9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the success that has attended the Empire Exhibition at Wembley as an advertising medium, and the cabled report from the chairman of the Exhibition Board, Lord Stevenson, that to close it down would be an insane thing, and that the majority of the exhibitors desired its continuance in 1925, will the Prime Minister ascertain the wishes of the sister dominions in order that consideration may be given to the desirability of continuing Australia’s representation at the Exhibition!
– Australia has asked for information as to the views of the other dominions on the matter referred to. Proposals have been made for the continuance of the Exhibition, and we are ascertaining what the probable cost would be. Before any decision can be come to, we require to know the views of the other dominions regarding the continuance of the Exhibition, because if it is to be continued it must be on an Empire basis.
– In view of the necessity of rendering all possible assistance for the relief of the unfortunate women alleged to be held captive by the blacks in the Northern Territory, I should like to bring under the notice of the Prime Minister the fact that there recently appeared in the press a statement that Mr. Joseph Cooper, whom I met at Melville Island some years ago, is willing to render any assistance he can. I can assurethe right honorable gentleman that there is no man in the Northern Territory who understands the natives better, and if he will avail himself of Mr. Cooper’s advice, he may be able to render valuable assistance.
– Order! That is not a question.
– To put myself in order, I ask the Prime Minister whether he will give attention to the remarks I have made.
– When you intervened, Mr. Speaker, I was rising to thank the honorable member for the information he had conveyed to me. I can assure him that it will receive the fullest possible consideration.
– On the 17th September a public statement was made by Mr. Synott, of the firm of John Burke, Limited, Burketown, who were the charterers of the ill-fated Douglas Mawson. He said that, were an opportunity given at Burketown or Normanton to organize an expedition there, it could lend very valuable help in trying to discover the two unfortunate white women reported to be held captive by the Borroloola blacks. I should like to know whether the Prime Minister has taken notice of the offer made in that statement, and, if so, whether he will communicate with the Queensland Government, or with John Burke, Limited, so that an expedition can be fitted out at Burketown or Normanton to help in conjunction with the other expedition in the rescue of these poor unfortunate women. Action should be taken immediately, because the weather will soon prevent any further search being made.
– Many suggestions respecting the course of action to be taken, and offers to assist in the rescue of the whitewomen, have been made to the
Government. All these have been fully considered with a view to ascertaining whether any further material steps could be taken to assistin the search, but the difficulty has been the tremendous distance that would have to be covered by any expedition fitted out at Burketown. This can be seen by the honorable member if he will glance at the map of the Northern Territory. The Government decided that the most effective work would be done by an expedition approaching from the sea, based on Elcho Island, and the north of Arnheim Bay, and the rescue is being attempted in that way.
– Does the Prime Minister propose, in the very near future, to appoint the royal commission which was promised to investigate the economic problems of Western Australia, due to Commonwealth legislation and administration ?
– The intention to appoint the royal commission was announced in the budget statement, and its personnel has already received the consideration of the Government. I hope in the very near future to be in a position to announce the names of the members of the royal commission.
Board of Directors
– Now that the Commonwealth Bank board has been appointed, will the Prime Minister explain to the House what emoluments the members of the board are to receive for their services, how often the board is to meet, and if there are any regulations to guide the board in carrying on the business of the bank?
– The remuneration of the directors of the Commonwealth Bank is provided for in the Commonwealth Bank Act, and is £600 a year for each director. The number of sittings which the board will hold will be a matter within its own discretion. It will meet as often as may be necessary to carry out the work of the bank. For some time, I imagine, it will be found necessary for the: board to meet frequently, but, subsequently, much of the work may be done through executive committees or in other ways. All questions of administration and the control and management of the bank will be in the hands of the board.
– Is the Minister for Defence able to give the House any idea as to when the aerial service between Sydney and Brisbane is likely to be commenced ?
– The matter is receiving consideration. I am unable at the present time to give the honorable member any definite information as to when or in what form the service is likely to be commenced.
– I wish, sir, to direct a question to yourself. Recently an award was made by the Public Service Arbitrator that had the effect of increasing the salary of officers receiving under £600 per annum by £9 per annum. The Prime Minister assured me that this applies to temporary as well as permanent employees of the Commonwealth. I desire to know whether you, sir, will see that the same increase of salary is enjoyed by members of the staffs of the Federal Parliament?
– The awards and decisions of the Public Service Arbitrator do not bind Parliament, which has always jealously guarded its rights to control its own expenditure, and I regard that as quite the proper procedure. The presiding officers of the two chambers of legislature consult about these matters, and act in unison in dealing with officers of the joint establishment. All I can promise is that, as we have adopted the awards so far made by the Public Service Arbitrator, considering them to be just, we shall give very careful consideration to all future awards.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether in response to a request made last week the House will be given an opportunity before the session closes to discuss the proposed alteration in the basis upon which preference is to be given under the tariff to British imports?
– I am desirous that, the House should be given an opportunity to discuss the matter, though I am not in a position to say when it will be given. It will depend on how the business on the notice-paper is disposed of.
Votes on Grafton to South Brisbane Railway Bill.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I do not often trouble about press reports, or the suggestion in the press that I am not often present in this House, or do not vote; but there was a division a few nights ago on a matter upon which I felt very strongly. It was taken at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, and like the Prime Minister, I have said that I will not stay here after midnight, and so I went home.
– But the Prime Minister stayed.
– Yes, the right honorable gentleman broke his word, but I did not break mine. If the pair book is consulted it will be found that eight representatives of Victoria paired against the bill under consideration at the time. I was one of them, and I do not know why the Age should pick me out and say that I neither voted nor paired on the bill. The pair book shows that the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) and I were paired for both divisions which took place on the bill. The honorable member was foolish enough to pair for the bill, whilst I paired against it.
– I protest against that statement.
– The honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) considers that the honorable member has aspersed his vote and his judgment, which, of course, is irregular.
– I withdraw the statement.
– I ask the Prime Minister if the arrangement recently made to meet the difficulty of exchange in financing the wool clip is proving adequate, and if not, whether he will seek to extend it, seeing that wool is practically a liquid asset ?
– The provision for credits for the lifting of the present wool clip engaged the attention of the Notes Board some time ago. After mature consideration, arrangements were come to by which notes to the value of £5,000,000 were to be made available to the banks, repayable as to £3,000,000 on the 30th June next, and as to £2,000,000 in the following month. Since then, doubts have arisen as to whether the facilities afforded are sufficient to allow the whole of our wool and other exports to be lifted. The Government proposes to proclaim . the Commonwealth Bank Act in the very near future. The directors of the bank are coming to Melbourne on Thursday next, and the act will probably be proclaimed very soon after. The matter will then be one for consideration by the Commonwealth Bank Board, which, no doubt, will consult with representatives of the associated banks on the position as it is at the moment. I remind the honorable member that so far as the issue of notes to provide additional credits is concerned, it is at present in the hands of the Notes Board, and will be in the hands of the Commonwealth Bank Board when the board is constituted ; it is not in the hands of the Government.
Dismissal of Linemen in South Australia.
– Last week I drew the attention of the Postmaster-General to the fact that men were being dismissed from the Postal Department in South Australia. He replied that I must have been misinformed. I have received further information that ten men were dismissed on the 27th September, and that notice of dismissal on the 4th of October has been given to a large number of men. I should like to know whether the PostmasterGeneral has any knowledge of the position in South Australia, and, if so, will he make a statement?
– I ask the honorable member to defer until to-morrow that question, together with a similar question appearing on the notice-paper to-day. I am obtaining information from South Australia, and hope to be able to give the honorable member full particulars tomorrow.
Action of the Commonwealth Shipping Board.
– On the 18th September, and also yesterday, I asked questions inquiring whether the Commonwealth Line of Steamships would participate in the fight against the high freights now ruling in the interstate trade. Has the Prime Minister yet received any reply from the Commonwealth Shipping Board ?
– I am in receipt of the following advice from the board: -
The entry of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers into active competition on equal terms with the interstate companies would necessitate the expenditure of considerable additional capital, and also the expansion of the board’s existing organization.
At the present ruling rates of freight the board is of opinion that the earnings from interstate business, in competition with existing organizations, would not cover voyage disbursements quite apart from additional administration expenses and interest on capital.
The rates of freight at present prevailing in the interstate trade certainly appear to be excessive, and must necessarily operate against the free interchange of goods between the states resulting in a restriction of trade. The remedy lies in reducing the cost of operating tonnage, but in this regard both the Shipping Board and the interstate companies are powerless. The cost of operating tonnage is directly controlled by the Arbitration Courts and the Navigation Act.
Under the above circumstances the board is unable to see its way to enter the interstate trade to a greater extent than at present.
– I have received from the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) an intimation that he proposes to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The administration of the Defence Department in connexion with military training.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I know the Government is anxious to ad journ the House this week, but I feel that I should be lacking in my duty as a member of this Parliament were I not to draw the attention of the country and this Parliament to the action of the military authorities in connexion with the training of our youths. If those in charge of the military training of our youths will do these things while Parliament is sitting, then God knows what they may not do when it is in recess. A member of Parliament who approaches the military authorities at Victoria Barracks gets mighty little sympathy from them, and is treated as if he had no right to interfere on behalf of his constituents. I know of quite a number of cases in which an injustice has been done to military trainees, but one case in particular was yesterday brought under ray notice. It is that of a young lad who, as a military trainee, was in camp some three or four months ago. He apparently completed the whole of his training, because since leaving camp he has received his military pay. Two or three clays ago he received a summons requiring him to appear in the police court at Ballarat to answer to a. charge of being four hours short in his training. I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that this lad became of age at the termination of the camp. He ceased to be a military trainee, and if there were any shortage of hours in his training his attention should have been drawn to that fact before he left camp, and before he was paid the wages due to him. I made representations to the military authorities over the telephone yesterday asking that this case be postponed so that the Minister or his officials could make inquiries. It was not an unfair request, because it was asking for, not the withdrawal, but simply the postponement of the case. I received from the department this most insolent telegram -
Re trainee Fiscalini, inquiries made ascertained opportunity given him make good deficiencies prior and since camp. Regret prosecution cannot he deferred.
– By whom was the telegram sent?
– By Mr. Thomas, Acting Secretary of. the Defence Department. The least that Thomas could have done was to postpone the case and make inquiries. It is true that a Fiscalini was notified that he was four hours short, but there are four Fiscalini families in Ballarat and they live between 4 and 8 miles apart. The information that should have been sent to this lad was sent to his uncle. His parents had no idea that he was short in his period of training, and were very much upset because he had to appear in the police court. .They told me that they intended to engage a lawyer, but I advised them not to do so, for I was sure that the department would postpone the case to permit inquiries to be made. My surprise at receiving the telegram was very great. The other case I wish to mention, concerns a lad named Gargan, who was a half-hour short in his period of training. He also was summoned to appear at the Ballarat Police Court at 10.30 a.m. to-day.
– They must have very little to do in the Defence Department.
– A little crowd at Victoria Barracks is so hard up for something to do that it “ fossicks “ out cases like this. I desire to see compulsory military training abolished, but in any case I would protest against our boys being required to appear at the police court. That is the first step to making criminals of them. By allowing that to be done the Government is hastening the day when the system will be abolished. The departmental officers may think it clever to show their superiority when honorable members of this Parliament’ approach them with reasonable requests, such as I made, but our party will be in power before long, and we shall have something to say to them then about the adoption of such an attitude. I have been a member of Parliament for twenty years, and have never asked for a case to be withdrawn. My only purpose in requesting the adjournment of this case was to enable inquiries to be made. I am sorry that I was not able to see the Minister yesterday, to draw his attention to the matter. In my opinion the department is not prosecuting, but persecuting, these lads. It has been well said that we have not a cartridge nor a bomb that is of any value for defence purposes, and that we cannot fire a shot out of a single big gun that we have. It is necessary, therefore, that the staff at Victoria Barracks, and at similar barracks throughout the Commonwealth, should find something to do. They are finding it by bringing before our police courts, lads who are half an hour, or four hours, short in their period of training. If the Minister, for Defence is proud of this, I can assure him that the people of Australia are not. I em phatically protest against the manner in which the brass hat brigade is administering the sections of the Defence Act which provide for compulsory training.
.- The honorable member for Ballarat sent word to me this morning that he proposed to discuss this matter to-day, and I have been provided with some information on Fiscalini’s case. He did not mention the case of Gargan to me, and I have no information respecting it. I knew nothing of it until he mentioned it a few minutes ago. As the honorable member has made some rather bitter remarks regarding the staff at Victoria Barracks, it may be as well to inform honorable members that these prosecutions are not originated at headquarters. The commanding officer in each district has instructions to take action in cases where there is a deficiency. The general practice of the department, since I have been in charge of it, has been to postpone prosecutions when honorable member* make representations in respect to them so that the facts may be ascertained. Cabinet was sitting yesterday morning, and I was in attendance at the House in the afternoon. If the honorable member had mentioned the matter to me I should have had the hearing deferred and inquiries made. I am informed that Fiscalini was four hours short in his period of training. Before the last annual camp was held at Seymour, from the 7th -April to the 12 th April this year, he was notified of the deficiency, and the suggestion waa made to him that he should attend the camp with the advance party a day early in order to make it good.
– Would the Minister bring a trainee from Ballarat to Seymour to make up a shortage of four hours?
– He was going into camp the next day in any case. The honorable member for Ballarat said that the boy had not been told that he was short in the required period of training. My information is that he was told of it prior to the Seymour camp and invited to make ‘it good, but deliberately neglected to do so.
– I say that that is not true.
– Those are the facts according to the reports I have obtained from the’ Ballarat office.
– The Minister should say that that is the information he has obtained.
– They are as likely to be facts as the statements made by the honorable member for Ballarat or the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton). After the Seymour camp Fiscalini was again reminded of his deficiency, and his attention was directed to parades which were held on the 16th, 17t.h and 18th of June which he could have attended, the term of his service expiring on the 30th June.
– How was he notified?
– He received a personal notification before he left the camp, but he did not attend any of the drills, although his commanding officer gave him every opportunity to make up the deficiency before the end of June, in order that he might be classified as efficient for that year. The usual practice of the department, on receiving a request from an honorable member to defer a prosecution pending further inquiries, was not followed in this case, because it was possible to obtain immediately by telephone a full report of the circumstances. This report showed that the trainee deliberately refused to make up his shortage of hours, because he thought that he was out of the hands of the Defence Department on the 30th June. Now that he finds that he is not out of the department’s control, he has applied to the honorable member for Ballarat, but the representations made by the honorable member are not in accordance with the recorded facts of the case.
– Instances of harsh treatment of lads could, unfortunately, be multiplied. The officers in charge of them, like policemen, are intent on obtaining prosecutions, and if they make mistakes they are not likely to admit them. One is just as likely to get the truth from these lads as from the military officers, who are sometimes fairly hard swearers in more ways than one. I put in the greater part of last Saturday morning in looking into the case of a youth who had been. brought before the court for being eighteen hours short in his training. -He offered to make up the shortage, and I believe the military officer was prepared to accept the offer, but the magistrate ordered the lad eight days’ training at the Broadmeadows Camp. The youth occupies a responsible position, and if he is forced to go into camp for eight days it will interfere with certain examinations for which he wishes to sit. He has respectable parents, and is qualifying to take his place as a useful citizen, which, to my mind, is of greater importance than making up a shortage of eighteen hours in his military training. I have already been promised that the case will be investigated, and I hope that the matter will be adjusted satisfactorily. Sometimes the police magistrates behave in a rather brutal fashion in dealing with the lads, and if such treatment continues there will be a general strike on the part of the young people on whom such demands are’ made. Instead of minimizing the difficulties of the area officers, prosecutions of this nature will increase them. The department should see that prosecutions do not become persecutions. The Minister is not bound to listen to the statement of the area officer only; he is equally bound to accept the evidence of the honorable member for Ballarat. Some magistrates always accept the word of a policeman, but I should place equal reliance on the word of a reputable witness, and even give him the benefit of any doubt that existed in my mind.
– I do not think that the honorable member can complain of the way I treat the trainees.
– I have no personal complaint against the Minister, but he seemed to suggest that the only people who tell the truth are the military officers.
I want a promise from the Minister that he will not sanction prosecutions of trainees who have a shortage of only from one to four hours in their training period. I am sure that he will realize the futility and seriousness of such a procedure.
– Trainees are not prosecuted until they have had every opportunity to make up the shortage. ‘Where are we to draw the line ?
– I suggest that prosecutions should not be instituted when the shortage amounts to hours or days, but that they should take place only when there is a shortage of weeks or months. Does anybody imagine that this lad will be any better able to defend Australia as a result of another four hours’ training?
During the extra period he may be asked to clean somebody’s boots or peel potatoes, but even if he be taught to salute or to turn to the right and the left, how much the better soldier willhe be for another four hours’ drill ? In the second case to which I have directed attention, a lad with respectable parents will have been brought before the police court in Ballarat to-day because he has a shortage of one and a half hours’ drill to make up. I suppose these boys will be fined to-day, and I ask the Minister to remit the fines. I can prove that the lad Fiscalini does not owe the department four hours’ training, although I suppose that the second youth has one and a half hours’ drill to make up. Will the Minister issue instructions that prosecutions must not be instituted in cases where the shortage ranges from one to six hours ? These lads do not abscond. I admit that the law, much as I detest it, must be enforced, but if the Labour party were in office compulsory military training would be abolished. I ask the Minister to inform Colonel Thomas, and some of the other colonels and adjutants who are knocking about Victoria Barracks, that members of parliament are not fools - we could not be members of this House if 15,000 or 20,000 people had not some faith in our abilities - and when we make a request to the Defence Department we are entitled to courtesy, at least. I did not ask that the prosecutions should be withdrawn; I requested merely that they should be postponed. I advise the Minister also to discontinue the use of military titles by officials in the department; let each man be plain Mr., or Jack, or Tom. The men there seem to consider themselves superior to everybody else. God forbid that the military class should ever be superior to Parliament. Let it be understood that military officers play second fiddle to members of parliament. The world recently went through five years of war because the military class became the rulers of Germany. If I can prevent it the military class shall never rule Australia. I hope the Minister will not take amiss my remarks of this afternoon, but I warn him that if these two young men are sent to Queenscliff for detention there will be trouble to-morrow. If they are merely fined I shall call on the Minister and ask that the fines be remitted.
Question resolved in the negative.
– Has the Government yet considered what action it will take upon the report of the Public Accounts Committee regarding the Co-operative Estates Limited, of Hobart ?
– The Government has not yet had an opportunity to consider the matter.
Mr.FORDE asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Under the present arrangement for the remuneration of the members of the Tariff Board for their services, the payment is by fee according to sittings. Should the board be able to sit every working day of the year and no losses occur through travel or sickness or any other cause, the members are only capable of earning what would amount to about one-half the salary paid to many members of other federal boards. The Government, therefore, considers it would not be justified in insisting that Parliament is entitled to the all-time exclusive service of the lay members of the board. With one exception, no member of the Tariff Board is a director of any commercial or manufacturing company. Mr. Masterton, who was appointed to the board last March, has not resigned from his business connexion. In view of the payment of the lay members of the board by fees only for each sitting, it is not considered desirable to impose restrictions which would prevent their taking part in other interests the attention to which would not interfere with the efficient performance of their duties as members of the Tariff Board. Section 14 of the Tariff Board Act 1921-24 safeguards the position.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Has the Tariff Board submitted its report on the broom millet industry; and, if so, will the Minister lay same on the table of the House? 4. (a) Has £500,000 been placed on the Estimates to assist unpayable primary industries?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Yes. A copy of the report of the Tariff Board will be laid on the table of the Library. 4. (a) The sum mentioned hasbeen placed on the Estimates for assistance towards the export and marketing of primary production.
Listeners’ Licence Fees
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Importations by Municipalities.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
IMPORTATIONSFROM SOUTH AFRICA.
– On 26th September the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) asked the following questions: -
Is it a fact -
African black-grown maize has assisted in causing a surplus of over 1,000,000 bushels of maize in the Commonwealth this season.
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : - 1. (a) No. Importations occurred only during the early part of the year when there was a shortage of Australian maize. Australian maize became available in adequate quantities duringMay, 1924, and no importations have been made since then.
– On several occasions the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) has directed attention to the question of the immigration of Southern Europeans, and more particularly to their condition and behaviour subsequent to admission. I have dealt with this matter rather fully on many occasions during the present session, but as the position with regard to these classes of immigrants is apparently not clearly understood I shall recapitulate the remarks previously made by me in this connexion. The Commonwealth Government offer no inducements, and give no encouragement whatever , for the introduction of Southern Europeans, but honorable members will no doubt realize that for various reasons there would be serious objections against placing restrictions on the landing in Australia of immigrants from friendly European countries, so long as such immigrants are in sound health, and are otherwise eligible for admission. This would especially be the case if discrimination were made against people of particular races. However, in the interests of the immigrants themselves, as well as in an endeavour to regulate the flow of this class of migrant, arrangements have been made in the case of certain countries to restrict the issue of passports to a limited number of persons. Thus, an arrangement has been made with the Italian Government that the Italian authorities shall refrain from issuing passports to Italian emigrants for Australia unless the latter are nominated by residents in Australia who are prepared to look after them on arrival, or unless they are in possession of sufficient funds to maintain themselves until they can find employment. With regard to Maltese, there is an arrangement with the Malta Government, under which that Government refrains from issuing passports to Maltese unless they are in sound health and of good character, and are otherwise suitable migrants. In the case of illiterates, no passports are granted unless the applicants are nominated by persons in Australia who are willing and able to look after them on arrival. It was further arranged that the Malta Government should endeavour to regulate the issue of passports so that not more than twenty Maltese should seek to land in one state during any month. With regard to certain other classes of Europeans, His Majesty’s Consuls are being asked to refrain from granting passport facilities to intending emigrants for Australia unless they possess a certain amount of capital or unless their maintenance is guaranteed. Immigrants from countries such as Russia, Palestine, and Syria, require special permission to enter Australia, and as a rule, authority is only granted in cases where the applicants are nominated by reputable residents in Australia, who are prepared to vouch for their conduct and guarantee their maintenance. Moreover, before any immigrant is permitted to land in Australia he is subject to a medical examination, and if found to be physically or mentally unfit, his admission is refused. With regard to specific complaints regarding the alleged large influx of foreigners into Australia, it may be pointed out that whilst the vessels of certain lines carry a preponderance of immigrants from Mediterranean ports, the great bulk of passenger ships arriving in Australia are devoted almost entirely to carrying British migrants. This statement is borne out by the following figures showing the arrivals of Europeans in the whole of Australia during the six months ended the 30th June, 1924:-
Another complaint has been made that these migrants are not subjected to the medical examination to which British immigrants are subjected. The medical examination of British migrants is restricted to those persons who are in receipt of assistance by way of passage money, loans, &c, from the Government. Full paying passengers from Great Britain are in the same position as regards medical examination as the full paying migrants from other countries, that is, the official examination is held at the first port of arrival in Australia. The passage money rates are purely a matter for the shipping companies, and depend upon the accommodation and conditions of travel which migrants are required or prepared to accept. In this connexion I have received official advice from the Consul-General for Italy that migrants from Italy pay out of their own pockets the full fare of £37 to £41 according to the port of landing in Australia; further, that all these immigrants, regardless of the country for which they are embarking, are subjected to medical examination in the different ports of Italy under the regulation of. the General Commissioner of Emigration. The honorable member for Newcastle has referred to statements that a number of foreigners were said to be starving in the streets of Newcastle. As a result of inquiries made into these statements I am advised that the people referred to were not introduced under the migration scheme, nor were they encouraged to come to Australia by representations made to them by officials acting on behalf of the Commonwealth. Eight Servians were stated to be destitute in. Newcastle on the 2nd September, but the officer who deals with the relief of distress in that city has not been approached by them for assistance. A further reference was made by the honorable member to a number of migrants having been arrested for gambling and similar offences. I understand that recently a number of Maltese were arrested and fined for gambling, but I am unable to see what action the Commonwealth Government can take to prevent the admission of a certain proportion of people who will persist in the common vice of gambling. I think the suppression of such offences can safely be left in the hands of the state authorities who are apparently taking active measures in this direction. The figures I have quoted showing arrivals of British and foreign migrants, in conjunction with the fact that the census of 1921 disclosed that over 99 per cent, of the population of the Commonwealth was British, should indicate to honorable members that there is no occasion for alarm at this stage, and that the ideal of peopling the Commonwealth with Anglo-Saxon settlers is not being seriously endangered, despite alarmist statements from various quarters. The Government, however, is carefully watching the position.
– On the 2nd Octo ber, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The instructions issued to the collectors of Customs are, in effect, that: -
– On the 1st October, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) asked the following questions : -
What was the value and country of origin of the following imports for 1921-22, 1922-23, and 1923-24.
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with’ the following information : -
Items (a), (b), (c), and (d) are not recorded separately in the statistics, but the imports conjointly were as follow: -
Item (e) -
The figures for the year 1921-22 include tubes for pneumatic tyres.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked me whether I would take steps to have the question of providing sleeper accommodation for second-class passengers between Adelaide and Melbourne brought before the next conference of
Railways Commissioners. I find that the matter was discussed at a conference of Railways Commissioners in 1921, and, in the interest of through traffic, representation has been made to the states concerned, but without result. I shall take steps to again bring the matter under the notice of the South Australian, Victorian, and New South Wales Governments.
– In fulfilment of my promise to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) on the 2nd October, I shall lay on the table of the Library to-day a copy of the report by the Tariff Board on the alteration of the basis of British preference, together with the representations made by the Australian association of British manufacturers on the same subject.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Deter minations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 55 of 1924 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 56 of 1924 - Commonwealth Temporary Clerks’ Association.
No. 57 of 1924- -Australian Postal Electricians’ Union.
No. 58 of 1924- Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association.
No. 59 of 1924 - Commonwealth Storemen and Packers’ Union.
No. 60 of 1924- Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
Customs Act - Proclamation (dated 17th September, 1924) prohibiting the exportation (except under certain conditions) of butter and cheese.
Tariff Board - Report on the alteration of the basis of British preference; together with the representations made by the Australian Association of British Manufacturers and their representatives on the same subject.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
– I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys bo made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the raising and expending of certain sums of money.
In the Loan Estimates for the current financial year, provision was made for £3,230,000 for the construction and extension of telegraphs and telephones. Material to the value of £2,500,000 has been ordered, and it is now found that the whole of this material will be delivered during the current financial year, thus leaving only £730,000 available to install the equipment. This amount is insufficient for that purpose. In the ordinary course of events, the result would be that valuable material would be lying idle until such time as Parliament appropriated further moneys next year. Moreover, it would necessitate the dismissal of many temporary employees, notwithstanding that urgent work is awaiting their attention. In order that the most economical use may be made of the equipment on order, the Government has decided to ask Parliament to appropriate a further sum of £600,000 for the construction and extension of telegraphs and telephones, which amount will enable the material to be converted into a revenue-producing asset at the earliest possible moment after its delivery, and enable the department to more promptly meet the requisitions of prospective telephone subscribers. About 50,000 additional subscribers’ lines will be connected during this year, and this means that a considerable volume of trunkline traffic will have to be provided for. The amount now asked for will permit of men being employed on trunk line and other extension work, and will allow works which have been approved by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works to be started. In particular, it will enable a good deal of the preliminary work in connexion with the Sydney-Newcastle and NewcastleMaitland cable to be put in hand in readiness for laying the cable itself the moment it arrives. As . it became necessary to introduce a further Loan Bill, advantage was taken of the opportunity to include the f ollowingprovisions : -
In the main Loan Bill for the current financial year £811,804 was provided for
Post Office buildings. Of that amount £602,598 will be required to continue, and, in some cases, complete works in hand at the 30th June last, and £173,891 will be required for works provided on the 1923-24 Estimates which had not been commenced at the 30th June, leaving only £35,315 available for new proposals for 1924-25. It has been decided, therefore, to make a further sum of £90,000 available for Post Office buildings. This amount has been allotted to new buildings and additions to existing buildings where the accommodation is most urgently required. In view of the additional amount provided for new buildings, it was necessary to provide also further moneys for the acquisition of land, as, in a number of cases, no site has yet been secured for the proposed new building. Provision has therefore been included in the bill lor an amount of £10,000 for the purchase of land for post and telegraph purposes. Provision was made in the original Loan Estimates for £110,000 for the establishment of the Federal Capital. This amount was to cover approximately two months’ expenditure, by which time it was hoped that the Commissioners under the Seat of Government Administration Act of 1924 would have been appointed. The Commissioners would thereafter make their own arrangements for borrowing moneys for the purpose of the establishment of the Capital. It is hoped that these appointments will be made within the next few days. A further £100,000 is provided in the bill to cover the expenditure in the Territory from the 1st July last until the date of the transfer of the control to the commission. In 1915 and 1916 two areas at Fairy Meadow, New South Wales, were compulsorily acquired for the purpose of obtaining material for use in connexion with buildings in the Federal Capital Territory and other places. After lengthy litigation in connexion with the amount of compensation to be paid in respect of the acquisition, the High Court has now given final judgment in the matter. It is estimated that £18,500 will be required to pay the compensation for the acquired areas and other expenses in connexion therewith, and provision for this amount is included in the bill. The total of the schedule to the bill is £818,500, which is appropriated by clause 4. Clause 2 authorizes the Treasurer to borrow £850,000. This amount, in addition to providing for the expenditure included in the schedule to the bill, will also cover flotation expenses and possible discounts in connexion with the raising of the loan.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Bruce do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and read a first and second time.
.- I do not think that objection will be taken to any of the items in this bill, as all the works referred to are necessary ; but if, prior to the introduction of such measures, information respecting their proposals were supplied to honorable members, it would be of great advantage and would facilitate the passing of legislation.
– I have had several communications with the Postmaster-General’s Department respecting a new post office . for Maroubra Bay, Sydney. No provision for this work was made in the original Estimates, nor do I see any here. A valuable block of land, costing £46 a foot, has been purchased for the post office.
– Provision is made on the Supplementary Estimates.
– In that case I have nothing further to say in the matter.
Bill reported without amendment.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
.- This Government is maintaining its reputation for borrowing. I see in the schedule that provision is made for works costing not more than £300 in any case. Is the Treasurer aware that these works are to be done with borrowed . money? I do not think that any other government has borrowed money to effect repairs of a simple character, such as the fitting of a skylight, or the painting of a door of a post office. Honorable members should join in protesting against such a stupid method of conducting the financial affairs of the country.
The Government is willing ‘ that the amount receivable as income tax shall be reduced by £2,000,000, yet it introduces a bill to borrow £818,500 to effect small temporary repairs to post office buildings. Such an action would not be creditable to any government. We have been told that the present Government is composed of heaven-born financiers, but I say, “ Heaven save us from such financiers.” This kind of thing should cease. The public knows very little of what is going on, and no one seems to have the courage to protest in this House.
– What about the Kyogle railway?
– That railway is a national work. Fancy an honorable member comparing such an insignificant work as painting the outside of a post office, or replacing a few slates on its roof, with a great national work such as a railway to provide a uniform gauge from Sydney to Brisbane ! Has the honorable member so far forgotten his responsibilities as a member of this Parliament that he fails to remember that to serve the public is his first duty? I did not speak on the Kyogle railway when the bill was before the House-
– Order! The honorable member is not in order in referring to that matter now.
– Half of the population of Australia lives in Queensland and New South Wales. Those states provide the greater part of the revenue of the Commonwealth. Tasmania has to depend to a large extent upon those states to finance its government, but even with that assistance it closed the year .with a deficit of £1,500,000. That is my rejoinder to the honorable member for Franklin, when he endeavours to belittle me because cf my support of the Grafton to South Brisbane Railway Bill.
– Order 1 The honorable member has already been warned that he is not in order in discussing the Grafton to South Brisbane Railway Bill.
– I apologize to you, pir, but my susceptibility to insult compels me to defend myself against suggestions of the character of that made by the honorable member for Franklin.
– I suggest to the honorable member that he ignore such, interjections.
– It is very difficult to do so. I ask those honorable members who are in favour of defraying, from loan fund, the cost of repairing and painting weatherboard structures, to signify ‘ their assent to that practice.
– They would not adopt that practice in private businesses.
– Of course they would not. I realize that the Government has the force of numbers behind it in this proposal. My only satisfaction, therefore, is that a- change of government will take place after the next elections. Action such as this will hasten the day when the present Government will be displaced by a Labour government. Honorable members opposite are doing a greater amount of the spade work in preparing their own political graves than is being done for them by the Opposition. Perhaps they are not aware that the last Labour government made available £3,000,000 out of revenue to restore to a proper position the post office works; That action was rendered necessary by the neglect, during the preceding ten years, of various governments holding political views similar to those that are held by honorable members opposite. What is gained by reducing the income tax to the extent of £2,000,000 if, at the same time, we borrow £10,000,000, that adds to our annual expenditure the sum- of £650,000 in interest, which must be defrayed out of revenue? Such conduct is not worthy of men who claim to be the representatives of a free and enlightened democracy. I am aware that I shall receive very little support from honorable members opposite in this protest that I am making. I. regret very much that the press of Australia is usually so forgetful of the duty that it owes to the public. Its obligation to educate public opinion, is equal to that of honorable members. I am quite sure that my remarks on this matter will not be reported by the press, but that does not cause me to refrain from emphasizing the necessity for conducting the finances, in a proper way.
– What does the Treasurer say about it?
– He should have continued to practise his profession. His services then would have been of greater value to the community. His present position does, not suit his nature. The National Government should give the lead to the governments of the states in matters such as this, and thus reduce their liabilities. Every measure that is passed by this Parliament increases the expenditure. We should, therefore, see that our interest bill is kept as low as possible. Action such as this in private business might lead to criminal proceedings. I am inclined to the belief that I have good grounds for laying a criminal charge against those who are responsible for misleading the people. It is the duty of the Treasurer to point out that, although the expenditure on these works will be met out of loan fund, the interest on the loan will have to be provided for out of revenue, which will necessitate extra taxation. I have emphasized, as far as I have been able, my dissent from this financial bungling. The schedule of proposals in the bill may be all right, but the Government is not justified in borrowing money for repairs. The Treasurer, in his budget statement, announced that during the last financial year the national debt had been reduced by £9,000,000, but during the same period the Government raised loans to the amount of nearly £18,000,000. Can this procedure be called sound finance, and will honorable members of the Country party tell their supporters just what the Government is doing? The people should be informed of the manner in which the Government is managing the finances of the Commonwealth. I have endeavoured to the best of my ability to bring the Ministry to a sense of its responsiblity in regard to finance. The people would not complain of taxation if they knew that the money raised by the Government was being wisely expended in developmental works. They realize that no country can prosper unless its people areprofitably employed. I have spoken more than once on this subject, and no doubt my views are well known. Having on this occasion discharged my duty, I shall resume my seat.
– I remind the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) that there is no item for repairs or maintenance in the Loan Bill. The appropriations are all for new capital expenditure, and there is provision for the payment of 30s. per cent, to the sinking fund in respect of the total sum required. The fact that the work is being financed in this way enables it to be done years earlier than otherwise would be possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 6th October (vide page 5175), on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That thebill be now read a second time.
.- After the comparatively speedy passage of the measure just disposed of, I feel sure that the Prime Minister will extend a certain amount of indulgence to me ifI speak at some length on this bill. Although it is one largely for committee, it contains certain general principles, to which, I think, attention should be directed during the second-reading debate. I approach the consideration of the measure with a good deal of confidence, sympathy, and understanding, because immediately prior to my entry into politics I was secretary of various Public Service organizations, and, as a matter of fact, my candidature for Parliament was somewhat influenced by the threatened attacks on the arbitration rights of public servants, which was one of the issues at the last general election.For that reason I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without expressing my views on the bill. It owes its importance to the fact that the recent classification of the Public Service caused a veritable cyclone of criticism and condemnation from those whose interests were supposed to be safeguarded by the Public Service Board. Therefore, the second-reading speeches from this side of the House will largely centre upon the effects of that reclassification. The main object of the bill, apart from this, is to decentralize control of the Public Service and divest the Public Service Board of certain direct administrative and executive responsibilities. It proposes to transfer this responsibility to subordinate authorities, such as the Public Service inspectors and the permanent heads of the departments. It is a most peculiar state of affairs that a Public Service Board of three commissioners, drawing a. total remuneration of £6,500 per annum, should be unable to perform the duties previously performed by one commissioner.
– An ever-increasing amount is being devoted to that department.
– That is quite true. There is an increase in the expenditure, due to the fact that the board finds itself, to quote the words of the Prime Minister, “ overloaded with work,” and is unable to administer the Service efficiently, and to the general satisfaction of its various interests. Many representations have been made to the Government with regard to the classification. It appointed to consider the classification a committee from its own members in its party room, with the constitution of which this Parliament had nothing whatever to do. I do not know what this committee did, but I do know that the results of its mediation have not been satisfactory to the Public Service organizations. The Government has agreed to incorporate in the bill an amendment with which I shall deal at a later stage. It is said that it is intended to protect the Service. Let me say, with regard to the clause which deals with classification, that the proposal to curtail the power and authority of the Public Service Board to fix salaries, which that clause involves, is an admission by the Government that the board is incompetent to perform the duties allotted to it. I do not quarrel with that, but I say that the amendment of the existing law which has been proposed by the Government is not sufficiently farreaching or definite, and for that reason the proposal made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) should be given effect in the bill. In the fixation of the salaries and wages of public servants, we have two conflicting authorities - the Public Service Board and the Public Service Arbitrator. In the circumstances, the simplest thing for the Government to do would be to cut the Gordian knot of this awful tangle, and give the Public Service Arbitrator exclusive jurisdiction over the fixation of salaries. That would be a perfectly logical, equitable, and reasonable course to adopt. The Service organizations demand it. They are satisfied to accept awards made by the Public Service Arbitrator. I see no reason why we should continue a system of meddle and muddle in regard to the fixation of salaries by the Public Service Board.
– The only improvement on what the honorable member proposes would be to give members of the Public Service direct access to the Arbitration Court.
– That is so. When it was proposed to exclude public servants from the Federal Arbitration Court honorable members on this side objected to that as differentiating between one body of employees and another. The Public Service is prepared to accept the system prescribed by the Public Service (Arbitration) Act in preference to the proposals which have emanated from the Public Service Board and incorporated by the Government in this Bill. Members of the Service say that the judgments of the Public Service Arbitrator in the past have not always been what they desired. He has been accused on a number of occasions of being biased against the employee, and it is, therefore, clear that the demand made by the Public Service organizations that the Public Service Arbitrator should fix their salaries is based, not upon mercenary considerations, but on a desire for justice, and the determination of their salaries and conditions upon the basis of evidence, which is the course adopted by all legal and judicial authorities by whom such matters are determined. In granting to the Public Service Board the power to classify the Service, I feel sure that Parliament never intended that it should repudiate arbitration awards by lowering the salaries and wages of members of the Service. The board was commissioned to reclassify the Service with due regard to arbitration awards. As a matter of fact, it has ignored those awards. It has taken no cognizance of recognized living standards, the living wage, or the judgments of the Public Service Arbitrator. It has adopted a casual system of classification which has led to discontent and chaos.
– I think the board was faced with the difficulty that the arbitration awards are largely sectional, and it had to reclassify the Service, taking into consideration its component parts.
– That may be so, but the Public Service Arbitrator, under section 12 of the Arbitration (Public Service) Act, has the power practically to deal with anything, and has followed certain established rules.
– Does the honorable member think that he should have that power ?
– Certainly I do, and I challenge the honorable member to disprove the arguments which I submit in support of the system of arbitration as applicable to the Public Service.
I remind him that quite a .number of the State Governments have, during the past twelve ox eighteen months been hurled into oblivion, and their defeat has been largely due to the action <oi angry public servants, who resented the restriction imposed upon their rights as citizens, and especially the right to approach the arbitration tribunals to remedy their industrial’ grievances. To return to my point that this Parliament never authorized the Public Service Board to prescribe salaries lower than those prescribed in awards, I may say that I looked through the speech of the Attorney-General .(Sir Littleton Groom) on the second leading of the bill, and I find from his statement that the board was given power to deal with the classification of the Service, because it was felt that it was not fairly classified. It was admitted by him that the Service was efficient and capable, but many officers were underpaid. The board was given increased power to classify the Service, not with a view to reductions in salaries, but with a view to fixing salaries upon a more equitable basis, and with due consideration to arbitration awards. When an award of the Public Service Arbitrator is made, it has to be tabled, with the judgment containing reasons in this Parliament, and it is open to us to object to it. We have control over awards of the Public Service Arbitrator. We have an opportunity to consider them, but we have no opportunity to consider the classifications made by that body of bureaucrats, the Public Service Board. It submits its classification to the Government, the Government makes it an executive matter, and the formal approval of the GovernorGeneral is all that is required to bring the classification into operation. Parliament, therefore, has no control over the matter, and no authority whatever, either to disallow or ratify a classification by the board. That is contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, and to the accepted principle that Parliament should control its own officers, and should have jurisdiction over their wages and conditions. No reason whatever has been submitted for the drastic changes proposed by the classification, which has resulted in the muddle and confusion which is now besetting the Government. The whole of the Public Service is up in arms against the classification. The Prime Minister, during his second-reading speech, told us that something like 1,200 appeals against their classification have been received from the mail branch alone. I make bold to say that, as there are 25,000 public servants, when the classifications are completed, 24,500 of them will lodge appeals, and the balance will consist of well-paid officers in high positions who may have benefited, including men whose salaries are fixed by Act of Parliament.
– The honorable member is aware that .amongst those who have appealed from the classification, there are officers whose salaries have been raised, and not lowered.
– I do not dispute that some may benefit. But the Public Service are not satisfied with the increases that have been proposed. They view them with suspicion, as the Greek gift of the Trojan horse. They desire the same right as civil employees to go before the arbitration tribunal prescribed for them. No one can dispute the fact thai such a demand is based on equity and good conscience, for the arbitration principle has been accepted throughout Australia. Why should we remove employees of the Public Service from ‘the jurisdiction of the arbitration tribunal, or in any way restrict their right? The Arbitrator considers the cost of living, and fixes salaries in accordance with evidence, taking into consideration the prevailing basic wage and all other relevant circumstances. The members of the Public Service prefer this arbitration system to a little Star Chamber meeting of the board to arrange a -classification. The Public Service organizations have only nominally been consulted by the Public Service Board in connexion with the classification. They have been, asked their views, generally, in regard to a fair and equitable classification scheme for the Public .Service. I say that that was wrong. If the board acted in the spirit of our Australian institutions, and in the interests of a better understanding and co-operation between employer and employee, it would have, as a trustee of the Commonwealth Government, which should be a model employer, taken the Service organizations into its confidence, consulted and conferred with them, and obtained their views. In support of this contention, and to show that it is not unreasonable, it is well to contrast the attitude adopted by the Commonwealth Public Service Board with the policy adopted by the Public Service Board of New South Wales, which, at a later stage, I propose to do. The present Government of that state has excluded the public servants from the Arbitration Court, and placed them entirely at the mercy of the State Public Service Board. There can be no doubt that at the next state elections the people will express . their opposition to that course.
– I am positive that, as a result of the next state elections in New South Wales, there will be a change in the governing authority there which will involve a return to the arbitration system. The party with which I am proud to be associated stands emphatically for arbitration for the Public Service as well as for other workers. It believes in industrial peace and the maintenance of order and good government, an.d these can only be ensured by giving all employees the right to approach the Arbitration Court for the redress of their grievances. To return to my comparison. When the public servants were excluded from the Arbitration Court in New South Wales, and left to the mercy of the board, the board there, recognizing that contentment meant efficiency, and that there must be co-operation, mutual sympathy, and understanding in a great public service, consulted the employees’ organizations, and arrived at an agreement with them respecting the fixing of wages and conditions. It exercised patience and conciliatory methods. I know that, because I was one of the union secretaries who came into contact with that board. In the New South Wales Public Service there are also salaries committees for the fixation of salaries., similar to the classification which is now under discussion. The employees are represented on those committees. I quote the New South Wales Service as a cardinal example of relative contentment contrasted with the turbulent and rebellious condition of the Commonwealth Public Service, caused by the stupidity and maladministration of the inexperienced and apparently incompetent board which is responsible for this classification. The members of the board can be compared to three blind mice. They are running around and blundering. This is more or less due to lack of experience. The chairman of the board, General Sir Brudenell White, is an eminent and gallant soldier. I make no reflection upon him personally; I comment simply upon his inexperience in public service administration. General Glynn; another member >of the board, ‘kas a record of gallant service; but his experience in public service matters is, it is said, exceedingly limited. The other member is Mr. Skewes, the man behind the gun. He was formerly the Public Service Commissioner’s advocate before the Arbitration Court. In this capacity., and even now, he is dis- trusted by the Public Service as being antagonistic to their interests. He is believed to be the man who controls the board. I shall now refer briefly to some of the mistakes made by the board. It has displayed a lamentable lack of sympathy with the various organizations. By its conduct it would seem to be opposed to the accepted principle of collective bargaining through industrial unions. It has failed to consult the organizations about the classification, and has refused to consider certain individual cases, it is said, regardless in many instances of whether such cases involved general principles. The public servants, in putting their own cases, very often have not had the benefit of the experience and undoubted capacity of their union secretaries. Owing to this attitude of the board, I am told that at times the representatives of the unions have been forced to state individual cases before the Arbitrator. We have this ridiculous tugofwar, which is not in the public interest.
– The board should not deal with individual cases.
– It has based this classification upon alleged individual merit, and trouble has consequently arisen. The Arbitrator has to submit reasons for his judgments, .but the board is not required to do so. Last year I submitted a -certain case to the board and asked for information. I was snubbed by the board, and the public servant concerned was reprimanded for having the audacity to approach his Parliamentary representative with a view to securing information. It was another instance of lack of experience and understanding on thepart of the board.
– Should not the civil servant have asked for that information from the board itself?
– Why should he have done so? The regulation states that no member of the Service shall use influence to gain promotion, transfer, or any undue advantage. This public servant asked me for information, and although he was not debarred from doing so by regulation he was reprimanded by the board. That body afterwards virtually admitted to me that the officer concerned had not committed a breach of the regulations, and that a mistake had been made. I sub- mit that the board’s action was an attack upon the privilege enjoyed by honorable members of this Parliament. The board acted tactlessly and stupidly. Some time ago I wrote to the board respecting the appointment of cleaners at the General Post Office, Sydney. An objection was raised to their permanent appointment because these temporary employees were ambitious and wished to become permanent. They were quite willing to pass the necessary examination to enable them to become permanent officers, but no opportunity was given to them to do so. The board’s action was wrong in principle. Recently, in the retirement of certain storemen, the board displayed a lack of sympathy and understanding. These officers were over 60 years ofage, and had not the capacity to perform laborious work. As they were retired on grounds other than that of invalidity, their superannuation rights accordingly depreciated.
– That was brutality.
– It might have been caused through ignorance or lack of perception. The board wascharged by this Government and its predecessors to devise means for effecting economies and promoting efficiency, improved organization and procedure, closer supervision, simplification and co-ordination of work, improvement of training, avoidance of unnecessary expenditure, &c. All it has done up to date is to introduce this classification, which has tended to destroy the efficiency of the Service by causing a great deal of discontent among the officers.
– Does the honorable member favour the abolition of the Public Service Board ?
– I am not authorized to express the opinion of the Public Service on that matter, but I favour one commissionerand an arbitration tribunal to determine salaries and conditions. I believe this would meet the views of the bulk of the civil servants. They ask for the same right as that enjoyed by the ordinary workers. The Public Service Board is the nominal employer of the public servants, and is entitled to exercise such powers.
– The honorable member is no doubt aware that the right of access to the Arbitration Court is not being taken from the public servants. He referred to the stupidity of having two authorities administering the Civil Service.
– I have not said that there was stupidity in having two authorities. I said that it was absurd to have two salary-fixing authorities, and suggested that the Public Service Arbitrator should be charged with the full responsibility of fixing salaries, and that the board should carry on the general administration of the Service. There would then be no duplication inthe fixation of salaries. The board, has effected no economy, because on its own admission it has increased the salaries of at least one section of the Service by £20,000, and decreased those of other sections by a corresponding amount. If the Government will not accept the suggestion to give the Arbitrator exclusive power to fix salaries, then it should agree to appoint an appeal board to deal with appeals against the classification. Under the bill, officers may appeal against the classification to the board and a permanent head. But this would be an appeal from Caesar to Caesar. The Public Service Board has fixed the classification, and yet is to virtually hear appeals against it. There should be an independent appeal board, because, if for no other reason, there is every likelihood of from 15,000 to 20,000 appeals being made against the classification, in which event the board would not be able to do anything else but hear appeals.
– What would be the nature of the appeal board suggested by the honorable member ?
– It should consist of an independent chairman, a representative of the appellant organization, and a representative of the board as the employer. Wages boards are operating under this system in Victoria to-day, and were formerly operating in New South Wales.
– In the case of an appeal, the person interested might be a member of the appeal board.
– Provision would have to be made for such minor contingencies. Under the bill there is to be an appeal to a body consisting of a permanent head of the department and a representative of the board. There is an appeal board against punishments. There is also an arbitrator to make awards. The board will virtually overrule any of, their decisions. The amendment relating to classification proposed by the Government refers only to individual cases. It protects only the officer who is at present in receipt of a rate of pay higher than that prescribed by the classification. This anomaly will accentuate what is even now a ridiculous position. The classification maximum for postal sorters is £276, and the award maximum £286. An officer who is on the classification maximum will remain there, and another officer on the award maximum, perhaps doing the same land of work, will remain there. Honorable members can imagine what countless anomalies and jealousies will consequently arise.
– On the Statistician’s figures the public servants’ salaries should be increased.
– The award fixed by the Arbitrator is by no means what it should be. It has not increased in accordance with the cost of living, and that is all the more reason why the board should not have interfered with the prescribed award rates. The amendment of the Government places a definite limitation on progression prescribed by the Arbitrator’s award. If the award is altered, even the individuals whom it protects will have no further protection. I am willing to admit that our system of Public Service arbitration is not perfect. We should have only one industrial arbitration authority for the whole of the Commonwealth, and it should be under federal control. The unification of our Arbitration Court sys tem is desirable. Yet the system of the Public Service Arbitrator, however, is preferable to that of the Public Service Board. In 1920, when he moved the second reading of the bill which resulted in the appointment of the Arbitrator, the then Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes) said that the Government proposal to provide arbitration machinery for the Service was - introduced as a result of the widespread dissatisfaction in the Public Service against a system which did not afford any appeal from the Public Service Commissioner’s decision and which cut off public servants from those other avenues of redress which were open to the ordinary citizen in his capacity as an employee. . . . The principles of arbitration for the settlement of disputes in the Public Service by an appeal from Caesar - that is to say, the Public Service Commissioner - is one which I took up many years ago at the instance of the public servants themselves.
That statement was an admission by the Hughes Government, which this Government has accepted, of the necessity for arbitration.
– The honorable member is talking as though the Government proposed to wipe out the system of arbitration altogether.
– My complaint is that it proposes to make it more or less ineffective. It is allowing a game of battledore and shuttlecock between these two conflicting authorities, the result of which must involve the Public Service organizations in heavy expense. The amendments proposed in this measure profess to meet the situation but do not do so. The Government must recognize that the measure is, in effect, a curtailment of the powers of the Arbitrator. The present position is ridiculous. The Public Service Board is represented before the Public Service Arbitrator when claims are heard. The Arbitrator sifts the evidence submitted to him, assesses the value of the various services, and, after very great argument, makes his award, and it should stand. Unfortunately for the Service, however, the board disregards it altogether in making its reclassification, and by doing so it implies that the Arbitrator is incompetent and wrong. It may say in effect, “ We realize that the Arbitrator has inquired into the wages and working conditions of the officers under our notice, but we consider that he is incompetent and incapable of performing the task the Government has commissioned him to do. We shall, therefore, reclassify the positions in question., and reduce the wages he has prescribed.” That is absurd. It will never put the Service on a stable and contented footing, but must inevitably cause unending turmoil. Surely there is no need for me to elaborate this point. It must be apparent to the Prime Minister and honorable members generally on the Government side of the House. In order to remedy the trouble we should give the Arbitrator exclusive jurisdiction in respect to the fixation of salaries or else instruct the board to take cognizance of his awards in making its reclassification. If either alternative were adopted discontent and trouble would be avoided, and the Service, generally speaking, would be satisfied. Some action of this kind is essential in the public interest.
– What about the cases in which the reclassification has meant an increase in salary to the public servants ?
– Suchcases are comparatively few. If the board continues its present practice it will be entirely out of touch with living conditions in two or three years.
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) must recognize that the ultimate result of the board’s operations must be a loss in salary to the Service.
– That is so. If its methods are to be like “ the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not,” nothing but grave trouble is ahead of us. Before the honorable member for Parkes, who has just interjected, became a. member of Parliament he insisted on the right of the Public Service to approach the Arbitration Court absolutely unfettered by regulations. He was then the secretary of the Postal Electricians’ Union. I feel sure that he still holds those views. His opposition to our suggestions now is undoubtedly caused by his political association with the Government. Section 12 of the Arbitration (Public Service) Act says -
The Arbitrator shall, subject to the provisions of this section, determine all matters submitted to him relating to salaries, wages, rates of pay, or terms or conditions of service or employment of officers and employees of the Public Service.
His power is unlimited, but unfortunately there are two conflicting authorities. The Arbitrator is able to make a personal investigation of the working conditions of the Service, and is in a much better position than the officers of the Public Service Board to conduct a proper inquiry.
– The Arbitrator has said that he has great difficulty in assessing the value of the different classes of work performed in the Service.
– I did not know that, and I should like to know whether the statement was made without qualification, and what circumstances led up to it. I admit that he has a difficult task to perform, but his work has given general satisfaction to the Service. The Government recognizes that, for it has not disallowed any of his recommendations.
– The point that the Arbitrator was making was that he had to deal with individual cases which came before him from time to time, and it was very difficult for him to make a general survey of the whole Service.
– Even so, the board should be obliged to take cognizance of his awards. The fact that it has not done so has led to theserious dissatisfaction which is now rife in the Service. A storm of discontent has occurred over every reclassification it has made. It would seem that even members of the Service who have benefited by its decisions would be content to sacrifice those benefits if they were given an assurance that the Magna Charta of industrial recognition, namely, the untramelled right to appear before the Arbitrator, would be given to them. It is most unfortunate that the’ Arbitrator’s awards have been ignored, for lamentable confusion has resulted. If the Government is sincere in its desire to have a satisfied Service, it should either give the Arbitrator the exclusive right to fix salaries, or oblige the board to take notice of his award’s. At present the Service is in a hopeless muddle. The prevailing unrest is so serious as to be against the public interest. If it is allowed to continue it may cause a disastrous dislocation in the general divisions of the Service. The postal linesmen are a militant body, and so are the letter sorters and letter carriers.
They are imbued with trade unionist principles, and are strong advocates of the principle of collective bargaining. They will not regard with indifference the situation which is now facing them. Surely the Government must recognize that the amendments in this bill are hopelessly unsatisfactory. If the present stupid arrangements continue innumerable anomalies will occur. We cannot hope for co-ordination or the prevention of duplication as things are now.
– Our present methods must “ make confusion worse confounded.”
– That is so. The real proof of inefficiency is overstaffing, but we haveno evidence that the Service is overstaffed. That is evidence of efficiency. I do not think the Prime Minister will challenge that statement. In a recent reclassification of two departments, one of which was the Statistician’s Department, the departmental heads, against whom I have no word to say, were given an increase in salary, but the board, according to a newspaper report, stated that both departments had excess officers.
– If there were excess officers in the Statistician’s branch then, it is short-handed now.
– It seems ridiculous to give substantial increases of from £50 to £100 a year to the executive officers when the staff is allegedly over-manned. I speak with diffidence on this matter, because I am not conversant with the facts, but if the statements I have read in the press are correct, it is certainly a Gilbertian situation. If the Service is overmanned, it is due to this Government’s mania for divesting itself of administrative and executive responsibility by the creation of a multiplicity of boards and other authorities that are not under the control of Parliament. Such a practice is contrary to the spirit of responsible government, and if it is continued, we shall eventually have a system of despotic government. Powers that should be exercisedby Parliament are being delegated to bureaucratic bodies that treat this House with contumely. I may mention, as an instance, the attitude adopted towards the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) on a recent occasion by the Repatriation Commission.
Public interest demands that the Government should accept the amendment of which notice has been given by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), to whom the Public Service owes a debt of gratitude for bis forceful presentation last evening of the case on their behalf. The piebald amendment proposed by the Government will satisfy nobody, and will cause untold trouble. 1 hope that the Prime Minister will take a broad, national view of this subject, remembering the fate that awaits those who ignore the principles of equity.
– As this bill can be more effectively dealt with in the committee stage, I do not propose to address the House at great length on the second reading. I wish, however, to repudiate the suggestion of honorable members opposite that they have a monopoly of humanitarian ideas. The implication of a lack of desire on the part of honorable memberson this side to recognize the rights and privileges of the public servants is wholly unwarranted. It will be remembered that this party was responsible for the Superannuation Act, which, in itself, is a refutation of that implication, and I could quote other instances in supportof my claim. Too much of this kind of innuendo is indulged in, and I resent the implication of lack of sympathy with, and respect for the rights of, the members of the Public Service and those employed in industrial concerns. It is somewhat unfortunate that the reclassification was introduced just at the time when an arbitration award was made in connexion with the mail branch of the Postal Department. That has given rise to a certain number of complications which some honorable members have been trying to straighten out. Several of us, on this side of the House, have been in close conference with the chairman of the Public Service Board, and also with the Solicitor-General, for the purpose of trying to arrive atsome satisfactory arrangement that might meet the difficulties that have arisen. I mention this fact merely to show that we are not indifferent to the interests of public servants. The Public Service Board has been described by honorable members opposite as an incompetent body, . lacking in sympathy with the members of the Service. For my own part, I think that the board consists of gentlemen who are very competent, who, having regard to the difficulties which confront them, are anxious to do the best they can for the benefit of the Service, at the same time having regard to the interests of the community at large. The classification is open to adverse criticism, but the board’s motives are above suspicion. From my contact with the chairman of the board, at any rate, I am perfectly satisfied that his desire is to do the best he can, both for the Service itself and for the people generally. It is only fair to say that the Public Service Arbitrator, in making his recent award, was fully alive to the difficulties, and realized that, whereas he had to consider only individual or sectional claims, the board had to deal with the Service as a whole. The board felt that it must take an independent stand on account of the interrelation of the various grades of all the branches of the Service. It must be recognized, however, that the various branches of the Service are not satisfied with the classification, especially where it impinges upon the Arbitrator’s award relating to postal sorters and letter carriers in the mail branch of the department. I have a number of these employees in my electorate, and it so happens that the secretaries of some organizations in New South “Wales also reside in my district. In the course of a letter addressed to me, Mr. J. V. Dwyer, general secretary of the mail branch, states : -
As regards the suggested amendment of the clause of the Public Service Bill relating to classification - clause 8 - my union views this us some improvement upon the present clause in the bill, though still falling short of that full and proper recognition of existing arbitration awards which we believe ourselves to be rightly entitled to, and which would be secured by the amendment of the hill suggested by this union. My union holds that the classification proposals of the Public Service Board reducing wage rates fixed by arbitration awards for the various classes of work to be a gross injustice. This injustice is made even worse when it is realized that the reductions proposed by classification have been made in the face of an increase in the cost of living as proven by the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician, and which circumstances should be compensated for by an increase in wage rates ‘ following the principle adopted by every competent wage-fixing tribunal in this country.
Needless to state, knowing the full facts of the case, my union is irrevocably opposed to the inequitable and unjust classification sought to be imposed by the board upon members of this union and other Service unions similarly situated.
The union has also made the following reply to certain statements by the Chairman of the Public Service Board relative to the representations by the Postal Sorters’ Union: -
The amendment referred to is to prevent the board from fixing a rate of wage below the minimum awarded by the Arbitrator.
– The Arbitrator makes his award after hearing evidence.
– Yes ; that point has been strongly emphasized by the union. The statement continues -
I am asked to note particularly certain statements made by the Arbitrator in determination number 26 of 1924, as follows : -
I conceive it is possible that my judgment, expressed after hearing the arguments on both sides, may ‘be of some value to the board in assisting them to reach sound conclusions in their difficult task, and it is my strong desire that, having the same object in view - that of a properly organized, fairly paid , and contented Public Service - I should freely give them all the assistance in my power.
I, therefore, proceed with the consideration of this case on its merits, without reference to the fact that possibly before this judgment takes effect the reclassification of this portion of the Service will have been finalized by the board and approved by the Governor-General.
It is quite clear that the Arbitrator, when making that award, was conscious of the difficulties that were likely to confront the board, and tried, within the limits of his jurisdiction, to assist the board in arriving at its determination. It seems to me reasonable for the unions to assume that the Arbitrator, when making his award, thought that the board would recognize that he was fixing what he thought was a fair minimum rate, and would not classify at a lower rate. Having regard to the high cost of living, I am very much averse to any action which would have the effect of reducing the rate of pay of any members of the Public Service, especially those in the lower grades. I do not say that there might not be justification for a reduction of the salaries of certain of the higher officers, but I always assume that the salary received by an officer is based upon a proper assessment of the value of his services. A contrary assumption involves a belief that the high salary has been fixed improperly. The bill, in its present form, is not satisfactory, and I hope that before it leaves this chamber some radical amendments will be agreed to which will make it more satisfactory to the Public Service generally. That, I understand, will be done by the Government in proposing certain amendments in committee.
– I congratulate the honorable members for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) andReid (Mr. Coleman) on their valuable contributions to this debate. They placed before the House useful arguments in support of justice and fair play to public servants. I congratulate also the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) upon the rather skilful manner in which he praised both the public servants and the Public Service Board. He endeavoured to make it appear that no one was to blame; that all weredoing well and were animated by the best intentions.
– I said that all partieswere trying to do well.
– The honorable gentleman endeavoured to praise every section of the Public Service and the board, and condoned everything that has been done contrary to the wishes of the Service.
– The honorable member is not correct in saying that I condone what has been done, but I credit the board with proper motives and a desire to do well.
– The honorable member tried to please everybody, but that attitude will not please the public servants. Having heard the arguments advanced by the honorable members for Hindmarsh and Reid, I support the stand they have taken on behalf of the public servants. It is idle to say at one moment that the board has done well, and at the next moment that it has failed. A measure dealing with the management of the Public Service and affecting the salaries and conditions of the employees is sufficiently important to require the earnest consideration of every honorable member, and it is a pity that this bill comes before us at a time when the Government is anxious to terminate the session, and many honorable members desire to return to their constituencies. There is sufficient matter in the bill for a week’s debate, and in committee many important alterations and additions could be suggested.Whilst the measure is mainly one for consideration in committee, it is necessary at this stage to deal with its general principles. On the 30th June last there were in the Commonwealth Public Service 25,407 permanent employees and 7,000 temporary employees, and to them the people of Australia pay, approximately, £6,400,000 per annum. The public servants, therefore, are a considerable section of the community, and are doing an important work. Most of them have been well educated, and entered the Service in the belief that they were to have a congenial and remunerative employment. The Commonwealth Public Service is regarded as the blue riband of governmental employment, and those who have entered it believed that they would be adequately paid, and would not be denied any conditions and privileges to which they had reasonable claim. The majority were actuated by a high motive in joining the Public Service, and that was to serve their country, and as a body they are a credit to the Commonwealth. They would not flood honorable members as they have done with protests against their treatment if they had not good cause for complaint.
– Has the honorable member been “flooded”?
– Like most other honorable members, I have received 20 or 30 letters from various associations. One such letter was read by the honorable member for Lang. Associations representing the public servants have the same right to communicate with honorable members regarding their grievances and claims as have those bodies which were interested in the tariff and in the bills relating to dairy produce and dried fruits. There is nothing wrong in interested bodies placing their views before their representatives in this House. I am sorry that the Prime Minister, in introducing the bill, gave honorable members very little information. It is necessary; therefore, for us to study it in detail in order to ascertain the meaning of the proposed amendments. Clause 4, which provides that two members of the board shall constitute a quorum, betrays a strange omission from the 1922 act. Owing to the absence of any similar provision in the act, a quorum can now be formed in the absence of a commissioner only by the Governor-General appointing a deputy commissioner.
– Surely that is a matter for consideration in committee.
– Yes, but I am mentioning this to reveal the folly of the Government in 1922 in bringing before the House an improperly drafted measure, which includes no provision for a quorum. The original Commonwealth Public Service Act was passed in 1902, and was amended in 1903, 1909, 1911, 1913, 1915, 1916, 1917, and 1918, and the principal and amending acts were consolidated in 1922. The Government should give proper consideration to its legislation before sub mitting it to the House, and should not rush important measures through Parliament at the end of a session. The policy of haste necessitates the introduction of amending legislation in. succeeding sessions. Clauses 6, 7, and 8, which propose to amend sections 20 and 27, are very important, and honorable members on both sides of the House hope to induce the Government to accept amendments to them.. It is. clear that the primary object of the bill is to give the Public Service Board full legal authority to reclassify the Public Service, without the risk of its. actions being declared ultra vires if they conflict with the decisions of the Public Service Arbitrator.
– The honorable member knows that the matter to which he is referring did not influence the Government in introducing the bill.
– The right honorable gentleman may have his opinion on the matter, and honorable members will be glad to hear him on the subject when he addresses the House, but he has often made statements with the object of inducing honorable members to pass bills. Another matter which should have been thought of when the last bill was being framed was the unfair treatment which was likely to be meted out to Commonwealth public servants in Queensland, who might find it necessary to appeal against certain decisions of the board. The act now requires these officers to place their grievances before the board sitting in Melbourne.
– Is the honorable member referring to appeals against promotions?
– Yes. If the Government had given proper attention to the matter they would have seen that a board sitting in Melbourne could not discharge the multifarious duties imposed upon it by the act, and at the same time deal with all appeals against promotions.
– Does the honorable member object to the proposal in the bill to rectify that omission?
– No, but as the Government overlooked these matters in framing the last bill, why has it chosen the last hours of the session to bring forward an amending bill, and why are Ministers forcing it through the House without allowing honorable members to give it the mature consideration it should have? Section 17 of the act provides -
In addition to such duties as are elsewhere in this act imposed on it, the board shall have the following duties: -
to examine the business of each department and ascertain whether any inefficiency or lack of economy exists;
Surely these duties are sufficiently extensive to keep the board fully occupied, yet we find Senator Pearce saying -
Let me instance what has been happening for some months. The three members of the board have had to sit as an appeal conference to deal with appeals against provisional promotions arising in every State of the Commonwealth.
When this Government came into office it announced that it intended to economize and bring about greater efficiency in the public departments, but what has happened? Instead of having a Public Service Commissioner at a salary of £1,200 a year, a Public Service Board has been appointed at a cost of £6,500 a year in salaries alone. In 1921-2 the salaries paid in the office of the Public
Service Commissioner amounted to £23,548, and the allowance to the Acting Public Service Commissioner was £1,200, the total amount paid in salaries being £24,748. Contingencies also cost £10,211, and the total expenditure of the office was thus £34,959. In 1924-5 the estimated expenditure in the office of the Public Service Board for salaries is £33,018. Adding £6,500 as representing the salaries paid to the members of the board, the estimated expenditure of the office upon salaries is £39,518. Adding £7,490 for contingencies, the total expenditure of the office is estimated at £47,008.
– I do not wish to discourage the honorable member, but the present Government did not introduce the Public Service Bill providing for the appointment of a board.
– At any rate, the present Government appointed the board. If it had any fault to find with the act under which the board was appointed, it could easily have amended it and thus avoided the necessity for appointing a board. The figures I have quoted show that in four years the increase of expenditure on salaries in the office which controls the Commonwealth Public Service has been £14,770. Yet, according to the Minister for Home and Territories, this expensive board is spending its time listening to grievances ; a task that could properly be delegated to some Public Service inspector, leaving the board free to undertake the very important and useful work of organizing the Service, and simplifying and coordinating work in the departments, in which direction it may effect economies. Honorable members who have already spoken have given ample evidence of the fact that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction in the Public Service over the reclassification made by the board under the provisions of section 27 of the act. Throughout the Commonwealth there are many officers in the mail branch of the Department of the Postmaster-General who have not received fair treatment for a number of years, and now find themselves in an even worse position, inasmuch as an award given by the Public Service Arbitrator has, in some cases, been varied to their disadvantage by the reclassification issued by the board. In another place senators on both sides have severely condemned the step taken by the board to interfere with the wages awarded to the men under an award given by the Public Service Arbitrator after weighing evidence given in public. It is certainly wrong that a Bureaucracy sitting in private should have the right to interfere with such awards. There should be no lowering of the arbitration awards. Many men in the Service are not being paid the basic wage, even under awards of the Public Service Arbitrator. The Arbitrator takes for his guidance the average index-numbers for the four quarters ending June in each year, and he fixes wages according to those numbers, and then deducts £10 18s. from each officer in order to cover child endowment. The Public Service Board takes the index-number as at the 1st April in each year, and increases or decreases wages by £6 for every 50 points or part thereof that the index-numbers exceed 1719 or fall below 1620. The index-number for the twelve months ending the 31st March last year was 1720. ‘ On the 1st April, therefore, the index-number was also 1720, which was above the 1719 stipulated by the board. As the board stated that if the number 1719 were exceeded by 50 points or part thereof, the salary should be increased £6, the index figure 1720 entitled a worker to draw a salary of £215 per annum, which, after deducting £10 18s. to cover child endowment, would mean a net salary of £204 2s. But the board has fixed the basic wage at £198, which is £6 per annum less than what it should be. Despite the increased cost of living, junior officers have not been granted an increase since 1921. Many of these youths are employed at places away from their homes, and honorable members will admit that any young man between eighteen and twenty years of age is usually expected to pay for board and lodging just as much as an adult would be expected to pay. In these circumstances, if junior officers are nol paid a decent wage, their families or their friends must finance them until they are no longer junior officers. If these young men could look forward to securing highly remunerative positions in the Public Service, their parents might reasonably be expected to finance them for a few years, but many of them can look forward to nothing more than positions worth £250 or £300 a year in the Mail
Branch or the Engineers’ Branch of the Postal Department, and those after many years of service. Owing to the manner in which they are classified under the definition provisions of the act, mail officers in grade 1 can now be called upon to perform duties in a higher grade without extra remuneration. In the past, an officer who performed higher duties for a month was entitled to the minimum payment attaching to the position in which he was acting. It was a very reasonable provision. There are some departmental heads who will continue a arian indefinitely in an acting capacity without paying him a ‘higher salary ; but if, after a month, they were obliged to pay him the minimum salary attaching to the position which he was filling, they would take steps to make a permanent appointment. Under the new classification “ assistants “ are now classified as “ mail officers, grade 1,” with a salary up to £234 per annum. “ Postal sorters,” whose salaries range from £238 to £286 per annum, are classified as “ mail officers, grades 2 and 3,” with salaries ranging from £240 to £252, in grade 2, and from £258 to £276, in grade 3. It will be seen, therefore, that the maximum .salary has been reduced by £10 per annum. I protest against that action on the part of the Public Service Board. Honorable members should realize that public servants must rely solely on their Public Service salaries, as they are not allowed to engage in outside employment, as are men employed by private firms. Before an officer in grade 2 can proceed beyond £252 per annum, he must pass a second test. Originally, when an officer passed the postal sorters test - now called mail officers grade 2 and 3 - he went to a, maximum of £286 by annual increments, but now a second barrier is imposed at £252 per annum. Apart from the fact that, as a man grows older he has not the same aptitude for study as when in the early twenties, many of the men who are required to pass these tests at middle age have assumed family responsibilities, and’ find it difficult to make time for study. It is cruel to force them to pass numerous tests. Telegraphists also are required to pass certain tests. Many men, because of their long association with the Morse machines, have developed operators’ cramp, and have had their speed reduced . but, nevertheless, they are required to pass a test before they receive promotion. They find that well-nigh impossible. Should they fail, their families are deprived of the increased remuneration, proper education, and sometimes the necessaries of life. The second barrier which existed between the minimum and maximum salaries of mail sorters was abolished by the Commonmonwealth Arbitration Court, but it has since been reinstated by the board. That, I consider, is most unjust. We have greater confidence in the Arbitration Court than in a board some of whose members are not thoroughly acquainted with Public Service conditions. Without disparaging other members of the board, I admit that Mr. Skewes, one of its members, is looked upon by the whole of the Public Service of Australia as an expert in Public Service matters, because of his long connexion with the Service. As the Arbitration Court held that the second test for mail sorters was unnecessary, it should be abolished. It is no wonder that Senator Greene, who was Deputy Leader of the Government in this Parliament which passed the Public Service Act of 1922, in another place recently, in connexion with this bill, said -
In my wildest dreams I never contemplated that the establishment of a Public Service Board would enable that body to set aside ap award already granted to members of the Service.
He roundly condemned the actions of the board, as did other honorable senators of both parties. I now wish to refer to the linesmen in the Electrical Engineers Department. Notwithstanding that these men carry out both arduous and hazardous duties, resulting at times in serious accidents, they do not receive adequate remuneration for the work performed by them. Frequently they are required to act- in higher positions ‘ than Those ordinarily held by them.
– Does the honorable member think that it is part of the functions of this House to fix the salaries of public servants ?
– I am pointing out some of the anomalies that exist, in an endeavour to gain the support of honorable members to amendments which will be moved to restrict the Public Service Board from reducing some of these salaries, and thus to ensure to the public servants a fair deal. During the last appeal to the Public Service Arbitrator the State Engineer for Victoria stated that practically every linesman in thatstate was acting in a higher position than that for which he was classified. In giving his decision, the Arbitrator stated that no man should be called upon to act in a higher position for over twelve months without receiving an appointment to that position, but, despite that statement and protests on behalf of the men, the appointment of men to “ acting “ positions still continues. If a man is required to act in a higher position for six or twelve months, or, as has been the case in some instances, for. two or three years, he is entitled to receive a permanent appointment to the higher- position. In New South Wales alone there are 700 permanent employees and 1,000 temporary employees engaged on line construction work. Those temporary employees should be appointed permanently, so that whatever privileges attach to permanent positions may be shared by them’. Some of them have been acting in higher positions for upwards of three years without receiving permanent, appointments thereto. Many of them are growing old, and desire to obtain promotion before it is too late. In some districts - Lismore and Dubbo, for instance - temporary employees are acting as line foremen. The same remark applies to Queensland and other states. Despite these facts, I understand that the department has provided on the Estimates for the creation of 124 higher positions only, although over 300 men are acting in higher positions in New South Wales alone. The “acting” injustice is greatly resented by the men who are getting up in years, and their non -appointment to the higher position( makes them discontented. The regulations governing sick-pay are another source of discontent. Since the passim’ of the Public Service Act, new regulations have been issued, which in many cases seriously affect men who do not enjoy good health. Under the old regulations, sick leave was granted in triennial periods, and was computed as follows: - One months’ full nay for every five years’ service; two months’ full pay for every ten years’ service; and three months’ full pay for over ten years’ service. Instead of that, we now find that the new basis for sick leave is: - Multiply one week- on full pay, two weeks on half pay, and four weeks on one-third pay by the number of years of service. If an officer has had sick leave during the seven years preceding the commencement of the present Commonwealth Public Service Act, that leave is deducted from the total sick leave due to him under the new method of calculation. Moreover, the board made the new regulations retrospective to 1916. Because of thedifferent basis for computingsick leave, many men who do not enjoy good health have exhausted the sick leave due to them under the regulations. Consequently, they receive no payment when absent because of illness, but, nevertheless, they must keep up their superannuation fund payments. I recognize that this is a matter for the Superannuation Board, but I consider that the regulations should be amended to allow a member to receive payment when his sick leave is exhausted. I am also of the opinion that the sum of £500 provided in the 1913 act as compensation in the event ofthe death of an employee is inadequate, and that, particularly in view of the decreasing purchasing power of money, that amount should be increased to atleast £800. I hope also that the House will, before this bill passes, agree to equal pay for males and females doing the same work. This principle was accepted by the Public Service Commissioner prior to 1914, and confirmed by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in 1915, and again in 1920. Under the reclassification scheme of the Public Service Board, this principle is to be seriously departed from. The result will be a reduction of the wages of 24 female employees in the mail branch alone. Those female officers have given from 16 to 38 years’ service. The following table shows the proposed reductions : -
Six officers will suffer a reduction of £44 per annum.
One officer will suffer a reduction of £38 per annum.
Five officerswill suffer a reduction of £32 per annum.
Three officers will suffer a reduction of £20 per annum.
One officer will suffer a reduction of £18 per annum.
Eight officers will suffer a reductionof from £2 to £15 per annum.
That is a very serious matter tothese women, who probably have declined to avail themselves of opportunities to marry because of the interest they have taken in their work and the obligation to assist in the maintenance of their homes. Some have family ties, such as the care of a widowed mother or an invalid sister. If these restrictions were proposed in the case of honorable members, who are receiving a much greater remuneration, they would strongly resent them. These women are doing all that they can in the interests of the public of Australia, of whom they are the servants. This Parliament should, therefore, see that they are given a fair deal. The proposed classification is the more iniquitous in view of the fact that these officers are working under determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator, whose awards have provided a lesser salary for females, even though they are performing work similar to that entrusted to male officers. The Arbitrator has fixed the maximum rate of salary for these female assistants at £195 per annum, with an allowance to bring their total remuneration up to the amount awarded by Mr. Justice Powers and Mr. Justice Starke. Under that award the total remuneration ranges up to £224 per annum. But the statement covering the classification, which was published in the Commonwealth Gazette of the 30th June last, provides that these allowances shall cease immediately the Governor-General gives his approval to the classification. This House should, by amending clause 7 of the bill, restrain the board from lessening the rates that have been fixed by arbitration awards, whether by way of salaries or allowances. It would thus render a very valuable service to the public servants of Australia. Our public servants are a fine type of men and women, and they are doing good work for the Commonwealth. Honorable members frequently come into contact with them, and are in a position to appraise the value of their work, which in the past has been greatly hampered because of the lack of consideration shown to them when important appointments have been made. Unfortunately, the practicehas been to appoint to highly-paid positions not the best men in the Service, but persons from overseas. If we take from the young men and women in the PublicService the prospect of appointment to lucrative positions, we shall not be able to induce the besttype of manand woman to enter the
Service. At the present time it is foolish for a young man or woman to enter the Public Service, because many of the positions that are worth striving for are given to those who have not previously been in the Service. Ifour public servants do not possess the knowledge necessary tofill these positions, the Government should choose each year those who show most promise, and are furthest advanced in the departments, and send them to other parts of the world to obtain a knowledge of the most up-to-date methods and practices. If such an inducement is offered our young men will devote themselves to study with a view to their being selected. Such men should then be appointed to the important positions in the Service. In regard to arbitration for public servants, the first act that dealt with the wages and salaries of Commonwealth public servants was known as the Public Service Act of 1911. Under the provisions of the act the cases of all public servants were heard by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. That would have been satisfactory had it not been for the serious congestion of business that resulted in the court, as many as 50 cases being on hand at one time. In 1918, Mr. McLachlan was appointed as a royal commissioner to inquire into the salaries and conditions in the Public Service. He made a number of recommendations. Amongst other things he recommended that two commissioners should be appointed, one to deal with general administration and another to deal with appeals regarding wages, hours, and conditions of labour. The government of the day did not adopt those recommendations, but after the passing of the Public Service Act of 1920 appointed Mr. Atlee Hunt as Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator for a period of seven years. It decided to allow Mr. Hunt to fix the wages of the public servants. The rates which he awarded the Public Service Board now proposes, in many instances, to set aside. Public servants have had to fight strenuously for the privileges they enjoy, and they will not lightly allow them to be taken from them. They are putting up a determined fight. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) has an extensive knowledge of the Public Service. He and other honorable members should give this House the benefit of their views. The big principle involved is whether honorable members desire to see the awards of the Arbitrator remain or wish them to he set aside by the Public Service Board. I appeal to honorable members to view in a sympathetic manner the amendments that will be proposed by honorable members on this side, and to give them their hearty support, so that they may have an easy passage and so that the very disagreeable aspects of the reclassification scheme may be modified, which will confer a great benefit upon our public servants.
Sitting suspended from6.25 to 8 p.m.
. -Probably I should not have spoken at this stage had the debate not led the House away from the. principal purpose of the bill. One would gather from the remarks of some honorable members that it is right or advisable for . this House to discuss such questions as rates of pay and conditions of service. The attitude of honorable members to questions affecting the Public Service must, in my opinion, be one of very great care and circumspection. If all matters connected with the interests of the Public Service came into open discussion in this House, it would be disastrous, not only to honorable members, but also to members of the Public Service themselves. This principle has been clearly recognized in all our legislation dealing with the Public Service. The method of procedure for the control of the Service is clearly laid down, in order that matters affecting the Public Service should not be repeatedly coming before this House, and in order that political interference should, if possible, be entirely excluded from the operations of the Public Service. I wish to make myself perfectly clear upon this issue.
– It is very necessary that the honorable member should do so.
– I require no advice or reprimand from any member of this House as to how I should comport myself on this issue.
– The honorable member will get a reprimand from his electors.
– At all events, I disdain to make use of my position in this House to improperly obtain votes in my interest against the interests of the country. Certain machinery having been set to work to deal with pay and conditions of service, the only concern of the House should be to see that it works smoothly and efficiently. It is of no use whatever for honorable members to debate details of pay or conditions of service. If by reason of its conflicting character, or because of some unfortunate circumstance in a particular case, legislation which has been introduced is not likely to carry out the object which Parliament had in passing it, it is our duty to see that its defects are remedied. Parliament appointed a Public Service. Board, whose findings came to ba reviewed by the Public Service Arbitrator. Unfortunately, the classification, to which reference has been made, was issued very shortly after the publication of the Arbitrator’s award. Nothing has been done which, in any way, interferes with the principle of appeal to the Arbitrator, and nothing has been done, by legislation or otherwise, to take away the right of appeal to the Arbitrator, but it is unfortunate that the classification should have been made so soon after the Arbitrator’s award. Had it been made after a lapse of some years the present difficulty would not have occurred.
– That is the cause of the whole trouble.
– It is, and for that, if blame is to be attached to any one, Parliament itself must be held responsible. I believe that the difficulty mentioned will gradually be eliminated. That is the advice which I have given to every branch of the Public Service that has approached me in connexion with the matter.
– Has the honorable member satisfied them ? That is the main consideration.
– I do not profess, even when speaking to my own constituents in the Public ‘Service, always to satisfy them. My sole purpose is to assure them that the machinery provided by Parliament furnishes them with a reasonable opportunity to obtain justice, and I am satisfied to leave the judgment in this matter, not to honorable members opposite, but ‘ to my own constituents, who are so deeply interested, and who know where my sympathies lie. Having created certain machinery to deal with the Public Service, we have to consider how far we can prevent the incidence of temporary injustices. This sums up the whole position. It is not a matter involving the general principle of control by the Arbitrator or the Public Service Board at all. Nor is it a question of the relative rates of pay or classification of members of the Public Service. It is a question of providing temporary means to relieve distress and remove injustices until the machinery which Parliament has created can effectively work out an adjustment of the claims. I have studied carefully the act and the bill in consultation with other honorable members on this side of the House who are deeply interested. We believe it is advisable to make three or four alterations in the act to make the temporary adjustments to which I have referred. My contribution to the debate has been very much curtailed by the circulation, during the dinner-hour adjournment, of Government amendments to the bill. These may be regarded as evidence that the Government recognizes the desirableness of correcting mistakes of the kind I have mentioned without going into questions of individual pay or dealing with the principles of the bill. After a careful study of the amendments, I say, without hesitation, that they will meet most of the difficulties that are likely to arise.
– Will the honorable member give his interpretation of the amendment to clause 7?
– I have no doubt that, at the proper time, the right honorable the Prime Minister will adequately explain the purpose of that amendment. All I wish to say is that I have studied the amendments in relation to the bill, and I consider that the first amendment provides for two of the most important difficulties that have arisen owing to the conflict between the classification and the Arbitrator’s awards.
– Order! The honorable member will understand that the House has no knowledge of any amendments. They are circulated for the use of the committee, and in committee.
– I must apologize, Mr. Speaker, for having referred to them, but I was under the impression that, as they had been distributed, they were before the House. I can say, however, that certain amendments which the Minister has circulated will, in my opinion, adequately meet objections that may arise. There is one other point upon which I should like the Prime Minister to make a definite statement, if he will. I refer to the clause which deals with conditions of appeal in connexion with promotions. I have discussed this matter with some authorities on Public Service administration, and, personally, I feel that it is all right. The objections raised to it are founded upon a misapprehension. It appears to me that, if rightly understood, it will be admitted that the arrangement made for providing in the bill for anew form of appeal in the case of promotions, will place officers in a better position than they are in at present. The Prime Minister should explain what is actually intended in the application of this provision to the Public Service, and if his explanation is in accord with what I have been told, I believe that the objection to the provision will vanish. If we look at this bill from the point of view from which I consider the House should regard it, not as an opportunity to discuss, question, and criticize, decisions and methods of the Public Service Board, which is the function solely of the Public Service Arbitrator, but confine ourselves to the task of considering why the machinery we have created is failing to effect the just and smooth working of the Service, we shall see that our duty is to make the necessary alterations in the gear.
.- I do not intend to occupy any great length of time on this bill. I understand that quite a number of amendments are to be submitted from both sides of the House, and I dare say our most effective work will be done in the consideration of those amendments when the bill is in committee. However, the bill is of sufficient importance to justify any honorable member in devoting a great length of time to its consideration. We need, in the Commonwealth, the best possible Public Service obtainable. We have to remember that the Public Service is the instrument by which all the activities of the various departments of the Commonwealth are carried out. The success of those activities depends very largely upon the character of the Public Service. The Government may attempt to do many things, but the success of the attempt will very largely depend upon those who must give effect to its policy, that is to say, upon an efficient Public Service. We have to remember that the Public Service is a human instrument, and if its members are to give good service, they must be assured that they will always receive from those controlling them the most scrupulous justice in their treatment, that the monetary rewards with which they are recompensed shall be at least adequate to the services they render the Commonwealth, and that theyshall have reasonable opportunities for promotion in keeping with their efforts and the value of their services. Unless these things are assured to its members we cannot expect to maintain an efficient Service. That has been my own experience in the Public Service. I believe that it was with the idea of securing a contented and efficient Public Service for the Commonwealth of Australia that the Public Service Board was, in the first place, appointed. I have been led to that conclusion by reading some of the speeches of honorable members on the introduction of the measure providing for it. I was very much struck with the fact that during the passage of the bill honorable members on both sides spoke only in terms of praise of the Commonwealth Public Service. I am sure that praise was entirely deserved, because, at all times, and especially during the great stress of the war, the Commonwealth Public Service carried on our vast activities with very great efficiency. Those in a position to judge of the rewards given by the Commonwealth, and by the states, to their public servants will not deny that, in comparison with the public servants of the states, Commonwealth public servants are poorly rewarded. The bill which provided for the appointment of the Public Service Board was designed to the end I have stated. The members of the board were appointed, and it has carried out, during the past year, some of the work allotted to it. One of its chief functions was to classify the Public Service, and to-day we have some knowledge of the result of its classification.
– It is not a very satisfying one.
– That is so. We are told by some honorable members that to-day the Commonwealth Public Service is seething with discontent, and that as a result of the classification by the Public Service Board there is a spirit almost of rebellion amongst public servants. To some extent I believe that is true. They aredissatisfied, not so much with their chances of promotion, but because of the fact that in this new classification, in the making of awards and assessing the value of services rendered by a great number of public servants, the system of arbitration previously in vogue has been entirely ignored. It is further objected that the salaries which certain public servants were receiving prior to the classification have not been taken into account in any way by the Public Service Board in assessing their salaries under the classification. Ministers, and honorable members opposite generally, will not deny that statement. . No account has been taken by the board of salaries paid prior to the classification or to the awards of the Public Service Arbitrator. It is remarkable and almost incomprehensible that the members of the Public Service Board, proceeding to carry out a great work like the classification of the Service, should have taken not the slightest account of the previous work done by the Public Service Arbitrator. This officer is paid a salary of something like. £2,000, and for years has been investigating conditions in the Service,, and recording findings. We have a new set of men appointed to do the same kind of work, and in not one instance do they take notice of the work done by the Arbitrator, nor have they in any way been guided by it. That seems almost incomprehensible, because in all matters of legislation and administration, if there is anything by which we are guided it is experience and precedent. In this case the Public Service Board claims not to have been guided in the slightest degree by the experience of the - Arbitrator. It would be a remarkable thing if to-morrow a community of people were to set up a system of self-government for themselves, and were not to take into account at all the experience of people who in the past have tried different forms of self-government. We should say that such a proceeding could not be expected of sane men. It seems to me to be just as remarkable that the members of the Public Service Board should have taken no notice at all of the experience df the Public Service Arbitrator. I think that we may attribute to this much of the dissatisfaction that exists in the Public Service to-day. The classification of the board is operating most harshly upon many public servants. Every member of this Morose has been, deluged with communications from sec- tions of the Public Service protesting against most unjust treatment and the course which the board has followed. I have received quite a number of such communications. Here is one from sorters of the General Post Office, General Division, mail branch of the postal service, which is to a certain extent typical. It reads -
To show the true effect of the Public Service Board’s wage reductions in the case of sorters it should be mentioned that the award rates of pay were fixed on the cost of living indexnumber 1642- for the twelve months ending the 30th’ June, 1923 - representing a basic wage of £195, fixed by the Public Service Arbitrator on this number. For ‘the twelve months ending the 31st of March, 1924, the cost of living index-number stood at 1720, justifying an increase of the basic wage from £195 to £204: This increase of £9 is rightly due to sorters and all other Service employees of adult age. It will, therefore,, be seen that the Public Service Board proposes to filch from the present sorters - classified as mail officers, grade -2 and 3 - the following amounts; -
First year, £7; second year, £9; third year, £11;. fourth year, £13; fifth year, £15; sixth year, £17; seventh year, £19.
That is a kind of arithmetical progression. We saw in the Treasurer’s budget that the average salary of employees in the Postal Department is just over £4 per week. Of course, a number are receiving double that amount, but they cannot be said to be highly-paid employees, as they are getting little, if anything, more than the ordinary basic wage. The communication continues -
It should be noted that the Public Service Board acknowledges that rates of pay should be adjusted periodically according to the rise or fall indicated by the cost of living indexnumbers of the Commonwealth Statistician. This acknowledgment is contained in the classification proposals under the caption “ Review of Scales of Salary,” but as the adjustmentproposed by the- board is. -to be applied to the basis of the reduced and inequitable rates of pay fixed by classification, the injustice imposed in the first place, if allowed to stand, will be perpetuated for all time.
I may say that there is a number of women who for many years have given loyal, and faithful service to the Commonwealth in the Postal and other departments who are getting less than £200 a year, and who will, under the classification scheme, if the Government fails to carry out its expressed intention, lose from £44, £38, and down to £2 to £3 a year in different cases.
– The honorable member knows that that is provided for now.
– It is not yet provided for. Iunderstand that the Prime Minister will submit an amendment which will to a certain extent protect the individual public servant whilst he or she is temporarily in the office now occupied, but only while he or she remains in that office. I take the case of one of the women to whom I have referred, who would be reduced by £44 a year. If to-morrow she were promoted to a higher grade, it would be found that the difference between the pay of that grade and of the grade in which she now is would not amount to £44. She would by promotion secure no protection from any amendment that I have so far seen proposed, unless it be an amendment which, I understand, is to be submitted from this side of the House. She would get no protection under the amendment which has been referred to by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), and when she was promoted she would find herself in receipt of a lower salary than she is receiving to-day. Such amendments will not cover the case. The only amendment that will do so will be one from this side, which I hope will be accepted by the Government, and which will show that it accepts the principle of arbitration in its entirety, and accepting that principle will lay it down that the Public Service Board, in assessing the value of the service of members of the Public Service, must take into consideration on every occasion awards of the Public Service Arbitrator. Unless the Government does that, it cannot in any way accept the principle of arbitration, and in that respect would act in a very unbusiness-like manner indeed. It would be a strange course for a Government to take. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) said that there was nothing in the bill to take away from the public servants the right of arbitration. That is so, but it is in this connexion that the unbusiness-like proceeding will lead to a considerable waste of public money. If the amendment, as proposed by the Government, is carried, those who are to-day filling offices in the Service will be protected temporarily while they remain in occupation of them, but very shortly others will be appointed to those positions, and sit side by side with “ protected “ officers. The moment they are appointed, they will receive less salary than their predecessors, and will im mediately approach the Arbitration Court for redress. Of course, it will take two or three years before the dissatisfied officers will be heard before the Arbitration Court, but there they undoubtedly will go, and the moment they state their case it is reasonable to assume that the Arbitrator will make an award on the lines of his previous award. He will take into consideration the same index figures which he previously considered, and, guided by them, will make a determination relatively equal to his previous, determination. While that is being done the time of the Arbitrator and public money will be unnecessarily wasted. What an unbusiness-like proceeding for a Government to take! The only way in which the Government can obviate this position is to agree to an amendment providing, in effect, that the Arbitrator’s work shall be taken into consideration by the board, and that his determinations shall be agreed upon once and for all, to rise and fall relatively with the cost of living. I can see no reason at all why the principle of arbitration, accepted by employers outside, should not be accepted whole-heartedly by the Government for the Commonwealth Public Service. As a matter of fact, this principle would not give quite the same satisfaction inside the Service as it does outside, because the Arbitrator is, after all, employed by the Government. He is in receipt of a large salary, and is not in the position of independence enjoyed by an independent chairman of a wages board, or an Arbitration Court. The public servants, however, have accepted this principle of arbitration, and they are not grumbling about it, although it is not likely that it will give them quite the same satisfactory deal as is given outside.
– Although it means a slightly lower grade.
– That is so, and, therefore, the Government should give its whole-hearted support to the insertion of the principle of arbitration in the bill. If it fails to do this nothing but chaos and unnecessary expenditure of public money will ensue.
– Does the honorable member favour taking away the power of classification from the board?
– By no means. I see no reason at all why the work of classification as given to the board should not be confined to classifying the duties of different officers, and allowing their remuneration to be fixed by the Arbitrator. To appoint a Public Service Board and to give it the power to assess salaries is simply tantamount to the Government itself carrying out that function. The Government must take the full responsibility for giving such wide powers to the board. The act could very easily be amended to take that power from the board and to leave the fixing of the remuneration entirely to the Arbitrator.
– Was not the Public Service Board appointed with the idea of getting rid of political interference?
– There is less opportunity for political interference if the fixation of salaries is left to the Arbitrator. I can easily see how a certain amount of political influence may be used when the Government has power to make new appointments to fill vacancies on the board. Is it not reasonable to assume that, to a certain extent, any board so appointed would be more likely to carry out the will of the Government than would an independent Arbitrator.
– Not at all.
– It is more reasonable to assume that.
– What is wrong with political influence, as compared with social influence.
Mr. F. McDONALD. With a board of three gentlemen you may have social influence, which is far more pernicious than political influence. I am reluctant to charge the Government with a wish to repudiate the principle of arbitration, and I ask the Prime Minister to accept it in this bill. I believe that the Government have shown that they are, to some extent, against the principle of arbitration, because they have, to a certain extent, interfered with an award of the Arbitrator. I refer now to those discretionary increments which were lately refused to public servants in accordance with instructions issued in a Treasury circular.
– Does the honorable member mean to infer that the Treasurer has interfered with a decision of the Arbitrator? If that is not political influence, I do not know what is.
– I shall give the facts, which speak for themselves. On the 5th February, 1924, the Arbitrator made a determination affecting the salaries and conditions of employment of clerical officers in the Commonwealth Public Service, and it took effect from the 28th April, 1924. In that determination certain automatic increments were provided for - “automatic” becausethey must take effect regardless of whether the increments are approved by any superior officers. There is a class of increment which takes effect only if it is approved by the permanent head of the department. Regarding increments to officers in subdivisions higher than the third subdivision of class 4 and higher classes, the Arbitrator prescribed that such increments should be paid “ on the approval of the permanent head.” These increments were to take effect provided that the permanent head approved of them. Treasury circular No. 24/35 was issued on the 9th May, 1924, to the following effect : -
Arbitration award, Public Service Clerical Association, of 5th February, 1924, operating from 28th April, 1924. Under the abovementioned award the three following classes of increases are provided for: -
Then follow classes a, b, and c. The first is of no importance in this connexion, and the second concerns automatic increases. The third is - “ (c) Increments at the discretion of the permanent head in subdivision 4 and 5 of. class 4 and higher classes.” The circular continues -
If funds are not available to make payments of the increases embodied in (a) and (b) mentioned above, the Treasurer is prepared, on application being made, to provide the necessary funds. I am directed to inform you, however, that, pending further advice, payments of discretionary increments which are subject to approval by the permanent head should not be made, even if funds are available owing to savings on salary votes.
This is a direct instruction from the Treasurer that the payment of these increments, which, after all, is an award of the Arbitrator, is not to be made, even although the permanent head has approved of the increments, and even although this Parliament has voted the money to provide for them. I put certain questions to the Treasurer in this House on the 20th June and on the 2nd July, 1924. The first reads- “Was Treasury circular No. 24/35 of the 9th
May, 1924, issued with his concurrence?” The answer was “Yes.” The second reads -
If so. will he state what increases to salary by way of increment approved by the permanent head, as provided by the Arbitrator in Determination No. 1 of 1924, cannot be paid from the salary votes, Treasurer’s Advance, or some other source?
The Treasurer replied -
While automatic increments will be paid as they accrue, discretionary increments will not be paid in view of the classification, which will operate from the 1st July, 1924. The claims of the officers for discretionary increments are being kept in view by the Public Service Board in fixing salaries under the classification which is now in hand.
While the term “ discretionary increments “ is used by the Treasurer, I contend that once the permanent head has approved of these increments, all the conditions surrounding them have been fulfilled, and they have the same force in law as the so-called automatic increases. These discretionary increases are made provided that the permanent head approves of them. In a number of cases the permanent heads gave their approval, but the increments were withheld.
– Some of them were paid.
– I have heard that some of the permanent heads refused to be brow-beaten by the Government, and, although they were told not to recommend any further increments, they did so, and in some cases these increments were paid, perhaps by inadvertence. I do not know whether the Government has since taken action to sue for the recovery of those payments. What authority has the Government for withholding the increments? Immediately the permanent heads approve of them they should be paid. That should be so even if there were no provision for it in the award. In withholding them the Government is, in my opinion, interfering with the principle of arbitration. In reply to another question I asked the Treasurer, I was informed that the granting of the increments would involve undue interference with the classification. The Treasurer proceeded -
The discretion of permanent heads is absolute under the determination, but is dependent upon funds being made available. Pending classification it is not proposed to make such funds available. The assumption that existing salaries will be taken into consideration in classification is incorrect, but the claims of officers for discretionary increments are being kept in view by the Public Service Board in fixing salaries under the classification of the Service. Payment of automatic increments is mandatory, and all future increments under classification will be automatic.
That is indeed hard on the Service. The board should be obliged to take into consideration the salaries that are at present being drawn by the officers it is classifying. It seems to me that the increments are being withheld so that the members of the board shall not be influenced by the present salary rates. That is unjust. I trust that the Government will give us an assurance that the members of the Service will not be reduced in either status or salary. I should also like an assurance from the Prime Minister that the Government will reconsider the position with a view to paying the Service according to the Arbitrator’s awards.
– Perhaps the Treasurer may put a different complexion upon this aspect of the matter.
– Of course, he may say that he has not sufficient money to pay the increments. He may point out that as some of the big taxpayers are refusing to pay their land and income taxation he cannot pay the Public Service its just dues, butI hardly think that he will reply in that way.
– Two wrongs do not make a right.
– No, nor three or four. Since the increments are due it is manifestly unfair to withhold them. Parliament has approved of the determination of the Arbitrator, and it should be put into operation in its entirety. If the amount necessary to pay the increments has not been actually appropriated, the Treasurer should pay them out of Treasurer’s Advance. If a change of Government occurred, and the Labour party came into power, it would certainly pay them from that account. The Government should be just even if it will not be generous. I am loath to chargeit with repudiating the principle of arbitration, but I must say that I think it is getting behind it. A wide amendment of the bill to ensure that the arbitration principle shall apply unconditionally to the Service would make the measure very useful, and tend to restore contentment to the Service. Wehave been told by honorable members opposite that the members of the board are just.
Reducing salaries is a strange way of showing it. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) quoted a case which suggests that the board is not as just as honorable members, opposite suppose, for it appears to be giving a very harsh interpretation to the regulations. He quoted the case of a public servant in his constituency who made an inquiry respecting a certain award from another honorable member, which was passed on to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks), and ultimately to him., as the inquirer was one of his constituents. He wrote to the Public Service Board for the information desired, and received a reply which stated that the public servant in question had broken a most important regulation which prohibited an officer from seeking to obtain for himself promotion, transfer, or other undue advantage. Surely the simple inquiry that was made did not .constitute a breach of the regulation. Possibly the board was annoyed because the man pointed out that the salary of £204 per annum which he was receiving was not sufficient to maintain himself and his wife and child, but I cannot see that he was guilty of contravention of the regulation. This board of so-called just men was so annoyed, however, that it informed the honorable member that it would report the man to the permanent head’ of his department, and see that he was suitably punished. It set in motion all the machinery of the Public Service in order to hound the man down. He was reprimanded and informed that a repetition of such conduct would bring upon him much heavier punishment. A black book is kept in the Public Service, in which all breaches of the regulations are noted against the names of the offending persons, and when promotions are being made this book is consulted to ascertain whether any marks appear against the name of the officer it is proposed to promote. I submit that the black-listing of this young man for writing to the member who represents his constituency in this House is most unjust. Honorable members should not stand for such tyrannous treatment. It savours far too much of militarism. As the man concerned answered the call of his country and went abroad to oppose militarism, it is exceptionally hard for him to find on his return to Australia that the very system which he endeavoured to overthrow permeates the Commonwealth Public Service - for it seems that that is so. Seeing that the Government stated not long ago that it was very jealous of the lights of civil servants, I ask it to rectify the wrong that has been done to this man. The fact that he occupies only a humble position in the Service is all the more reason why he should be dealt with justly. I do not object to the regulation that he is supposed to have infringed, but to his action being described as an infringement of it. Permanent heads of departments and Public Service Boards may come and go, but the black mark against this man’s record will remain unless the Government takes special steps to remove it. I earnestly request it bo do so, for it is an outrage that it should be there at all. I know something about working in a Public Service which as dominated by the military spirit. I had a long and, generally speaking, happy experience in the Education Department of New South Wales. At one period, however, the Service was dominated by a dictator who ruled it in military fashion, just as the Public Service Board appears to be ruling the Commonwealth Public Service. Permanent heads and superior officers at that time were hated because they compelled every teacher to enforce what was practically military rule. A comparison of present-day methods with those that then obtained is altogether in favour of present practices. Bigger men, with wide human sympathies and strong convictions on the desirableness of liberty in the Service,, have since assumed control, with much advantage to the Service. To-day, instead of the departmental heads being detested, they are held in high esteem. If any of them announce that they wish to lecture to the teachers it is difficult to find a hall large enough to accommodate those who wish to attend. The remarks made are received sympathetically -and acted upon with pleasure.. The consequence of the new rule is a. spirit of co-operation and sympathy throughout the service, which is most beneficial . May I suggest that to-morrow the members of the Public Service Board’ announce that they desire to address the members of the Public Service in the Melbourne Town Hall. One member of the. board could take the subject* “ Militarism, abroad, and militarism in the Commonwealth Public Service “ ; and another could speak om “How to be happy after 30 years of public service in spite of a salary reduction of £44 a year.” I am sure that they would have a tremendous reception, and that every pressnan who happened to miss the meeting would pray heaven, to send such another and to send him there to hear.
Mr. ANSTEY (Bourke) [9.0).- I realize that this is a bill mainly for consideration in committee, but there are a few matters to which I wish to refer, and which can more appropriately be discussed on the second reading. In the first place I desire to point out that the Labour party stands for the recognition of the public servant as a citizen. We hold that he should be accorded the same rights that every other citizen enjoys, and should, therefore, have the right to approach the Arbitration Court, and to avail himself of the ordinary processes of the law in order to obtain justice.- That attitude, whether justifiable or not, is. at least understandable* We lay it down as a definite guiding principle. The policy of this Government, however, is entirely different. It does not recognize the public servant as a citizen, and it denies him, as far as it can, the right of appeal to am arbitration court. At one time the public servant had the right of appeal to the Federal Arbitration Court, but that privilege has been taken away, and an arbitration court which deals- only with the Public Service has been substituted for it. This Government, subsequently,, appointed a body of men, who, after the Public Service Arbitrator had given his decisions, introduced a scheme of classification which defeated those decisions. I claim that any effort, whether by a. private employer or. by a government,, to defeat the processes and decisions of a court by a roundabout method of reclassification, is bound to create discontent. Any such attempt to nullify the law must do more harm than good. Suppose that the maritime workers obtained an award of the court as to the wages to be paid to ordinary seamen and trimmers, and the private ship-owners immediately classified A.B.’s as ordinary seamen and firemen as trimmers. That would be an attempt to defeat the processes of the court, and would not be tolerated. It would naturally create discontent.
This bill is one of many introduced this session for the amendment, not of legis lation passed five,, ten; or fifteen years’ ago,, but of legislation, initiated by the present Government. The bill before us is supposed, to effect improvements, to the Public Service Act, but instead of doing that it makes matters worse than they are already. The fact that the Government has been called upon within a period of eighteen months to bring down many amending bills with respect to its own legislation shows that its administration has been a failure. There was a time when the Public Service of this country was administered by politicians’, but a Minister of the Crown had to accept responsibility for it. He may have exercised favoritism^. He may have exercised patronage. He may have appointed his friend’s to positions. If he did not appoint his friends he appointed the friends of his friends, who,, because of that friendship, were regarded by him as worthy of preferment. Although that patronage might very often have been abused, at least the Minister who. exercised the patronage and influence which his position gave him was responsible for his deeds, and any abuse of his powers frequently led not only to his own downfall as a Minister, but also to the defeat of the government of which he was a member. Any abuse of his power brought down on his head the condemnation of Parliament, and the disapprobation of the general public, often causing him to lose> # his position, not only as a Minister, but also as a member of the House. In order to escape from that condition of things., and largely because public men were” anxious that it should be abolished, so that they might avoid the importunities often pressed, upon them, it was decided that political influence should be done away with, and the Service of both the states and the Commonwealth was placed under Public Service Commissioners. But even under the old system of political patronage, if a public servant felt that he had been improperly put aside - that preferment had wrongly been given to another - he had the right of appeal to a court of justice. Political patronage was swept away; but in place of it we have to-day, in the case of the Commonwealth Service, an official bureaucracy. In place of political influence we have social and official influence. Instead of control by Parliaments and Governments, there is to be a bestowal of favours by men who are not subject to Parliament and not subject to any election. These gentlemen, secure in their positions, are without fear of public disapprobation or condemnation; they can exercise their patronage and abuse their power with impunity. Under this bill a wronged official has no court of appeal. The Public Service law apparently makes all sorts of provisions, but they are banked up in such a way that it is as if the law had no existence. The power of the board is so great that its members oan lift up whomsoever they please. This law was passed for the establishment of a court of arbitration and a court of appeal to which the public servants who felt aggrieved could go, but until there is a court of appeal apart from the men who work the injustice’ - which is distinct from the Commissionei’3 - it will be a mockery and a delusion.
I propose to give a few illustrations that have come within my personal experience in the public life of this country. The first case is that pf an officer who was charged with an offence and suspended. A board of inquiry was appointed, and a verdict of not guilty was brought in. The board awarded the officer £25 damages. In spite of repeated application the damages were not paid for a year after the verdict had been given, and the officer was “black-balled” in the Service. The Commissioner took his revenge by depriving him of his annual increments for fourteen years. There is no safeguard in this bill against such an iniquity. There is no court to which this man can appeal.
In the second case I shall quote, an office was abolished, the officer being declared “ excess “ and relegated to other duties. In that way the officer was swept aside. Once an officer is placed on the “ black books “ all hope of promotion disappears. This man’s office was no sooner abolished and his position declared “ excess “ than the office was reestablished, and another man - the particular favorite of the higher officials - appointed to the position. Under the present law there is no remedy to protect an officer against this abuse of authority. In the third case the Commissioner declared a position vacant and appointed another officer to the position, but the replaced officer appealed against the appointment.
The appeal board decided that the appellant had seniority and superior merit, and was, therefore, entitled to the position. This board was created by the head of the department himself, but the case was so strong that the board was compelled to give a verdict in favour of the appellant. But did the appellant retain his* position? Not at all. The Commissioner, in order to rob the appellant of his verdict, declared another office “ excess,” and appointed the alleged excess officer to the position. Then the Commissioner said, “ We have an excess officer. No man has a right to a position when we have an excess officer.” The appellant was thus deprived of the fruits of his victory. There is no provision in this bill to prevent such an abuse.
In the fourth case an officer of many years’ standing was denied his annual increments. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) was Prime Minister at the time, and I remarked to him, “All I want you to do is to ask the Public Service Commissioner to lay a charge against this man, either with respect to his conduct as a public officer or his conduct as a private citizen. I undertake on his behalf to say that if he is proved to be inefficient as a public officer he will retire from the Service and give no more trouble.” The exPrime Minister put that position to the Commissioner or Acting Commissioner, but he would not accept it. He replied, “We have no accusation to make against this officer, either as a public servant or as a citizen. We will create another office. We cannot restore to him the emoluments ov position of which he has been deprived for many years, because it would only create friction in his department, but we shall create an office especially for him.” In order to meet the case, he did create a special office, but refused to give /this man any increment for a number of years, although the head of the department recommended one from year to year. The vendetta was carried on until the reclassification scheme came into operation, and then he was rewarded by being reduced in salary by £50 per annum.
Here is my- fifth and final illustration: An officer who was the head of a ‘ sub-department and was afflicted by an incurable complaint applied for furlough, so that during the long period of his sickness he could draw pay. Before the furlough was granted an officer in another department was declared “ excess.” The authorities wanted to put a man into the position of the officer with whose case I am dealing. They said “This man has an incurable complaint, and is bound to die. We want to put a certain man into that position.” In order to defeat the law, they declared this man to be an excess officer. Then they gave the other man his furlough. The excess officer was placed in the position as “acting” over the heads of all others in the department who were eligible. The excess officer held the position for two years, when the absent officer died, but there was no advertising of his position as vacant. The excess officer was then alleged to have the efficiency necessary for the permanent position, which he had occupied temporarily for two years. There was no right of appeal, because the holder of the position was an “ excess “ officer. This shows how rotten is the law under which the Public Service is administered. It shows that it must continue to be rotten and create discontent in the Service until a court of appeal independent of the commissioners is created.
A few years ago, while the war was in progress, an intense censorship was in operation, and a good deal of spying and letter-thieving was taking place. Correspondence to and from honorable members of the Labour party was seized and examined. During that period I wrote to a man, who was being prosecuted in New South Wales, to express my sympathy with him. No court ever gave a verdict against him; although he was once condemned in a lower court he was immediately released, but, eventually, he was deported. I sympathized with him then, and even after the lapse of several years I do not repent of that sympathy. The Government of that time thought fit to intercept my letter to him, and placed upon it a wrong construction. It was private correspondence, and did not become public property by any process of law or decision of the courts. But the Government seized it and deliberately used it in the press against me. As spying begets spying, and evil begets evil, and corruption begets corruption, so the interception of the correspondence of the Labour party led to retaliatory measures, as a result of which I became possessed of a letter written by a well-known and wealthy citizen of this state to a prominent person in the Defence Department. It said in effect, “ I have a sou who is very anxious to do something for his country and the Empire, and I am willing to present to the department a valuable motor car on condition that my son receives a commission, and is permitted to drive the car at the front.” In due course the writer’sson received a commission, and drove the car of a great Australian general in France. That letter was stowed away with other documents in my desk, and I had forgotten it until it was recalled to my mind by a recent development. On the 24th July, 1924, there appeared in the Commonwealth Gazette a notification that “ applications will be received from persons qualified for appointment to the positions specified below.” Those specified positions included these -
Senior Clerk, Third Division, London, £804 to £900 (with such bonus or other allowance as may be granted to officers of similar status stationed in London) .
Applicants for the above positionsto have educational qualifications equivalent to degree of Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Laws, a knowledge of constitutional history and constitutional laws. A general acquaintance with international affairs is desirable. Candidates with knowledge of one or more European languages preferred.
Attached to that notification was this paragraph -
Applications will notbe accepted from persons outside the Commonwealth or State Public Services unlessindicated below.
There was no indication below. Therefore, no applications from persons outside the Commonwealth or state Public Services would be entertained. Amongst the applications submitted was the following from an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service -
I have the honour to apply for the position at Melbourne or London of senior clerk, third division, External Affairs Branch, Prime Minister’s Department, as advertised in Commonwealth Gazette, No. 53, of 31st July. 1924, page 1601.
The London appointment would be preferred by me.
I have the whole of the qualifications for the position as advertised, as the following will show : -
Knowledge of ConstitutionalHistory and Constitutional Laws.
I have passed in the following subjects of the. B.A. and LL.B. course: - 1.. British History.
Constitutional History and Law, Part
Public and private international laws. The passing of these subjects necessarily entails a sound theoretical knowledge, but, in addition to this knowledge, I have had a long practical experience with the subject, as I have been a member of the Common Law Branch of the Crown Solicitor’s Office for a period of nearly ten years.
I am, and have been for three years, the officer in charge of this branch, the work of whichconsists of the conduct of the litigation of the Commonwealth, and, of course, of all matters in which any important constitutional question arises for opinion or decision.
I am also a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoriaand the High Court of Australia, having been admitted to practice in May, 1918.
AG eneral Acquaintance with International Affairs.
I have sound knowledge of the history of past international affairs of the world, obtained through my study of international history during my college and university career, and of the later and the present position from my legal duties and from taking anintelligent interest in world-wide affairs.
My official work has involved dealings under the Treaty of Peace Acts and the various regulations thereunder, and I have studied the Versailles Treaty with the protocol annexed thereto, and am acquainted with the Treaties ofPeace with Austria, Bulgaria, and Hungary, the Treaties of Washington, and the affairs of the League of Nations generally.
I read, write, and speak French, and have passed in this subject in the Junior Public and Senior Public examinations (including conversational French ) at the Melbourne University.
I have passed the subject of Latin in the Arts
Bourse, and through its aid find that without great difficulty I am able to translate written Italian and Spanish. If necessary, I amprepared to take the study of these or any other languages.
Honorable members will see that the applicant had all the qualifications that were required; he complied with every condition specified, and he was a member of the Commonwealth Public Service. But no sooner was the advertisement published than a gentleman of the Imperial Service appeared upon the scene with a young man. In the next issue of the Gazette the advertisement was altered by the addition of these words -
These positions are open to persons both within and without the Public Service. As amongst applicants from without the Service, preference will be given to returned soldiers or sailors.
In due course the Public Service Board met to consider the applications. The members of the board are the servants of this country. They are supposed to discharge their duty honestly,decently, and openly, and not to allow the intervention of any politician, parson, priest, or any other outside person. Their jurisdiction is complete. If they had two applications to consider, one would naturally imagine that they would examine the applicants as to their qualifications. Did they do that ? No. With them was a gentleman from overseas, an outsider, a stranger. When he was permitted to intervene, did he question the applicant from the Service about his qualifications? No; he crossexamined him regarding his father and mother, hisbreeding and social position. What bearing had his mother or his grandfather upon his qualifications forthe position ? What mattered it to the board by whom, or in what suburb, he was reared? The only pertinent consideration was whether he could conform to the standard that had been set in the advertisement. However, he did not get the appointment. The position in London was given to an outsider, a man with abundance of this world’s goods - I understand that he has an incomeof about £3,000 per annum. A salary of £800 for a government position of this kind may not mean much to a man who has a private income of £3,000 a year, but to a wealthy man that position would give a social and diplomatic status in London. Is it not strange that the man, whose father presented a car to the Defence Department on condition that his son received a commission and drove the car in Europe, should be the man -who received the job, and that the man who made the appointment was the great general for whom he had driven a car in France?
In order to protect the public servants, to give them a chance of promotion, and ensure that privileged outsiders should not deprive them of rights they had earned by long years of service to the state, it was the duty of the members of the board, before appointing an outsider, to certify that there was no man within the Service qualified for the position. That is the common practice, if not the law of the land. In this instance it was not followed, but General Sir Brudenell White appointed to a position in London, in preference to applicants from within the Service, the young man who had driven him in France, in a motor car presented by the applicant’s father.
– That, of course, is not political influence.
– No ! But it is social and official influence, more dastardly and insidious, more incapable of being coped with, than political influence. Against it, how can a man obtain justice or redress of his grievances? Where will he find a strong arm to protect him, or a court to which he can appeal? If a Minister had taken advantage of his position to confer an appointment upon a preferred candidate, he would be, at least, responsible to this Parliament. By abusing his position, he would not only risk the loss of his own status as a Minister through condemnation by Parliament and public criticism, but, in his fall he might bring down with him the Ministry and the party supporting him. But these members of the board have no such responsibility to Parliament or the public. They do not have to go before the people for election. They meet behind closed doors and, with nobody to overrule them or rectify their wrongs, they may abuse their power with impunity.
I do not stress this case more than the other five I have mentioned, but I desire to rivet attention upon this principle that the quintessence of justice is that a man shall be protected in his rights; and that he shall be able to appeal to a court for the redress of his grievances. It is ridiculous to boast of the sweeping away of political influence and parliamentary control of Public Service appointments when for those ‘ evils are substituted influence, power, and patronage more odious than any parliament or Minister ever thought of exercising. There can be no remedy for evils of this kind, no satisfactory and ‘ honest conduct within the Service, no impulse to the employee to give his country the best of which he is capable, unless Parliament sets up some court of appeal which will protect him against injustice. Quite apart from partisan politics, I recommend these sound fundamental principles from which we should not depart. No law can be sound which does not give to the individual who thinks he is the victim of injustice some court to which he can appeal.
– Before the debate proceeds further, I wish it to be understood in the strangers’ gallery and the press gallery that, unless silence is observed, I shall have the galleries cleared.
.- I recognize that at this late hour my remarks will have to be brief, but I cannot let the opportunity pass without adding my quota of criticism upon what I regard as some of the weaknesses of the bill. A couple of decades ago Sir John Gorst, speaking in the British House of Commons, laid down the principle that the Government should be a model employer. We do not claim for the members of the Public Service better treatment than that which is accorded to persons employed outside the Service, but we claim that the safeguards enjoyed by persons in private employment should also apply to servants of the state. It has been thoroughly demonstrated during this debate that the great weakness of the bill is the lack of opportunity for the public servants to approach an arbitrator. In the past, even when they have had that opportunity, they have had cause for complaint, but at least they have had the right to have their wages fixed by a man who, because of his large experience and acquaintance with the task upon which he was engaged, and because he was a man of honour and recognized that it was demanded of him to give a square deal to the Public Service, could not have the fairness of his determinations questioned, even though he might occasionally Lave made mistakes. We have in the bill an amazing proposal. The members of the Public Service Board may be the very best men to fill the position, but to place any man, no matter how fair-minded he may be, in a position in which he can dictate the policy of the Public Service, and expect him to classify the Service, is a leap in the dark in a democratic community. To go further and permit him to fix the wages of the employees in the Service is to place those employees in an intolerable position. The desire to accumulate wealth is not as predominant in some minds as is the anxiety to secure greater power. “We have seen instances, even in our own time, of what history teaches us, that men who have once attained acertain power reach out to secure still greater, power. In a democracy such men may be tolerated during a war, but not in time of peace. Associations of the Service have spent as much as £500 in order to place their claims before the Public Service Arbitrator. Everything has been done in the open. The associations have placed their case before the Arbitrator, and the Public Service Board has placed its side before him with every opportunity to get a fair decision from him. The public servants have had every facility to rebut the evidence submitted by the representatives of the Board. They have had the further safeguard that all awards made by the Arbitrator must lie on the table of both Houses of Parliament for 30 days, affording to honorable members of both Houses every opportunity to disallow any award in which obviously a grave mistake had been made or injustice done. Opportunity was also afforded to set aside any award which honorable members might regard as likely to place a. heavy strain upon the resources of the country. The position of the Commonwealth public servant was comparatively unrestricted from the passing of the act of 1901, but the whole tendency of recent years has been to restrict his liberty. I “await with interest the reply of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to the objections that have been raised to this bill. If the measure had been brought forward in any other country but Australia - in the United States, for instance - I should make bold to say that the in tention behind it was that the Public Service Board was determined to see that no future should lie ahead of any public servant. So much has been spent in largesse to adherents of a certain party, and in making gifts to certain industries that the Government, in order to carry out its claim to be an economy Administration, and make up for the excessive wastefulness it has exhibited, now proposes to make the Public Service the scapegoat. This bill is subversive of every principle of arbitration. It has been claimed by honorable’ members opposed to the Labour movement that some of the advanced followers of that movement are anxious to smash arbitration. A few people may have become weary of the legislation recently passed by the Commonwealth Government, and by other conservative Australian Governments, but the great majority of those associated with the Labour party in Australia stand for arbitration. The party on the other side of the chamber is working ‘hand in hand with the “direct actionists “ and the “reds,” upon whom it casts obloquy from time to time, in trying to abolish arbitration as far as the Commonwealth Public Service is concerned. It is a dangerous venture. At present, the Public Service is the tomb of ambition. Apart from a few choice positions there is no great future for any man in the Service. The indoor work he has to perform does not permit him to enjoy the best of health. He is prevented from exercising his full initiative. I was a public servant for seventeen years, and I look upon those years as a wasted portion of my life. Public servants must be an intelligent and healthy section of the community. They must be above the average in that respect, because they have to pass educational and medical examinations; but they spend their life-time in the Service without one chance in a hundred of any inspiring advancement. If they wish to leave the Service after spending a few years in it they find they are unable to do so, because outside the Service they will have no chance to exercise the special knowledge they have acquired. Therefore, when we are legislating for these people we should give them a fair deal, and see that they are not deprived by this bill of the opportunity to approach an Arbitration Court that the bricklayer, the hod carrier, the tailor, the tinsmith, or any one else outside the Service has.
– As a rule, outsiders are brought in to fill the important positions in the Service.
– That is quite true. The honorable member reminds me of the lack of opportunity men in the Service have to secure the highest positions, no matter what their capabilities may be. I well remember the weekly circulars that came along from different parts of the Commonwealth notifying all officers in the Postal Department that there were vacant positions at so much a year. Every officer who thought himself capable of filling those positions was invited to apply for them, but I have never known an instance in which a man from the rank and file with undoubted ability was asked to fill any of those positions. In most cases social and not political influence was responsible for filling them. In fact, it was an absolute waste of time to send the circulars around, as those who circulated them must have known. I speak of these matters in order to show that the great majority of the members of the - Commonwealth Public Service find the most desirable avenues for promotion shut. We are told that another place has amended the bill to provide that, although arbitration as it is generally understood to apply to outside employees shall no longer apply to the Public Service, no officer in the Service shall suffer thereby . In other words, every officer will have his present salary preserved to him so long as he continues in the position he now occupies. In my opinion that provision is worse than a sop. It is a bribe. In effect, we say to the person holding a position, “Although what we are doing is unjust, in order to quieten you we shall preserve all your present privileges; but after you, the deluge.” In a few years these people who are thus placated will find that they have less opportunity than ever. The Government would be well advised to withdraw this bill altogether unless it is prepared to agree to the amendments that have been proposed. If passed in its present form, it will have a harmful effect upon the Public Service. I do not know ‘who was responsible for the drafting of the bill, but probably the Public Service Board had a good deal to do with it. Measures of this kind should be entirely eliminated from our statutebook, as they are no credit to the national Parliament. Let me point out some of the anomalies which at present exist. Under the Public Service Act, although 65 is the retiring age, a man may be retired at 60 years of age by the Public Service Board without any reason being given. An officer who contributed towards the superannuation fund on a four-unit basis would, on reaching the age of 65 years, receive a pension of £2 a week on retirement; but, because of the power vested in the Public Service Board, he would go ont at 60 on a pension of £30 per annum only. In order to obtain a pension of £70 per annum, he would have to pay down a lump sum of £35. It is contended - and, I think, with justice - that if a man is retired from the Service, he should have the right to go before a government medical officer, with the right of appeal, and if it is proved that he is unable to do his work, he should be retired, and receive a pension on the score of invalidity, as provided for in the act. That would only be fair. Officers should also be permitted to appear before a tribunal in person, quite independent of the Public Service Board. In making appeals, officers are asking the board to undo something it has done. If the board reverses its decision, that action must be regarded by the board as a sign of their own weakness. It is not fair to the Commissioners themselves to ask them to reverse their own decisions, while the injustice to the appellant is obvious. This bill is an attempt to take from a body of public servants their right to arbitration. Another right which has been whittled away is that of equal pay for equal work for both sexes. It was Clara Zetkin, a German woman, who said that the wife of a working man was the slave of a slave. Mean advantage is being taken of the women employed in the Public Service because they are not as militant in demanding their rights as are the men. A large portion of the work of the Public Service can be done equally well by women as by men. Where that work is being performed by women, they should receive the same pay as the men. Yet they are receiving £35 a year less than the men working beside them, performing the same duties. That differentiation in salaries was introduced during the war period to cope, with the increased cost of living,, and to meet abnormal conditions. As a result of arbitration, allowances were granted at the following additional rates.: - Women, £15 per annum;, single men, £30 per annum; married men, £50’. per annum. In 1920 Parliament supplemented those allowances by £12 per annum, to apply to all officers’, irrespective of sex. By that action Parliament admitted that women should be treated the same as male employees of the Public Service. The married men received, in addition, 5s. a week for each child under fourteen years of age. In August, 1923, the Arbitrator merged the salaries and allowances, and to that the Public Service Board agreed. The full amount of allowance merged into salary amounted to £27 for women - namely, £15 to meet the increased cost of living, and £12 granted by Parliament. Single men received a total of £42, and the married men £62, in addition to the child endowment allowance. At the same time the salaries of the single men were increased ‘ by £20, thus placing them on the same footing as the married men. That left the women £35” in. arrear.. To the credit of the women it must be stated that during the war period they permitted that state of affairs to continue, without protest, although as was proved by their subsequent action, their intention was that when things settled down, and we got back to normal times, they would approach the Arbitration Court for the same, conditions as applied to the men. Because of the anomalies that existed,, the. various organizations, appealed to the Public Service Arbitrator. They naturally thought that they would be brought, into line with, the rest of. the Government employees whose work they were doing equally well. They founded their plea on the fact that female clerks, telegraphists, and postal assistants, as. well as; postmistresses, were granted the same, pay as men doing, similar work. Unfortunately for the Service, the Arbitrator’s ruling did mot give equal pay for. equal work. He admitted, the efficiency of the women, but did not remove the anomalies which existed, and refused the claim, of the Federated Assistants Association, for equal pay for the same class, of work. In his, remarks he. said: -
Experience during recent, decades, and specially in the time of the war, has shown that women are capable of doing many kinds of work that were formerly regarded as proper for male employment only. Such a distinction would be extremely difficult in the Public Service,, as one must admit that, so far as- intellectual capacity is, concerned, there are very few positions which, given the -requisite training, women could not fill as well as men.
It is interesting to read some excerpts from the report of the Public Service Arbitrator in the case of the Commonwealth General Division Telephone Officers Association -
The work of telephone .operator is primarily women’s work. In Adelaide the whole of thecentral exchange is staffed by women, but elsewhere males are employed- in limited numbers so as to provide- a staff for work at night time, when it is not considered desirable to employ women. Males are not supposed to be employed on the switchboard’ after- they reach 21 years, though sometimes, they are until positions elsewhere; are found for them. Adult males, as well as females, are employed as monitors’ and supervisors.
I desire to refer to the anomaly existing as between the salaries of female supervisors and male monitors. Persons of both sexes are eligible to sit for the examination for supervisor. A female supervisor, receives a minimum salary of £237, rising to a maximum of £255. The male monitor, who is under the direction of the female supervisor, has a minimum salary of £236, or £1 less- than the minimum of his superior officer, but his maximum salary is £266, or £11 more than the maximum of tie female who is over him. When such anomalies exist, it is- no wonder that the- female officers are dissatisfied. In both grades where males’ and females- are engaged as monitors and supervisors- there is a difference of £35 per- annum in the salaries paid to the two sexes. These women do certain classes, of work similar to that which is done by male officers1, and,, according to the Public Service Arbitrator, they do. it more efficiently. He says in his determination- -
Cases were shown where women in superior positions- received less- than men actually’ under them..
Further on he says -
It is generally admitted that, as telephone operators, women are better than men. The reasons for this view are- interesting. It is stated that women are more rapid in their manipulation of tha various cords and keys, and their temperament is more suitable in that Chey are more patient, .and not so ready as men to take offence at remarks of irritated subscribers.. They are more courteous, more amenable to discipline, and lighter on tha apparatus, also they are less restive under the monotony of their task..
The Public Service Arbitrator himself was interested in the work that they performed. ‘He said: -
It is an interesting sight to take one’s position at the end of a long switchboard and watch the swift play of scores of pairs of hands, or to stand behind an operator and see how deftly sh<* deals with the apparently bewildering muss of cords in response to the glowing or extinguishing of numbers of tiny lamps. It is doubly interesting when one can listen in on a particular operator’s work, hear the calls from subscribers, and her answers, and at the same time observe her movements.
The work is shown to be very exacting by the following paragraph: -
In Miss Goldmark’s standard work on Fatigue and Industry, 3rd edition, 1917, she describes the work on au “ A “ position in great detail, and says (page 47) : -
Thus the telephone girl must be continually at the topnotch of expectancy, watching intently for the flash of the signal lights, responding instantly to the clicking sounds heard whenever impatient subscribers move their hooks up and down, - making and severing connexions with all the speed she may.
The mere statement of these operations in the simplest form of telephone connexion, gives us some insight into the prodigious strain of this occupation upon the special senses - sight, hearing, touch - as well as the muscular exertion of reaching high up and to the side.
I shall not deal further with that determination. I have quoted from it merely to show that in certain work women are not only the equal, but the superior, of men. In the early days in Victoria, boys were employed as telephone operators. I was one. We were failures, and we were displaced by women, who were more adapted to the work. I trust that this House will restore to the female officers in the Commonwealth Public Service the position that they rightfully occupied from 1901 up to the outbreak of the war. Female assistants in the mail branch have had their salaries considerably reduced by the recent reclassification. In three cases the salary prior to the reclassification was £224 per annum. Now it is respectively £168, £192, and £180 per annum. The salaries of female clerks have been gazetted at a figure £50 per annum lower than that of the’ male clerks. The time has long gone by when women clerks could be considered -the inferiors of men clerks. ‘ We on this side are asking, not only that justice shall be done to these women, but also that the Commonwealth Public Service shall not be filled with cheap, female labour to the exclusion, from the Service of young men who desire to enter it. I can see the great temptation there will be for the board to give females work which they cannot do so well as men because of the physical strain that is involved. I feel warmly upon this matter, because my experience whilst a member of the Public Service was that it was a continual battle to obtain justice. In Western Australia, in 1895, when the post office was controlled by the state, we declared a strike in Coolgardie to secure our rights. There was a mining boom at the time. We were sent to the gold-fields on a salary of £150 per annum. Honorable members can imagine the conditions that existed there when I tell them’ that we had to pay 8d, a gallon for distilled water. The PostmasterGeneral refused to increase our salaries to a rate higher than was being paid in Perth. We took possession of the telegraph, and, instead of transmitting costly cables, which were worth to the department from £80 to £100 each, we dictated our terms over the line, and burnt the effigy of the Postmaster-General. I trust that it will not be necessary to burn the ‘effigy of .the present PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson). That may have to be done if he declines to accept the amendments that will be proposed in committee on this bill. In Western Australia we gained a victory by striking. A strike in the Public Service to-day is not within the realms of feasibility. Public servants were expected to submit their claims to arbitration. Now that privilege has been withdrawn from them. I appeal to the Government to see that justice is done and that arbitration for the Service is provided.
.- This has been a very interesting debate, during which complaints have been lodged by honorable members representing five of the states in the federation. So far there has been only one apologist for the bill, the remainder of the speeches having been made by honorable members who sit on this side.
– It was a very weak apology, too.
– It was, because the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), whilst endeavouring to apologize for the measure, intimated that there were- in it certain provisions that he would like to see amended. Lest it be thought by the Government that there is at least one state in the federation which regards this as a good measure, I desire to express my views upon it. I believe that there are -certain amendments which should be made in the interests of Commonwealth “public servants. I thoroughly endorse the statements that have been made by those who have spoken on behalf of the public servants in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, and Western Australia. A big majority of ‘ the public servants in Tasmania are in my .constituency, which embraces the state capital. On their behalf I support the contention that seething discontent exists in those sections of the service that have already been classified. If some of the amendments which have been foreshadowed are not incorporated in the bill, this discontent will become very much greater, and possibly, as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has indicated, there may be suggestions of a strike, though such a state of affairs is almost unthinkable.
– There was a strike in Perth, but it failed.
– If, unhappily,- the discontent which has been engendered during the last few months should result in a strike, it would not be a small upheaval such as occurred in Perth, but a great national calamity. Most of the dissatisfaction is due to the classified members of the Public Service being under the control of two conflicting authorities - the Public Service Board and the Public Service Arbitrator. The bill has been introduced to remedy this state of affairs. The cases mentioned by those honorable members who have already spoken from this side of the House are typical of practically the whole of the Public Service. Something lias been said about the evil of political influence in the Service. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) asked, by way of interjection, if honorable members on this side wished the Public Service to be subject to political influence. I tell him that social and other influences far more insidious and dangerous than political influence is ‘ever likely to be have crept into the Service. When the first Public Service Bill, designed to unify the laws controlling the public services of the different states, was under discussion, a great fight for public servants was put up by members of the Labour party. They insisted on full citizenship rights for nil members of the Public Service. Up till then they were precluded from taking part in political gatherings, and they were not permitted to express their opinions on speeches made by candidates seeking their suffrages at election time. As a matter of fact, they were not free men. The Labour party righted that grievance and gave to them their rights of citizenship, with the reservation, of course, that no public servant should be allowed t6 criticize the administration of his own branch of the Public Service, because that would be prejudicial to discipline, which is so necessary for the smooth working of the departments. But, generally speaking, members of the Public Service were placed on the same footing as other citizens in regard to political rights.
– The Labour party did not have a majority in the Parliament then.
– That is quite true, but, as the result of the representations made by Labour members of Parliament, public servants were given rights which up till then had been denied to them. When the Labour party demanded equal pay for equal work, its political opponents were aghast. One Tory representative declared that women had no right at all to be in the Public Service, and that their proper place was in domestic service. If he had had his way, women would not have been regarded as independent .units of the community at all. His chief cause of -complaint, if I remember aright, was that it was impossible to get domestic servants because so many of the young women had entered the Public Service and had ousted the men from certain positions. To some extent that was true, but we have always maintained that women, as well as men, have rights, and we succeeded in establishing the principle of equal pay for equal service. It has been stated that the award of the Public Service Arbitrator is an attempt to undermine -that principle. In regard to political influence, those who have been watching the situation for some years know that, whilst political influence is not supposed to be used in the’ Public Service, it is an offence only when the lower-paid sections of the Service use it to have their grievances righted, and that political influencehas been used freely in the interests of the higher-paid member’s of the Service. They have opportunities, through social channels, to use political influence which are denied to the lower-paid public servants. I trust that amendments will be made in the bill which will have the effect of putting the public servants on a more secure footing than they are on to-day. The decisions of the Public Service Board and of the Public Service Arbitrator” are conflicting decisions. Because of this public servants do not know where they stand, and there is discontent in every state. If existing conditions are to continue, there will be no incentive to our ablest young men and women to enter the Commonwealth Public Service, which should be the blue ribbon Service of Australia, as the Federal Government should be the ideal and model employer. The legislation governing the Public Service should be of such a character that able men and women desiring to enter it may have a reasonable expectation of promotion and a sense of security. That is not the position to-day, and Ministersin charge of departments know, or will know in a very few months, that unless something is done to improve existing conditions there will be great difficulty in securing the services of the class of public servants that we need in a country like Australia.
– I should not like the debate to close without an assurance from the Prime Minister that he will make a reply to the statements made by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey).
– I shall refer to the matter in replying to the debate.
– The disclosures made of the action of the Public Service Board in making appointments places the board under a cloud of suspicion. If the board is proved to have made appointments in the way suggested, the confidence of public servants in it will be shattered. I trust that the Prime Minister will be able to clear the matter up, for it cannot be allowed to rest where it is. Those by whom the public servants are governed must be above suspicion. If it is proved that the Public Service Board is not above suspicion, it will have to go, and we must, in the interests of the Public Service, re-assert the principle of arbitration untrammelled by interference by any board. I believe that the existing difficulties in the Public Service are due to the fact that we are trying to work two systems together. The arbitration system could be carried out fairly by a court composed of a judge, a representative of the Government, and a representative of the employees. Such a court would give confidence to the Public Service and would do justice to the country. If the principle of arbitration is good as applied to the general public, we should make no discrimination in the case of the public servants. If at the next federal elections it is decided that the Labour party shall rule this country, one of the first reforms it will undertake will be to put the employees of the Commonwealth on the same footing as the employees of private firms. After the Public Service Arbitrator made awards, which were not secured without expense to the people who came before him, the Public Service Board reclassified the Service in a way which conflicted with those awards. If the board had classified the Service before the Arbitrator had made his awards, there would have been some sense in its proceedings. The reclassification by the board after the awards had been made has upset the arrangements made by the Public. Service organizations. In New South Wales there is a strong feeling of resentment among employees of the Commonwealth against what has been done. There is a feeling that the purpose of the reclassification was to deprive public servants of some of their rights. I shall not labour the matter further, but I ask the Prime Minister to make some statement in reply to the charges which have been made against the Public Service Board by the Acting Leader of the Opposition. I hope the right honorable gentleman will be able to clear away the cloud of suspicion raised by those charges. I never heard more serious charges made against any public body. It is difficult to believe that a man of wealth can push his son into a position in the Public Service, and secure for him preference over another person possessing far higher qualifications. I trust that the Prime Minister will be able to clear the matter up.
.- This bill, as I indicated when moving the second reading, is really a measure for consideration in committee. It is not a public service bill intended to lay down a new basis for the conduct of the Public Service of this country. That work was done by the Public Service Act of 1922 and the measure which preceded it under which the Public Service Arbitrator was appointed. This bill deals only with certain alterations found to be necessary in the Public Service Act. Thu majority of them are only machinery alterations. A clause, which has been referred to by most honorable members who have taken part in the debate, deals with the position of a reclassified officer who, under the reclassification, will be entitled to a salary below that which he is at present receiving under an award of the Public Service Arbitrator. Honorable members opposite have said that the reclassification should have taken place, but that under it the salary of not one public servant as laid down by the Arbitrator should have been interfered with. I suggest that that would be quite impracticable. If the Public Service is to be reclassified, it is obvious that it must - be viewed as a whole. The work done by individual members of it must be weighed, and a basis laid down for their remuneration, bearing in mind the respective services which different individuals are rendering to the Commonwealth as members of the Service. Without saying so in so many words, honorable members opposite have suggested that the whole of the salaries under the reclassification should be settled by the Public Service Arbitrator. That, gentleman has himself indicated that he could not carry out such a task. He has expressed the view that he is in considerable difficulties in connexion with the awards he makes, because he has only, an individual case before him; he has to try it on the facts brought under his notice at the time, and is not in a position to review the Service as a whole and lay down a basis which .would preserve a proper balance between all the public servants of the Commonwealth according to the duties they perform. I think . all members of this House recognize that, when the 192*2 Act was passed, it was desired, in the interests of the Public Service itself, that there should be a complete reclassification of the whole Service to try to ensure that justice should be done according to the merits of the individual members of the Service, and that reasonable and fair remuneration should be paid for services rendered. That work could not have been done by the Public Service Arbitor. Parliament in its wisdom appointed a Public Service Board to carry out that duty. In the course of the reclassification it has been found necessary in certain instances to vary awards made by the Public Service Arbitrator. If the Arbitrator had not made an award during the last five years, no difficulties would have arisen respecting the reclassification. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) very well said that certain Public Service organizations that have recently been put to great trouble and expense in obtaining awards from the Public Service Arbitrator will naturally feel aggrieved when a reclassification now takes place altering the basis of the awards given by the Arbitrator.
– It is strange that the reclassification provides for nothing but reductions in salaries.
– It is evident that honorable members opposite, who say that the reclassification provides only for reductions, have not the slightest knowledge of the reclassification, and of what has been done. In the one case, concerning which we have had the most information, the number of increases in salary is greater than the number of reductions. The Public Service Board has been endeavouring to lay down a fair basis whereby public servants will secure fair and due recognition according to their individual merits. That is the task with which the board was entrusted, and is ‘ carrying out. It was the considered opinion of all members of this House that there should be a reclassification. The Public Service Board was appointed, and as the result of its reclassification two different points of view have emerged. One is that the board should not’ have altered a single determination of the Public Service Arbitrator. That view has been stressed very much by honorable members opposite, but I venture to say that it would have been impracticable and impossible to undertake- the reclassification under those circumstances. The other point of view is that it is obvious that the Public Service Board in carrying out the reclassification must in some instances alter an award made by the Arbitrator. Those who take that stand-point also realize that an injustice may be done to certain individuals and organizations that have recently obtained awards. In order to minimize any apparent injustice under the reclassification, it is proposed to embody in this measure an amendment which goes further than the one introduced in another place, and, if it is agreed to, the awards made by the Public Service Arbitrator will be better preserved to the individuals who have obtained them. I suggest that this is the maximum that can be done, unless we decide that the reclassification’ is unnecessary and should not be carried out. In the interests of the public servants of this country it would be most undesirable for honorable members to come to that decision. Reclassification is imperative. The task that this House has before it is to try to prevent the reclassification when carried out from inflicting any hardship upon individuals, or giving rise to a feeling of resentment throughout the Service. ‘ It is not desired that there should be any feeling of resentment throughout the Service. That, as one honorable gentleman said, would be the surest way to lead to inefficiency. I agree with him that we must have a contented Service, and that is what is aimed at by the Government. For that reason the amendment that I have indicated has been proposed. That is the main subject which has been dealt with in this discussion. Many speeches have gone a considerable distance beyond the scope of the bill, which to a great extent is a machinery measure. All other points that have been raised will have to be considered and dealt with in committee. Another aspect has been given to this subject by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey), who made certain statements respecting the manner in which the Public Service of this country .has been conducted, not only during recent years, but also extending over a long period of years. The honorable member did not give the dates of the various instances to which he referred. In one case he stated that a man had been subjected to an injustice, and his increments had been withheld for fourteen years. It is quite obvious that that case extended over a long period, and, therefore, the honorable member’s statement was an indictment of the whole system of Public Service administration. The honorable member commenced his speech by referring to the good or bad old days when political patronage was rife, and when Ministers of the Crown used the Public Service as an instrument by which they were able to provide employment at an adequate remuneration, or probably more than adequate remuneration, for those who were related to them, or in whom they were interested. He said that those days had passed, but a worse thing had grown up, and that was a bureaucracy which governed this Service and was dealing unjustly with individual members of it. I regret that the honorable member has made such a charge, because the “only way of removing a dangerous and sinister practice, that is, the use of political influence and patronage in the Public Service, is by the appointment of ‘ independent persons, free from all influence by Ministers, to have complete control of the Service. That system has been in force in this country for many years. I regret that the Acting Leader of the Opposition takes the view that over a period of fourteen years or more this country has been subjected to actions of the character indicated by the honorable member at the hands of those who have been put in an independent position in order to ensure equity and justice to the members of the Public Service. I have no knowledge of the earlier cases mentioned by the honorable member, and cannot say whether he is justified in the charges that he has made in respect of them. He referred, however, to a recent appointment of two External Affairs clerks in the Prime Minister’s Department, and implied that those appointments were made, not on the basis of merit, but because of some influence’, social, political, or otherwise. I believe he said they were appointed through social influence. I can only say that there is no possible ground for such a charge. The honorable gentleman referred to some episode at the commencement of the war. He said that a motor car was offered to this country on certain terms. I have no information whatever on that matter. I know, however, how and why these two appointments were made, and I say without hesitation that they were made entirely on the merits of the applicants.
– The man’s mother is boasting in society that a certain gentleman got her son the position.
– It is open to the Acting Leader of the Opposition to examine, the whole of the files relating to the various applicants. I will make them available to him at any time. He will then be able to form his own judgment as to the respective merits of the applicants, and as to whether the men appointed are competent to carry out the work required of them.
– Can the Prime Minister suggest why the advertisement in the Gazette was altered?
– I have no knowledge as to why it was altered.
– Will the Prime Minister investigate the matter ?
– I shall ascertain the facts, and I shall tell the House now the facts within my knowledge.
– I do not blame the Prime Minister, and I see no reason why he should seek to defend others whom I do blame. Let them defend themselves.
– They cannot defend themselves here.
– I desire to state to the House the facts which led to the making of these appointments. While I was in Great Britain I had a conversation with the British Prime Minister, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, soon . after he assumed office, in the course of which we discussed how it would be possible to secure a closer liaison between the British Government and the Australian Government with regard to foreign affairs. The suggestion was made that it would be advisable for Australia to appoint an External Affairs clerk, who should reside in London, with the object of maintaining a close touch with the British Foreign Office in order to keep the Australian Government informed on the particular questions of foreign policy in which it was most interested, and to forward the information he obtained at the earliest possible moment. Mr. Ramsay MacDonald cordially approved of the idea. He agreed that it would be a good move, and promised to afford such an officer every facility for acquiring the information desired. On my return to Australia I discussed the matter with the Government, and it was decided that it would be wise to make two appointments. One of the appointees was to remain in Australia, and the other to go to Great Britain. The officer in Australia, to be attached- to the Prime Minister’s Department, was to keep the officer, in Great Britain informed on the Australian point of view of the matters under consideration, as well as of subjects upon which we needed further information.
– Who was to inform him? The explanation is funny.
– And quite inadequate.
– I believe that the Acting Leader of the Opposition made his charge in all seriousness. I am trying to give the committee the facts, and honorable members will see presently the significance of the remarks I have just made. The Acting Leader of the Opposition suggested that these appointments were not made solely by the Public Service . Board, but that some one else was present when the applicants were being interviewed and questioned them along certain lines. The gentleman to whom he referred was Mr. Leeper, a member of the staff of the British Foreign Office, who was loaned to Australia by the British Government, and had been here about six months previous to the making of these appointments. He was sent to Australia with the object of securing a closer liaison between the British and Australian Governments with regard to questions of foreign affairs. The suggestion that he was present when the board interviewed the applicants and that he questioned certain applicants on matters altogether apart from their fitness to hold the positions to which they sought appointment came under my notice before. The honorable member was good enough to mention it to me, and when he did I had inquiries made. I could not credit the statement that Mr. Leeper would ask questions of the character that were suggested, for they were obviously improper. I consulted the Public Service Board on the matter, and it assured me that although Mr. Leeper was present when the applicants were being interviewed, his questions were limited to two or three at the conclusion of their examination, and referred entirely to their qualifications.
– Did the Prime Minister ask any of the applicants whether’ they were interrogated ?
– I did not. I asked the members of the Public Service Board, and I think that the Acting Leader of the Opposition will agree, despite anything he has said to-night, that the board is so constituted that the word of its members on a matter like this can be relied upon.
– Then some of the applicants must be considered to be liars; but, personally, I consider that they are just as honorable as are the members of the board.
– It was considered advisable by the board to ask Mr. Leeper to be present, for one of the officers it was proposed to appoint would have to proceed to Great Britain,- and be in the British Foreign Office. A good deal depended upon selecting a gentleman of the right type and personality if the most effective work was to be done. Any honorable member who knows the atmosphere of the Public Departments of Great Britain will admit that the Public Service Board acted wisely in asking Mr. Leeper to be present to give them the benefit of his experience. I certainly think that the board did the proper thing.
– Who was responsible for altering the advertisement in the Gazette?
– When a similar interjection was made just now, I said that I had no information on the matter. Since then I have had a slip of paper put into my hands, which states that the omission from the Gazette advertisement was a clerical error. That is all the information I have. In view of the suggestion of the- Acting Leader of the Opposition that these appointments were not made on the merits of the candidates, but for some other reasons, I again invite; him to examine the file of applications. He has read one application to-day, and by reading it he really gave it his . endorsement as that of an applicant who should. have secured appointment. But I suggest that before he forms an opinion upon the wisdom of the choice made by the board, he should accept the invitation to examine the file of all the applications, and form his own view as to whether anyjust man could suggest that the applicants selected by the board had. not qualifications which made them fit and proper persons for appointment. If he makes up his mind on the matter without doing so he will not show that fair-mindedness which we expect of him. I do not think that he has quite shown that fairness which one would - expect- of him in making charges against a man who has just been appointed to the Public Service of the Commonwealth. The course adopted by the honorable gentleman to-night has very considerably added to the difficulties of that officer in rendering to Australia the service of which I believe him to be capable. I accept none of the suggestions of the honorable gentleman as to the motives which actuated the Public Service Board in making that appointment. The suggestion has been made that, because no action of mine has been criticized by the Acting Leader of the Opposition, there is no necessity for me to offer a defence’ of what has been done. I do not accept that immunity; I am quite prepared to defend the action of the Public Service Board, and I say that the insinuations of the honorable member for Bourke are quite unworthy of him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Order of the day for the further consideration of the bill in committee read.
.- I move-
That this order of the day be discharged.
A difficulty arose last night in Committee of the Whole by the inability of honorable members to move amendments which were inconsistent with the resolution of Ways and Means as adopted by the House, and upon which the bill was founded. As several honorable members desire to move amendments, and in order to overcome the obstacle, the Government asks the House to discharge this bill. If the motion is agreed to, it will submit another resolution in Committee of Ways and Means, and that will throw the whole matter open for reconsideration.
– On a point of order, I understand that after a bill has been discharged a measure of the same character cannot be introduced in the same session.
– After a bill, which has been introduced upon due notice, has been either passed or rejected, a measure of the same character maynot be introduced during the same session. But in this and other British Parliaments the course is frequently adopted of withdrawing a bill and reintroducing it in the same or some other form.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 1 1 a.m. to-morrow.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I accept the Prime Minister’s invitation to investigate the papers relating to the appointment to his department, which I criticized earlier in the evening. I also note his statement that he accepts responsibility for what was done by the Public Service Board. The right. honorable gentleman alleged that I made insinuations. I did not ; I made definite statements. Are we to understand that whenever a member questions a course of public conduct or the action of a Minister or public official, he is to be regarded as making insinuations or slandering men ? Is no honorable member permitted to refer to the conduct of any politician or public official ? What worse insinuations or innuendoes could be uttered by any honorable member than the Prime Minis ter’s acceptance of references to the political influence exerted by past parliamentarians ? Did not the right honorable gentleman reflect upon their conduct, and accuse them of an abuse of their position and power? If the Prime Minister may, with propriety, make these slighting references to parliamentarians and Ministers of the past; if he can thus reflect upon the dead, what right has he to complain when I charge persons outside this House with having improperly exercised social influence ? I have merely alleged against them what he has said against men who occupied honoured positions in this chamber. My assertion is that men outside this House, who have no responsibility to Parliament or the electors, are guilty of the very practices that were condemned when they were adopted by members of Parliament. That is a plain statement. In connexion with certain appointments in the Prime Minister’s Department I directed attention to an advertisement calling for applications from, men within the Commonwealth and State Public Services. I say that it is a fundamental law of the country that applications shall not be invited from outsidepersons while there are qualified men available within the Service,- and that before an outsider is appointed the Public Service Board shall . issue a certificate that there is no man in the Service capable of filling the position. I alluded to the alteration of the advertisement, which, when first published, confined the applications to persons within the Service, and on the second occasion threw the positions open to outsiders also. The only explanation vouchsafed by the Prime Minister was an intimation, which he received from an officer behind the Speaker’s dais, that there was, in the first advertisement, a clerical error. Is that to be the apology and excuse for every offence against equity and fair dealing; ? I make no charge against individuals, but I affirm the right of every man who feels that he hae suffered an injustice to have some means of redress. What is wrong with that ? How does that claim reflect upon any individual? Is any individual outside this Parliament more sacrosanct than we are? How does General Sir Brudenell White become more immune from public criticism than I am? Has he a greater standing than the humblest man in this chamber? He is not immune from public criticism. He is as- much the subject of public criticism as this country is subject to an official bureaucracy more tyrannical, more odious, and more powerful in the exercise’ of its powers than any Parliament in Australia could possibly be.
– The honorable member will surely realize that he is again discussing the Public Service Bill.
– I am not discussingthe . bill, but I am exercising certain rights I possess in speaking to the motion for the adjournment of the House. I made no mention of names, but the Prime Minister- having referred to one of the six., cases, I mentioned, I claim that I amnow entitled, on the motion for trie adjournment, to express my opinion and place myself right. The Prime Minister has asserted that under the cloak of parliamentary privilege I abused or made insinuations against the conduct of some particular individual. If I think that any man has been maladministering his office I shall always call attention to the fact. The last case I mentioned was that of a gentleman I did not name, but he has since been named. Mr. Leeper may be a most reputable citizen, but I want to know by what right the Public Service Board called to its counsel a person outside the Public Service.
– And not even a citizen of Australia.
- Mr. Leeper. was originally an Australian, but went to England and linked up with the Imperial Army. He came back to Australia and brought with him young Mr. R. G. Casey. I have no objection to either of these gentlemen, but if Mr. Casey was anxious to secure a position in the Commonwealth service he had a right to apply for it in the proper manner. I have the letter to which I referred during the debate on the Public Service Bill. Mr. Casey, senior, presented to the Defence Department a car which was subsequently used in Prance by General White, the gentleman who is now chairman of the Public Service Board, and was the general under whom Mr. Casey, junior, served in France. Mr. Casey appeared on the scene between the first advertisement and the second advertisement, and Mr. Leeper, in attendance on him, introduced him to his old “boss.” It is fair to say that in the tittle-tattle of the social columns of Punch or Table Talk next week we shall see where Mr. Casey’s mother - God forgive me for mentioning their names; but the Prime Minister was the first to mention names - has been telling her friends in society that a certain gentleman was able to use influence to get her “ dear “ boy into a fine position in the Commonwealth service. I mentioned no names, but I regarded the whole proceeding as exceedingly improper, lt was improper for General White to bring Mr. Leeper into his counsels. The Prime Minister tells us that he has interviewed the board. But they were not the only persons to be interviewed. The man who occupies a judicial position and is anxious to get at the truth does not only interrogate the accused. He also interrogates the man who makes the charge. He does not ask the person accused, “Are you guilty or not guilty,” because he knows what answer he will get before he puts the question to him. He goes to the person who has made the’ accusation and asks him on what ground he has laid his charge. The Prime Minister simply went to the chairman of the Public Service Board, and he claims that General White is a man of honour. I do not question his honour, but I can claim that the humblest citizen in the land is equally a man of honour. In their social environment, were not the men who also applied for the position, the men who were put on the grid-iron, men of honour? Is an officer of the Department of the Attorney-General without honour or decency ? Is it not honest and fair to ask him : “ “Were you interrogated in such a manner ? Were you put on the grid-iron ? Were you asked these questions?” If he answers “Yes,” the matter is a fit subject for further investigation. If the answer is “ No,” then I am wrong, and I had no proper ground for my accusation. But is it right to claim that because one man has a certain social standing and is a man of honour, while others are in humbler positions, the latter are not men of honour and should not be asked to give an answer ? Why should we recognize class distinction by absolutely refusing to recognize that a man is worthy of being asked the question whether he was interrogated in the manner I have described ? I make no insinuation ; I make an accusation. The evidence is all in favour of the fact that the chairman of the Public Service Board did not forget the man who drove his car for him. when he had a job to confer, and gave it to his old social friend and acquaintance. I again affirm the fact that the system of political influence, so much condemned and denounced, under which men became the subject of public disapprobation and opprobrium, has been set aside for a greater and more odious system of social influence, and by the establishment of a bureaucracy upon which there is no check or barrier, and from whose decisions there ia no appeal. The cases I have put forward can be verified.
There can be no equity or justice in the administration of the Public Service cf this country unless the humblest officer in the Service feels that he has a court to which he can appeal against official bureaucracy and the misapplication of the powers placed in the hands of the Public Service Board. I need say no more. 1 accept the Prime Minister’s offer to examine the papers. The right honorable gentleman has accepted the word of the Public Service Board without knowing whether its defence is good or bad. In fact, he knows nothing whatever about the matter, but, because a highly-placed official has been attacked, he feels that he is in honour bound to defend him on account, of his social and official standing. However, the responsibility rests upon him, and I shall on some future occasion raise the issue again.
.- I am sure that some of his own followers must have listened with great regret to the speech just delivered by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey). The honorable member began by saying that he made no insinuations, and that he rose solely to discuss a matter of principle, but he then proceeded to describe the Public Service Board as a wicked and tyrannical bureaucracy which had been guilty of an improper action. Those of us who are acquainted with the character, the record, and the reputation of General White will resent such an accusation. General White served Australia well. He has nothing to gain by making wrong appointments to the Public Service, and I hope that until evidence is produced that something wrong has been done, that there is something more than mere suspicion, this House will not countenance an attack upon a man who is unable to defend himself. Not only is General White one of our most distinguished citizens, but Mr. Leeper, whose name has been associated with his in this “ insinuation,” “ accusation,” or “ matter of principle,” is also a distinguished citizen of Australia, who came out here to render a service to the Commonwealth. He is not making anything of account to him out of it, and his whole interest is that of a disinterested person. The Acting Leader of .the Opposition has suggested that there is some wrongful influence at work. In all that he has said on this matter - and I listened to him very carefully - there is no suggestion at all of any evi dence that political influence has been at work. The honorable member has read the application of a single applicant for this position. Apparently, he has not seen the applications of the others, and he is taking a very grave risk when he suggests that because one man appears to have been qualified, that man; therefore, should have been . appointed to the position. I am speaking merely on the ‘ information that has been conveyed to the House by the Acting Leader of the Opposition. I am not in the slightest degree aware of the particular facts that surround this appointment, but I should say that the Public Service Board acted wisely when it called in the advice of so experienced and distinguished a man as Mr. Leeper. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has offered the Acting Leader of the Opposition access to the documents connected with the case. I hope that the honorable member will avail himself of the opportunity to peruse them. I can only wish that he had done so before, in this House, he made these charges against gentlemen of the reputation, character, and standing of General Sir Brudenell White and Mr. Leeper.
.- Will the Prime Minister intimate whether the attitude of the Government in regard to the report on the Co-operative Estates Limited, which has been presented to the House by the Public Accounts Committee, will be defined before the close of the session ? The matter has been dragging on for a long time, and it is of very great interest to a number of persons in Tasmania.
– If it is possible for the Cabinet to consider, before the close of the session, the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe), that will be done.
I do not desire to refer at length to the remarks of the Acting Leader of the Opposition. Any one who listened to him could se’e that this question of the Public Service and the bureaucracy that is said by him to govern it has become almost a mania with -him. He can hardly refer to tha subject without making it obvious that he is somewhat obsessed with it.
– We all have some mania. There is no necessity for the right honorable gentleman to reflect upon my particular mania.
– Order! The honorable member for Bourke- was heard in silence, and he must accord the same privilege to the right honorable the Prime Minister.
– The honorable member apparently did not listen to what I said. He suggested thatI referred to politicians in this Parliament who were corrupt, and used their positions to bestow political patronage.
– The right honorable gentleman insinuated it, instead saying it.
– Although, I regret to say, I have for some time sat at the feet of. the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), I shall not attempt to follow him into the paths of insinuation and then try to repudiate what I have insinuated. When I have a charge to make, I shall make it quite definitely. I should like to clear myself from the charge made against me by the Acting Leader of the Opposition. He said that 1 made the accusation that honorable members of this Parliament, who are not now with us, had been corrupt, I did not do anything of the sort. I merely referred to long past history.It is notorious that at one time in British politics politicians used their place and power to appoint friends to positions in the Public Service. The honorable member himself did not hesitate to insinuate many things. He commenced by saying that he did not insinuate anything, but he had not proceeded more than half way through his speech when he repeated the insinuation that he had previously made. He would have been much better advised had he said straightout that he definitely charged this board with malpractice in the making of these appointments.
– The honorable member for Bourke made a very definite charge.
– I can only repeat what I previously said - that the documents in relation to these appointments are available to the honorable member. I think that, after he has seen them, he will very much regret that he made these charges, and that he introduced personalities. The honorable member said that he mentioned no names. That is a perfectly ludicrous attitude to adopt. Does he suggest that there is in this community any one who would not know exactly to whom he was referring? He knows perfectly well that he spoke in such a way that, if there were persona in the community who did not know to whom he was referring, they would very soon be able to find out. He made it perfectly certain that the information he wanted to convey would reach the general public. I very much regret that the discussion should have taken place. I trust that the honorable member, after he has seen the files - which I hope he will inspect - will come forward and say that he agrees that the qualifications of the men appointed were such that’ the board was absolutely entitled to make those appointments.
.- I desire to make a personal explanation.
– I am afraid that I cannot hear the honorable member. He knows that thelast motion before the House is “That the House do now adjourn,” and that the last stage of that motion is the reply that is made by the Minister who moves it. The House, I am sure, will grant indulgence to the honorable member on the next day of sitting.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 October 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19241007_reps_9_109/>.