1st Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
SenatorFRASER presented a petition from the Women’s Christian Temperance
Union of Victoria; praying the Senate to reject the Matrimonial Causes Bill.
Senator Major GOULD presented a similar petition from the Diocesan Council of the Synod of the diocese of Newcastle.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, if he has obtained any particulars of the case of a brewer at Walgett who, having obtained a licence under the Common wealth Excise Act, has been fined for not obtaining a corresponding licence under the State law, and if not, will he obtain them ?
– I have seen a report of the case. At the present stage I do not think it concerns the Federal Government. If it should become necessary to get more information I shall have it obtained.
asked the Vice-
President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Does the naturalization of an alien in any one State of the Commonwealth constitute him a naturalised subjectthroughout the Commonwealth.
– As this is entirely a question of law, I propose following the usual parliamentary practice not to answer it.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Resolved on motion by Senator Drake -
That it be an instruction to the committee on the Public Service Bill that they have leave to amend the enacting words by leaving out, in line 1, the word “and,” and, in line3, “in Parliament assembled.”
In Committee.- Consideration resumed from 29th January (w,de page 9372) on amendment by Senator De Largie -
That the following be inserted as a new clause to follow clause 78 : - Nothing in this Act shall in any way prevent any officer from becoming a member of any properly constituted society or association.
– It is well that this important clause should be fully discussed, and that its effect, and the necessity for it if there is any, should be fully appreciated. Senator De Largie offered this new clause with very great force, and it has been supported by others with equal force and great vehemence. I think my honorable friends will admit that it is incumbent upon them to show that it is necessary, and that its form exactly meets the case. Its object is to neutralize or negative something which is supposed to exist in the Bill taking away the right of a civil servant to join any political association, or in some other way interfering with the exercise of political rights, which all of us desire to conserve as fully as possible. Men do not abrogate their functions or their rights as citizens by becoming members of the civil service. I am sure that all of us desire to preserve those rights to the utmost extent, but, at the same time, to have regard to the peculiar situation in which civil servants place themselves in relation to some matters and some forms of political activity, from which, I might say, decency would always shut them out. I ask my honorable friends to point out in the Bill any word, any line, or any clause which can be construed to prevent an officer from becoming a member of any properly constituted society or political association. If there is nothing of the kind in the Bill, why should we put in this amendment? If in the Bill there is anything which requires to be negatived in that way, and my honorable friends can point it out, then they will have established the first position they must secure to entitle them to ask the committee to introduce a neutralizing amendment of this description, otherwise it would be just as sensible to introduce a provision to say that nothing in the Bill shall be construed to prevent a civil servant from being prosecuted for embezzlement, or for doing something else which he may lawfully do - in fact, to prohibit him from having three meals a day. We ought to bc exceedingly careful not to over legislate in this particular way by introducing a clause which seeks to prevent something happening which the Bill is in no way framed to prevent. The matter had very much better be left to regulation in the management of the civil service. If there is nothing in the Bill to require a negativing clause of this description, the only effect, and the mischievous effect, of its insertion might be that by construction it might have the effect of an affirmative enactment, practically proclaiming it to be - I would not say obligatory, but the right thing to call on all civil servants to become members of a political society or political association. If my honorable friend intends “it to have that effect - that is, if there is nothing requiring to be neutralised in the Bill as it stands - he proves his proposal to have the effect of an affirmative enactment ; and it would be very much better for him to re-draft his clause in that case, and to put it in a clear, definite, and explicit form, so that we may know exactly what it means and within what limits civil servants are to exercise their wider political activity. As an affirmative enactment the proposal is altogether too vague. It simply sa-s that nothing in this measure is “ to prevent an officer from becoming a member of a properly constituted society.”’ What does that mean ? A society may be properly constituted, but for very improper purposes. There ought to be some definition. I do not know what my honorable friend has in his mind by that phrase.
– Take the Law Society.
– In the law we do not do things in an underhand way. We are always fair and above board. I commend that excellent pattern for imitation by the mover of this amendment. If he will define what he means by a “ properly constituted society,” and make his amendment clear on that head, we shall understand what we are doing. Let him define the objects and the scope of a “ properly-constituted society,” so that we may know whether it will be such a society as we ought to encourage civil servants to join or permit them to be members of. There might be a “properlyconstituted society “ to promote anarchy or revolution. I do not suggest for a moment that any honorable senator wishes to encourage a society of that kind, but I mention it to show how extremely vague and unsatisfactory this amendment would be if it were intended not merely to negative something which is not in the Bill, but to be an affirmative enactment. Then the clause says “ or political association.” That is perfectly innocuous. A society of that kind is one which all civil servants, taking the Bill as it stands, have a perfect right to join. It would be monstrous to say that the members of the civil service should not be entitled to join a political association with whose sentiments on general political questions they were in accord. In England, as I have had occasion to know, members of the civil service not only associate with the chief political parties of the day and become members of the different political organizations in the localities in which they live, but take a most active part in them - not on the platforms, not in denouncing the heads of departments to which they may happen to belong, but an active part in promoting the political beliefs and objects with which they agree. As we have heard from the Postmaster-General and others who have spoken, that liberty prevails in Australia to-day, and, so far as I am aware, there is no attempt to curtail it in the slightest degree or to cut down the political rights and privileges which civil servants are entitled to enjoy in common with other members of the community. But while I freely admit that the fullest liberty should be given to the members of the civil service in every branch to associate themselves with the political organizations whose opinions are theirs, still there are certain disabilities in connexion with political matters which members of the public service undertake to come under when they join the service. My honorable friend, Senator Stewart, said yesterday, in one of those pregnant suggestions which he so frequently throws out, that when men choose a military career they must take the consequences. What is that but an admission that there are certain disabilities which men come under when they adopt a political career ? I was a little bit disposed not to accept that principle when Senator Stewart advanced it yesterday, in regard to Senator Clemons’ amendment, but on reflection I came to the conclusion that it was impossible for me to shut my eyes to the fact that civil servants, as well as military men, undertake certain disabilities when they join the service, and must take the consequences attaching to the offices they elect to fill.
– And Judges of the Supreme Court also.
– I was going to mention them. It would be in the highest degree indecent to permit members of the civil service to go upon public platforms during the time of .a heated party election, and, it may be, denounce their chiefs because of the policy which those civil servants were paid to assist in carrying out, and which they might regard as inimical to the interests of the country.
– No one ever suggested such a thing.
– I know that the honorable senator does not suggest it, but this amendment, if intended as an affirmative enactment, may mislead the members of the civil service as to the way in which they ought properly to exercise and enjoy their political rights. For instance, how would some honorable senators like the Comptroller of Customs to go upon a political platform, and, holding- as I am bound to say he would hold if he were a sensible man - free- trade views, denounce the Government and the head of his department for adopting a diametrically opposite policy. It must be obvious that there are certain limits to the exercise of political rights by civil servants, and that the observation of my honorable friend, Senator Stewart, in relation to the military is equally applicable to the civil service. Take the illustration just given by Senator Walker.
– To what extent does the honorable and learned senator consider that civil servants should exercise their political rights 1
– I should be prepared to define the limits if we had a Bill brought in with the view of laying down a definition with regard not to political rights, but to the mode and extent to which civil servants should exercise them. I admit that it is making a large assumption to suppose that a gentleman like the Comptroller of Customs would do such a thing as I have suggested ; but it is only by illustrations of that kind that we can see the full effect of such a provision as we have under consideration. Take the case of the Judges. We know that they are under an absolute disability. The tendency of some of them may occasionally be to depart a little from what is expected of them. Men of independent mind may sometimes be tempted to trangress beyond the limits. But we know perfectly well that one of the disabilities under which Judges labour is that they must not enter the political arena in any way, and that their limit, so far as politics is concerned, is substantially the right to vote. Would any honorable senator desire that the .Judges of the High Courts of the States should be permitted to join political associations ? Certainly not.
– Does Senator Symon put a Judge on the same plane as a civil servant, who can be removed without an address from both Houses of the Legislature?
– I am putting the J Judges on a higher plane, but that in itself is an additional reason why they should not be under any disability. It ought to lessen their disabilities, because, with their trained intellects, they would be less liable to be tempted than would persons occupying subordinate positions in the civil service. Besides, the very fact that members of -the service are removeable with greater ease shows into what strange positions they might be led if facilities for more active political interference were permitted them. Suppose a Minister took the view that some of his officers were unduly interfering in politics. Suppose the head of a department also took that view, and that some officers were dismissed. What an outcry we should have ! That would not apply to the Judges of the High Court. If there are disabilities attaching to men of that eminence, who hold their offices during good behaviour, how much more should disabilities - though not of the same restricted character or to the same extent - attach to members of the civil service ! It is better for them that it should be so. At the same time there can be no doubt that they have a perfect right to join any political association they choose, and there is nothing in this Bill from beginning to end, so far as I have been able to examine it, which prohibits them from following a course of that kind. The measure no doubt will be subject to regulations which will be made under it when it becomes law, and if those regulations are conceived and framed in the same spirit which existing regulations show, the civil service will have no reason to be dissatisfied. That in itself is an additional reason why we should not insert a clause in this Bill which so far as the form of it is concerned is unnecessary, and which, if it were altered into an affirmative shape, would require very considerable amendment to make it clear as to the scope of the exercise of political rights by members of the service.
– I do not think it follows that, because there is no clause in the Bill «to prevent a civil servant from joining a political association, members of the service will be permitted to join any such association. There is a case under our notice at the present moment, where an officer in Queensland has been compelled to resign his position in the post-office because he became a candidate for the State Parliament. If that gentleman does not succeed in being returned he will forfeit his situation, and will not be taken back again into the service.
– He forfeits his situation in any case.
– When that is the case, how are honorable senators to establish what they say is the fact, that a man is not under any disability in regard to his full citizen rights when he joins the civil service 1 I take it that full citizen rights include the right to become a candidate for a seat in Parliament, but we now know that in one State at any rate civil servants are debarred from taking a public part in politics. The instance of the Judges mentioned by Senator Symon is an exaggerated one. The Judges are prevented from taking part in politics for the reason that by so doing they might possibly become biased against certain individuals in the community. When the time comes for them to give a decision in a court of law which, perhaps, involves the imprisonment or affects the property of an individual, they might be biased ; they might even be unconsciously biased against certain individuals as a result of taking part in politics. Such a thing is not likely to occur in connexion with the 11,000 civil servants who will be under the control of the Commonwealth authorities. Senator O’Connor mentioned last night that a civil servant might denounce his Minister. The Minister, however, might deserve to be denounced, and no member of the community might be in a better position to denounce him than that civil servant. Honorable senators must know that civil servants are intelligent ; they must not think that they have no sense of proportion. Any civil servant who ventured to adopt such an extreme course as to denounce his chief would require to have in his possession facts which would justify that action ; otherwise his situation would not be worth a moment’s purchase. We are all affected by unnecessary fears in accepting Senator De Largie’s proposal. I think that the same fear which prompted many men in opposing the granting of the franchise to the police actuates some honorable senators to-day in objecting to give civil servants this privilege ; yet the danger in the one case is just as groundless as it was in the other.
– Why were the police singled out for exemption ?
– I never could understand why. If a civil servant denounced his Minister wrongfully, he would either lose his situation or the lesson he would receive would be such that he would never do it again.
– Why should he not be able to denounce his chief?
– If he has in his possession facts which show that a Minister is not administering his department as he ought to do, he should have a right to say so. If he denounced his chief without having those facts to support his charge, he would be dismissed, or the expression of public opinion would be such that he would never do the same tiling again. The Governor-General lias been taking the responsibility recently for the delay in connexion with the despatch of a federal contingent to South Africa.
– Order !
– I venture to think that the Governor-General will not do that again.
– I would ask the honorable senator not to refer to that matter.
– I was referring to the Governor-General as one of the most important officials in the Commonwealth.
– Say a “ certain high official.”
– Very well ; I will withdraw my previous statement, and refer to “ a certain high official in the Commonwealth.”
– I would ask the honorable senator not to do anything of the kind.
– Senator Symon has referred to the Judges, and I am referring to the Governer-General.
– Hear, hear ; the same rule should apply to him.
– The Judges were referred to by Senator Symon by way of illustration, but Senator Higgs is now introducing the personality of the GovernorGeneral.
– Then the GovernorGeneral is so sacred that he must not be referred to personally? That is a most distorted view to take of the matter, and one which the Governor-General himself would not demand. He is sufficiently a man of the world to be prepared to accept any criticism as the right of any individual ; and I do not think that he is above reference in this high and dignified Assembly. However, in deference to the wishes of honorable senators who seem to be somewhat affected by the general sentiment of Victorian public opinion in regard to high personages, I will not refer to that matter further. I hope that honorable senators will allow the 11,000 civil servants of the Commonwealth to take .part in public meetings if they desire to do so, knowing that should a civil servant make an unjustifiable statement the Ministry will have a right to call upon him to show cause why he should not sever his connexion with the service.
– I think Senator De Largie would be well advised in altering his amendment in the direction suggested by Senator Symon. I agree with Senator Symon to that extent, but having said so much I think we must part company.
– I am sorry for that.
– I am also exceedingly sorry. There is no honorable senator whom I would rather have with me in any argument than Senator Symon. It appeal’s to me that this question is of much greater importance than honorable senators seem to think. It affects the civil liberties of 1 1,000 men in the Commonwealth. We know that Senator De Largie’s amendment has been moved because civil servants in some of the States, at all events, have been prohibited from joining political or trade associations
– The penalty for their doing so in Queensland has been dismissal. I do not pretend that Queensland is a model State, I am sorry to say it is not ; but I think that in all the States civil servants, while having the right to vote conceded to them; are not permitted to take part in politics publicly. They are not allowed to address political a meetings. This is a limitation of th ir rights as citizens which cannot be defended. Why should we seek to deprive any portion of the people of the Commonwealth of their political liberties and rights? The 1 State employe is a citizen just as much as I am. He pays taxes like other citizens, lie is amenable to the laws of his country, and he can be called out to defend his country, if necessary, just as other citizens are liable to be called out. Why then is he placed on a plane of citizenship inferior to that of his fellow citizens ? Honorable senators tell us that it would be exceedingly improper for a civil servant to stand on a public platform and denounce the policy of his chief during a general election, but Senator Higgs has dealt very forcibly with that aspect of the question. If a civil servant. chooses to take the responsibility of such an action, by all means let him do so.
– If this amendment were carried, what would be the responsibility?
– The responsibility would be just the same as that of any other citizen. Civil servants should have the right to stand on a platform and address political meetings?
– Why should not policemen be able to do the same ?
– Why should they not?
– And then have to put down a riot.
– As the result of their own efforts.
– Does one thing conflict with the other ?
– Incite a riot inside the hall and quell it outside.
– We have got beyond the time of riots. There are no riots in public life nowadays. I contend that civil servants should be placed on an absolute plane of equality with other citizens so far as their rights of citizenship are concerned. Those honorable senators who have held office look with much disfavour upon public servants being able to publicly denounce their chiefs. It appears to me that a veil of silence is drawn around the doings of the civil service. If a Member of Parliament, armed with all the authority he possesses, desires some information as to the inner life of the service he finds himself confronted with difficulties at every step. I have tried it and I have found that I could not succeed, simply because the service seems to be permeated with a sort of freemasonry. We want to let in the light. AVe want more publicity. If civil servants were permitted to state publicly what they know about the maladministration of public departments we should have much purer and better government.
– Much ill-feeling.
– Why should there be any ill-feeling ? The idea is a relic of barbarism - a relic of the dead past. I am astonished that honorable senators living in the twentieth century should utter sentiments such as we have heard during this debate. Not 100 years ago the aristocracy of Great Britain flouted the idea of common people having the right to vote or any voice in the government of the country. They said that it would lead to all kinds of confusion and illfeeling, to riot, bloodshed and revolution. They foretold the end of all things if the franchise were extended. Those prophets of evil have been proved to be false prophets, and the sons of Baal, with whom we are surrounded here, will also prove to be false prophets. If this amendment or something like it is not carried now, it will be passed within the next few years, and every servant of the Commonwealth will be raised to the status of full citizenship. Honorable senators would almost make it appear that State employes are in a position of advantage. Why should they be ? Do not they earn their money honestly ‘! Do not they give services to the State for the cash they receive? If they do not they ought to do. They should be placed in no position of advantage. The relation between them and the State is the same as the relation between any private employer and his workpeople - the relation between the buyer and seller of labour. In the one case a man sells his labour to the State and is paid for it ; in the other case he sells it to a private employer and is paid for it.
Why should there be any difference in the political status of the two individuals ? The fortunes of the civil servant are bound up inthe community in which he lives just as much as are those of any other individual, and if he sees what he considers to be a wicked, false, or stupid policy being carried out, why should he not have the right, as well as any other citizen, to stand upon a public platform and give his fellow citizens the benefit of his knowledge and counsel? We cannot plume ourselves that this is a free country until every man and woman in it has received the full status of citizenship. That is all Senator De Largie asks for in his amendment, and I trust the committee will be wise enough to take note of the signs of the times and agree to it.
– One hears a fresh definition of what is “ a free country “ almost every day. We are told now that that would be a free country in which every man, be he master or servant, had an equal right to express his opinions upon every subject. This would include the light of the servant to express his opinions of his master’s treatment of him in his service regardless of the ordinary rules and conditions of society, without which life could not be carried on at all. That is the idea of freedom which Senator Stewart apparently wishes to bring about, and it would only take us back to the original condition of anarchy, in which every man was his own master. Discipline is not the production of anarchy, but the production of civilization and experience, and it is only by discipline that liberty is obtained. A very pregnant question has been asked of honorable senators who support this clause. They have been asked what they want it for, and whether there is anything on the face of the Bill which says that civil servants shall not join political associations or take part in their proceedings.
– If not, where is the objection to the clause?
– I shall come to that in due time. Where is there anything on the face of the Bill which prevents them taking part in politics? No honorable senator has attempted to answer that. Senator Stewart was particularly unhappy in the instance he gave of some officer in the civil service who had his duty to perform to his employer, and yet wanted to devote the time his employer was entitled to to becoming a candidate for the suffrages of the electors. The employer told him. he could do which he liked, that he could devote his time to his service or to becoming a candidate, but he could not do both. I say the employer was quite right. It would be against all the rules and conditions necessary in carrying on life if the servants of any of us - and the Commonwealth in this matter is in the same position towards its servants - could say that they must have the right whenever they liked to attend public meetings and to denounce their masters actually in respect of orders which had been given to them privately.
– Whenever they liked ! Who asked for that ?
Senator Sir JOHN DOWNER.That is exactly what is claimed. It is what Senator Stewart claimed in so many words. We know that what is claimed, whether the words are mentioned or not, is the right of a servant to overhaul his master’s conduct, not in the regular constitutional way provided under this Public Service Bill, with all the machinery enacted for the purpose of insuring justice, but before a general public audience, who are to be the judges. It is said that the man who is accused has his remedy, thathe can prove that the accusation is false ; but is a man always to be justifying himself to his own servants ? Every order he gives is to be made, if his servant pleases, the subject of a public attack, and the master is always to be ready with his justification on every point. Justification to whom ? Who is to be the judge? Where is the tribunal that is to decide ?
– Public opinion.
– Public opinion is the worst possible tribunal in the short run, however good it may be in the long run. Having taken every means to make our civil service as perfect as possible, and to surround its officers with every protection that could be devised to prevent tyranny or injustice towards them, having placed them in a position much superior to that of the servants of private employers, we are to be told that the masters in the. service, from the highest grade down, shall be responsible for every act, not to the parties to whom by law they are responsible, but to an irresponsible public meeting, and throughout, the service officers in charge of other men are to be called upon to justify everything they do. How is discipline to be preserved by such means ? Such a condition of things would be destructive of all discipline. So far as the members of the civil service are concerned, there is at the present time nothing to prevent them taking part in public concerns. In every one of the States they do take part in public concerns. There may be lines drawn here and there, and those lines will have to be drawn. This clause is only put in for the purpose of providing that public officers may join associations that will draw no such lines, and in order that those associations for each of their members may be a court of appeal by the private from the corporal, by, the corporal from the sergeant, by the sergeant from the lieutenant, and so on, up to the general. After all the precautions we have taken to insure right and justice being done, there is to be this constant appeal going on throughout the service, and the ultimate decision is to be not in the hands of the persons authorized’ by Act of Parliament, but in public opinion. I think this matter had better be left as it is now, when in regard to matters upon which it is proper that public servants should express their opinions they can express them.
– Behind the door.
– On the platform ; and no one will mind, if they do it on general questions.
– It depends which side they are on.
– We ought not to enable them to do what it is probable, they would not be allowed to do now. We ought not to permit a man to go and rake up his own department, and before an irresponsible public appeal from some decision of his superior officer.
– Would any civil servant be so foolish ?
– I gather from what Senator Stewart says that he contemplates that they would do it.
– If no civil servant would be so foolish there is no necessity for this clause. A civil servant may take any part he likes in politics if it does not interfere with the discipline of the service, and no one could or would make any objection. But this is an invitation to the public servants of the Commonwealth to bring any grievance they may have, not before the tribunal appointed by Parliament to inquire into their grievances, but before the irresponsible tribunal of public opinion which, however right it may be in the long run, is very often exceedingly wrong in the present. I hope the clause will not be carried, and that Senator De Largie will not press it to a division. I do not think the honorable senator intended to go to the extent some honorable senators have suggested. So far as I understand the real intention of the party proposing this clause, I believe they can carry out that intention under the existing law without the addition of any such provision.
– Even the extreme case cited by Senators Downer and Symon of a civil servant getting up on a platform and denouncing the Minister in charge of his department, should not frighten honorable senators from giving the civil servants the same rights of citizenship which we give to every other class in the community. If that right of citizenship means anything at all, it means that every Australian should have the right to express himself, politically, as he chooses. If he chooses, in expressing his opinions, to say anything which will be against the interest of his employment that will be his funeral. That kind of thing has been done time and again, and will, I hope, continue to be done in the future. We have often, in order to secure reforms, been obliged to take up very delicate positions of this kind, and I suppose that the same necessity will continue for a considerable time in the f future. How in the name of all that is reasonable would we ever have had Factory Acts and wages, boards in connexion with them, how should we ever have had improved legislation, to better the condition of factory workers and miners, if men had. not availed themselves of opportunities to bring about a state of things which would encourage these reforms 1 Why should we cut civil servants off from this right 1 If a civil servant has a grievance, or knows of anything corrupt taking place in his department, he should have as good a right to denounce it as any man in the community.
– He should denounce it where it occurs.
– Not at all. We do not pay civil servants for talking politics-.
We pay them for eight hours’ work, and when they have done that 8 hours’ work the rest of the’ 34 hours should be their time and theirs alone. Neither the community in the shape of the Federal Government, nor any other body should have any controlling power which would enable them to say how they should spend their spare time. If the civil servant gives an equivalent in service for the salary he receives, that is all that the Commonwealth Government have any claim to. I do not see how we can expect anything more. We do not buy a man’s political soul or political rights when we give him employment in the civil service. That is, at all events, not the sort of civil service I wish to see. I do not wish to see a civil service based upon the principles of militarism ; a civil service such as Bismarck would like to have introduced in Germany. That is not a civil service in touch with these times. We want a civil service the members of which may exercise all the rights of citizenship, and that is the only kind of service that will be tolerated in Australia. To ask for any other kind of service would bring about a state of confusion which might lead to very serious results in the future. It is the expectation of those who believe in the Government extending its sphere of influence and action, that it will gradually take over department after department of work as the times require, and in that way it may come about that the majority of the citizens of the Commonwealth will be working under the Government. Let honorable senators imagine the state of affairs if, during an election, the overwhelming majority of the citizens of the Commonwealth should not have the power to speak their minds upon politics. What a fine old time the politicians would have then? They would not need to get upon the platform to try to secure votes, and nobody- would need to speak upon politics. It is time we freed our civil service from this kind of political thraldom. If we do not do it now, we shall have to do it at some time in the future, as Senator Stewart has said, and the sooner we do it the better for all concerned. Senator Symon wishes to know what is “a properly constituted society,” implying that it was scarcely possible to have a wrongly constituted society The honorable and learned senator’s argument is simply playing with words, as the clause fairly expresses its intention. It might possibly read more clearly if a few words were added to it, and if it were made io read in this way -
Nothing in this Act shall in any way prevent an officer becoming a member of any legally constituted industrial society or political association.
That might suit Senator Symon’s ideas of clearness better, but I question whether it would make the clause any clearer than it is. It is clear enough at present for any reasonable person to understand it, and if the lawyers cannot understand it that is their look out. We have been told that such a clause is unnecessary, but I think it is very necessary. We have been told there is nothing on the face of this Bill which takes away any political rights from civil servants. I grant that there may be nothing on the face of the Bill which does that, but there is an understanding throughout the whole of the States, and I suppose it exists in the same way in the Federal service, that a civil servant shall not interfere in politics. Therefore, we require to insert a provision to make it clear that a civil servant has equal rights of citizenship with any other persons in the community. If we do not, this understanding will go on, and we shall have the gag still applied. If it is not done now I am quite sure that it will have to be done at some other stage. I think that I have answered all the objections which have been urged. I have no intention to withdraw the amendment, which I hope to see carried.
– I am sorry that I cannot indorse one of the concluding statements of Senator De Largie so far as to accept his assurance that he has answered all the objections which have been raised.
– What are the objections ?
– I have listened to so many that it would be unfair to enumerate them, but I will ask honorable senators to bear with me while I mention one or two which appeal most strongly to me. In the first place it seems to me that the advocates of the amendment are entirely illogical. They allege and wish us to believe that, unless the amendment is inserted, some gag will in some way or other be placed on’ civil servants. When in answer to their plea that the civil servant should be allowed the same measure of liberty as an ordinary citizen, that he should be perfectly free to enter into political controversy, we ask them if they would allow a civil servant to criticise the action of his chief, they turn round and admit that a limitation must be placed on him.
– Not at all.
– Senator Pearce and Senator McGregor interjected when the question was put–
– I said his common sense would limit him.
– There is the answer - an admission that the necessities of the civil service do require a limitation to be placed on the civil servant. The only question is whether it is to be done by regulation, or left to the good sense and good taste of the officer himself. That is ample affirmation of my contention that the supporters of the amendment do recognise that, for the effective working of the public service, there must be a limitation on his liberty. There is a want of logic on the part of the supporters of the amendment. Their contention, if I understand it aright, is that every man in the employment of the State is entitled to the same political rights and privileges as other citizens. If that is so, do they propose to extend the principle to the military ?
– Certainly. We want to have a citizen soldiery here.
– Well, let us see where we are landed. If the military have the same right of criticism as is asked for the civil servant, we may look forward to an ideal time when, under an eight hours system, we shall have our battles fought in the day-time, and our soldiers criticising the conduct of their chief in the evening after six o’clock. Can matters go on under a system of that kind ? Are the advocates of the amendment sincere when they say that they would claim for a soldier the right to criticise the action of his chief ? There is one other objection, and, to my mind, it is the strongest one of all to be urged against the amendment. So far, it has been discussed entirely from the standpoint of the interest of the public servants as a whole, and of the interest of the general public. I oppose the amendment because it is not in the interest of the civil servants. The position to-day is that no chief of a department can coerce his subordinates into taking any active part in any political matter in which he is interested. 27 e
But if we give an open invitation to every civil servant to become a political partisan, it only remains for an active political chief to say to him - “I want you to take a part in this election,” or for a Minister to look to his officers to support him, and they cannot then turn round and say that there is a law which prevents them from doing so.
– But is there a law preventing them from doing so ?
– No. There is, as we all know, an unwritten law which requires the members of the public service to abstain from taking an active part in politics. If we remove that unwritten law, we take the first step towards the Americanization of the public service - the last step being the spoils to the victors. If we are to have the members of the civil service active political partisans, the natural consequences will follow, and it will be found that at an election they will, for reasons which honorable senators can readily understand, either fight to secure the return of a candidate, or to secure the ousting of a Minister, and when that takes place, the very system on which our public service has been built up will disappear - that is, the continuous retention of office during good conduct.
– Do not they take part now in movements to oust Ministries ?
– If they do, what do honorable senators want this amendment for?
– They can do it quietly, but let them do it openly !
– The honorable senator would have them do it by stealth.
– Speak on a public platform by stealth ?
– That is what the honorable senator claims.
– The amendment does not say anything about speaking on a public platform.
– Is it intended that civil servants shall not speak ? How are they to exercise all the full rights of citizenship which are claimed for them if we gag them at the last moment? Be logical. If honorable senators wish them to have the full rights of ordinary citizens, say so and grant them. But. an honorable senator comes along and asks me, “ Who says anything about speaking on a public platform ? “ The very basis of his argument is that civil servants should have that right.
– Hear, hear.
– The honorable senator says “ Hear, hear,” but another supporter of his amendment denies it.
– I do not deny it.
– I have endeavoured to point out, apparently with not much success to those who do not wish to be convinced, that in the interests of the civil servants it is not desirable to give this open invitation to them to become active political partisans. The effect of such an enactment would be that a Minister would exercise an influence which it is not right he should exercise, that there would be a certain measure of coercion on his subordinates, and consequently the introduction of a system under which he could reward those subordinates who had fought for him, and penalize those who had fought against him. Our public service system rests entirely on one principle - the neutrality of the public servants, so far as party politics are concerned. I wish to see that principle continued. I believe that the amendment would be demoralizing and pernicious to our civil servants, and entirely detrimental to the purity of public life so far as the departments are concerned. I intend to oppose it.
– It appears to me that Senator Millen has exceeded the bounds of logic. He wished to point out to Senator De Largie and to those who support him that they have been very deficient in logic throughout the whole of their arguments, and he concluded a very eloquent address by telling us that he would like to see preserved the principle of the absolute neutrality of the public service. Does he really think that the. public servant has been in any State politically emasculated? Does he think that he holds no political opinions?
– I do not wish* to see him reduced to that position.
– The honorable senator knows in his own mind that there has been no such thing as political neutrality on the part of public servants. Every public servant who has the inclination exercises his franchise in accordance with his own preconceived ideas on- particular questions. Every public servant who takes that course must, whether he does it openly or otherwise, associate himself at different times with those who are in accord with him, or with those who are in disagreement with him. And if it is outside civil service hours, and if it is inside a private house, he may endeavour to convert other people to his own views, or strengthen those who are in entire accord with him. The honorable senator is asking us to deliberately preserve to all outward appearance something which we all know does not inwardly exist. His fears as to the results which may accrue from the affirmation of a principle of this character - results such as those which he pointed out prevail in America - seem to me to be, to a great extent, ill-founded. If he would only direct his attention to the debates in other legislatures on the admission of certain persons to the franchise, he would find that the very arguments he has adduced to-day can be paralleled. I can quite understand an honorable senator coming from a State which, until a few years ago, refused to a policeman the franchise, adducing arguments of that character. We have been told, and honorable senators all round the chamber have assumed, that it has been a recognised principle throughout the States that the police should be denied the right to vote. From an interjection by Senator Playford, I learn that, in the model State, the right of a policeman to vote has never been questioned since they received their Constitution. In Tasmania the right of a policeman to vote has never been questioned. .
– But- not to join political associations or to take the platform.
– The honorable senator introduces another matter. We have been told by those honorable senators who say that there is no necessity for this amendment that there is nothing to prevent civil servants from taking part in elections. Where is the illogicality ? We have been told by these honorable senators - “ You need not affirm this principle, because all you want is in the Bill.” Honorable senators who heard the Postmaster-General’s reply to Senator De Largie last- night must know that he clearly indicated by implication that he was opposed to the principle under-lying the amendment - namely the civil liberty of the public servant. Although I am very pleased to follow Senator Drake on very many occasions, especially on matters where I entertain a doubt, I should be very sorry indeed to leave to him alone the right to draw up the regulations under this measure, after hearing that expression of opinion from him last night. In a previous stage of the debate I said that although the amendment might be necessary because there was nothing in the Bill in direct opposition to the principle, yet his remarks were sufficient to convince me that it was absolutely necessary to have a provision which, -without the express disapproval of either House, would make any regulations infringing on the civil liberty of the public servant absolutely ultra vires. For those reasons if Senator De Largie intends to press his amendment I shall support him.
– I wish to explain to Senator Symon why Senator De Largie and the supporters of this new clause are of opinion that it is really necessary. The Postmaster-General knows from his experience in Victoria that there are officers even in the Commonwealth service who to a certain extent have interfered with their subordinates when an attempt has been made to form an organization for the protection of the interests of a particular branch of the service. It is to destroy any impression that may linger in the minds of subordinate public servants that their superiors have any right to interfere with them in that direction that the amendment is necessary. I also want to point out to Senator Symon that there was no inconsistency in Senator Stewart saying in the course of the debate upon another clause yesterday that if an individual went into the military forces he had to take the consequences. We were not then debating anything that would deprive a military man of any privileges. The proposal then was that military men were to obtain some privileges over other people in the State or the Commonwealth service. We did not want to take any privileges from them, but only to see that they did not get privileges which were not possessed by others. We wanted to do then exactly what we are attempting to do now - establish the principle of equal rights. Last night the Vice-President of the Executive Council was blaming some of us for being a little warm upon this question. He waxed eloquent and fervent when dilating upon the prospect of subordinate civil servants mounting the platform and making use of information obtained in the offices where they were employed. Kb one would justify a wrong done under such circumstances, or excuse a public servant for making use of official information that ought to be confined to the office, unless there was some particular reason for doing so. Senator Downer also takes a decided stand on this question ; but I do not wonder at that, because I can recollect that when the honorable and learned senator was in power in South Australia - and also when Senator Playford was in power there - public servants in subordinate positions were never admitted to the bench of justices. But to-day subordinate officers of the service are justices of the peace in the “model State,” and the roof has not fallen off South Australia yet, nor have I heard of any injustice being done through any one belonging to the working classes occupying positions of that description, though I have heard of very suspicious things being done by the class of individuals whom some honorable senators specially favour occupying those positions. We are now asking no more than that the same principle may be extended to other public servants. Senator Eraser judging by his interjections seems to be quite in accord with all that has been said to the effect that a public servant has no business to do anything but his official duty.
– I never said so.
– But the honorable senator’s interjections went in that, direction, when it was said that a public servant ought to be able to stand as a candidate for Parliament without being compelled to resign his position. I want to question that position in order to show that Senator Eraser is not the liberal-minded man that he imagines himself to be. When I was working either as a navvy or a hodcarrier, my employers never interfered with me if I became a candidate for Parliament. So long as I shifted my fifteen or twenty yards of muck every day, they never troubled about what I did after working hours. I mention this, because I contend that a public servant so long as he does faithful service within specified hours has a perfect right to utilize his leisure time as he pleases. We want to remove disabilities of that description, and to put the members of the service upon exactly the same plane as ordinary citizens. We do not want to give them any advantage, but they should not be placedunder any disadvantage. In the service of the Commonwealth there are 11,000 or. 27 jj 2 12,000 public servants, representing probably 50,000 or 60,000 of the population of Australia - that is, one in every ten. Some honorable senators would take away from these men the privileges which they are prepared to give to every other citizen. It is to remove those disabilities that I intend to support the amendment. I anticipate that the prophecies made as to. the evils which will follow from this alteration will prove just as false as did the prophecies made in the past as to the consequences that would follow from the extension of the franchise.
Question - That the new clause proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Preamble verbally amended.
Motion (by Senator Drake) proposed -
That the Chairman report the Bill with amendments.
Amendment (by Senator O’Connor) proposed -
Thatall the words after “that” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words - “ clauses 1, 9, 19, 25, 46, 47, 49, 50, 51, 52, 68 be reconsidered.”
– I desire clause 21 to be reconsidered
– Will the honorable senator give his reasons.
– I object to any priority over other honorable senators being given to any honorable senator, notwithstanding that he may be a Minister of the Crown. Any attempt in that direction will meet with my strong opposition. Senator O’Connor has moved the reconsideration of certain clauses without giving any reasons, and I resent the demand from the Minister that I should give my reasons for desiring the reconsideration of clause 21.
– The honorable senator has indulged in a great deal of unnecessary heat. I have moved this amendment because the Government take the view that the clauses named in it are those which ought to be reconsidered. I asked Senator Glassey for his reasons in a friendly way. We do not know what they are, and it may be that when my honorable and learned colleague hears them, he will consent to the addition of the clause. I would object to a clause being reconsidered merely because an honorable senator happened to say that he wished that course to be followed.
– The Minister is in charge of the Bill.
– Yes ; and because of that we have a right to make a proposal to the committee that certain clauses shall be reconsidered. That proposal may be accepted or rejected. Senator Glassey is mistaken if he thinks I want to restrict his right to make any proposal he thinks fit. My only object in asking for his reasons was to avoid any unnecessary debate.
Senator GLASSEY (Queensland). - I take up the same position as that occupied by Senator O’Connor. If any partiality in this respect is to be shown even to the Minister in charge of the Bill, I shall oppose the reconsideration of every one of the clauses named in the amendment. I have a perfect right, as a member of the Senate, to ask that my proposal be taken into consideration in the same way as Senator O’Connor has done. If it is fair that I should give reasons for my request, it is equally fair that the Minister should be required to give reasons for the reconsideration of the clauses he has named.
– I am sorry that this trouble should have arisen. It was arranged between the Vice-president of the Executive
Council and myself that - following the system which we have adopted before - as soon as the motion to report the Bill had been moved, he should formally move an amendment, providing for the reconsideration of certain clauses, and that, when he had done so, I should give our reasons for asking for the reconsideration of each of those clauses. As soon as Senator O’Connor had resumed his seat, however, Senator Glassey jumped up, and I had no opportunityof explaining.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - This is a point of some little importance, both in regard to the actual question involved and also in relation to a matter of parliamentary procedure. I venture to think . that Senator Glassey is absolutely in the right. I deprecate the course of action suggested by Senator Drake, that in moving the reconsideration of a long series of clauses before the Bill leaves committee - which is a different thing to a recommittal - he should give reasons for asking for the reconsideration of each of them, and that we should have a debate practically on every one of them. That would lead to a great waste of time. The practice with which I have been acquainted has been that, on taking advantage of this exceedingly facile way of obtaining the reconsideration of clauses before a Bill goes back to the House, the clauses desired to be recommitted are simply mentioned. Any honorable senator who wishes that other clauses should be reconsidered mentions them and is not asked for his reasons or called upon to take a division. As a matter of courtesy, all the clauses enumerated by honorable senators - unless some honorable senator seeks to have the whole Bill reconsidered - are reconsidered, as well as those mentioned by the Government.
– That has always been done before.
– If the Postmaster-General is going to give reasons for asking that each of these clauses shall be considered, we may have to take a division to determine whether they shall be reconsidered or not. I implore him, therefore, not to do that, but to consent to any reasonable requests for the reconsideration of clauses. I desire the reconsideration of clause 71, the Postmaster-General having promised to take into consideration the amendment of that clause which I suggested.
– I can make a statement, showing that I have done what the honorable andlearned senator desired.
– I do not want the Postmaster-General to make a statement until the clause is called on. I am sure he will take care to make clause 71 absolutely clear, so as to avoid conflict between holidays observed by members of the Commonwealth service and those observed by the service of any of the States.
– Although he has deprecated the course of action that we propose to take, Senator Symon has adopted exactly the same system, because he has told us the reason why he desires clause 71 to be reconsidered.
– I only reminded the honorable and learned senator of his promise.
– That is very much the same thing. I propose to go through these clauses, and explain why we desire to have them reconsidered. That is in accordance with the practice which is almost invariably followed. I have done what I said I would doin regard to clause 71. I promised that I would consider the matter carefully, and ascertain from the secretary to the AttorneyGeneral whether the clause could be recast in such a way as to give effect to the views of honorable senators. I have submitted the matter to him, and he has advised me that the clause is perfectly clear.
– Then I desire to have it reconsidered. I respect his opinion, but I disagree with it.
Senator GLASSEY (Queensland). - If a misunderstanding has arisen owing to any fault on my part I am very sorry. I have no desire to embarrass anybody. I wish to have clause 21 amended in the direction of providing that persons in the clerical division, having already passed an examination, shall not be compelled to undergo another examination in order to obtain the benefits of the provision as to the minimum wage. To require persons who havebeenin the service for ten or fifteen years to go up for examination a second time before they can enjoy the benefits that will accrue to them under this Bill would be absolutely unjust. I move -
That clause 21 be added to the amendment.
– There is no objection to that.
Amendment amended accordingly.
Amendment (by Senator Sir Josiah Symon) agreed to -
That clause 7.1 be added to the amendment.
Amendment (by Senator Dobson) proposed -
That clause 5 be added to the amendment.
– I must object to this proposal, for the simple reason that clause 5 has been exhaustively debated not only on the second reading but in committee. After a long debate it was adopted, and on several occasions since then we have been practically re-discussing the whole principle involved in that clause. Now that the Bill has reached this stage I- do not consider it justifiable to ask the committee to open up the whole subject again by a reconsideration of the clause.
– I desire nothing that is unfair. Honorable senators will recollect that I withdrew another amendment to which I attached considerable importance, and intimated that I would move for the re-committal of this clause. I do not care whether we reconsider the clause now or later on.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - I would urge that this irregular method in regard to the reconsideration of clauses should not be proceeded with. The suggestion is that for a considerable time we should practically set up a barrier in the way of a reconsideration of the other clauses. In the interests of expedition I suggest that this amendment, adding to the number -of clauses to be reconsidered, should be treated like the others. When we come to the consideration of the clause there is the machinery of the closure and other rules to limit debate when it is thought that the matter has been sufficiently discussed. I appeal to the Postmaster-General not to invite the debate now, so that it will interpose between the reconsideration of the clause and the question of whether we shall reconsider it or not. Supposing this amendment is negatived, Senator Dobson will not be precluded from moving the recommittal of the clause again.
– When there can be only one speech by each honorable senator.
– Then honorable senators can only make one speech, but now they can make as many speeches as they choose. This is not a recommittal, and honorable senators may discuss this proposal at any length they like. Is it not much better in the interests of expedition that the Postmaster-General should agree to the recommittal of clause 5, when there will be but one issue before honorable senators.
– The adoption of the . line of action suggested by the honorable and learned senator would mean that at this stage of the Bill every member of the Senate could move for the reconsideration of any number of clauses, and, according to Senator Symon, it would not be advisable to take any objection to such a course.
– Honorable senators would not tolerate an abuse of that kind.
– I am inclined to think that this is coming very near to an abuse. We have had four or five debates upon the vital principle of the Bill as embodied in clause 5, and we are asked now to allow the clause to be reconsidered, so that Senator Dobson may have an opportunity of re-opening the question at this stage. We are told that we ought at once to consent to it, because by so doing we may possibly have less debate upon the subject at some future stage. I have no reason to share that opinion. I have no reason to hope that by any sort of indulgence shown by the committee to those who wish to discuss this matter, we shall save any time. We are asked to consent to a reconsideration of this clause, and if we successfully oppose that proposal now we may save the debate which would take place upon clause 5, if it were recommitted. Senator Symon tells us rightly that there is nothing to prevent Senator Dobson from, moving at the report stage that the Bill be recommitted for the further consideration of clause 5. Supposing we allow the debate now upon a reconsideration of the clause, we shall have no reason to suppose that we shall in that way avoid having the debate over again at the report stage. I think that for those who wish to see this Bill passed, and who are satisfied with the discussion which has already taken place upon clause 5, the proper policy is to grasp the nettle and settle the question now.
– I agree with Senator Symon that every honorable senator should have the right to ask that certain clauses should be recommitted, but at the same time every other honorable senator should have the right to say whether those clauses should be recommitted or not. If we do not follow that procedure, it will mean that after spending two months upon a Bill, all our work may be set aside by an honorable senator asking that every one of the clauses may be recommitted, and we shall be in the same position as we were in when the Bill was first committed. Clause 5 of this Bill was discussed for days on the second reading. It was discussed again at length in committee, when the arguments adduced upon the second reading were again marshalled by the contending parties. If clause 5 is again considered and honorable senators carry out the intention of Senator Dobson, to prevent political control in the public service being done away- with, the Bill will be emasculated.’ It will be necessary for the Government to withdraw the measure and submit a new Bill providing for a totally different system of management for the public service. We shall have spent months discussing clause after clause on the principle of non-political control, and then by doing away with the commissioner, and reintroducing political control we shall have a totally new Public Service Bill. We are being asked to enact an absurdity, and, if we agree to the proposal, we shall only make ourselves ridiculous. The fullest discussion of clause 5 has taken place ; a decision was come to, without a catch vote, that we should have a Public Service Commissioner. We have gone through the Bill on that principle, and now we are asked whether we will not throw the Bill aside, or, at any rate, strike out the provision for the appointment of a commissioner, and have political control. I hope the Government will oppose the amendment, and that clause 5 will be allowed to remain as it is.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - It is with considerable diffidence that I venture to differ in a matter of parliamentary procedure from Senator Symon; but, as the decision come to today will presumably be taken as a guide in the future, possibly time will not be wasted in saying what I have to say. Senator Symon would have us adopt the position that, upon the mere motion of an honorable senator, a clause should be recommitted.
– Not recommitted, reconsidered.
– The contention put forward in opposition to that is that when such a motion is made, some reasons should be advanced in support of it. As one who will be called upon to vote upon this amendment, I want to hear some reasons advanced for it. Senator Symon has overlooked a very important fact when- he states that any debate that must take place on this measure must be upon the merits of the clause. On the contrary, I think that the discussion should not be upon the merits of the clause. I want from the honorable and learned senator who has moved, this amendment some reasons for his statement that the clause has not been sufficiently considered. I think that we should hear from the honorable and learned senator not whether the clause is a good or a bad one, but whether it was passed in a thin House or late at night, or whether an amendment of subsequent clauses renders a reconsideration of this clause necessary.
– Is it not a sufficient reason to say that he desires to reverse the previous decision 1
– I would like to hear some reason given for a motion of this kind, apart from the merits of the clause. If the view I take is correct we shall have one debate, and in the long run I believe it will prevent undue waste of time should honorable senators on a future occasion be in a humour to delay proceedings.
– Under these standing orders the practice in South Australia has been for the Minister in charge of a Bill to allow the reconsideration of any part of it. If the Government in charge of a Bill desire the reconsideration of a clause it is not the practice to state reasons for its recommittal, but if an honorable member who is not in charge of the Bill asks that a clause shall be recommitted it is the usual practice for the Government to ask him to give reasons for his request. Very often it happens that he will have had a conversation with the Minister, and the Minister, knowing what he desires, may agree to the recommittal without asking for reasons. It is quite right, however, that an honorable member asking for the recommittal of a clause should give his reasons. The reason in this particular case is self-evident, and honorable senators know it very well. Although Senator Smith deprecated any re-consideration of this clause the honorable senator used only the old familiar stock arguments. He used one argument which was absolutely incorrect, and that was that if we strike out this particular clause we shall destroy the Bill. We shall do nothing of the sort. All the clauses relating to the entry of persons into the public service, the methods of promotion, and other matters connected with the public servants, will remain absolutely intact. The only thing we shall do will be, that instead of appointing an irresponsible commissioner, we shall ask the Ministers of the Crown to. perform their proper duties - duties which, at all events, they have performed in the State of South Australia ever since there has been a public service there, in the most satisfactory manner. And I have not the slightest doubt that the Ministers at the head of the departments will administer the civil service in an equally satisfactory manner, and will be responsible to Parliament. That is the thing at which I always aim; but the desire of Senator Smith and others is to take away the responsibility of Parliament. That is a great mistake. Parliament is responsible for the administration of the civil service. In my opinion the question has been fully discussed. We were beaten by a majority of only one in the last division. There need be but very little discussion. Let us take a division, and if the committee decides to abide by its previous decision I shall vote against any further consideration of the clause.
– On the second reading of the Bill only three speeches were delivered, including one by the Postmaster-General. When we reached clause 5 we had a general discussion on the merits of the Bill, and it was only reasonable to expect that particular attention would not be given to the clause.
– Before we got to that clause the merits of the Bill, including the clause, were discussed.
– I think not. Certain honorable senators who advocated very strenuously the appointment of a commissioner and six inspectors, and dilated on the efficient administration we might expect at their hands, have ever since been telling us that although these officials were to be such paragons of virtue, we should in the remaining clauses safeguard them so as to prevent them being assailed by political and social influence. We all remember the splendid speech which Senator Glassey made about the commissioner. Yet on the remaining clauses no honorable senator has been so energetic as he has in safeguarding the commissioner, who was to be absolutely unassailable, politically or socially. We have had so many damaging admissions made as to the weakness of the commissioner who at first was described to us as a paragon of virtue, that I think there are many honorable senators who although they voted for clause 5, are inclined to reconsider their position, and who, perhaps, are of opinion that the old system of political control was not so bad as it has been painted.
SenatorO’Keefe. - The honorable senator will not find one vote reversed.
– There has been a sufficient indication in the debates on the remaining clauses to justify a reconsideration of the question of whether we shall hand over the control of the public departments to an irresponsible head who will be beyond parliamentary control. Because the bogy of political corruption is held before us, we must say that Parliament is incapable and corrupt, that Ministers are incapable and may be corrupt, and that therefore we should not allow them to administer the Public Service Act, but should hand over its administration to a man who would be incorruptible, who would not be susceptible to political or social influence. We admit that no Minister can be found who can administer his department without being subject to corrupting influence, but that it is possible to find a person to be called a commissioner, who will be unassailable! The more one considers the arguments which have been used to bolster up the provision for the appointment of a commissioner, the more one sees that he is unnecessary. I am certain that some honorable senators who voted for clause 5 have seriously reconsidered their position, and desire that it should be reconsidered. After all, what are Ministers appointed for? If we take away from them the control of their departments ; if every time we approach the Postmaster-General about some abuse in the administration of his department we are to be met with this evasive answer - “ Oh, the control is taken away from me by the Public Service Act, and given to the commissioner ; I am not responsible for this or for that ; those are the acts of the commissioner,” we approach a system which is analogous to the American system, where the Minister is beyond the control of
Congress. If the commissioner is to administer the public service, he is the Ministry so far as its administration is concerned. Are we prepared to allow its administration to be placed beyond the control of Parliament? I have heard honorable senators, who are prepared to vote for clause 5, condemn the American system because there a Minister is beyond the control of Congress. Yet they are prepared to put the greatest portion of the administration of every department outside Ministerial control. I think that Senator Dobson should press his motion, and give every reason he can why the clause should be altered or struck out. Honorable senators who share his view should also speak, or, at any rate, enter a last protest against the clause.
– I hope that it will nob be necessary for honorable senators who wish to refer to clause 5 to go into the merits on this motion, but that the Postmaster-General will withdraw from an attitude which, I think, is not generous, and which is scarcely just. What he is asking us to do now is to take as long a time as we think fit, subject to the standing orders, in discussing the question of whether it is desirable to reconsider clause 5, whereas most of us desire an open opportunity to discuss the clause on its merits. We could not possibly urge any stronger reasons for a reconsideration than we should have to adduce upon the merits of the clause itself. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to let us face the question squarely. If he will allow the clause to be reconsidered now he will save time.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).- I wish to know when this discussion is to end. This procedure is contrary to my parliamentary experience, and I think it is contrary to common sense. I want some finality to our proceedings. Why should not the ordinary procedure be carried out and the .Bill reported to the Senate 1
– We save a day under these standing orders. That is the only advantage.
– It appears to me that we are going to lose a week. We have senator after senator rising, and with a persistence worthy of a better cause, pursuing this question of the appointment of a commissioner. I shall vote against a reconsideration of clause 5, and I am not very sure that I shall not vote against a reconsideration of any of the clauses because I see there is going to be a lamentable waste of time. I can quite understand the action of Senator Dobson, who wishes to kill the Bill. There are a number of honorable senators who wish to emasculate the Bill. I object to honorable senators discussing the Bill, and, therefore, I shall not be guilty of the fault which they have committed.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - I am sorry that when we all desire to save time there has been a preliminary canter occupying three-quarters of an hour. One allsufficient reason for the course I am taking is the. fact that this clause was carried by only twelve votes to eleven. The Postmaster General can talk until doomsday, but he cannot say that a majority of the Senate have yet given in their adhesion to what he calls the “ heart “ of this measure. When he ‘ has a majority of only one in favour of the very foundation of a- scheme to which some of us most absolutely object, I have the right to ask that it be reconsidered. From the remarks of Senator Drake, I understand that the debate on the question is to take place at this stage. It is just as broad as it is long. I regard the clause as a humiliation at the starting of our Parliament. The Ministers practically say by the clause - “ We, the members of the first Commonwealth Government, taking into consideration that there is such a thing as political influence, now declare that we consider ourselves incapable, that we have not the backbone or the firmness to administer the civil service, and therefore we ask Parliament to vote £10,000 a year to enable us to pay a commissioner and six inspectors and maintain a department to do our work for us.” If I were to speak for a week I could not put the matter more plainly and tersely than Senator Pearce has done. We are absolutely giving over the control of the 11,000 civil servants in the Commonwealth to an irresponsible commissioner, who is to hold office for seven years. It does not follow that any question in connexion with the civil service will come before Parliament dining that time. Owing to Ministers shrinking from their responsibilities, the whole civil service may get out of touch with both Houses of the Parliament. It is true that we shall have the estimates before us, but what is the use of discussing the estimates when Ministers have absolutely given away the control of the service, and when one commissioner is more powerful than the two Houses of Parliament and Ministers rolled into one? “What is the use of pretending that we have responsible government when Ministers are so willing to give away their power ? It is humiliating that such things should happen. I admit that there has been gross misconduct and maladministration in the past in consequence of the use of political influence and Ministers being dishonest ; but are we to say that the first Ministry of this Commonwealth are not alive to that sort of thing, and that if they are worthy of their position in the Commonwealth they will not put down their foot, and shut the door on improper political influence? But here I am face to face with a difficulty. “While the Minister for Defence has published the information that he will not allow political influence, and will not be interviewed by a Member of Parliament with regard to the position in the service of any officer, we have the Postmaster-General absolutely encouraging it and telling Members of Parliament that they have the privilege of going to see him about civil servants. To use an expression of Jane Carlyle’s I am “ at death variance” with the Postmaster-General on this subject. I cannot understand a responsible Minister uttering such a dangerous principle. In dealing with every member of the civil service, from a chief officer down to a telegraph messenger, Ministers are placed in a judicial position, and for any Member of Parliament to say to a Minister “ You appointed the wrong man to that position and I want my friend appointed,” is utterly wrong. If that sort of thing is to take place it must be done at the expense of some officer, and I deny the right of any Member of Parliament, no matter who he may be, to approach a Minister upon any such subject. The Ministers of our first Commonwealth Parliament ought to have been strong enough to put down this evil. Is it not a humiliating admission that they are unable to do so, and that Ministers who are paid to perform their work are willing to give away their responsibilities to an irresponsible official? Leaving that branch of the subject, let me come to another aspect. We had twelve members supporting clause 5] whilst eleven voted against it. That miserable majority of one means £10,000 a year to the taxpayers. If the minority of eleven had their way they would save the £10,000 a year. If Ministers would only occupy their rightful position there would be no excuse for any such expenditure. A board sitting for a couple of months would be able to classify the service. Thus there is an enormous question of retrenchment involved in this clause. I know that Ministers must be fearing the extravagant expenditure which the clause entails, because I have read the debates, and I find that some members of the Cabinet in another place have almost pledged themselves that six inspectors shall not be appointed. They have spoken of one or two or three at the outside. Senator Millen says that if there are six inspectors - one for each State - they can do what we all want in a manner just and equitable to the civil service. I venture to say that there will not be six inspectors, and that if there are Members of Parliament themselves will protest in such a form that in all probability the Cabinet will lose their seats. We shall get rid of the fiscal issue when the Tariff is passed, and I can see another issue opening up. That is, whether the business of the Commonwealth shall be conducted extravagantly or economically. I shall absolutely support those who will cut down expenditure. This Bill means an increase of £47,000 a year in salaries in addition to which the commissioner and his inspectors will cost £10,000 . a year. That means altogether an increase of £57,000 a year in the new expenditure of the Commonwealth. I venture to say that every portion of that £57,000 is absolutely new expenditure, and that no portion of it was included in any of the innumerable estimates which were made as to what federation was to cost. The cost of federation to Australia was put down at from £260,000 to £300,000 a year. Not a single pound of this new expenditure was included in those estimates. Further, I believe that clause 5 will not carry out the intentions of the framers of the Bill. Two States in the Commonwealth are absolutely going back from the principle of non-political control of the civil service. I have already pointed out that Western Australia has a simple Public Service Act, without any such officials as a commissioner and inspectors. The Parliament of that State had before them the Public Service Acts of the different States when they passed their measure, and knew the history of the various public service boards, and how they had failed, and the tyranny they had exercised and the injustices they had done. Here I am speaking particularly of the New South Wales Public Service Board. My words do not apply to the Victorian Board, though that board made such mistakes, and created such anomalies, that the Government of Victoria had to create a special anomalies or reclassification board. Because that board sat for two years, as Senator Styles has told us, that is no reason why the chief officers of the Commonwealth service should not be able to grade the whole service in two months. I will undertake to say that they could do so. Then, again, Queensland has followed in the footsteps of Western Australia, and has gone back to the system of political control. Why ? Because Queensland has discovered that the old system was a failure in shutting out the very political influence which it was designed to exclude. There are two instances of States going back to the system of political control ; but Ministers insist on giving up political control and responsible government as regards the Federal- public service. Although I may have spoken at some length upon this matter there are others who have scarcely spoken at all, and I will willingly sit down, instead of making a longer speech, if honorable senators who have experience, and have thought about the matter, will express their views. I consider that the reasons why the Western Australian people have refused to have a Public Service Board were sound. The four articles published in one of the Western Australian papers upon this subject, which I have previously quoted, pointed out those reasons, one of them being that the head of a department, and the principal officers who are responsible for the working of a department, and for running it as a going concern - ought to have an active voice in the appointment of officers to the divisions in it, and that we ought not to take from them the power of dealing with the men who have to oil the machine, grease the wheels, and keep it going. It was pointed out in those articles, with unanswerable force, that no company or private employer, if he had 5,000 servants in his employment, would think of handing over the control of them to an outside person. That is what Western Australia has refused to do. The Parliament of that State say that they must hold the head of each department responsible for his department and for its smooth working, from the chief officer down to the messenger. But if honorable senators will look through this Bill they will find that it is the commissioner who is to say who are to be the officers of each department. How is the commissioner to know who are the fittest men ?
– The inspectors will inform him.
– What can they know? The honorable senator seems to think that we are dealing with a bank ! The mere appointment of inspectors will go to show that the chief officers are not carrying on the service efficiently, and that the Commonwealth has need of watch dogs to see that everything is being done that ought to be done. I deny it. I say that the public service is in good order, and that all that we have to do is to grade it as one Commonwealth service, when the whole machine will work automatically. Under this Bill the head of a department cannot fill up a vacancy, nor can he reward an efficient officer. All he can do is to make a report to the commissioner. The commissioner may be open to social influence. Senator Smith has said that social and club influence is about ten times as great as political influence. If that be the opinion of honorable senators, clause 5 should certainly be omitted. The permanent head cando nothing but make suggestions, and although he may regard a particular suggestion as vital to his department, the commissioner may set it at nought and appoint some one else.
– Subject to the approval of the Governor-General.
– But does the honorable senator suggest that if the head of a department wishes to appoint a certain officer, and the commissioner wants to appoint some one else, the Governor-General in Council will refuse to accept the commissioner’s nomination ? Is it likely that the Governor-General will snub the commissioner in order to accept the nomination of a junior officer ? I do not think so. By this proposal we practically say that Ministers are incapable of controlling the departments, that the chief officers cannot do it, and that we must have seven outside men to do it for them. The whole principle is wrong. The reason we have argued ourselves into it, is simply that political influence grew to such an extent that-it became utterly subversive of good and sound government. In consequence of that, the people ran away to the other extreme to get rid of it. But because one wants to fly away from one evil, that is no reason why he should fly to another. Instead of doing that, we should take the more manly course of insisting on Ministers retaining their responsibility, and discharging their duties in an upright manner, and if their actions do not commend themselves to us, we should send them about their business.
– Senator Dobson has laid some emphasis on the fact that the system of control by tt commissioner and inspectors will cost 10,000 a year. Taking the population of Australia at 3,600,000, I find that this means two-thirds of a penny per annum for each inhabitant.
– I shall have to support Senator. Dobson in his request for the re-consideration of clause 5. Nearly every other honorable senator has spoken upon the clause, but owing to illness I was not able to do so when it was before the committee. I am utterly opposed to the boarding-out system of government. I can hardly grasp the position which the commissioner is going to occupy. Will he interfere with the defence force ? Will General Hutton be subordinate to him 1
– He will not interfere with the military branch of the Defence department.
– Then there is to be a dual control of the department 1 I wish to know also whether the Comptroller of Customs, who is to take charge of the Customs of the whole of the Commonwealth, is to be subordinate to the commissioner ?
– We have heard a great deal of Mr. Scott - an able officer, no doubt - who is at the head of the Post and Telegraph department. Is he to be subordinate to the commissioner 1
– The commissioner will occupy very much the same “position as that held by the Public Service Board in Victoria.
– I utterly disapprove of a Public Service Board. I happen to have been a member of two Victorian boards, which are not responsible to any one. For ten years I was a member of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works. Constant complaints were being made against that body, but some member of the Government would stand up in Parliament and say, “ We have no control over the board. It can do just as it pleases.” I was also a member of the Melbourne Harbor Trust - another irresponsible board, upon which the Government have five representative!. The result of my connexion with that board for five or six years was that I had not been in Parliament for more that two or three years before I moved its abolition. We had a board of railway commissioners in Victoria, and time after time we witnessed the pitiable spectacle of the Minister of the day standing up in the Legislative Assembly and saying, “ I have no control over the commissioners ; I can do nothing. I am merely a go-between between the commissioners and this House.” There was no responsibility to any one ; and the commissioner or commissioners, as the case might be, defied the Minister time after time.
– The commissioner could not do that under this Bill.
– We all disapprove of political influence. One board in Victoria was wrecked, not because of political, but because of social and club influence. There can be no question about that. I have never approved of the Public Service Board in Victoria. In my opinion the Government have made a mistake in introducing proposals for a commissioner and six inspectors, while at the same time appointing officers to control each of the departments of the Commonwealth. J cannot understand why a commissioner is required. Why should he interfere with the Comptroller of Customs 1 If that officer is a capable man, and suitable for the position, he must know more about the department than will the commissioner. Why should we appoint a commissioner to interfere with the comptroller, and why should it be necessary for the comptroller to report to him instead of to the Minister who would then be responsible. I hope the clause will be reconsidered, and that we shall hear no more of the proposed appointment of a commissioner and six inspectors. We shall be able to overcome political control when the man administering a department can be called to account. As Senator Pearce has pointed out, we are drifting into the American system of conducting public business. There Ministers are responsible to no one but to the President. It appears to me that in this case we have responsibility without any responsibility.
– I am not going to take up the time of the committee by giving my reasons for thinking that the clause should not be reconsidered. I desire only to say that if we agree to the reconsideration of this clause, we shall establish a dangerous precedent, or, at all events, one that will be very unsatisfactory. We shall say, practically, that after a clause has been thrashed out at great length and agreed to, it should be reconsidered on the ground that it was only carried by a majority of one in a committee of 23.
– That is a good reason.
– I think it is a very bad one. If we are going to adopt it as a good ground for such a request as this, we shall be continually reconsidering clauses when we reach the end of a measure. It is rather unfair to expect those honorable senators who come here week after a week, to allow the session to be dragged out to undue lengths simply to please those honorable senators who have not been in their places, attending to their duties.
– Some honorable senators who ask for a re-consideration of the clause are among the most regular attendants.
– If we are going to follow the procedure suggested by Senator Dobson, we shall never get to the end of any legislation. I am not going to discuss the merits of the clause, because in common with other honorable senators I have already availed myself of an opportunity to do so.
– It is very evident from the tone which this debate has assumed that it is really a question between those who are in favour of the clause as it stands, rather than a mere question of whether the clause should be reconsidered, with which we have to deal now. There can be no doubt that the clause contains the vital principle of the Bill. Although I am one of those who were not here when the division to which reference has been made was taken upon this clause, I am opposed to a re-consideration of it, because I think it has been debated ad nauseam, and that there should be some finality in our legislation. If we are going to allow all the vital clauses of a Bill to be reconsidered on grounds- such as those which have been stated by Senator Dobson, then, with strong fighting men in the minority, we shall continually be having recommittals. Assuming, for example, that on clause 5 the Government were defeated by a majority of one in a committee of 23 or 25 honorable senators, would not they come forward by-and-by - having looked up two or three supporters in the meantime - and ask for a reconsideration of the clause, so that we might go back upon what we had done 1 To my mind, reconsideration or recommittal should, in the absence of special or unexceptional circumstances, only be allowed in the case of clauses that do not constitute the vital principles of a Bill, but are matters of detail in regard to which subsequent experience has shown that amendments are absolutely necessary. We have opportunities for dealing with this matter in another way if we think that a wrong decision has been arrived at. When the third reading stage is reached, why should not Senator Dobson challenge the whole measure if he is opposed to it. The Government have said .that the principle involved in clause 5 is a vital one, and that without it they will abandon the Bill. If Senator Dobson sees fit to raise a debate on the third reading - when honorable senators will only be able to speak once, and there will be some chance of coming to a conclusion - let him do so.
– We do not want to kill the Bill.
– Perhaps not ; but the Government say that without this principle in the Bill they will abandon it. If honorable senators who demand Ministerial control read the Bill through, they will find that with all the power which it gives to the commissioner his actions are as nothing until they . have been confirmed by the Governor-General. The GovernorGeneral represents the Executive for the time being, and the Executive is responsible to Parliament.
– Then why have such a buffer ?
– Because it has been proved to be necessary. Here is one of the principles of the Bill which I have picked out -
The commissioner shall determine the division, class, subdivision of class or grade of every officer, and shall keep a record of all officers, and so on. That relates to the grading of the public service. Then all the suggestions which may be made by the commissioner, all the appointments and promotions, are subject to the approval of the Governor-General. Therefore Ministerial responsibility underlies the scheme. Although a Minister might seek to defend himself in regard to a wrong action by saying - “ This is the recommendation of the Public Service Commissioner,” Parliament, nevertheless, would say to that Minister - “You have accepted a recommendation which you ought not to have accepted, and therefore we are going to hold you responsible. “We are not going to allow you to shield yourself behind a man who has taken a wrong action which you ought to have detected.” Hie commissioner will stand between the public and Parliament. He will stand up in the interests of the public and protect them so far as possible against the exercise of undue political influence. I think that is a good principle to be observed in the management of the public service. A question has been raised so to the difference between the commissioner and the head of any of the departments. Certain defined duties are given to heads of departments,- and if the commissioner does not approve of recommendations made by them the Minister has to determine the matter finally. In the practical working of a measure of this kind, the commissioner would deem it his duty to make himself thoroughly acquainted with the requirements of the departments. He would find it necessary to go to the permanent heads for a great deal of information. He would go to them direct, or through his inspectors, just as a Minister would have to go to a permanent head for information before he made any drastic change in his own department. I must take exception to one remark made by Senator Dobson in regard to the way in which the public service of New South “Wales has been managed under commissioners. Senator Dobson has told us that it is a service in which tyranny and injustice prevails. The Public Service Act of New South Wales has been in existence for six years, yet no attempt has been made by the Parliament of the country to repeal it. There have been attempts made to amend it in certain respects in which it was found not to be working properly. I have no doubt that would be the case with any Bill dealing with a subject of such magnitude as the public service of a country. If the public service of New South Wales had been shown to be one in which a rule of tyranny and injustice prevailed, the Legislature of that State would long since have repealed the Act. I am quite sure that any man who knows the class of men who are in the Legislature of New South Wales, must be fully convinced that they would not allow a measure like the Public Service Act to be worked by means of tyranny, injustice or oppression. The fact that it has not been repealed is one of the strongest evidences we can have that the principle is sound. It is true, as stated last night, that if we allow our public service to get into an over-grown state and then call upon a body of men or an individual to rectify that and put the public service into an efficient condition, many cases of serious hardship to individuals will inevitably occur. In order to do justice to the community, injustice will inevitably be done to individuals in the service who will be dispensed with. It is to prevent anything of that kind that we, at this early, stage of om* history, commence with a public service measure. Let it be remembered that Sir William Lyne, the gentleman who is responsible for this Bill, is a man who has held office in New South Wales for several years. He has been in the Parliament of that State for a great number of years. He has had an opportunity of experiencing the difficulties which beset Ministers in Parliament, and of learning the desirability of having a measure of this kind. I say that the Bill, therefore, must come with a strong recommendation in being introduced by that honorable gentleman.
– Senator Dobson has also been a Minister for many years in Tasmania.
– The honorable and learned senator has been a Minister for years in Tasmania, but I have already referred to the difference between the smaller and the larger States in connexion with the public service. Honorable senators from Tasmania and South Australia have admitted that in those States they have had to cut their service down almost to the bone in consequence of the financial necessities of the States.
– But Parliament did it.
– Yes, because Parliament was absolutely compelled to do it. If the Government of those States had had an overflowing treasury and a large amount of money coming in year by year they would have been in a position to say - “We can afford to give this man another £50 a year, and this man another £100 a year; and we can afford to take these men into the service,” and the chances are that the same abuses would have crept into the public service in those States as have been found to exist in the larger States. In the beginning of the Commonwealth it is well that we should lay the foundations of the public service in such a way that we shall not be called upon at some future time to have what was called in Victoria a “ Black Wednesday,” or to have such a clay of tribulation and bitterness for the public servant as we had in New South Wales when it was found necessary to retrench the public service. I hope honorable senators will not consent to the recommittal of the clause, especially when it is being asked for, not with a desire to make amendments upon it which will make it more clear or carry out its intention more effectively, but with a desire to reconsider the vital principle of the Bill and negative the clause altogether. While I should not be prepared to vote for amendments upon the clause, I should be prepared to vote for the recommittal of it if the intention were not to attack the vital principle of the Bill itself. That principle has been adopted upon the second reading, and incidentally upon the consideration of clauses in committee, and there will, upon the third reading, be a further opportunity to discuss it.
– I hope honorable senators will agree to the recommittal of this clause. As an honorable senator from one of the smaller States, I find that we have to be extremely careful not to make the Commonwealth public service too costly. I fail to see that we can possibly make the public service so much more efficient than it is to-day as to justify an extra expenditure of £10,000 or £12,000 a year.
– A little over id. per man.
– If the honorable senator reckoned in that way with regard to all our expenditure he would be prepared to allow any land of recklessness on the part of the Commonwealth Treasurer. I feel very strongly upon this matter, and although I admit that we did discuss this point very fully in committee, we are, I think,” justified in asking for a recommittal of the clause in order that we may strike out a provision which will bear so heavily upon the various States. We have to-day a very efficient public service, and to establish a board of management such as is provided for in this Bill will, I fear, lead to chaos rather than to order. I hope that honorable senators will not be frightened by the references made by Senators Gould and others to Black Wednesday and considerations of that character. We know that private firms during activity in business increase the number of their hands, and in times of depression they are bound to reduce the number of their hands. The Government is in exactly the same position. While building railways and extending public works, they find it necessary to employ a large number of hands, but when those works are completed, many workmen must be dispensed with unless other employment’ can be found for them. We need not be alarmed about any retrenchment which may take place. When Parliament and the public officers themselves realize that they have really little or nothing to do, they will know that the time has come for retrenchment. I hope we shall be given another opportunity to discuss this matter. So far1 as South Aus tralia is concerned, we cannot improve the working of the public service there very materially, if at all.
– It is not susceptible of improvement ?
– The public service departments there are working efficiently, and I challenge the PostmasterGeneral to deny it.
– I would not attempt to deny it.
– Seeing that the public service there is under existing conditions being worked so efficiently, I feel that we ought not to burden that State with the extra expenditure involved in the scheme proposed in this Bill. If we agree to the appointment of this commissioner and’ his inspectors, and it is not followed by the increase in the efficiency of the service which we will have aright to expect on account’ of the extra expenditure involved, there will be a cry raised that the service is too expensive, reductions will be made, and made in the poorly-paid branches of the service. I urge that as another reason why we should have a further opportunity to consider whether it is wise to pass this Public Service Bill based upon a principle which I believe to be radically wrong.
– I intend to vote for the reconsideration of this clause, but not because I agree with honorable senators who are in favour of going back to Ministerial responsibility. At the second reading stage of the Bill I opposed that view, and voted for the appointment of a commissioner, and when the test division comes to be taken upon this question I will vote in the same way. I intend to vote for the reconsideration of the clause, because I think Senator Dobson is perfectly within his rights in moving this amendment, and what is the honorable and learned senator’s position on this occasion may be my position or the position of any other honorable senator to-morrow. I desire the recommittal of the Bill in another direction, and possibly I may not get it. During the discussion of this Bill in committee it has, I think, been understood all along that at a later stage we should have another trial of strength with regard to this particular clause. If I remember rightly, the Postmaster-General himself said that at a later stage such an opportunity would be given. Senator Dobson desires to have a trial of strength with regard to the principle contained in clause 5, and I think he should be given the opportunity. If I thought that we should again debate the whole thing on the third reading, I should not be prepared to give the honorable and learned senator the opportunity he asks for now. I do not think there is any desire to waste time, because the principle objected .to has been exhaustively dealt with in previous discussions. I shall vote for the reconsideration of the clause, in order to give Senator Dobson the fair play to which I think he is entitled.
– It seems to have escaped the notice of Senator Barrett that if this clause is recommitted the whole of it will be open to discussion and amendment. We have been told once or twice, and first of all by Senator Dobson, that it is a sufficient reason for the recommittal of this clause that it was carried by a majority of only one. I think it will be remembered that there were other amendments proposed in the clause which were carried by majorities of more than one. If the only desire is that there shall be another division upon clause 5, that division can be taken upon the amendment now before the committee, but what is aimed at by some honorable senators who strongly object to the principle embodied in this clause, is to reopen the whole matter, when they will be perfeetly within their rights in moving fresh amendments in the hope that by chance some amendment may be carried which will secure to them a victory in carrying out their ideas. I think it is much better that we should decide now whether the matter shall be re-opened or not. It was fully discussed, not only in committee, but also on the second reading. When we first went into committee, there was a feeling that as some honorable senators were absent when the Bill was read a second time, a sort of second reading debate should be allowed on clause 5, and full speeches were made not only on that clause, but on all the principles of the Bill. Never was there a subject which could be said to have been more thoroughly thrashed out than this was. We have heard no arguments this afternoon to show that anything has since arisen which should cause the committee to change its mind in regard to clause 5. The request has simply been based on numbers. Senator Dobson says that in one division the Government had a majority of only one : he thinks that, perhaps, some honorable senators have changed their minds, and he practically wishes to have the fight over again. I do not think I should be justified in consenting to a reopening of the discussion on the main principle of the Bill. It is my duty to stand by the Bill of which I am in charge. If I were to consent to a reconsideration of this clause, I should be making a concession which I should not be called on to make, and that is the reason why I oppose it.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - The actual question in form is whether clause 5 shall be included with those which are noted by the Goverment for reconsideration, but, in substance, we have practically entered upon a consideration of the merits of that clause to some extent. I take the view which was put by Senator Barrett. I do not think that anything could have been stronger than the grounds on which he appealed to the committee and the Postmaster-General to permit this clause to be reconsidered with the others. The Ministry are not showing towards Senator Dobson quite that degree of fairness - I shall not say generosity - which they might very well extend to him. If the truth had been, as the Minister at an earlier hour suggested, that this was going to be an abuse of the standing order, I should have been one of the strongest to support the attitude of the Ministry ; but I decline to believe that Senator Dobson is seeking to abuse it. I believe, on the contrary; that he is animated by an earnest desire to have reconsidered what every one of us declares to be, if not the vital, a vital principle of the Bill, which- was dealt with in a small committee, and carried by a majority of one vote, in order that the deliberate and exhaustive sense of the committee may be obtained. Surely that is a legitimate thing. I cannot conceive of any ground which would- entitle an honorable senator to a reconsideration of a clause about which he feels strongly, and about which almost an equal portion of the committee feel as strongly with him, if that is not a sufficient ground. We have listened to a number of very extraordinary arguments against a reconsideration. If honorable senators choose to affirm what seems to me a course not inspired by complete fairness towards Senator Dobson, it will be a precedent in the future, and we shall know what to expect. I do not intend on this motion to deal as I did before with the arguments for and against this clause. Senator Drake says - “ Oh, we should not reconsider this clause, because if we do, the whole clause will be open to reconsideration and amendment.” Of course it will. But what about his clause 25, which deals with the minimum wage ? As a matter of course that is going to be recommitted, and any honorable senator can move any amendment he pleases. The Government have given notice of an amendment.
– It only consists of about four lines.
– The number of lines do not represent its importance. The amendment to which attention is directed by Senator Dobson consists not of four lines, but of one word - “ commissioner.” Of course clause 5 will be open to amendment.
– It is like a Bill in itself. We took it in separate sections last time. 27 p
– I know that it is comprehensive enough to make a dozen bills. We wish to’ simplify it, and to simplify it in the first instance by eliminating the commissioner. How can that possibly be a reason against my honorable friend’s request for a reconsideration when we have in the Government list I do not know how many clauses, all of which will be open to amendment, and to debate. I feel that the Government are perfectly entitled to have any clause they choose reconsidered. I agree with Senator Playford that any honorable senator whose object is open to suspicion should be called upon to state his reasons, and if it appears that he is asking for a reconsideration of a number of clauses which looks like an abuse or obstruction, then the committee should set its face against anything of the kind being done. But every one acquits Senator Dobson of a desire of that kind. We all attribute to him perfect honesty and sincerity.
– Can we not discuss it on this amendment i
– To my mind, this course is perfectly irregular. Under cover of an appeal to the committee for a courtesy to be extended to Senator Dobson, we are discussing the merits of the clause. It is an inconvenient method, and it will become a very bad precedent in the future. Senator Gould offers another reason against a reconsideration of the clause, and that is that he would do this by voting against the third reading. That would not accomplish the purpose of Senator Dobson, but it would have the effect of throwing out the Bill. What is the use of having wasted the time of the Senate for months ? If the amendment of Senator Dobson is carried, every clause in the Bill dealing with machinery control, and rights of civil servants, will be just as effective, and just as useful, without the commissioner as with him.
– The Bill would require to be recast if the clause were altered.
– To my humble thinking very little of the Bill would require to be recast. The plain issue is not a classification board such as that included in the amendment which was defeated yesterday, but a buffer, or an instrument for neutralizing Ministerial responsibility. Those of us who come from South Australia, in spite of remarks that are made, are in a position to declare that we have never had anything of this sort. We do not want anything of this sort, and I fearlessly say that no civil service is better controlled and managed, and is less open to criticism than is and has been that civil service. Senator Downer and Senator Playford have been Premiers of the State. I do not know whether theyhave been under the painful necessity of reducing salaries, but what has that to do with this system. Senator Gould says this Bill will avoid a Black Wednesday. How will it? What was Black Wednesday? It was a very bad way of doing a very proper thing - of reducing salaries which were too high. If salaries are again too high or beyond the means of the Commonwealth, shall we not have the. same reduction made again ?
– And reducing officers.
– By political influence send some out and place in others.
– What does, my honorable friend say to what Senator Styles has said about that influence which was more mischievous than and almost as general as that which is called political influence? Political influence is not open to all the obloquy which is thrown upon it. Political influence is to a certain extent legitimate. I deny that men in politics are to be supposed to be a set of rogues whose influence is never exerted in the way of right-doing. Those other influences to which attention has been called have been productive of more harm and more inefficiency in the public service than has what is called political influence. The most extraordinary reason of all against a reconsideration of this clause is that this £10,000 or £12,000 a year will amount to only two-thirds of a penny per head of the population. Such a reason as that would justify chucking the money into the sea. I hope that the Minister will feel that it is not a reason against the request of Senator Dobson.
– I think the best reason is that it took three or four weeks to discuss the clause.
-If it takes us three or four weeks again, as Senator Dobson calls it the vital principle of the Bill, it will not be time illspent. But it will not take anything like that time. Whatever time it took on a previous occasion, there was a small committee and a majority of only one.
– That was only on one amendment.
– On the amendment to which Senator Dobson has chiefly directed his attention. My honorable friends have in their hands a power by which they can stop unnecessary debate. I agree with every word which Senator Playford has said, that all of us should set our faces against any lengthy re-opening of the discussion on the clause. We desire to assistSenator Dobson in having a. division taken on the concrete proposal, and not on a question, which in form does not raise the issue, and which if defeated will be an intimation that courtesy and fair play are not to be extended to him in a matter in which he takes the deepest interest, whether he is right or wrong, and as to which no one questions his sincerity. I hope that an opportunity will be given to have the clause reconsidered, and that the committee will not be led away by the arguments - very good arguments in their fashion - which have been advanced by Senator Gould and others, and which have convinced me that New South Wales is the worst State in the Commonwealth, in respect of the vagaries of its civil service. I quite agree that drastic measures are necessary in New South Wales, but I hope that we have not reached that stage in the Commonwealth to which those criticisms are applicable, or as to which such a remedy could properly be applied. We do not want to reach that stage. I do not believe that there is the slightest prospect of it. I hope that Senator Dobson’s request will meet with fair consideration, and that we shall have an opportunity of bringing the subject to an issue on the concrete question of whether there shall be a commissioner or Ministerial responsibility.
Senator Sir JOHN DOWNER (South Australia). - It will be a great pity if we decide that any Minister or any member of the Senate has the right to ask that any clause shall be reconsidered. There is no such right There may be clauses which require reconsideration in the ordinary course, for the purpose of putting the Bill into proper form. But when there has been a great conflict upon an important question of principle, extending over many days and nights, and that fight has been determined, to say that it would show a want of good manners to an honorable senator who is anxious that the fight should take place again, not to give him an opportunity of repeating it, or to say that itwould be a want of courtesy to the Government if they wished to get out of a defeat which they had previously sustained, and that consequently the subject should be thrown open again, is to say something for which there is no warrant. There is no such parliamentary practice, and it is not desirable that that there should be. Now I come to the question of what this debate is about. It is as to whether clause 5 should be reconsidered. On that we are discussing the whole question. What is it to be reconsidered for 1 For the purpose of striking out the provision with regard to the commissioner. The debate has been allowed to proceed in such a way that the whole question has been raised and may be decided without going back to the original clause. Why not take the division now? Of course every honorable senator can repeat himself 50 times if he likes ; but why should we not, as we are in committee on this motion to recommit the clause, decide the question of whether there shall be a commissioner or no commissioner? The debate promises to be prolonged in any case, and we may as well have the matter settled at once and so avoid a second debate.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania).- I thought, until this motion for the recommittal of clause 5 was moved, that there was a possibility of this Bill being disposed of by the Senate before the end of next month. We know that there is a diversity of opinion on the matter. We have previously had it discussed, when scarcely an honorable senator in the chamber failed to address himself to it. I earnestly hope that those who then fought their hardest and were defeated will realize the necessity of accepting the defeat. It is all very well for Senator Symon to characterize the refusal of the Government to accept Senator Dobson’s proposal as a lack of fairness ; but I think that he has argued upon assumptions that are not in consonance with the facts. Clause 5 was discussed at considerable length for days and days, and in addition to that, throughout the debate upon the Bill, wherever an opportunity occurred, the honorable and learned senator who is responsible for this proposal availed himself of it to raise a fresh discussion with regard to the appointment of a commissioner.
– And he withdrew his other amendments on the understanding that we should reconsider clause 5.
– I never understood that the Government pledged themselves to the reconsideration of clause 5.
– Senator Dobson had no ground in anything said by a representative of the Government for believing that we would agree to the reconsideration of clause 5.
– If there had been any such understanding I should be one of the first to support this proposal.
– I always distinctly declined to pledge the Government to the reconsideration of the clause.
– That was the position as I understood it. Senator Symon has adduced the fact that, in a small House Senator Dobson’s amendment upon this clause was defeated by the bare majority of one, as a reason why it should be reconsidered. If there is anything that is calculated to induce honorable senators to oppose the recommittal, that fact ought to do it. If some honorable senators do not choose to attend, or are driven away by extremely long speeches, surely those who do attend are not to beasked to convenience them for the very faults for which they themselves are responsible. Why should we have the whole discussion over again for the benefit of the absentees ? So long as I occupy a seat in this chamber, I shall oppose anything that is based upon the principle that the absentee is to be considered rather than those senators who do attend during the debates and divisions. I shall always, oppose anything of the character suggested by Senator Symon in the course of his remarks, because the implied argument was that the clause should be reconsidered for the benefit of those who were absent on the last occasion.
– I never said anything of the kind. It is a total misrepresentation of what I said.
– I took care to say that Senator Symon did not say that, but he implied it.
– I never implied it.
– It is the implication to be drawn from his remarks.
– By a tortuous mind, perhaps.
– Will the honorable and learned senator deny that he said that there was a considerable difference of opinion on this question, and that the vote was taken in a thin House 1
– Certainly I said that, and I said that the division did not represent the deliberate opinion of the whole Senate.
– Then the inference was that the balance of absentees were to be considered.
– No ; the sense of the whole Senate taken.
– If honorable senators choose to absent themselves from the Senate when such an important discussion is going on, the obvious inference is that they do not consider themselves as representing a portion of the sense of the Senate on this particular question. If they absent themselves, they must take the consequences ; and I shall nl ways oppose any motion for a recommittal which is simply moved in order to obtain the sense of those who, when the matter was under consideration, chose to absent themselves from the division.
– The honorable and learned senator is not answering my question. I say that the public are entitled to have the decision of the majority of the Senate on an important question like this.
– Senator Dobson knows as well as any other honorable senator does that there have been numbers of questions of great importance which have been determined when there have not been two-thirds of the members of the Senate present. Senator Dobson has told us that his real object and intention is to kill this Bill.
– The honorable and learned senator is exaggerating.
– He used those very words - that he was going to kill the Bill. I cannot see my way to support him when he proposes that clause 5 shall be reconsidered, seeing that he actually took the committee into his confidence and told them in the most absolutely plain words that he was going to kill the Bill.
– I have corrected that phrase. I do not desire to kill the Bill ; I desire to kill the heart of the Bill, perhaps.
– I am quite willing to accept the correction, which I did not hear before. Seeing that Senator Dobson’s professed intention is to kill the heart of the Bill, I am bound to oppose this proposal, which is a blow struck at the heart and life of the measure. What he wishes is to do away with the commissioner and resort to political influence. We have debated the question of political influence, and Senator Symon has told us, in rather vehement terms, of the great disadvantages that would accrue from other than political influence. I presume that he meant social or club influence. But that influence might be exerted upon the Ministerial head just as easily as upon the commissioner. In fact it is not substituted for political influence, but superadded to political influence. If social influence and the amenability of a commissioner to it is an evil which we ought to avoid, are we entitled to assume that a Minister charged with the administration of a department would not be amenable to such influence 1 Are we to assume that there would be no club or social influence 1 The reasons given by the honorable senator on that point, although he’ professed his intention of abstaining from discussing the merits of the clause, are assumptions that again are not in consonance with” the facts. They have simply been put forward for the purpose of this discussion. There is just one other matter to which I should like to refer, because frequent reference has been made to it throughout the debate, and most recently by Senator Gould. I do not wish any misunderstanding to exist in regard to the matter. On account of the remarks made by one honorable and learned senator, who represents Tasmania, it has been stated frequently that that State and South Australia have had to cut down to the bone, so far as the civil service is concerned. That statement, together with the idea which has entered the minds of some honorable senators in regard to it, is simply a half truth. Senator Dobson was responsible for the initiation of retrenchment in Tasmania at a time of financial crisis, and he knows that a ‘ period of vigorous retrenchment was entered upon. But those who direct their attention to the salaries being received at the present time by the civil service in Tasmania, will know that the former salaries have been restored. As a matter of fact Tasmania, when it entered the federation, had passed through the financial difficulties which she encountered in common with other States, and the portions of civil service salaries which were retrenched during that period had been restored. Therefore
Tasmania is not, as has been assumed by various honorable senators, in a position approximating bankruptcy.
– Her civil service is well organized.
– No. The civil servants of Tasmania, and the people whom they serve, have been waiting for some independent authority to properly organise the service, just as the people of the other States have been waiting for it.
– That is not the case with South Australia.
– We cannot base every argument on the position of “ the model State.” South Australia would not be a model State if it were notsuperior toothers. If we assume that other States are in the same position as South Australia, we take away from it the right to be called a “model State.” The matter having been so fully discussed on every possible occasion, I think that honorable senators who have failed in their desire to strike out clause 5 ought to readily recognise their defeat, and fall in loyally with the decision of the majority. They ought to accept the situation, and not expect us to go on discussing this matter for some indefinite period.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to-
That the committee do now divide.
Question - That clause 5 be added to the amendment - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 2
Question resolved in the negative.
Amendment on amendment negatived.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - I should like to give those honorable senators who have expressed certain opinions as to the advisability of reconsidering various clauses an opportunity of showing their consistency. We have had a long discussion on clause 25. Several amendments upon it were proposed when it was before us, and after a long and acrimonious discussion, the Government at a late hour, and on a close division, similar to that on clause 5, were unsuccessful in carrying their amendment. We are now asked by them to reconsider clause 25 for the purpose of reversing the decision then arrived at. I am sure that Senator Gould will support my contention on grounds similar to those which he put forward in opposition to the reconsideration of clause 5. If they are to be consistent, those who opposed the reconsideration of clause 5 must apply their arguments to the proposal for the reconsideration of clause 25, because the position is exactly the same. I move-
That the amendment be amended by the omission of clause 25.
Since then we have been making inquiries as to what would be the financial result of that clause. Are we not justified in the circumstances in requesting the committee to hear a few facts in connexion with the operation of the clause, and having done that to decide whether we should accept the amendment which has been reprinted and circulated? It will be remembered that the amendment which I submitted when clause 25 was before us went further than the amendment which the Government are now proposing. The amendment constitutes not a reversal of the principle embodied in the clause, but a modification of it, and I think it is not unreasonable to ask the committee to hear the reasons why the Government think it desirable that before the clause is finally passed the exact position from a financial point of view should be thoroughly understood.
Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia). - I hope that the committee will not agree to the reconsideration of clause 25. If there is one part of the Bill which is more creditable to the Senate than another it is that. In view of the fact that we have just disposed of a clause which, in my opinion, is a blemish on the whole Bill, I think we would stultify the whole measure by agreeing to a reconsideration of clause 25. I have often wished that I might possess the easy facility with which lawyers are able to discuss both sides of a question, and make distinctions between tweedledum and tweedledee. That constituted the whole logic of the remarks made just now by the Postmaster-General. If there is no reason for reconsidering clause 5, there is certainly no reason for agreeing to the reconsideration of clause 25,, and I trust honorable senators will adhere to the decision which we arrived at on that clause, after thoroughly threshing out the matter.
Statement showing the amount required to provide a salary of £110 per annum for officials of the Postmaster-General’s department who have been three years in the service, have attained the age of 21 years, and have been provided for on the estimates of 1901-2 at a salary of less than £110 per annum : -
It must not be forgotten that these amounts will not be distributed over the Commonwealth generally. They will be included in what is called “transferred expenditure,” and each State will have to bear the additional cost set against it in this statement. I think that before the
Senate finally disposes of this matter it is the duty of the Government, not only to the Commonwealth, but to honorable senators in this House “representing the States of the Commonwealth, to point out exactly the price which each State will have to pay for this concession. The amendment which the Government propose has been circulated, and I need not refer to it in detail. It will be found that it gives a very large benefit, and a much larger benefit than was given before, to the members of the general division, because under it they will be entitled, as a matter of course, to receive this £110 a year if a certificate is given by the commissioner that they are performing duties which are of that value. The proposal will work automatically, and if at the end of three years’ service they are 21 years of age they will get the increase, making up a salary of £110, if the certificate can be given. Instead of having to wait, as public officers in the other divisions will have to wait, for the slow process of promotion and removal from class to class, they will automatically obtain this increase upon the certificate of the commissioner, which of course will not be denied in cases where the work being done is really worth the salary. I think we may presume that any commissioner appointed will honourably discharge the duty of certifying whether or not a person who is 21 years of age, and has been three years in the general division, is .entitled to be paid this amount. I say that, having regard to the interests of those in the general division, it is right, fair and reasonable that this discretion should ‘be put in the hands of the commissioner, because otherwise what will happen ? The commissioner will be put in the position of either giving this increase, in many cases in which it will be absurdly large having regard to the work that is done, or in the exercise of a reasonable and right economy in the management of the department, he will have to dismiss certain persons at the end of three years’ service. No one has a right to remain in the Government service any longer than the Government wish to retain them, and if in the interests of the service, and of proper and reasonable economy in conducting it, it is found that we cannot afford to pay £110 per annum to a person who is not doing anything like £80 worth of work in the year, we shall be obliged to exercise that proper economy, or to put this additional charge upon the State. I hopethat Senator Glassey will notice that in the amendment proposed we are making no difference between men and women. I have always respected the view which on every possible occasion the honorable senator has pressed upon the Senate that provision should be made for the fair treatment of women, in all cases in which they are employed by the Government. I still think that ought to be done, and this amendment will put the commissioner in this position, that when the end of the three years’ service has been arrived at he will be able to say to a girl who is doing work for which she may be very glad indeed to receive £70 or £80 a year - “I cannot- certify that you are doing work worth £110 a year, but I will keep you on.” Under the clause as it stands the only alternative in many cases will be to say to the girl - “ You cannot be kept on any longer.” The clause as it stands, with all respect to the honorable senator who proposed it, appears to me to be one of those amendments which by going too far, and being unreasonable, fails of its object. I say it is very much better and very much more in the interests of officers in the general division to give this reasonable power of allowing this increase of salary to work automatically, if a certain certificate is given, than to put the commissioner in the position of having possibly to send people about their business rather than keep them on at a salary which they are not worth. This is a matter which ought not to be decided in any hurried way. It is a matter of very great importance, and the Government would be wanting in its duty to the whole of Australia and to the different States of Australia if it did not point out that by this rough-and-ready way of doing what is called justice to the people in the general division, we should be doing a great injustice to the whole of the people of Australia, and to the States upon whom the extra charge- would fall, while we should be doing no good to the persons whom the clause is intended to benefit. For these reasons, I say there is a very great distinction between this clause and clause 5, and in view of the information now before them members of the Senate will recognise that the Government are justified in using every means which the forms of the House will allow to bring about a reconsideration of this proposal.
Senator GLASSEY (Queensland). - On a previous occasion, after a protracted discussion, into which a good deal of heat was imported at times, the committee decided that this clause should remain as it was. If the Government were not sufficiently armed with information at that time in either House, and the matter was fully discussed in each House, surely it is hardly wise for them to ask for a reconsideration at this late hour, notwithstanding the amount of information which has been submitted this evening by Senator O’Connor. According to his arguments, the alternative is to retain those officers, who, having reached the age of 21 years, have served for three years, and spent one year in each division, or to discharge them if they, insist upon a salary of £110 per year. It is wrong to reopen the subject at the present time. If there were any portion of the machinery which required to be altered in order to see that those officers should get that amount of salary, it would not be unreasonable to make the alteration, but to ask the committee to go over the whole ground again, is asking too much at its hands. I am glad to find that women are now placed on the same footing as men, and that principle I think should be embodied in all Acts of Parliament. I admit that in some of the smaller States this provision will entail a considerable expenditure. Apparently in South Australia it will cause an expenditure of £6,500 a year, but I venture to think that if it were practicable to take a poll of the people of that State on the question tomorrow, they would willingly award this reasonable minimum wage to such officers. If a division is called for, I shall be bound to vote against a reconsideration of the clause.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania).- It is quite obvious that we are beginning to reap the harvest which the Government sowed a little while ago. If I were not firmly possessed of the idea that two wrongs do not make a right I should be seriously inclined to vote against a reconsideration of this clause. But seeing that I am very much in favour of the insertion of the amendment on the contingent notice paper, and that I very much dislike the clause as it stands, I should not consider myself justified in opposing this proposal. If the Bill were passed in its present form two conditions only would have to be complied with by civil servants to entitle them to receive a salary of £110. I have no reason for quarrelling with the amount. I concede at once the point that there may be many officers in the general division who would not be adequately remunerated if they did not receive that salary, but the question before the committee is whether we should have in the Bill a cast iron rule that a civil servant shall fulfil two conditions only - first, that he shall have been in the service for three years, and secondly, that he shall have attained the mature age of 21 years - and that then he shall receive a salary of £110. I am entirely at variance with that proposition. I heartily approve of the amendment which the Government desire to introduce - that the civil servant shall show that he is worth the money. If the commissioner does his duty by his employers he will frequently be placed in a dilemma. He will have either to allot to a civil servant a salary which is more than he is worth, or to dismiss the civil servant against his will. In Tasmania there must be many civil servants who are earning from £80 to £90 a year, and who may be on the eve of attaining their majority. I can quite understand that if the commissioner has to deal with such cases, he will have to ask the civil servant - “Are you satisfied with your salary of £80 a year V In many cases the civil servant may reply in this way - “ I stop here of course in the hope of getting an increase, and I believe I shall get one in a year or two, but at present I am perfect y content, although I have arrived at this mature age of twenty-one years, to receive £80 a year.” The commissioner will have to answer - “ I think you are worth £80»a year, and. at present no more. You agree with me, but under the Act I have no other alternative but to dismiss you. You may be anxious to stay in the “service, but you cannot.”
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - I shall support the amendment for a reconsideration of this clause on exactly the same grounds as I supported the proposal to reconsider clause 5. I think it was a matter of great regret that the representatives of the Government adopted the attitude they did in relation to that proposal. I should be exceedingly sorry to see the Government hoist with their own petard. We should look at the matter from the stand-point to which I have ventured to direct the attention of honorable senators, and particularly from the stand-point that it is a fair and a right thing that if a clause in a Bill of great importance has been dealt with in a comparatively small House, and decided by a small majority, that, in itself, is one reason why the clause should be reconsidered, in order that as far as possible the full sense of the Senate may be obtained in regard to it. It would be a very serious thing were we to lay down in this Bill a rigid rule fixing a cast-iron minimum wage, depending not upon the capacity or fitness of the officer for the office filled, but simply on the attainment of a certain age. Anything more arbitrary and unsatisfactory could scarcely be conceived. One can hardly imagine such a proposition applying in the ordinary business of life. No merchant or trader could possibly adopt such a rule. He would pay according to capacity, and according to age if capacity accompanied it ; but not if there was no fitness for the post occupied. I am also in favour of the recommittal of the clause, because by defeating the amendment for its reconsideration, it will be retained in its present form, and we shall have no opportunity of considering the amendment which the Government suggest.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - I should have thought that those in favour of the reconsideration of the clause in question would have given some reasons for it. Senator Symon has made a statement to the effect that there is a new proposal now before the committee which might induce us to come to a different conclusion ; but all the new information we have had is contained in the observation made by theVicePresident of the Executive Council and merely had regard to the amount of money involved. That question the PostmasterGeneral previously dealt with. The point raised by Senator Clemons has also been debated at some length. Surely it is no new argument that a number of females are going to be dismissed from the service if the minimum wage provision is adopted. The poor widow, the unfortunate female, and the orphan were trotted out during the last debate on this question by almost every speaker who opposed the minimum wage. Does Senator Clemons suppose that the commissioner is going to say that he does not think that the female employes ought to get a living wage ? Senator Downer made a pertinent interjection when he asked by what power the commissioner could dismiss officers of the service under this clause.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear.
Senator CHARLESTON (South Australia). - Most of the arguments used by the Postmaster-General apply with greater force to sub-clause 6 of clause 21 than to clause 25. In the clerical division, where there is really a lot of routine work done, much of it by ladies, the Government have agreed, without any question or discussion, that if officers have served for three years, and are 21 years of age, they shall receive this salary of £110 a year.
Senator STYLES (Victoria).- I understood the Postmaster-General to say that , the establishment of this minimum wage of £110 a year would probably lead to a reduction of the number of officers employed in the departments of the public service.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania).- -I fear that I must vote for a reconsideration of the clause for many reasons. At the same time my sympathies are with Senator Pearce, and I think he hit the nail on the head when he said that he is being dealt with rather insincerely, that he is being promised a minimum wage with one hand and that it is being taken away with the other. I am not in favour of a minimum wage. What I am perplexed about is the inconsistency of the Postmaster - General. We shall not get through with the Bill unless Ministers make up their minds what they are going to do. In introducing the clause Senator Drake told us that it gave too large and sudden an increase, and ever since that time he has done nothing but support the clause with an amendment which he lost, and now with another, which I hope he will gain. If it is gained, however, it will not cure the radical defect of the clause. Senator Pearce, who argues as closely and logically as does any honorable senator, gave away the whole case for a minimum wage when he pointed out that civil servants in Western Australia have to pay far more than do those in Tasmania for their living, and that, therefore, it was not right to expect that they could take the moderate salaries which are paid in Tasmania. I agree with every word he said. According to the minimum wage clause, the civil servant in Tasmania is to get £110 a year, and the civil servant, in Western Australia is to get exactly the same salary, although the cost of living in that State may be 20 or 25 per cent, more than it is in the other. Not only do I object to a minimum wage, but I object to the high minimum wage implanted in this Bill. When the clause was introduced no honorable senator realized less the responsibility than did Senator Drake. It involves an expenditure of £47,000 or £50,000 a year for the minimum wage alone, and not Id. of that sum was ever included in the estimate of what federation would cost. That perhaps is not a very relevant argument; but Senator Styles says - “If a minimum wage is right let it be passed, and if it is wrong let it be negatived.” Is it right ? No such generous remuneration is paid by any State1 or by any private company or employer, and, as Senator Drake has stated, the emoluments in the civil service are so liberal that the demand by young men to enter it is far greater than the supply of positions. If you jump up the minimum wage by £30 or £40 at a leap, going far beyond any salary paid by a State or private employer, you will have every young man and young woman trying to get into our public service. What . we have to do is to determine a fair remuneration according to the work done, and according to our ability to pay. As I have had something to do with reducing salaries as a Minister, I think I can speak sympathetically. We cannot afford to pay this money. No provision has been made on the Estimates for a minimum wage. The States are not prepared for this increased expenditure. My State is not prepared to lose £2,390 in one department alone. In that State every man in the Post and Telegraph office and the Customs-house is entitled to a small increase to bring him up to the level of the average salary in the Commonwealth service, and if you pass this clause you will make him the envy of every State officer. Our Education department costs about £45,000 a year, and every year the expenditure is increasing. We have trained women there whose ages run from 30 to 50, getting a salary of £70, £80 or £90, precious few of them receiving £100 a year. Senator Playford tells me that in South Australia scores of them are getting Jess than £110 a year. There are hundreds of trained schoolmistresses throughout the Commonwealth who are not getting £110 after half-a-life spent in the Education department. What are they to say of young girls in a telephone exchange getting a salary of £110 when they have attained the age of 21 years after having served three years. The clause is an abomination. We have to do justice to the taxpayers and to the federation. We have no business to start the Commonwealth by increasing wages out of all proportion to the existing state of affairs. I have before me the regulations under the Victorian Act. A female typist gets from £50 to £70 a year, and if she can also write shorthand she gets up to £90 a year as a” maximum, while a man gets £150 a year. That is grossly unfair to the woman, but at the same time think of what you are doing. A young man who can perhaps do nothing but sort letters and copy documents, who has notbeen trained to any special work, who is not a mechanic in any sense, is to get £2 2s. per week. The other day I read in the press that men in jam factories, married men with families of perhaps halfadozen, were getting 30s. per week. X saw that in the fell mongering trade men were getting from 30s. to 35s. per week, and that hardly any were receiving £2 per week. In the boot trade, scores of competent men who have spent a life in the business are getting under £2 2s. per week. Yet every stripling after being three years under the Commonwealth is te get the same wage, and that honorable senators call justice. The wages board, after hearing the workmen as well as the employers, fixed the rate of wages, and when hundreds of working men are getting not more than £2 2s. a week, what right have we to give their sons, perhaps only fit to copy letters or sort documents, a salary of £110 a year? The committee is not dealing sincerely with itself. Ministers say that they believe in the minimum wage, but now they are trying to concoct an amendment which will take it away to a great extent. What is the use of talking about giving a minimum wage, and then providing that it is to be obtained if the civil servant can satisfy the commissioner that he is capable of doing the work in an office to which a salary of £110 is attached? It is a complete contradiction.
– The question before the committee is an exceedingly simple one. The clause provides that officers, men or women, in the general division shall get £110 a year on only two conditions, namely, that they have been in the service for three years and are 21 years of age. The Postmaster-General proposes to add as a third condition that they are fit for the increased salary. What can be the objection to that reasonable addition? Those who oppose the addition must be prepared to argue that the civil servants ought to get the salary whether they are fit for it or not.
– They ought not to be there if they are not fit for it.
– What would be the effect of the operation of the clause ? The head of a department would say to a civil servant - “You are on the eve of attaining your majority. You are good enough at £80 or £90 a year, but you are no good at £110 a year, and I shall have to dismiss you.” And in the case of a woman he would say - “You are good enough at £90 a year, but I must give you £110. You must go out and a man must take your place.” Is that fair to women ? If we take the other horn of the dilemma, the head of the department does not dismiss them, but under the force of this measure pays them a wage of £110, which admittedly they are not worth. The result of that will be that the whole community will be mulcted to keep up a false economic state of things. It seems to me to be a simple proposition, and I shall certainly give my vote in favour of that view which will render unto any worker, whether in public or private service,such wages and such wages only as in the open market he would be able to obtain.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia). - Perhaps I may be allowed to correct SenatorClemons, when he says that the position the commissioner will be in if he finds a person of 21 years of age too highly remunerated at £110 per annum, would be to dismiss him. That is altogether a mistake. The commissioner could not dismiss. He would be bound, to pay the £110, under any circumstances. Therefore it is not a question of dismissal. But the point I wish to make is this - We are passing a Bill for the purpose of fixing a minimum wage for servants in the employ of the Commonwealth, and that Bill provides for the appointment of a commissioner whose duty it is to decide as to what work the various, civil servants do, and the remuneration they ought to receive. We have therefore practically appointed what under the Victorian Factories Act would be termed a wages board. We have said that the commissioner, acting as a wages board, shall apportion the wages of the officers and say what each position in the Commonwealth is worth, and shall pay the officer who does the work in proportion to the services rendered. Why, therefore, is there any necessity for this clause at all ? Having appointed a wages board in the person of the commissioner, we have done all that we ought to do in the matter of fixing wages. It is for the commissioner to say what ought to be the wages paid to each individual servant having regard to services rendered. He should say whether the wages should be £80, or £100, or £110, or £150, and should fix them accordingly. Consequently, this clause is not required. I shall vote in the first instance for the reconsideration of the clause, and in the second instance against the clause as being absolutely useless.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).Owing to the difference between our standing orders and those in operation in the State from which I come, some misapprehension appear s to have been created as to the effect of voting for the reconsideration, of the clause. I wish to state that I shall vote for its reconsideration, but in no sense is that vote to be taken as an indication of what I am going to do later on.
Motion (by Senator Walker) proposed -
That the committee do now divide.
Question - that the committee do now divide - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia). - I am very glad that Senator Playford, after sitting here for about eight months, has discovered something. He has communicated to the committee something which nobody previously knew. He says that under this Bill a commisioner will be appointed to fix salaries. But as a matter of fact that has not been done. It will be part of the commissioner’s duty to decide the amount of remuneration that any officer shall be entitled to receive, but not to fix the salary of any individual. What we are now endeavouring to do is to fix the minimum that any officer in the service who has attained the age of 21, or has been three years in the general division, shall receive. That will be something to guide the commissioner. Suppose the Federal Parliament decided to construct a railway from Port Augusta to Coolgandie, and we had a surveyor-general who was instructed to survey that line, and who said - “I am not going to survey a railway in the direction that those idiots in the Senate have decided, but I will survey a railway from Port Augusta to Palmerston or to Port Darwin. These people are not entitled to form an opinion as to the direction in which the railway ought to be surveyed, and I know better than they.”
That is something like the position that might be taken up by the commissioner if we gave him a free hand. He would have nothingto do but to fix the rates of salaries to be received by the officers of the different departments ; but if he fixed the rates which we wished him to give, the office in which he placed any young, man over the age of 21 years, or any officer who had been in the service for at least three years, would carry a salary of £110 a year. I would askeven Senator Harney whether that salary is too large for any one to live upon under the civilized conditions which ought to exist in the twentieth century. Something has been said about the varying conditions which exist in Western Australia and Tasmania. Senator Dobson referred to these conditions as an argument against the contentions put forward by Senator Pearce. He urged that because the cost of living in Western Australia is greater than it is in Tasmania we should not.attempt to equalize the conditions under which men and women live in the Commonwealth. What is the reason for the low price of everything in Tasmania ? Cannot the cause be traced to the fact that the people employed there do not receive wages sufficient to enable them to pay higher prices ?
Senator Playford. - £46,000.
– It is only an approximation. I want honorable senators to realize what it means. A great deal may be said about the number of women who are employed in the Commonwealth service, and it may be urged that the additional expenditure involved will be the result of increasing the salaries of female employes to £110 a year. I think it is correct to assume that a proportion of the total females in the service is employed in the general division. The number of females employed in the service is very slightly in excess of 1,000. If there is a proportion of these females in the clerical division, and only a moderate proportion in the general division, then so far as this proposal is concerned the total of 1,000 must be considerably reduced. But, even if the whole 1,000 were employed in the general division, it would require an increase of £40 a year in the salary paid to each of them to bring up the additional expenditure involved in this proposal to £40,000 a year. When we look at the matter in this light, we see the absurdity of the figures put forward by Senator O’Connor. When we refer to the general division we speak of a branch of the service which, for the most part, consists of men engaged in the construction and repairing of telegraph lines, men who are engaged in labouring work, and who, I think, every honorable senator will admit, are entitled to a salary of £110 a year each in view of the work they perform.
– Most of them receive it.
– Then where does the increased cost of nearly £50,000 a year comein ?
SenatorO’Keefe. - It does notcome in.
– I always like to examine these matters as critically as I can. No one is going to bamboozle me. It matters not whether it is a Minister of the Crown, or an officer, who submits figures for the consideration of the committee. If they are submitted they are going to be analyzed. In the public service we have a great many’ young men employed as messengers, who have probably reached the age of eighteen years. The conscientious officers who have prepared the return to which reference has been made - I am not going to say a word against them ; they believe that they are doing right, and are unconcious of bias - take every one of these youths, as well as every female employe of eighteen, and say - “When these reach the age of 21 years, of course, they will be entitled to the minimum wage of £110ayear.” It is by doing that that they get an amount of between £40,000 and £50,000, and not by treating the question in a legitimate manner.
– How can the honorable senator say that when this is a calculation of what it willcost this year?
– I have not finished yet.
– The honorable senator is making reckless statements which are without any foundation.
– I am not making reckless statements, but statements which I want every honorable senator to apply his reason to.
– Statements which are manifestly reckless and unfounded.
– There is nothing unfounded about them. I have not the opportunity of going through the different Government offices, and it would take twelve months to get the returns necessary to bring out the facts of the case free from conscious or unconscious bias. Honorable senators will recollect that when we were discussing the Postal Bill, we made a provision that if there was nothing suitable to be found to do for all those young people who had reached the age of eighteen years, they were all to be discharged. And all these have been brought into the calculation so as to make this amount between £40,000 and £50,000.
– That is a most absurd misstatement.
– I make a statement of the case as it appears to me, and. it will require the Postmaster-General, and a good many of his clerks, to prove that I am wrong. I therefore say that before honorable senators attach the importance which, up to the present time, some of them appear to have attached to these figures, they should remember that no particulars are given, and we are given only total, amounts. When the Postmaster-General gets up to reply to the accusations I have made, I hope he will give us some figures. I hope he will give us the number of men employed in the general division at the present time, the number of females employed in that division, and sufficient data to enable us to ascertain what really would be the average amount that would have to be paid to the 1,000, 2,000, or 3,000 officers who are not getting £100 a year at the present time. If the PostmasterGeneral does that to the satisfaction of the committee, I shall be prepared to apologise for any unjust statements I have made concerning either the Government or Government officials. I have already stated that I do not blame them. This has been the custom for the last 50 years in the different States of Australia, whenever returns of this description have been asked for with the object of proving anything for or against the Government. That is why I say that such returns should be analyzed. I hope that clause 25 will be omitted from the clauses which are to be reconsidered. If it is not, I hope that this Senate will have to sit until six. o’clock to-morrow morning, and then adjourn and come again before the Government will be able to carry their proposal, because this is an underhand way of doing business. Clause 25 was passed after as much discussion as any other clause of the Bill. It was spoken to as earnestly, and as much attention was given to it as to clause 5, and it is inconsistent for the Government to oppose the reconsideration of clause 5, and then support the reconsideration of clause 25. I hope honorable senators will consider all these things, and will endeavour to do justice to those in the public service who are not getting £110 a year now, arid who are justly entitled to it.
– We have been promised in this discussion more light upon this particular clause, but Senator McGregor has made certain statements questioning the reliability of the figures submitted by Senator O’Connor. We were given to understand by Senator O’Connor that he wished to throw light upon the subject, but in my opinion the Government have placed many obstacles in our way ; and if, under the circumstances, honorable senators are .disposed to question their figures, or the attitude they have taken up, the fault is their own.
– The figures are a very small argument one way or the other. They are only an illustration.
– I take up the same position with regard to this matter that Senator McGregor has taken. On the last occasion when we very fully discussed this question the Postmaster-General gave us certain figures which do not square with the figures given to-night. If the figures given on that occasion were correct, the figures given to-night are very wide of the mark. The statement I make can be verified by a reference to a speech made by the Postmaster-Gentral on that occasion. As soon as the figures were given by the honorable and learned senator I. made a marginal note of them upon my copy of the Bill, because I thought they might be of use later on.
– Was this during the committee stage?
– Yes; and what I say can be verified by a reference to Hansard.
– What page ?
– I do not know. I have not read the speech since ; but I can stake my existence that I give the figures which were then given by the honorable and learned senator. The PostmasterGeneral then said that 1,375 persons would be affected by this proposal.
– That at an average of £30 each would be over £41,000.
– And he further said that it would take £34,772 to make up the difference in the salaries. To-night we are told by Senator O’Connor that instead of taking £34,000 it will take more like £50,000. This is a question of figures, and while the Postmaster-General seemed aggrieved at the attitude of Senator McGregor in challenging his figures, I say that if the difference was only £500, and we take the balance of testimony either way, the statement of Senator McGregor is as worthy of credence as the statement submitted to us by the Government. I cannot understand the attitude of the Government in this matter at all. This is a Government that proposes shortly to give equal rights of citizenship to half the population of the Commonwealth, and we now learn that they are not prepared to concede to their employes a proper wage for their services. I do not envy them the position they have taken up, and I believe it is untenable, considering their promises in this matter. We were told by Senator O’Connor that the figures he gave apply only to one department. If that is so they are useless, because we desire to know exactly what position we are in, and what guide is there for us in a statement which applies only to one department ?
– Add £5,000 for the Customs, and the honorable senator need take no notice, of the Defence department.
– I am not going to add £5,000 for the Customs, because I have no reason to do so. I believe thatso far as the other departments are concerned the figures would be infinitesimal, because I am of opinion that if these figures could have been swelled to any great extent, or to any extent at all, by the inclusion of those other departments, they would have been swelled in the statement submitted to us by Senator O’Connor. That honorable and learned senator is too good a general not to make the best of his case. I think that these figures are not reliable, and I am not prepared to take any notice of them until we get a thoroughly reliable return. We have heard a great deal about this minimum wage principle. We have discussed it at length, and I suppose that later on we shall have to discuss it again. I have only to say that when the division is taken my vote will, be given to secure better conditions for workers under the Government. We are told that so far as Victoria is concerned this proposal will cost £15,000. I am prepared to take the responsibility of voting in that way, and I say that the State of Victoria can pay the additional £15,000 to put its employes upon a proper footing. I again assert, in the language of Senator McGregor - and I cannot help it if I hurt the tender susceptibilities of honorable senators - that in the past Governments have sweated their employes. They are to be left under the proposal of the Government in this case to the tender mercies of the Public Service Commissioner. Senator Playford promised to give us something new under that head, but I did not discover that the honorable senator told us anything new. He only said that there should be no minimum, wage, and that the commissioner should be supreme in this matter.
– We say so in the Bill.
– We say so in the Bill at the present time, but the principle for which we are fighting is that, while the commissioner shall be supreme in fixing the wages of employes in the Government service, he must not go below, a certain point.
– Why did not the Victorian Parliament do the same in their Factories Act, instead of appointing boards to do it?
– I am obliged to the honorable senator for an interjection which strengthens my position. As the honorable senator knows, the Victorian Parliament has been legislating in regard to this matter during the last two or three years. Being awakened by the public conscience, they discovered that they were not doing the right thing in this matter, with the result that wages boards were appointed under theFactories Act. The Public Service Commissioner is in the position which Senator Playford says, but this Senate is going to provide, I hope, that there shall be a minimum wage from which the commissioner shall start, and from which he shall work upwards in fixing the wages of officers in the Commonwealth public service.
Question - that the figures “25”proposed to be omitted stand part of the amendment - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment on amendment negatived.
Senator BARRETT (Victoria). - I move -
That clause 23 be added to the amendment. The Postmaster-General will remember that when this clause was under discussion I raised a point as to the status and the salary of those officers who would be transferred from the general division to the clerical division under sub-clause (4). I pointed out that under some circumstances there would be men transferred from the general division to the clerical division who would suffer in salary, provided that they came in under the clauses of the Bill, and the honorable and learned gentleman promised to consider the point, and later on give the committee some information.
SenatorDrake. - I agree to a reconsideration.
Amendment on amendment agreed to.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 1 amended (on motion by Senator Drake), and agreed to as follows : -
This Act may be cited as the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1902, and shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation.
Clause 9 -
The Commissioner shall determine the division, class, subdivision of class or. grade of every officer, and shall keep a record of all officers, showing with regard to each officer his age and length of service, the office he holds, and his division, class, sub-division of class or grade, and salary under this Act
– A slight amendment in this clause was suggested when it was under consideration. It was pointed out that clause 8 dealt with the determination of the division and class to which officers should belong, and clause 9 commenced by nominally giving a somewhat similar power to the commissioner. I propose to get over that difficulty by making the clause begin with the words “ subject to the last preceding section.”
– That will get over the difficulty in one way, but it is very bad drafting. The preceding clause says that the commissioner shall recommend certain sub-divisions and dispositions of officers to the Governor-General, and His Excellency then has to say whether he will accept the classification or not. If His Excellency does not accept it, he can ask the commissioner to give a new one, and if he then objects to it he has to lay his reasons on the table of each House of Parliament. It is hardly in accordance with the rules of drafting to say that, subject to what the commissioner has to do to enable the Governor-General to do a thing, the former shall do it himself. Clause 9 ought simply to provide that the commissioner shall keep a record of the classification as recommended by himself and adopted by the Governor-General. That is all that is wanted. The proposed amendment will make confusion worse confounded.
– I agree with Senator Dobson that the amendment is unnecessary. The duties of the commissioner are defined by the preceding clause, and the course of action he has to follow in order to do the regrading, and so on, is prescribed in subclause 2.
– And in others most elaborately.
– Yes ; the first sub-clause of clause 9 is merely machinery to say what is to be done when the classification is complete. All that we want to provide here is that the commissioner shall keep a record. We should eliminate the first portion of the sub-clause, which says that the commissioner shall determine the division of class, sub-division of class, or grade of every officer.
– When the clause was under discussion before, a general opinion was expressed that “ determine “ was not quite the happiest word to use ; but none could suggest a word that was more correct,
– Why not omit those words?
– Because the commissioner has to do more than keep a record. Under clause 8 he has to make a report to the Governpr-General with regard to classifying and grading, and His Excellency may or may not accept the report. If the Governor-General accepts the recommendation, that fixes the classification and the grade. That is the first step. In the next clause we give power to the commissioner with regard to determining the division, class, and sub-division, which is subject to the power given to him in clause 8. But the difficulty was then pointed out that some differences of opinion might arise as to whether the provisions of clause 8 would over-ride the provisions of clause 9. The point has been very carefully considered and submitted to the secretary to the Attorney-General’s department, and he is of the opinion that with these words in the clause there will be no difficulty. It leaves it perfectly clear that the first action has to be taken by the commissioner under clause 8.
– And the only action.
– No, there is something beyond that, because it may not be dealt with under clause 8.
-. - It must be dealt with under clause 8.
– The. action taken under clause 8 stands. If . that recommendation is approved by the GovernorGeneral that is done.
– You do not constitute the commissioner n court of appeal from the Governor-General.
– It is made clear by this amendment that he is not a court of appeal, and that he cannot override anything which has been done ; but, subject to the provisions of clause 8, subject to whatever has been done under that clause, he is the man who has the power to “ determine.” That may not bc the right word to use. What is meant is that he fixes or puts down in some book or record the class or division of the officer.
Amendment (by Senator Sir Josiah Symon) proposed -
That the clause be amended by the omission of the words : - “shall determine the division, class sub-division of class or grade of every officer and.”
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania).- If the Postmaster-General accepts the amendment it will remove an inconsistency. /In clause 20, the Governor-General has to fix the salary of every officer on the recommendation of the commissioner ; and if we leave in the word “ determine “ the clause will read that the commissioner shall “determine and keep a record” of certain things. Do wc mean that he shall keep a record of the salaries ? If so it is inconsistent with clause 20.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause as amended agreed to.
Clause 19 verbally amended.
Senate adjourned ut 10.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 January 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1902/19020130_senate_1_7/>.