicals; 9, transport; 10, retail trade and other callings (banks, insurance, employments connected with literature, art, and science). I may mention that in connexion with cases in these. Courts, there is a single Court fee, ranging from 1 franc to 20 or 30 francs, so that it is possible to secure the settlement of a case in one of these Courts for a minimum charge of 10d., up to a maximum charge of 25s. I have quoted from a book entitled The Sovereign People, by Henry Demarest Lloyd, which will well repay perusal by any member of the Committee. It seems to me that this Bill puts the members of the Public Service in a class by themselves and I do not think that it is fair to them as citizens of the Common.wealth that they should be so placed.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
.- I move -
That after the word “Arbitrator,” line 2, the following words be inserted: - “and two Assessors, one representing the Commonwealth and the other the employees.”
I gave notice, on the second reading, of my intention to move this amendment. Thehonorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) is, I know, of opinion that these assessors should be given a vote, but I think it is better that they should act merely as advisers to the Arbitrator. I am not sure whether the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley), in the position he occupied in the Arbitration Court in New South Wales, had the power to exercise a vote or not. I know it is the practice to give the representatives of both sides a vote in connexion with Wages Boards in Victoria but I am not sure of the procedure under the Arbitration Act of Western Australia. There is in Victoria at the present time a claim being considered by a Railway Board on which there are representatives of the Commissioners for Railways and of the employees. I believe that Mr. Carolan is the representative of the Railways Commissioners and Mr. Smith is the representative of the employees. They are merely assessors assisting Judge Winneke in the consideration of the case. I do not suggest that assessors appointed under this Bill should be permanently appointed. If a case affecting railway servants is under consideration there should be railway men acting as assessors to assist the Arbitrator in coming to a decision. If the case affects letter-carriers, one of the assessors should be a lettercarrier, as he would know the details of the work of those employed in that business. The assessors should be men in a position because of their knowledge to give technical information to the Arbitrator.
– The honorable member does not propose the appointment of two assessors whose term of office shall be conterminous with that of the Arbitrator ?
– No; I do not suggest that they should be appointed for seven years. My idea is that in each case considered they should be advisers competent to assist the Arbitrator. I believe that the Government would be well advised if they accepted my amendment. In the Industrial Peace Bill we adopted an exactly similar principle, but in that case we made provision for the appointment of up to six representatives of each side.
I am not sure how organized employees in the Public Service will regard this Bill. In reply to the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) the Minister has just said that they need not take advantage of it, and that they may, if they please, go to the Arbitration Court.
– Only certain of them can do that.
– Thos© employed in the Commonwealth factories can go to the Arbitration Court.
– That is where they, apparently, are going at the present time.
– Engineers employed at Lithgow and members df the Clothing Union can go to the Arbitration Court, and I do not think that many of those who are in a position to go to the Arbitration Court will take advantage of this Bill. Whether they do or not, the principle of my amendment is sound, and I hope that it will be accepted.
.- I support the amendment. I have had 60nl e experience of the value of such a provision in connexion with Tribunals appointed to adjust wages and conditions in the railway service in South Australia. There the employees and the Government are represented by assessors who are in a position to give advice upon technical matters to the adjudicator. I differ from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) as to the wisdom of giving assessors a vote. I am disposed to think that it would be better that thesors appointed should have the power to exercise a vote.
– That would destroy the very principle of arbitration by making a man a Judge in his own case.
– Not necessarily.
– The assessor representing the employees would vote for them every time.
– He would not be able to decide any question . alone. Every question would have to be decided by a majority of the Tribunal. f I think that the wisdom of giving assessors the right to vote merits consideration.
– If we gave the assessors the right to vote, does the honorable member think that the representatives of the employer and employee would ever be found in agreement?
– If they were there would be no need for an appeal to the Arbitrator.
– Exactly, and if they were not, the Arbitrator would decide tlie matter every time.
– I quite understand that it would probably amount to the same thing, but there might be means by which a unanimous decision could be arrived at. I consider that a provision for the appointment of assessors would be an improvement upon the Bill.
.— I cannot see my way to accept the amendment. We dealt with a similar proposal when considering the Industrial Peace Bill. The position under this Bill is different, and there is greater reason why such a proposal should not be adopted in this case. Under this measure, when the issues have been arrived at, the first step taken is the calling of a conference. I emphasize the fact that it will be an Arbitrator who will deal with cases under this Bill, and not a Judge following the procedure of a Court. The first duty of the Public Service Arbitrator will be to call a conference. He will have the claims and objections before him, and as the representatives of both, parties will sit at a table with him he will be able to procure any advice which they consider it necessary to give him. The desire is to settle disputes, so far as possible, by these conferences. After conferring with representatives of both sides, the Arbitrator is given power under clause 13 to inform his mind in such manner as he thinks fit, and he may take evidence. If he considers that it would help him, he can secure the assistance of experts or persons in a position to inform his mind, whether they be representatives of the parties or not.
It appears obvious to me that if assessors are appointed to represent each side they will become advocates for the interests they represent. The true idea in the appointment of an assessor is, I think, that he should be a person competent to advise the Arbitrator where he is called upon to deal with a technical subject. For instance, the Arbitrator might require to consider a case affecting telephone or telegraph operators, or concerning the classification of legal, professional, or scientific officers, and in arriving at a decision in such cases he might require the advice of experts to assist him. There is no need for the amendment; the Arbitrator will have power to call to his aid any advice he may wish, and that is the assistance which the honor* able member suggests he should have.
– In the Arbitration Court mistakes have been made by Judges because they hay© not possessed an intimate knowledge of the industries into the ramifications of which they are inquiring. I do not think there is oneman in Australia who will be competent to sit as an Arbitrator, delivering judgments in connexion with the working conditions of the whole of the Public Service, and avoid making mistakes.
– The power given to the President of the Arbitration Court to appoint assessors, if both parties to a dispute desire it, has never been utilized.
– It has not been used because the organizations have not found it necessary; but I know at least one case in which assessors with a knowledge of the pastoral industry would have been in a position to prevent the President of the Arbitration Court from making a serious mistake in delivering his award. In 1911, in the dispute between the Australian Workers Union and the pastoralists, the Court was asked to increase the rates paid to wool-pressers; but the Judge refused the application, and made some rather caustic comments against the union for daring to prefer such a request. As a matter of fact, owing to the manner in which the evidence had been given by the pastoralists, he reduced the rate payable to wool-pressers. But obviously, it was a mistake on his part, because I have not met a pastoralist yet who has availed himself of the opportunity to pay the reduced rate. The way in which the evidence was brought forward misled the Judge into believing that the earnings of these men were very much more than they really were.
– The Judge may consider that he was not misled.
– In order to get the wool out of the way at shearing time, wool pressers are sometimes obliged to work fifteen and sixteen hours a day, so that, although they might earn £20 a week, it represents, perhaps, eighty or ninety hours work in a week, and not the ordinary forty-eight hours. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) has pointed out that when he was an assessor in the New South Wales Arbitration Court, glaring mistakes might have been made if it had not been for the fact that the Judge in formulating his awards had the assistance of assessors. I think the Public Service Arbitrator ought to be able to get the assistance of assessors appointed by the organizations appearing before him. If he is dealing with the postal sorters’ claim a representative of the sorters should sit on the bench helping him to avoid mistakes. If he is hearing the claim of the linemen their representative should sit on the bench with him. Each division of the Service should be entitled to appoint its own assessors to sit on the bench with the Arbitrator. Thus he would avail himself of the advice of men with an intimate knowledge of each branch of the Service, not in the heated atmosphere of the room in which the arbitration proceedings are conducted, but when the award is being formulated. In this way glaring mistakes which might occur through the ignorance of the Arbitrator as to the conditions which apply in the Service could be avoided. We ought to make the appointment of assessors compulsory. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act allows the President of the Arbitration Court to inform his mind by expert advice through the appointment of assessors, but the Public Service Arbitrator may not choose to avail himself of the advice of experts. He may bet of opinion that he knows all about every matter. If assessors are appointed, there is no doubt the mind of the Arbitrator will be thoroughly well informed on every matter that comes before him before any award is given. I support the amendment.
.- I cannot understand the attitude of the Government. Last week they came forward with a proposal to leave the question of the hours of labour to the decision of three Judges in the Arbitration Court, but now they propose to allow one man to decide this matter in relation to the Public Service. They are wonderfully inconsistent. In one Bill they declare their want of faith in one Judge and declare that two others must sit with him on the question of hours, and yet they now oppose a proposal to appoint two assessors to sit with the Arbitrator who is to be called upon to adjudicate upon the claims of the public servants in respect to rates of pay and working conditions. Last week I submitted an amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill similar to that which is now being moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) for the appointment of assessors to sit with the President of the Arbitration Court.
– But the honorable member opposed the Government’s proposal for three Judges.
– I cannot be accused of inconsistency. It is the Government which is displaying inconsistency. I am to-day exactly in the position I occupied last week. What harm can be done by asking the Public Service to select a representative to sit with the Arbitrator? It is only the man in the Service who knows exactly the feelings of his fellow workers and has a thorough grasp of the work performed by them and the value of it. The Government could appoint an assessor to represent them.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the assessors should have a voting power?
– Therefore the two of them could override the Judge.
– That is not what was proposed by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I consider that assessors ought to share in the responsibility of the awards given. In other Courts the laymen have overridden the Judge and delivered judgments. It does not occur very often; but if a Judge proceeds to give an award with a preconceived idea in his head which both assessors, the practical manufacturer and the worker, know to be wrong, they are bound to oppose him. That is the advantage of having three men on the Bench.
– If you allow the assessors voting power, they will be in exactly the same position as three Judges in the Arbitration Court.
– Exactly, and I think the Government are foolish in not accepting the proposal. Assessors would do good work in the Arbitration Court. An honorable member raised the question last night as to how the assessor representing the Public Service would be elected, and asked whether the General Division would not object to being represented by a member of the Clerical Division. My opinion is that all the members of the Public Service will ballot on the matter, and will select the best possible man to represent them on the Bench.
– Then the more numerous Division will nominate their own man.
– In that case, if the majority are in the General Division, the majority of the public servants will get the benefit, should there be any attaching to the nomination of any member of a particular branch of the Service as assessor.
– The honorable member is advocating the appointment of a man from the General Division, who may have little or no knowledge of the conditions applying to the Clerical Division.
– The man nominated to act as assessor would gain his knowledge as he sits on the Bench, just as the Judge of the Arbitration Court gains knowledge from the evidence given before him.
– Is the honorable member advocating the appointment of permanent assessors?
– That would remove any valid reason that might exist for the appointment of assessors at all.
– If two assessors are appointed by the whole of the Public Service for two, three, or four years they would become experts in the settlement of disputes, and would be of considerable assistance to the Arbitrator.
– There would then be three Judges.
– No; one Judge and two laymen to assist him.
– But they would have exactly the same powers as a Judge.
– No, because the Arbitrator would have to decide upon the exact terms of a determination. This principle was in operation in New South Wales for six years.
– Then the Act was repealed.
– It was only a temporary measure, limited to a period of six years.
– Yes, and that was the end of it.
– Experience did not justify a renewal of the Act.
– Its repeal was purely a. political move, and was due to a change of Government. If the Minister has confidence in the employees of the Public Service, surely he will permit of the appointment of two men who will be selected because of their intelligence, to act as assessors. I understand the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) suggests that they should be appointed temporarily. I have no objection to that so long as something is done to improve the measure. It is a mistake to deny employees of the Public Service this right of representation.
– Especially as the principle is recognised in the Industrial Peace Bill.
– Of course it is, and I say that the man who has to make a determination has every right to expect assistance from two assessors, who will understand all the technical points that may be involved in a dispute. However, the Government are against the amendment, and so I will say no more.
.- Like the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley), I cannot understand the attitude of the Government in connexion with the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor). Much the same procedure is adopted in the constitution of the Admiralty Court, assessors being required to furnish the technical information necessary for the settlement of disputes. I point out, also, that the Government agreed to this principle in the Industrial Peace Bill, which was dealt with a short time ago. Under that measure there is provision for the appointment of Local Councils and Tribunals, to consist of persons connected with the industries. An Arbitrator, acting alone, will probably become an autocrat, and if he follows in the footsteps of a couple of Judges in New South Wales he will be an absolute tyrant. In the recent butter case an increase of 3£d. per lb. was sanctioned, and so great was the haste to gazette the determination that it was almost necessary for the Government Printer to use a blotter to dry the ink on the determination. God help the Public Service if they have as an Arbitrator a man of that character. The Bill itself is nothing more nor less than a dodge to prevent the public servants from getting that justice which this Parliament desires they should have. I am satisfied that the Minister in charge has not an open mind upon this question; otherwise, he would not hesitate to avail himself of the suggestions made by the Leader of the Opposition, who desires to assist the Government in perfecting the Bill. I also take a liberal view . of the measure, and wish to do what I can. to improve it. The amendment does not seek the introduction of any new principle. It is merely an endeavour to safeguard the. Public Service against injustice, and I put it to honorable members that it is inconsistent to oppose the inclusion of the principle in this Bill, seeing that it has been incorporated in the Industrial Peace Bill and the Arbitration Bill which has been dealt with so recently. Why are honorable members so obstinate now? Why are they so reluctant to accept the amendment? To honorable members the man to be appointed as Arbitrator is an unknown quantity, and the Leader of the Opposition asks the Committee to provide a safeguard against mistaken decisions on his part. The Government would be wise to accept the proposal that the Arbitrator should have the assistance of two assessors; even then he would still have the deciding vote. I am one of those who believe that at times “ in the multitude of counsellors there is wisdom.” I feel confident that the appointee himself would be in favour of the amendment, so that he might be protected to some oxtent against possible errors of judgment. It may be that some member of this Chamber is to receive the appointment, and even he would not be opposed to having the assistance of two other gentlemen. We should adopt every possible means that will conduce to just decisions on the part of the Arbitrator. If I were asked to accept the position at £2,000 per annum I would not do so under the conditions contained in this Bill, because I would be without the assistance and advice of anybody, and would have to rely entirely on my own judgment in respect of matters affecting the welfare of thousands of public servants. It must be borne in mind that in connexion with this Tribunal there will be no legal advisers. The Arbitrator will have to frame his decisions without the assistance of anybody. This clause is really the crux of the Bill, for the success or failure of the new system will depend upon the decisions of the Arbitrator. There will be no right of appeal from his judgment ; he is to be in an entirely independent position.
– There must be finality somewhere.
– I admit that; hut this Bill provides no means of redress in respect of unsatisfactory decisions by the Arbitrator. Even if I knew the ‘person to be appointed Arbitrator and were satisfied as to his qualifications, I would not alter my attitude upon thi3 question. I would not trust to any individual complete control of a large and responsible body of men like the Public Service. The power of the Arbitrator will be even greater than that of a Judge. From the decision of a Police Court, or Local Court there is an appeal - first to a Judge of the Supreme Court, then to the Pull Court, next to the High Court, and finally to the Privy Council. But from the decision of this one man there is to bc no appeal.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to S p.m.
.- The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) makes the clause read -
For the purposes of this Act there shall be a Public Service Arbitrator and two assessors, one representing the Commonwealth Government and the other representing the employees, who shall bo appointed by the Governor-General.
We have endeavoured in the State of Victoria, by means of Wages Boards, to give effect to that principle, as an equal number of employees and an equal number of employers are selected by the various bodies, but they have nothing to do with the appointment of the chairman. The chairman was the deciding factor in nearly every Wages Board decision, as the decisions were seldom unanimous. In Switzerland, by the latest law, they have improved upon that system by the Tribunal de Prudhommes, which was first established in Belgium amongst the French population, was later adopted by France, and then by Switzerland, where the Swiss took advantage of the genius of the German people in their midst, and produced a class of Courts which must appeal to honorable members. The fact that out of 6,141 cases not 1 per cent., or even $ per cent., remained unsettled speaks for itself. This is the practice that is followed - I am quoting from A Sovereign People, by Mr. Henry Demarest Lloyd -
The employers and employed in each group of trades elect their representatives, fifteen for each side, to form a conseil. The members choose by ballot a committee consisting of president, vice-president, secretary, and vicesecretary, the presidency and other offices being held alternately by an employer and a workman, with the further proviso that, when the president or the secretary is an employer the vice-officer must be a workman, and viae versa. The work of the conseil is divided as follows: - First comes the Conciliation Board, consisting of an employer and a workman, who preside by turns. This Board has summary powers of decision in cases involving sums not exceeding 20 francs. In ease of disagreement between the members, or where sufficient evidence for a summary judgment is lacking, tlie case is referred to the second Board - the Tribunal. The Tribunal de Prudhommes consists of a president, three employers, and three workmen, hears evidence, and, where necessary, summons experts, and gives final decisions in cases not involving more than 500 francs. Cases involving larger sums are carried to the third Court - the Chamber of Appeal - which consists of . a president, five emptors, five workers, and a secretary without a vote.
The Courts of Conciliation are not open to the public. All the members have votes, and if this amendment is carried the assessors should have votes. The writer continues-
Finally, certain cases where competence of jurisdiction is disputed are referred for decision to a mixed Court, composed of two Judges of the Court of Justice (nominated by this Court), and three Prudhommes, chosen from among themselves by the Chamber of Appeal.
There is one point in this, and it is one with which I think the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) will agree. There are a variety of callings in the Public Service and the assessors, if they were appointed for the same term of years as the Arbitrator, would not possess the knowledge that the representatives on the Tribunals I have mentioned possess. If this proposal is not carried - I am afraid I am not sufficiently optimistic to expect that it will be - but if the Government in an amending Bill introduce a similar system, it might be well to provide that the assessors should be chosen at certain periods from different callings. Perhaps it will be better if 1 proceed to quote, as it will convey what I mean -
Perhaps Bale presents the. largest systematization of the Courts, and the following grouping indicates this operation: Ten Courts of Arbitration deal with disputes in these groups of trades - (1) Textiles; (2) earth and building works; (3) woodwork; (4) metals; (5) foodstuffs and liquors; (6) paper-making and polygraphic industries; (S) chemicals; (9) transport; (10) retail trade and other callings’ (banks, insurance, employments connected with literature, art, and’ science) .
In connexion with these Courts, the representatives of both sides possess a thorough knowledge of their trades and callings. It may interest honorable members to know what the Courts cost. The Melbourne Tramways and Omnibus Company employees’ costs amounted to five figures before the case reached finality - I am not sure whether it did not extend beyond £10,000 - and there was considerable delay and loss of money. But I believe when there was a threat of direct action their request was granted within three days. It must be obvious to honorable members that when it is so difficult to bring a case before the Court the natural corollary is that the men have to adopt other means. To show how small is the expense in the Swiss Courts, I quote the following: -
In some Cantons the procedure is entirely or virtually gratuitous, the cost being borne by the public; this is the case in Geneva, Neufehatel, Vaud, Solothurm, Bale, and Freiburg. In other Cantons a single Court fee, varying from 1 franc to 20 or 30, is imposed.
That is a variation of from 9½d. to about 27s., based on the pre-war rate of exchange, showing clearly how successful they are, and that the work is performed at a minimum cost to both employees and employers. When I give the total of the cases tried, it will show honorable members that we have much to learn. I would welcome the appointment of a bright, intelligent officer to thoroughly grasp the work of establishing Courts of Conciliation and Arbitration between the employers and employees, as is done in the little Republic of Switzerland. The total number of cases of industrial legal settlement in the year 1901 was 6,141; of that number 4,245 were settled by conciliation, and 1,885 by arbitration, and only 11 were left unsettled. Of the complainants, 2,230 were workers, and 120 employers. That speaks for itself. I shall vote for the amendment, although I realize that it is only a crude attempt to follow out the combined wisdom embodied in these laws, which have sprung from the genius of the French, the talents of Germany, and the modern adaptability of the Swiss. If we cannot obtain a proposal such as this, my party will never remain satisfied until we have some such means of settling industrial disputes. I believe that deep down in the minds of every honorable member there is a desire for some ready, quick, and inexpensive way of settling these difficulties that are arising like clouds and surrounding the wholeworld. This little Republic, surrounded by Italy, Germany, and France, is the admiration of the whole of Europe Why? Because its laws are just. The justice of what I have read must appeal to all honorable members. I ask the Government to consider this proposal, and, if they cannot see their way to accept the amendment, to adopt the more comprehensive plan I have indicated. If the Government do that, they will have the confidence of the workers and the employers. What could be fairer than to have an equal number from each side, and a President, selected from the workers when dealing with one case, and selected from the employers when dealing with the next?
.- I do not propose to allow this amendment to go to division without again asking the Minister (Mr. Groom) to give it favorable consideration. I care not whether permanent assessors or assessors in respect of each particular section of the Service bringing a dispute before the Court are appointed, but in the interests of the future working of this measure I think we should endeavour to make it as attractive as possible to those who will come within its jurisdiction. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) said that he thought assessors ought to be appointed, and that the period of seven years during which the Bill provides the Arbitrator shall hold office should be extended. The Arbitrator, whoever he may be, and no matter how high his qualifications, could not be expected to have the knowledge of a practical man. He might be an excellent man for dealing with the law and the facts as presented to him, but he could not possibly have a grip of all technicalities relating to the postal and other branches of the Public Service.
– How is it that the power to call in assessors has never been used by the Conciliation and Arbitration Court Judge?
– As to that, I should like to refer to a case which came before the Court in New South Wales many years ago. The late Mr. Curley and I appeared before Mr. Justice Cohen, a very distinguished Judge.’ on behalf of a claim made by the coal-miners. Legal men appeared on the other side, and, although the learned Judge gripped the facts, he framed his award in such a manner that it was impossible to put it into operation in the working of a coal mine. The trouble was that the learned Judge had not some one on the Bench to advise him as to the technical details of the industry. The result was that representatives of the employees and the mine-owners had to meet and to go through the case from end to end. They did not depart from the Judge’s findings except to make the award a workable one, and the result of their efforts was that the award ran for something like ten years.
– Mr. Justice Higgins has dealt with dozens of cases. What are known as “minutes” are discussed with the learned Judge before they are finally embodied in the award. In that way the Court is able to deal with technicalities without the assistance of assessors.
– I do not know whether this Bill provides for such a practice.
– That is the usual practice.
– What we desire above all things is that those who will come within the scope of this measure shall have confidence in the Tribunal for which it provides. I am convinced that the men will have more confidence in it if they know that the Arbitrator will be assisted by an assessor familiar with the details of their calling or profession. The presence of such a man on the Bench would be helpful to the Arbitrator himself. If the Arbitrator has no one to assist him on the Bench the proceedings will be longer than they would otherwise be, since it will be necessary to call additional evidence to enlighten him as to technicalities. This delay could be obviated by appointing a practical man representing the particular section of the Service whose claim is before the Tribunal to act as an assessor. The appointment of assessors representing the Government and the public servants would not involve much additional expense; and if, as a result of it, we were able to secure the settlement of disputes byarbitration, the money would be well spent. No one can estimate the loss which a strike entails on the whole community.
– We could not have arbitration and direct action as well.
– I have just been urging that in order to avoid direct action we should make the Tribunal as effective as possible. The Arbitrator, no matter what his qualifications, might bo unconsciously biased.He might believe he was doing right, but very often a man’s view is warped by reason of his environment, and he has not that broadness of vision so essential to the proper adjudication of matters brought before a Court. That is another reason why assessors should be appointed. I do not think the Minister would be badly advised if he consented to something in the way of the scheme for which this amendment provides. The House has agreed to the second reading of the Bill, and we are endeavouring now so to improve it as to give public servants every reasonable facility to approach the Tribunal, and have their cases fairly dealt with by it. It has been said that it would be unwise to appoint permanent assessors, since they could not be cognisant of the details of all the various sections of the Service. There is, however, no reason why power should not be given to any section of the Service submitting a claim to the Tribunal to appoint an assessor to assist the Judge, the Government having power also to ‘appoint an assessor to represent them. I urge the Minister to give this matter consideration, and to try to meet what is the evident wish of the Committee.
.- When speaking to the motion for the second reading of the Bill, I indicated that I was inclined to favour the suggestion that there should be two assessors to sit with the Arbitrator during the hearing of each dispute brought before him. There seems to be some little confusion, however, with regard to this matter. Some honorable members appear to be in favour of the appointment of two permanent assessors who, with the Arbitrator, would constitute the Court, while others suggest that assessors should be appointed in respect of each dispute submitted to the Arbitrator. There is yet another division. Some honorable members who favour the appointment of permanent assessors consider that they should act in only an advisory capacity, while others would clothe them with powers equal to those of the Arbitrator. Others, again, who hold that assessors should be appointed in respect of each dispute think that they should act merely in an advisory capacity, -while another section considers that they should have equal powers with the Arbitrator. The amendment has been so worded that its meaning is not quite clear.
– I shall not object to an alteration of the wording.
– I think the honorable member said that he had merely submitted the amendment to allow of a discussion of the principle.
– My reading of the amendment is that if it were agreed to the Tribunal would be constituted of an Arbitrator and two assessors who would have equal powers with him. The very reason urged for the appointment of assessors would be done away with if they were permanently appointed, since they could not possibly be familiar with the details of all sections of the Service. Their knowledge practically would not be different from that of the Arbitrator himself, so that the only result would bc a mere multiplying of the number of Arbitrators.- There is, however, a great deal to be said in favour of the appointment of two assessors in respect of each dispute as it goes before the Court. Such nien would have practical knowledge, and would be in a position to inform the mind of the Arbitrator. I do not think that they should have equal powers with the Arbitrator. If they had, each assessor would merely represent the view of those who selected him. They would differ, and in the long run the decisions would rest with the Arbitrator. If two assessors are to be appointed in the case of each dispute, we should provide that they shall act in only an advisory capacity.
When I indicated that I was in favour of the appointment of two assessors with advisory powers in respect of each . dispute, I had certainly overlooked, to some extent, a clause in the Bill which deals with the conference which is to be held prior to a reference to the Arbitrator. To a large extent I think that obviates the necessity for the appointment of two assessors to inform the Arbitrator upon the points which are in dispute. I have, however, rather overlooked the fact that when a dispute arises between any section of the Public Service and- the Government with respect to their wages, hours, or working conditions, the first step taken is to bring the two parties together. The Arbitrator will bring them together, and they will discuss the whole question in dispute. Practically, therefore, the Arbitrator will hear the matter fully debated by both sides in a friendly way. Only in the event of the failure of the parties to agree will the Arbitrator be called upon to exercise his functions. When he comes to sit in his capacity as Arbitrator, and to listen to the evidence which is tendered, he will already have had the advantage of hearing the matter which he has to determine fully threshed out by experts upon both sides. In addition, whilst evidence is being called, the representative of the employees will be present as well as the representative of the Government, so that the matter will then be fully debated again. As the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) has pointed out, after that stage has been reached and before finalizing his award, the Arbitrator will bring down minutes of his award, and these minutes will be open to discussion by both sides. If such minutes exhibit any misconception or misapprehension on the part of the Arbitrator, that will be the time to have it cleared up. These considerations very largely obviate the necessity for the appointment of even advisory assessors.
– Under clause 13 of the Bill the Arbitrator may inform his mind in any way that he thinks fit. If he wishes to call to his aid an assessor he will have power to do that. But, if it will assist the Committee in dealing with: this matter, I am quite prepared to put the power in a more express form.
– I am rather inclined to agree with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) that, if there were sitting with the Arbitrator in respect of each dispute, two men representing the two sides to that dispute, it would be a great advantage. The Arbitrator would be in direct touch with them not only at the conference which would be convened, but also whilst the evidence was being taken. Then, when any point cropped up which required elucidation, he would be in a position to turn to either of these assessors, and a word or two from them might throw a flood of light upon what otherwise would remain to him obscure. Upon the whole, therefore, I favour the appointment in connexion with each dispute of two assessors to act with the Arbitrator.
– In some cases it may not be necessary to appoint assessors.
– Very often it will not be necessary, but in some cases which perhaps involve more difficulty their presence will be necessary.
– Under clause 13 the Arbitrator will be empowered to call in an assessor to advise him whenever he thinks it necessary to do so.
– But, in a particular case, he may think that he is able to’ do without assessors, whereas those interested in the dispute may think, possibly with very good reason, that he should ‘have the assistance of assessors. Certainly, it would increase the confidence of those whose interests are involved if the Arbitrator had sitting with him a representative of both sides, so that no point should remain unelucidated. Perhaps the Minister can see his way to make an amendment in that direction?
– I do not want to make the provision too rigid.
– At any rate that is the way in which I feel inclined to register my vote.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has anticipated certain remarks which I was about to make upon the subject of the conference which will have to be convened under the Bill, and also in regard to the appointment of permanent assessors. In its present form the amendment before the Committee is quite objectionable and ought not to be pressed. At the same time much can be said in favour of introducing into certain cases skilled experts for the purpose of aiding the Arbitrator. It is very singular that, although provision for the adoption of this course is made in our Arbitration Act, the President of that Court has seldom, if ever, availed himself of it. If he has done so, it has been only in a very few cases indeed. To a large extent its use has been obviated by the practice of the Judge formulating minutes of his award, prior to the making of a permanent award. What I previously indicated to the Minister was that in order to meet the views which have been expressed by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) and others, the provision which is contained in the Con ciliation and Arbitration Act should be embodied in this Bill, so that it will be quite competent for the Arbitrator at any time that he may require the skilled aid of any person, to command it. No doubt clause 13 of the Bill gives him wide powers in that regard, seeing that it provides that he ‘ shall act in accordance with equity and good conscience, and may inform his mind upon any matter in such manner as he thinks fit. But in order to meet the objection which has been urged by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I would urge the Government to give the Arbitrator specific power to call to his aid expert advisers in any case that he may deem fit. I make the suggestion lest the power in question should not be completely comprehended by the words which are contained in clause 13. Section 35 of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1915 provides -
The Court shall, on the application of any original party to an industrial dispute, and may without such application, at any stage of the dispute, appoint two assessors for the purpose of advising it in relation to the dispute, and the assessors shall discharge such duties as are directed by the Court or as are prescribed.
– The insertion of that provision would meet the position.
– Exactly. It sets out that the Judge, on the application of any original party to an industrial dispute, shall appoint two assessors, and may, in the absence of any application, call these assessors to his aid. To my mind it would be wise to incorporate a similar provision in this Bill, because it would meet the views which have been expressed by my honorable friends opposite.
– Obviously, the amendment which has been submitted would constitute these assessors a corporate part of the Court. I do not think that would be a right thing to do, and, as I believe the general sense of the Committee is opposed to it, I shall not argue the matter.
– Does not the Minister think that he has the numbers?
– I have already said that I believe the opinion of the Committee is opposed to the amendment, and, consequently, there is no need for me to discuss it further. When speaking upon the second reading of the Bill last night, I pointed out that clause 13 will give the Arbitrator power to call to his aid experts and to appoint assessors. That provision leaves the matter in an elastic form, so that the Arbitrator may call in expert assistance in any form that he may desire. But, in order that he may be guided by the feeling of the Committee, I am prepared, when we reach that clause, to move the insertion in it of the following words: “ and may in any case appoint an assessor or assessors to advise him in relation to the claim or application.” We ought- to leave it to the Arbitrator himself to determine whether he shall appoint assessors in any case.
– The Minister does not propose to go as far as the Arbitration Act goes in that regard ?
– It would be too much to require the Arbitrator to appoint assessors in connexion with every little application that may come before him. This Bill will confer upon him the power to vary his determinations. Practically the whole of our Public Service will come under these determinations, so that applications will constantly be made for a variation of those determinations. At a later stage of the Bill I intend to make provision for interpreting determinations. I submit that in the amendment which I have outlined I shall be meeting the Committee fairly. It is only proper that the determination of whether it is necessary to appoint assessors in the different cases shall be left to the Arbitrator.
– Are we to understand that the Arbitrator will appoint the assessors ?
– He will be vested with discretionary power in that regard.
– I do not care for that.
– It will be open to either of the parties to any dispute to ask the Arbitrator to appoint the assessor whom it nominates.
– The Minister has previously said that although this power exists under the Arbitration Act it is rarely exercised.
– But it is there, and can be exercised when necessary.
– At the same time, to put it in as an - obligation in such circumstances would be a sort of indication that we wanted assessors appointed in all cases.
– Surely no more than in the Arbitration Act?
– If the honorable member says that the power is not often wanted, and is used only occasionally, what objection can he have to giving the Arbitrator a discretion ? If we make it compulsory, we take away from1 him the discretion to decide whether the case is a fit and proper one for the appointment of assessors to assist him. The question before him might be one on which expert advice was not required, as, for instance, the matter of holidays, hours of labour, or overtime.
– Make it “on the application of either party, or when the Arbitrator thinks fit.”
– If a party wanted an assessor, and told the Arbitrator so, it would be within the discretion of the Arbitrator to say, “ I will appoint assessors in this case, because I want their assistance.” We are meeting the case fairly by putting it in the way we are doing. I must vote against the amendment of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor), because it will constitute assessors as a permanent part of the Court.
– I am rather surprised at the Minister (Mr. Groom) endeavouring to place the members of the Public Service in a different position from those who can make application to the Arbitration Court. The Arbitration Court provides that if either party asks the Judge that assessors be appointed, he grants the request, and the assessors sit.
– That is in the main Act, but not in the Act of 1911.
– We are already doing a very undesirable thing in paddocking the public servants off into a separate Court. I have never agreed with that, but now we are going still further by making an invidious distinction between them and the members of unions outside. The Minister has tried to make light of this matter by saying that the Arbitrator ‘ sitting in Public Service cases will not have to meet the complex issues which a Judge in arbitration has to meet.
– I did not say that. I said that many of the applications would be for the variation of awards in certain particulars.
– The same kind of application is made in the Arbitration Court, yet the power to appoint assessors is left in the Arbitration Act. I presume the Arbitration Court deals with what the Minister calls trivial cases. He should remember that no case is trivial to the workers concerned. Questions of holidays and hours are not trivial.
– I did not suggest that any case was trivial. I said that there was a great difference with respect to one point and an application involving fifty or sixty points.
– Under present-day conditions we are engaging in the Commonwealth Public Service members of nearly every class of calling to be found in the community. I hope that when the Public Service Bill comes up for discussion we shall divide the Service into even more classes than exist at the present time. A large number of men and women in the employment of the Government are carrying out technical work, but they are put in neither the Professional nor the Clerical Division. They are classified as general, which is unfair to them. If the Minister adopts the suggestion of the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), he will be doing a fair thing by the members of the Service. One of the greatest blessings a country can have is a contented Service; and if the Government want contentment in the Commonwealth Service they should give the members of it the same right of suggesting to the Arbitrator the appointment of assessors to sit with him and consider cases and elucidate points, as is given to outside workers under the Arbitration Act. If the Minister will not accept the suggestion of the honoraible member for Kooyong, I hope the honorable member will move an amendment on those lines, when I am certain the majority of the Committee will support him, if not now, at any rate at the proper time.
.- The Minister assured us thathis intention was to make this measure as like the Arbitration Act as possible.
– iNo; what I said was that it contained all the powers that were in the Act of 1911. We take nothing away from the public servants that is in that Act.
– That isso; but in the Western Australian Arbitration Act assessors are appointed at the request of either side, and the Court is composed of a
Judge of the Supreme Court, with one person representing the employers and another representing the employees. If it has been found advantageous in Western Australia, in spite of the thoroughly representative character of the Judge, to have experts to sit as assessors with him, it might fairly be urged that it would greatly strengthen the position of the Arbitrator under this measure to give him the assistance of an assessor from either side in at least the great majority of cases. In my experience of the examination of witnesses at the sittings of a Committee of this House, I have often noticed that a single question put by an expert member of the Committee will throw quite a flood of light on a situation. That is where assessors would be valuable in the cases that are likely to come before the Arbitrator. If we do not make provision in the law to that effect, I am afraid the Arbitrator, if he is a self-sufficient man, may consider that he is quite competent to deal with many cases without assessors. In the majority of instances he would probably be quite satisfied that he could handle them well enough without any such assistance. If only for the sake of giving confidence to both sides, and especially to the public servants, that their cases will be dealt with in the most thorough fashion, the Minister would be well-advised toput into this measure some more definite provision than he has suggested regarding the appointment of assessors.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Tudor’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 -
1 ) The salary of the Arbitrator shall be pounds a year…..
.- I move -
That the word “ be “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ not exceed one thousand “.
There is a wide feeling throughout the community that there are too many high salaries paid in Australia. I regret that I cannot place my hand on an answer that the Treasurer. (Sir Joseph Cook) gave to a question I asked on 12th May, as to the number of salaries in the Commonwealth Service of £750 and upwards. However, if my memory serves me aright, I was informed that there were only five salaries of £1,500, and, strange to say, they were in our most expensive Department, namely, that of Defence. I am under the impression that the Admiral, with allowances, draws more than £1,500 a year, and if that be so, then the answer that the head of the Department supplied to the Treasurer was not accurate; in other words, he did not supply information concerning salaries above that amount.
– There are several officials getting more than £1,500.
– I am not blaming the Minister. The wrong information may have been due to a misunderstanding in the Department; at any rate, I am sure the Treasurer himself would not lend himself to such a thing. I move the amendment because I object to this appointment.; and the fact that I do not know who is to be the Arbitrator shows that I have no animus against any particular person. In any case, I maintain that from this time forth no salary of more than £1,000 per annum should be paid without the permission of the people who have to find the money. In a Democracy the people ought to have a voice in a matter of the kind; and that would not necessarily mean continual referenda. If a Government knew that it could not appoint men above a certain salary, unless the appointment and the salary were indorsed at the next election, it would frequently hesitate before expending large sums in the way we experienced during the war. During thirty-two years in the Swiss Republic, where the compulsory referendum is the law, there has been such an appeal only about once a year on the average, and the expense is a mere bagatelle. . We call Australia a Democracy, and yet the people are absolutely helpless and hopeless in such matters ; and as this appointment is for seven years, they will not be able to exercise much power if they desire to remove the Arbitrator. There is one danger, and that is that the public servants themselves have a certain remedy in their hands, and, if they do not get justice, they will not confine themselves to the Court. If the public servants were to do this, I am sure there are honorable members here who would be prepared to support them in seeking redress of a real grievance.
– But £1,000 a year is only as much as the honorable member gets !
– Quite true and it is quite time we made thework of legislation the highest profession in Australia, for there is nothing that so vitally affects the welfare of every man, woman and child in the community as the laws made by Parliament. Then, again, members of Parliament have to go before their creators at least every three years, though personally, I have for the last thirty years given my constituents the power to remove me at any time on petition, if they so desire. The Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Groom) will agree that there is a difference betwen a man who is appointed for seven years and has not to appeal to the people who pay him, and men who have to appeal to their constituencies at comparatively short intervals. If I am any judge of Australians there is a deep feeling permeating the community, in consequence of the increasingly high cost of living; and they are getting tired of present arrangements. If they follow the advice of the Nationalist party in Victoria, at all events, or the advice of the Labour party, and the advice of th& Age, which advocates tlie referendum, initiative and recall-
The CHAIRMAN” (Hon. J. M.
Chanter). - The honorable member is getting away from the question.
– Such a salary would not be paid to this Arbitrator or any other man if the people outside had a voice in the matter, and the only way the people can exercise a voice is by the referendum. I trust the amendment will be carried.
r9.10]. - I have given notice of an amendment of a very different character from that before us. I am satisfied that if we desire to have as Arbitrator a man who will perform the duties of this office properly, he must be properly paid.
– I move -
That in the blank after the word “be” the words “ two thousand “ be inserted ; and that after the word “year-“ the words “and the Consolidated Revenue Fund is, to the necessary, extent, hereby appropriated accordingly.”
The appropriation is placed in the Bill so as to give the same security in the case of the salary of the Arbitrator as is given usually in the case of the salaries of Judges.
– What are the High Court Judges paid ?
– The Chief Justice is paid £3,500, and the other Justices £3,000.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, .as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 -
.- I understand that if we pass this clause it would prevent any organization of the Public Service from going to the Arbitration Court?
– If this clause is passed the Act of 1911 will cease to operate except as regards cases that are now being heard .
– I understand that the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham:), at an earlier stage of the proceedings on this Bill, moved an amend- - ment to enable organizations in the Public Service to go to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration if they thought fit.
– He moved an amendment . which the Chairman decided was not relevant to the clause upon which it was moved, and he then said he would submit a substantive clause to give effect to his view later on.
– I direct attention to the fact that if the Committee passes clause 11 as it stands, it will be impossible to insert a new clause such as that which the honorable member for Gwydir desires to have inserted.
– The clause deals with the 1911 Act, but I understand that the new clause which the honorable member for Gwydir intends to propose refers to the general Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– No; my clause refers to the Arbitration (Public Service) Act of 1911.
– That being so, I move -
That sub-clause 1 be left out.
If this amendment is agreed to it will give members of the Public Service an opportunity to go to the Arbitration Court if they so desire. For my own part, I am under no illusion as to the purpose of this measure. I think that it is really intended to take away from the public servants the right to arbitration, and proposes to substitute for a Judge of the Arbitration Court an official who will not be an Arbitrator, but a kind of Commissioner, having a limited tenure of office, and necessarily dependent upon the Government in power for the time being, and to that extent under the control of the Government. I think, therefore, that we should leave it open to organizations within the Public Service, if they so desire, to go to the existing Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, which no one can -doubt will be an independent tribunal. As I understood the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) this afternoon, he was of opinion that the term of office proposed for the Public Service Arbitrator in this Bill is such as to render him net as independent as he ought to be. But we have passed the clause fixing the tenure of office of the Arbitrator
– That was done while honorable members were crossing the Chamber. I never noticed that the clause had been passed. It was any intention to have moved that the term of office should be ten years, instead of seven years.
– I am not reflecting upon the honorable member for not having moved an amendment upon the clause fixing the tenure of office of the Arbitrator at seven years, but I am directing his attention to the fact that the term of office has been fixed, and I am soliciting his support for my present contention. We have passed a clause which gives a limited tenure of office and a limited salary to the Arbitrator, which will certainly not make him as independent as a Judge of the High Court. In the circumstances, I wish to take the next step open to me to protect the interest of the Commonwealth public servants by enabling them to go to the Arbitration Court if they wish to do so. At an earlier stage honorable members dealt with an amendment I moved with a view to ascertaining the opinion of public servants, for whose benefit, it is alleged, this measure has been introduced. Honorable members, by a majority, rejected my amendment, but I hope that they will view that which I have now moved from a different stand - point
We cannot judge of the intentions of the members of a Government by what they say. If honorable members read the speeches of Ministers they will find that they are not in accord with their actions. I have listened during the last six or seven weeks to speeches from honorable members opposite, in which they proclaimed to the House and the public that they believed that Parliament should lay down the principles upon which Arbitration Courts should act, but that the Commonweal ih Parliament has not the power to do that. For example, they have told us they desire that the number of hours in the working week should be fixed by Parliament, ami I point out that in this Bill Parliament can, if it pleases, lay down . the principle of a forty-four-hour working week, because we have absolute and complete power with regard to the Commonwealth Public Service, as we have in regard to Inter-State shipping and Inter-State trade. In this Bill we can lay down the principle establishing a forty-four-hour week, but no member of the Government and no supporter of the Government, so far as I can see, appears to be desirous of laying down any such principle in this Bill. We can in this Bill also lay down this principle, which, I think, ought to be affirmed by this Parliament: That in fixing what is to be a living wage for a Commonwealth public servant the Public Service Arbitrator shall be guided by what is sufficient to keep a married man, his wife, and three children in reasonable comfort. But no honorable member opposite lias suggested that that principle should be laid down. I do not know whether any of them would support such an amendment, but it is absolutely within the power of this Parliament to establish that principle in this Bill. It is of no use merely to listen to speeches from them proclaiming that the Arbitration Court cannot do certain things because this Parliament has not the power to lay down principles. We have the power to do so in this Bill. We have the power to lay down a further principle which it is very necessary should be recognised, and I hope some one will move an amendment to that effect. We have the power to lay down the principle that the Public Service Arbitrator in arriving at a decision on the question shall not prescribe any wage less than the basic wage fixed by the Basic Wage Commission now sitting, or by any duly constituted authority that may take its place. We can do that, and I ask whether we are going to do it.
I mention these three principles in order to call the attention of the Committee and of workers generally throughout the Commonwealth to the fact that we have the power in this Bill to lay them down, and we have an excellent opportunity in this way to test the sincerity of members of this Committee and discover whether they really stand for these things, or merely mouth that they stand for certain principles, and when the opportunity is given them will not put their professions into effect.
– Does the honorable members seriously suggest that this Parliament should bind itself to an award that has not yet been reported?
– Does the right honorable gentleman by that interjection suggest that the Government do not intend to be bound by the report of the Basic Wage Commission ?
– I do not suggest anything of the kind. I am asking the honorable gentleman whether he seriously proposes that this Parliament should bind itself to all that any outside Commission now making an inquiry may suggest? That is his proposal.
– That is not asking any more than that we should be bound by future awards of our existing Courts of Conciliation and Arbitration. We provide in our Acts of Parliament that awards made in the future shall be binding; and why, therefore, can we not lay it down in this Bill that we shall be bound by the report of the Basic Wage Commission as to what a basic wage shall be?
– Because the thing is entirely different.
– It is not entirely different. I now have from the Treasurer the suggestion that the Basic Wage Commission has no business in it, and I never thought it had so far as the Government are concerned. As soon as it is suggested that this Parliament shall enact that no Commonwealth public servant shall receive less than the amount prescribed by the Basic Wage Commission the right honorable gentleman asks me, “ Do you seriously suggest that Parliament should bind itself to what theBasic Wage Commission will decide?” I certainly do. I go further, and I suggest that Parliament should so instruct this so-called Public Service Arbitrator that he should be bound by the report of the Basic Wage Commission.
– Has the honorable member ever known an Act of Parliament to refer to some body or corporation which has no legal existence?
– Then we can give it legal existence.
– Has the honorable member ever known such a reference in an Act of Parliament?
– The Basic Wage Commission has a legal existence.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon, it has not. It has no statutory existence.
– Then Iwould immediately give it a statutory existence. I would not be stopped by a quibble of that sort. It is suggested by the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) that the Basic Wage Commission, which is carrying on an inquiry at an expenditure of many thousands of pounds, has no legal authority.
– I did not say that. I said that it has no statutory existence.
– Then let us give it legal authority, and do away with all the humbug that is going on in this House. We appoint a Basic Wage Commission, and we are not going to be bound by its findings. The noise I hear from honorable members opposite is indicative of the fact that I am treading on their corns. I am taking the opportunity to test the sincerity of their protestations. I hope that before this Bill goes through Committee the opportunity will be taken to test the feeling of honorable members with regard to laying down all the principles I have referred to. We believe in a basic wage or we do not. I know many Commonwealth public servants in the State of Queensland, for example, who are drawing far less wages than men similarly employed by the Queensland Government or by private employers in that State. What is trueof Queensland in that regard is true of the other States also. I hope that an opportunity will be given to lay down the principle that this Public Service Arbitrator is not to be permitted to fix a wage for public servants lower than the basic wag?, and, further, that there shall be no differentiation in wages between a married man and a single man. We can make provision for that in this Bill. We stand for equal pay for equal work by married or single, orwe do not and we should let the public know where we stand.I believe it has been suggested that the basic wage should be fixed for a man and his wife, for a man, his wife, and one child, for a man, his wife, and two children, or a man, his wife, and three children.
– The honorable memberis not proposing that the Basic Wage Commission should be a permanent body ?
– No, I am not proposing that, but I am suggesting that we should lay down the principle in this Bill, which we can do, that the Public Service Arbitrator, in arriving at what shall be a living wage for Commonwealth public servants, over whom we have absolute jurisdiction - and we can give a lead to every one else in this connexion - shall be guided by what is a fair thing to keep a married man, his wife, and three children.
– Why three?
– I am suggesting a basis. If I had ‘ray way I would go further and vest in him power to give a bonus in respect of every child over three. That is a principle which I think might be established: but in the meantime I have submitted an amendment with the object of allowing Commonwealth public servants to go to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration if they desire to do so. I hope that honorable members will support that amendment, and any further amendments which honorable members may see fit to move on the lines T have indicated, in order to lay down the other principles to which I have referred.
– This is a proposal practically to reverse the vote given on the second reading of the Bill. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) knows that the original design of the Bill is to substitute an. Arbitrator for a High Court Judge in the Tribunal appointed to decide cases affecting the Public Service. We have argued that’ matter at great length already, and I do not propose to do so again. The honorable member now seeks to ‘strike out the sub-clause which prevents the continuance of the Arbitration (Public Service) Act of 1911, and suggests extraordinary reasons for so doing. He repeats an old cry, hoping that, in the end, some one will believe it - although no one will - that this Bill is all a sham, and is really an attack on the President of the Arbitration Court, because we seek to exclude the public servants from the Tribunal to which the ordinary citizen may go, and he claims that it is wrong to appoint an Arbitrator for seven year3 only. What tenure did he give the President of the Arbitration Court in Queensland ? He certainly did not give him a life tenure.
– What a wonderful bugbear this Queensland is !
– It is not a question of its being a bugbear; the point is: what did the honorable member propose there as against what he proposes here? Although we have power to appoint a Justice of the High Court as President of the Arbitration Court, the tenure of the office of the President is exactly the same as is proposed for the Public Service Arbitrator; but the suggestion of the honorable member for West Sydney is that the period has been fixed for seven years for the purpose of securing political control over the Arbitrator.
– Bear in mind that in Queensland the Executive may appoint as President of the Arbitration Court a Judge of the Supreme Court, who has a life tenure.
– The honorable member knows the interpretation which was put upon the Act by the Court. The President was held to have a specified tenure such as is proposed here, namely, seven years, which is generally accepted as a fair term for the President of any arbitration Tribunal. It is the term for which Mr. Justice Higgins has been appointed, and it will be the term for the Deputy Presidents.
– I am not asking that the Arbitrator should have a life tenure. I am simply asking that the public servants should have the right to go to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court.
– And the reason the honorable member advanced was the shortness of the tenure of the Arbitrator. However, I do not wish to go into the whole of the arguments which were advanced at length on the second reading. The honorable member has introduced into his remarks a lot of other matter that may be dealt with at the proper time. The only point at issue now is whether we are or are not to do away with the 1911 Act by substituting the scheme proposed in this Bill.
.- No good purpose is served by the Minister (Mr. Groom) using his position, innocently or intentionally, to obscure the very clear issue raised by the amendment. There has been a great deal of argument, if one may so dignify it, directed from the Government bench, and intended to prove that the Public Service, as a whole, will welcome the creation of this Tribunal, which it is alleged is being set up for their benefit; but if it is a fact that the appointment of an Arbitrator will be gratifying to the Service, they will avail themselves of this new Tribunal, and no possible harm can be done by the amendment. If, on the other hand, we find, what we believe to be the fact, that the Public Service organizations desire to continue availing themselves of the existing arbitrationTribunal, there is no reason why they should be forced to go to another Tribunal against their will and be placed beyond the jurisdiction of one in which they justly have confidence. It has been pointed out, and it is quite clear, that the Tribunal now proposed to be created is an inferior one and it has been said truly that the term for which the Arbitrator is to be appointed is a fixed one, and a comparatively brief term. The Minister replies by saying that the President of the Arbitration Court is also appointed for seven years. But whether he is President of the Arbitration Court or not he continues to possess the status, weight, and influence of a Justice of the High Court, whereas the person who is to be appointed Public Service Arbitrator may emerge from his present position in the Public Service, and, at the end of his term of seven years, will, if not re-appointed, revert to his ordinary position as a public servant or to some less conspicuous office. It is absurd to say that in discussing this amendment we are arguing for a principle that has already been decided. We are arguing upon quite a different principle. We are offering to the Government a ready means of determining whether or not this proposed Tribunal will be more agreeable to the Public Service than the Arbitration Court. If honorable members on the Ministerial side have made up their minds that, for disciplinary reasons. Commonwealth public servants should be placed in this position, all I can say is that it is a peculiar way of administering conciliation to force men to go before a Tribunalin which they have no confidence, and away from one in which they repose confidence - no honorable member on the Ministerial side can suggest that our public servants cannot justly have confidence in a Justice of the High Court as President of the Arbitration Court - and that is not a course of procedure that is likely to encourage a spirit of conciliation in the Public Service.
– Did the Government and the party which passed the 1911 Act consult the Public Service as to whether they desired to go to an Arbitration Court?
– We consulted them in this sense, that we had every reason to believe then, as we have now, that the Arbitration Court would be readily availed of by the members of the Public Service, but the main principle withus then, as it is now, was that being satisfied that conciliation and arbitration were good for the citizens of this country, whether they belonged to any particular class or not, we did not hold with segregating the Public Service and making it a class apart tinder the sort of discipline described by the late Public Service Commissioner (Mr. McLachlan). We believe that the men who discharge the honorable duties attaching to the Service of the Commonwealth are possessed of a high sense of loyalty to their country and to the positions they occupy, and that they are entitled to be regarded as being on equal terms with every other citizen of the country.
Mr.FOWLER (Perth) [9.40].- I can hardly think that the honorable members for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) and Batman (Mr. Brennan) are anything bub subtle humourists in regard to the proposition before the Committee, and I must compliment them on the way in which they have made it appear that they were perfectlyserious in putting it forward. We have already committed ourselves to the principle of appointing an Arbitrator to the Public Service in substitution for the Arbitration Court, but now these honorable members ask us, in all seriousness, to stultify ourselves and our proceedings by placing a provision in the Bill which would upset the whole arrangement the House and the Committee have already decided upon. If the members of the Public Service prefer the Arbitration Court to an Arbitrator, as I think they do, it does not justify us in opening a door that will at once make confusion worse confounded in regard to possible awards by two different Courts. A proposal that would bring about this result is absolutely preposterous. Therefore, while the Govern-‘ ment accept responsibility for the measure, I shall do my best to assist them in making it consistent.
.- As the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) has rightly said, it is somewhat amusing to persons who have been connected with the Commonwealth Public Service to hear how many friends they have in tho Chamber. I understood that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) said that the Public .Service asked for the Arbitration (Public Service) Act of 1911, but I have a lively recollection of a petition being presented to this Parliament by public servants asking that they should not he placed under the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. However, the Government of the day forced arbitration on the Service.
– In what way did the Public Service petition this Parliament?
– There was a widely signed petition presented from the Pub-lie Service to this Parliament.
– What I said was that the Act was passed in pursuance of the policy of the Labour party.
– No doubt the Government of the day thought that the passing of the measure would be of advantage to the Public Service, and I must admit, that while the effect of placing the Service under the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court led to a large amount of inefficiency, the Act certainly gave to public servants rights’ enjoyed by persons in the employment of private individuals. Many public servants appreciated the opportunity of going to the Arbitration Court, but I believe that better results will be achieved by this Bill, because a more effective system of conciliation will be created, and everything this House can do to assist in bringing about an improved feeling between employers and employees we should be prepared to do. But if we are to appoint an Arbitrator for the Public Service I cannot see the utility of giving the public servants the right to go to the Arbitration Court as well. I am not anxious to take away from the public servants any of the facilities to which they believe they are entitled.
– This Bill is merely another experiment among many we have made.
– If the present machinery is not- working successfully it is the duty of Parliament to authorize some other method. This is an age of experiment. I am quite satisfied that the Democracy of Australia will see that the Commonwealth Public Service gets justice. If we could apply the present system to the various bodies outside the Public Service it would be fraught with much success.
.- Yesterday I spoke against the measure, and expressed my intention of adhering to the principle of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court; but I cannot support the amendment, because I feel sure it will lead to confusion. I would support a measure giving the Public Service direct access to the Arbitration Court, but as the House has already agreed to the principle of the Bill, the amendment will be of no avail, and in view of my remarks yesterday I must vote against the amendment on the score of economy.
.- The Minister (Mr. Groom) seems to be under some misapprehension as to the exact nature of the amendment. I have no desire to increase the tenure of the Arbitrator. In fact, I am altogether opposed to such an appointment, and, therefore, my amendment was submitted in order to give members of the Commonwealth Public Service an opportunity of access to the existing Court of Conciliation and Arbitration if they so desired.
– The honorable member used the question of the Arbitrator’s tenure as an argument against the Bill.
– No. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) took exception to his tenure, and because it remained in the Bill I was appealing to him to support the amendment. With regard to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler), I do not know what are his views on the subject of humour, and I do not care very much. I am not looking for compliments; praise, or encomiums from any of my honorable friends opposite. We, on this side of the House, are standing for a certain policy which, very often, is more clearly defined when only members of my party are supporting it. I can see nothing anomalous in allowing any organization of the Public Service to go to the Arbitration Court if they wish to do so. Why should we not allow them to take that course? I think it probable that, in that event, the Arbitrator would not have very much to do.
– They would fro to the Arbitrator at one time and to the Arbitration Court at another time. That is the state of affairs the honorable member’s amendment would bring about.
– I want to leave this matter to the officers of the Public Service themselves.
– You have spoiled a very good case by your amendment.
– Well, I am very glad that the honorable member for Perth will not be the final judge of my case. I am not looking to my honorable friends opposite for judgment; I am looking beyond them, to the people of Australia. I see nothing inconsistent in the amendment, and I hope honorable members will agree to it.
Question - That sub-clause (1) proposed to be left out (Mr. Ryan’s amendment) stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
.- I move -
That the following words be added to subclause (1): - “ Provided that he shall not determine on any rate of wage which is less than the basic wage as ascertained by the Basic Wage . Commission or other body duly constituted for the purpose of fixing a basic wage.”
I do not propose to take up much time in presenting my amendment, because I think there should be no opposition to it, either by the Minister (Mr. Groom) or honorable members on the other side. Parliament appointed the Inter-State Commission to ascertain what is the basic wage in the Commonwealth, and we shall probably get a report from that body shortly. If Ministers wish to dissipate an idea that the Arbitrator will do them an injustice, this amendment will be accepted, because then members of the Public Service will have some assurance of a fair and square deal. Moreover, they will have the assurance that the Ministry are sincere in bringing forward this proposal to supersede the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I may also point out that the Commission was appointed by the present Government, and they will be only deceiving the great body of wage-earners, especially members of the Public Service, if they do not intend to give effect to its recommendation. My amendment is a safeguard, and I hope it will be accepted. This will mean merely the adoption of the recommendation of a Commission which the Government themselves appointed, and it will guarantee to the public servants that they will get a fair deal from the Government and from the Arbitrator. Personally, I cannot conceive of the Arbitrator, whoever he may be, awarding less than the basic wage recommended by the Commission. At any rate, to insure that that shall not be done, I submit the amendment.
.- I cannot see my way to accept the amendment. Honorable members know that the Basic Wage Commission has been conducting all over Australia an entirely new inquiry. I have no intention of asking the Committee to accept any finding until we are in a position to know exactly what we are doing. It would be ridiculous to ask the Committee to accept in the dark the results of the Commission whether they may or may not be detrimental to the Public Service. We cannot tell what the recommendation of the Commission will be. It was appointed for the purpose of gaining information, and making _a report. The amendment refers to the Basic Wage Commission “ or other body duly constituted for the purpose of fixing a basic wage.” I will not ask honorable members to accept the recommendation of any body unless the House first knows how it is constituted.
.- It was my privilege to introduce to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) the deputation which suggested the appointment of the Basic Wage Commission. That deputation represented a greater body of industrialists and a greater variety of industries than any that had ever waited upon an Australian Prime Minister, and included secretaries of organizations which had had cases before the Arbitration Court for many years’, and which favoured arbitration rather than direct action. Mr. Justice Higgins, Mr. Justice Powers, and, I think, also Mr. Justice Isaacs had requested that steps should be taken to fix a basic wage. The Prime Minister acceded to the request of the deputation, and a Commission representative of employers and employees was appointed. In his policy speech at Bendigo the Prime Minister stated that it was the intention of the Government to give effect to the findings of the Committee.
– Ho did not promise to give effect to findings which he had not seen.
– He certainly harped upon the statement that the Government were pledged to this policy as one that would place the industrialists in a better economic position, and that the Government would give effect to the findings of the. Commission at the earliest possible moment. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) stated that the findings of the Basic. Wage Commission might prove detrimental to the public servants. How could that be, when the amendment merely provides that the public servant shall not receive less than the basic wage fixed by the Commission; the Arbitrator may award as much more than the basic wage as he chooses. I understand that certain interests in the community were desirous that the inquiry by the Commission should be discontinued, and have withdrawn their legal representative in order to try to break down the investigation. The Commission .has obtained valuable information as to how the cost of living has increased, not only in Australia, but all over the world. In their own interests the Government would be wise to accept the amendment, because they themselves appointed the Commission. In the first case heard by Mr. Justice O’Connor, the McKay Harvester case, which was afterwards dealt with by Mr. Justice Higgins, a minimum wage of 7s. per day was fixed. That was about the year 1907. According to Knibbs 35s. will go no further to-day in the payment of rent and the purchase of food than £1 went in 1911.
– Those figures relate only to groceries and provisions; they do nob include rent.
– Having regard to the increase in food prices and rents, the minimum wage of 7s. in 1907 ought to be doubled to-day. Instead of wages rising as prices have increased, the increase of wages has followed very slowly in the wake of advancing prices, and the position of the workers to-day is infinitely worse than it was when the first award of the Arbitration Court was given. The Prime Minister appointed the Basic Wage Commission to ascertain the minimum cost of living for a man. his wife and three children. I again ask the Government to accept this proposal that the Arbitrator shall not fix a wage less than the basic wage recommended by the Commission. Surely if there is anybody in the community that should be a model employer it is the Government.
.- The Minister (Mr. Groom) unintentionally made out an excellent case for the amendment. He said he could not accept it because the Basic Wage Commi3sion is engaged in collecting evidence all over Australia. To my mind that is a reason why the finding of the Commission should be accepted. Surely the Commission will be in a position, as a result of its inquiries, to arrive at a fair and reasonable basic wage. If the Government do not intend to accept the findings of the Commission I cannot see what good purpose can be served by its appointment. Are the Government deliberately humbugging the people? The inquiry is costing the community tens of thousands of pounds, but apparently the Government intend to take no notice of the Commission’s findings. If the Government sincerely desire to allow the public servants to obtain justice they will gladly accept the amendment. By doing so they will instil into the minds of public servants a feeling of security, because they will know that they will not receive less than the basic wage recommended by the Commission.
.- It is surprising that the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), who is a member of the Government responsible for appointing a Basic Wage Commission, should at the earliest opportunity refuse to agree to the Government abiding by the decision of their own Commission. There can be only one interpretation of the Minister’s attitude, and that is that the appointment of the Basic Wage Commission was a piece of mere humbug, and that the Government had no intention of providing that the basic wage arrived at should be adhered to. The decision of the Minister must convey the impression to the minds of thoughtful people that the appointment of an Arbitrator for the Public Service, as distinct- from the Arbitration Court, is for the purpose of lowering wages in the Public Ser vice. If that is the intention, surely tie Government would gladly have availed themselves of the opportunity of providing in this Bill that the Arbitrator shall not grant wages to public servants lower than the basic wage decided upon by their own Commission.
– I challenge the honorable member that if he goes back twenty years h«> will find that this side has always done r,,ore to increase wages than those on his side.
– The Treasurer was possibly on this side during the time of which he is speaking.
– I will put it in another way. This party has always treated the working men of the Commonwealth better than has the Labour party.
– The Treasurer is endeavouring, to draw une away from the point I desire to make. As far as words are concerned, he has been a past master ; but as far as doing actual work and improving the- conditions of the workers are concerned, no one has done more than the Australian Labour party. If the Government are sincere they will accept the amendement moved by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath). Can the Minister for Works and. Railways justify the granting of an award below the basic wag<? decided upon by their own Commission ? Will the Treasurer say that, if that Commission arrives at a certain basic wage, and the. Public Service Arbitrator decides that the rate, in the Public Service shall be 10s. per week less, then the Government will be prepared to pay the lower rate, and sweat the public servants of this country ? The only guarantee that the public servants can have is by embodying the amendment in the Bill. If that is done, the Arbitrator, vh-»n dealing with .cases, will not have to conduct an elaborate inquiry into the cost of living, as that will already have been decided by the Commission. The main object in appointing that Commission was to save the Arbitration Court, and in this instance the Public Service Arbitrator, the necessity of making endless inquiries. Judges in the Arbitration Court have from time to time complained of the fact that they have to inquire into the cost of living to arrive at a basic wage, and it was generally understood that the Basic Wage Commission was appointed to prevent Judges from undertaking unnecessary work. When the inquiries by that Tribunal have been completed, a Judge will know that the living wage decided upon is the lowest which a man, his wife, and family of three should receive, and he can continue his inquiries from that point, and make his award. The Arbitrator in this case, by adopting the basic wage arrived at, would be saved an enormous amount of inquiry, and would merely have to ascertain the value of the work and the skill required in its performance. If wo are not going to accept this amendment, we shall have the representatives of the Government appearing before the Arbitrator, fighting tooth and claw for a reduction of wages, and endeavoring to defeat the finding of the Commission. The public servants of Australia, and the people generally, will demand that the basic wage shall be adhered to. If the Government want this measure to be a success, and one that will be acceptable to the public servants, they must be prepared to accept this amendment. The only thing the Government can lose-
– Is the right to give them less than the living wage.
– Exactly. The only thing they can lose is the right to pay less than a living wage, and the Government cannot submit any arguments for rejecting the amendment. If the Commission was appointed by the awful Australian Labour party we might understand the Government refusing to accept the findings, of the Tribunal. But here is a Commission appointed by themselves, and on the very first opportunity that presents itself the Government are refusing to accept the decision of that Tribunal. This sort of humbug is too apparent, and it will not deceive any one in Australia. ‘
– Hear, hear!
– I desire to inform the Treasurer that if he think”! his Government can separate the public servants from the general body of workers in Australia he is going to fail miserably. Our public servants realize that their interests are the same as those of the rest of the workers in the Commonwealth’, as the conditions are the same.
– If that is so, what are you squealing about?
– I am not squealing, but merely pointing out the errors of YOu 1. ways.
– But what about the amendment?
– Yes, may I ask the Minister what about it?
– Let us have a division.
– You are not prepared to include in the measure the findings of your own Commission.
– That is not the position.
– The basic wage should be paid-
– To whom?
– To the public servants.
– Including youths of eighteen ?
– Not at all. The New South Wales Board of Trade laid it down in the first instance that the basic wage for a man with a wife and two children should be £3 ITs. 6d., and it also determined what should be the basic wage for a single man. The Commonwealth appointed a Commission to inquire into the question, because Commonwealth servants in New South Wales, who were receiving less than £3 17s. 6d. per week had begun to urge that they should be paid a living wage as decided by the State Board of Trade. The Government’s reply was that it could not act upon the finding of a State Board, and that a living wage in respect of the whole Commonwealth might be totally different from what should obtain in New South Wales. The result was that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) announced that the Government would appoint a Commission to inquire into the question of what should be the basic wage for the whole Commonwealth. He further promised that the Government would accept the decision of that Commission and apply it to the whole Service throughout Australia. The Government are now going back on that promise. It is useless, however, to try to shift them from their determination to pay the public servants of Australia less than a living wage.
– Honorable members have been asked to deal with two Bills - one relating to Conciliation and Arbitration, in which my honorable friends of the Labour party believe, and this Bill, relating to Commonwealth public servants, in which they do not believe. In the Bill relating to conciliation and arbitration, which they profess to have so much at heart, they declined to insert the provision which they now seek to insert in this Bill which the honorable member forWest Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has already declared he would destroy, root and branch, if he could.
– In the one Bill Parliament is given full power to deal with the matter, but there are limitations in the other.
– There are no limitations of this kind. What can be done in regard to this Bill could have been done in the case of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. I rose merely to point out that in the Bill, in which the Opposition believe, they did not seek to insert an amendment of this kind; whereas in this Bill, which they seek to destroy, they desire to insert it.
– Honorable members opposite cannot escape from the fact that in voting against this amendment they will be voting against the giving of a living wage to Commonwealth public servants. They may camouflage the situation as much as they like, and try to explain away their votes, but that is the position in which they will be placed if they vote against this Bill.
– You have said that you want to destroy this Bill.
– The Treasurer (Fir Joseph Cook), as usual, did not touch the question before the Chair. I desire also to remind honorable members opposite that in voting against this amendment they will be voting against a pledge given by the Government at the last general election.
– What was that pledge?
– The right honorable member’s leader gave it from the platforms of the country.
– Read it.
– We shall have it read to the right honorable gentleman later on. I have it definitely in my mind that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said at the last general election that if his party were returned to power it would take the earliest opportunity to give effect to the findings of the Basic Wage Commission. livery member of the party who votes against this amendment will be voting against the pledged word of the Government as given on that Ocea sion .
– That will be nothing unusual.
– It will be nothing unusual so far as the Prime Minister is concerned, but, in this case, he will be dragging with him those who followed him at the last general election.
– Is the honorable member in favour ofthis Bill?
– I am in favour of the amendment.
– Will the honorable member vote for the Bill if the amendment is not inserted ?
– The right honorable member cannot drag-net me. We are dealing with a definite amendment.
– I have never known the honorable member to give a straight answer to a straight question.
– Because the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) never puts a straight question. One has to frame answers in keeping with the honorable gentleman’s questions.
House adjourned at 10.29 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 September 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200908_reps_8_93/>.