1st Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator DRAKE laid upon the table the following paper : -
Australian foodstuffs and horses for the use of the Admiralty and War Office - Minute from the Prime Minister to the Governor-General.
Ordered to be printed.
Senator PULSFORD (New South
Wales). - With the view to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, I move -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until 11 o’clock a.m. to-morrow.
The matter I wish to bring under the notice of the Senate refers to procedure under the Customs Act. Briefly, an importer in Sydney was, on Friday last, charged with having made a false entry. I need not go into all the particulars which have been published. I do not know the importer, and I am not interested in the matter in any way. It appears that the entry was not complete. Certain goods had been omitted from the entry, and the importer desired to amend it, but instead of being allowed to do so the Customs authorities prosecuted him for having made a false entry. The magistrate acquitted the importer of all intention to defraud ; but for having made a false entry - what we would ordinarily call an error - he imposed upon him a fine of £10. Under the Act power is given to fine any one up to £100 for making a false entry. And there is a section which expressly takes it out of the power of a magistrate to inflict a nominal penalty ; he is not permitted to inflict any penalty less than £5. The magistrate reduced the penalty from £100 to £10. I desire to draw the attention of the Senate to the position in which any man is placed who is fined £10 in any court. The feeling in the mind of the public must always be that the defendant has been guilty of some moral wrong. In this case the magistrate acquitted the defendant of anything of the sort. I would ask the Government to consider whether even now they cannot take some steps which will avail to prevent an innocent man from being fined heavily and held up to opprobium in the way in which this importer was in Sydney on Friday last. I shall be glad if Senator O’Connor will, in view of its serious nature, make some promise to deal with the matter.
– Only just a moment before the Senate assembled Senator Pulsford mentioned to me that he was going to move the adjournment of the Senate on this question. I have had no opportunity of inquiring into the facts, and I deal now with them merely on his statement. It appears to me that on his statement there is no reason why the Government should take any action. The law which he complains about was passed here after the most careful scrutiny possible, and after he himself and some others had protested against it. Now, becauseit was passed in a certain form, against his wish, he objects to it being administered. The law must be administered, and I do not know that there is any reason why, in the face of the statement which the honorable senator has made, any objection should be taken to the magistrate’s action, or why it should be said that he did anything more than he was bound to do under the Act.
– Certainly he was compelled to do what he did.
– Therefore the magistrate’s conduct cannot be complained of. But even if it could be the Senate ought at the earliest possible moment to protest against being made a court of appeal against decisions of the law courts, whether those courts are the humblest in the Commonwealth or the highest. If -we hand over matters between the Commonwealth and an individual, or between party and party to the decision of the magistrate - unless there is misconduct on his part - the Senate or any House of Parliament ought not to be asked or called upon to interfere.
– It is really a protest against the existence of the law.
– Exactly. The majority of the Senate thought as I think, that it is a very wise and necessary law. It has been properly administered. No fault can be found with that. I am not going now into the policy of the law, for that is not necessary, but I really see no reason on the statement which my honorable friend has made to me to take any action.
– Senator O’Connor has taken rather an extravagant view of the motives which have prompted Senator Pulsford to bring this matter under the notice of the Senate. I certainly heard nothing in what he said which would indicate that he desired, either on this or on any other occasion, to constitute the Senate a court of appeal from the decision of a magistrate. And there is no one who would not agree with the extremely elementary and rather thin proposition of Senator O’Connor, that it is undesirable that the Senate or any House of Parliament should be constituted a court of appeal from the decision of any J udge or tribunal, whatever standing it may occupy.
– Unless by direct proposition.
– If my honorable friend means by that, that he can conceive of occasions when it might be desirable for a House of Parliament to constitute itself a court of appeal from the decision of a legal tribunal, I entirely differ from him. The most unfit body in the world to constitute itself a court of appeal from the decision of such a tribunal is a House of Parliament, and I hope we shall never initiate in this Parliament a practice which, I am sorry to say, has in some intances been adopted with great disadvanage to the administration of justice and to Parliament. I do not think Senator Pulsford intended anything of the kind. He, like some others of us, has a strong feeling that under the law - which every magistrate and every tribunal has to administer as it is - penalties are sometimes imposed for offences in the commission of which there has been no moral turpitude. My honorable friend calls the attention of the Senate to this, as any of us has a right to do, as a case in point. Here a penalty of £10 is recorded against a man in respect of a so-called offence, in regard to which the magistrate acquitted him of any moral turpitude.
– That is to say, ho has not been guilty of the offence with intent to defraud, but he has been guilty of the offence of making a false entry.
– I am not discussing now the technicality of the offence. It is like the offence created by a ship coming into port with her seals broken. It is one of those things that “no fella can understand.” But still it is done.
There is the technical offence, and the magistrate has to impose a penalty. But surely Senator Pulsfordis perfectly entitled to direct the attention of the Senate to the anomaly, and to put into our mind and into the mind of Senator O’Connor a seedwhich may germinate, and which may lead to the redress of this state of things in the future. I think that was what he meant, so far as I could gather, and Senator O’Connor was a little severe on him for having had the audacity to bring under our notice a matter which certainly is of some importance. I do not agree with Senator Higgs that we should be a court of appeal, but I think he would be one of the first to admit that it would be a very sorry position in which to place the Senate, if honorable senators wer not to be entitled to call attention to some penalty imposed in respect of some alleged offence implying moral obliquity when there was no intention to defraud. I think my honorable friend’s object will have been satisfied by drawing attention to the matter.
– I am very glad to learn from the leader of the Opposition that he cordially approves of the proposition that the Senate should not be made a court of appeal, from time to time, from the decisions of the courts. But on the statement of Senator Pulsford, I would urge on the Senate the desirability of extreme care in giving any cognizance to complaints of the kind. In this case there is no conviction of moral turpitude. So much has been definitely stated. The importer has rightly been fined for an offence created by the Customs Act.
– Surely an offence implies moral turpitude ?
– Not necessarily. There is the law, and if has to be administered. In the course of five years and a half there came under my Ministerial notice from time to time in this State cases of the grossest carelessness. In all these cases it was urged that there never was any intention to do wrong, that it was the result of a mistake; but the number of such cases is large, and if it is possible for a man to get off on simply saying, “ I never intended to do wrong,” there will be a direct encouragement given to those who secretly desire to do wrong to run the risk of committing these offences. If any laxity were exhibited in the administration of the department the* trading community would be most seriously injured, and they themselves would be the first to resent it. The point therefore is that if this importer has been guilty of gross negligence, and it would appear that he has been-
– That does not follow.
– He has been fined.
– The honorable senator is now supporting what he opposed - an appeal to the Senate.
– I am dealing with my honorable and learned friend’s statement. He told the Senate that the defendant was fined £10, which I understand to be double the minimum penalty. If he was so innocent, and if there was so much sympathy on the part of the magistrate as has been suggested, surely the natural course for the bench to take would have been simply to fine him the minimum penalty.
– But Senator Pulsford does not find any fault with the magistrate.
– Of course, he cannot reasonably find fault with the magistrate ; therefore I do not think the Senate is justified in finding fault with the magistrate either. If it is to be suggested that gross negligence is to be overlooked, it will be a sorry thing for the Customs department, and for the trading community generally.
– We ought not to allow the proposition laid down by the legal members of the Senate to passunchallenged. I can conceive of a set of circumstances under which the Parliament of the country would properly be a court of appeal from the action of persons charged with the administration of the law. No doubt when there is a court of appeal provided the Parliament should be slow to interfere, particularly when the persons exercising jurisdiction are persons not appointed by the Ministry of the day. But these magistrates are officials of the Government; and if they do that which honorable senators believe to be wrong - not necessarily on legal lines, but that which is unjust or improper - I take it that it would be right for any honorable senator to bring the matte before Parliament and obtain an expression of opinion upon the point. There is, I submit, a clear distinction between an appeal from the action of magistrates as to the legal construction placed upon an Act of Parliament, and an improper action on the part of the administrators of justice. There may be many cases in which it would be desirable to bring the conduct of a magistrate before the Parliament of the country, and I for one cannot concur in the unqualified condemnation of the action of an honorable senator in bringing before the Parliament the conduct of a person merely because he is an official of the department of justice. Many occasions will from time to time arise, as they have arisen in. the State of Western Australia, from which I come, when it will be very desirable to bring the conduct of magistrates - particularly honorary magistrates - under the consideration of Parliament in order that the Government may be made aware of the opinion of Parliament with regard to the action of persons whom they have appointed to judicial positions.
– No one reflects upon the magistrate in this case.
– I am not saying that anything in connexion with this case justifies a reflection on the magistrate. All I say is that I protest against the broad manner in which the general principle is laid down.
SenatorO’Connor. - I never laid down the principle, and therefore what the honorable senator says does not apply in this case.
– The proposition I understood to be that the Parliament should not be made a court of appeal from the decision of a magistrate whether right or wrong.
– Unless there is some misconduct on the part of a magistrate.
– The honorable and learned senator never said that.
– I said it expressly.
– I understood Senator O’Connor to say what I have explained, and I rose particularly to protest against the laying down of such a principle, because I can conceive of many cases in which Parliament ought to interfere with regard to the administration of justice.
– This particular magistrate is a State official, over whom the Commonwealth has no control whatever.
– Would the honorable and learned senator include the Judges of the High Court?
– We might have to criticise even the conduct of a Judge of the
High Court if he were guilty of an improper action as distinguished from his construction of the law. It would be dangerous to lay down such a broad principle as Senator O’Connor has laid down. But in regard to the matter brought under the consideration of the Senate by Senator Pulsford I quite agree - though I did not like the section, and thought the minimum too arbitrary - that we have to bow to the decision of Parliament. In this case, the magistrate was. merely administering the law which Parliament has passed, and for which we are responsible. To that law all magistrates must necessarily bow.
– I agree with Senator Symon that the action of Senator Pulsford was not intended to be a protest against anything done by the magistrate, but, as I interjected, a protest against the law. I have yet to learn that it is not the duty of Senator Pulsford, or of any honorable senator in a similar position, to call attention to a gross, unfair, and iniquitous law when he can give an illustration of its evil effects in administration. I take it that Senator Pulsford’s object in moving the adjournment of the Senate was to do that. I was not here when the section in question was passed, and I read it for the first time just now. I call the attention of the Senate to its extraordinary wording -
No person shall make any entry which is false in any particular.
If a person makes an entry which is false through a lapse of memory on his part, or an error of judgment, or a slip of his pen, he must be fined ; and if he is a poor man he must be sent to gaol, and the public records must contain an entry that he has done something which is criminal. It is nonsense for my honorable and learned friend Senator Best to say that the statute makes the offence one of merely a false entry. I do not pretend to be very deep in the fundamental principles of jurisprudence, but I certainly have always understood that an offence implied moral turpitude. When a person is guilty of an offence he is guilty of something which justifies him in being banded with those who are not law-abiding intentionally, and, as every legal member of the Senate will agree, an ingredient of every offence is what we call the mens rea - a guilty mind, a guilty intent. The offence cannot come from the intellect; it must come from the will - from an intention to break the law. It was a wrong thing to give force to a law which is contrary to every principle of criminal jurisprudence. Now I come to the question - What good is to be served by making such remarks as these ? I fancy that what was in the mind of Senator Pulsford was this - “ Many Members of Parliament, when they pass a law, do not realize its consequences ; if they did they would hesitate. Here is an illustration which will enable them to realize it.” I think the intention of Senator Pulsford in moving the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, and my intention in supporting him, is by this action on our part to induce the Government to take as speedy steps as possible to obliterate from the statutebook a section which is a disgrace to a free community.
– How about the fines being double the minimum ?
– I am not here to say anything about the magistrate, but he is entitled to take up the position that he has taken up, that the section compels him to fine every man who offends against it, however innocent in intention.
– It did not force him to fine the defendant double the minimum.
– When a magistrate finds a section which compels him to fine a defendant, whether his intention be guilty or innocent, he cannot give effect to that law by imposing the minimum fine upon every person whose intent is innocent. Why? Because, if I remember rightly, there is another section of the same statute which says, “ You shall fine him double as much when he is wilfully at fault.” But the section in question has to do with false entries, for which the defendant is morally blameless, and not for committing the offence when there is moral blame; and the penalty appropriate to the offence when there is no moral blame is a maximum of £100. Therefore, if the magistrate is to reduce the penalty to the minimum when there is no moral blame; what is the meaning of that section at all ?
– There is moral blame;
– How is there moral blame when a man’s pen slips, or when his arithmetic is wrong, or when he makes a mistake? Moral blame always goes to the will and intent. Therefore, the magistrates could not consistently administer the section if they were always to impose a minimum penalty for this class of offence ; because £100 is the penalty appropriate to the offence when there is no moral blame, and there being moral blame here the only thing that could justify the magistrate in reducing the penalty would be the amount involved or the degree of negligence.
– I am somewhat surprised at the remarks of my honorable and learned friends opposite. Senator Harney has told us that if any one is fined, the act for which he is fined always involves moral blame. If Senator Harney had in Perth an old cow, and allowed it to trespass on the road, and he was fined for so doing, would he consider that he was morally guilty in any way ? Or if he drove a vehicle at night without a lamp when the law said he should carry a light, would any one imagine that he was in any way morally guilty? As far as this case is concerned it appears to me that the magistrate was absolutely right under the circumstances. I really do not think that the case is one worthy of the attention of the Senate.
– In reply. - I am quite convinced that I have done cay duty in bringing this matter before the Senate. Many honorable senators have not noticed the word “ false “ in the section. Although the defendant in this case was acquitted of all blame in respect of any intent to defraud the revenue, still he was convicted of having made a false entry. Senator Playford’s playful remark about a cow does not therefore apply at all. This defendant was only blameworthy for having sent in an entry which was incorrect in some particular, although he was convicted by the law of having made a false entry. What is the meaning of the word “ false “ in the mind of any ordinary human being ? I ask honorable senators to be reasonable in this matter, and to understand what this man has been convicted of. However, I have done my duty, and if the Government are prepared to stand before the country as having no care for the reputatation of the citizens of the Commonwealth, they must take all the blame and the con sequences.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council,upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Vice-
President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The Government of the Commonwealth do not at present propose to make representations of any kind to the British Government on this subject.
asked the Vice-
President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
How information on certain questions which the Vice-President has stated to be legal questions, and which he cannot therefore answer, is to be obtained ?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
A ruling of the President on this subject, reported in Hansard,6th September last, page 4596, contains the best answer I can give to the honorable senator, namely, “If the opinion of the law officers of the Crown is desired, the proper way is to pass an address to the Crown. “
Resolved (on motion by Senator Best) : -
That one month’s further leave of absence be granted to Senator Sir F. T. Sargood, on account of urgent private affairs.
In Committee (consideration resumed from 31st January, vide page 9558.)
Clause 25 -
Any officer in the general division who shall have served for three years and shall have attained the age of 21 years, shall be paid a salary of not less than £110.
– I move -
That the following words be added to the clause “ provided that he satisfies the commissioner that he is capable of doing the work of an office to which such salary is attached.”
It will be remembered that when we were dealing with clause 21 an amendment was made striking out the words “ by passing the prescribed examination,” and inserting in their place the words -
Provided that he satisfies the commissioner that he is capable of doing the work of an office to which such salary is. attached.
It would not do to send the Bill back to the other Chamber with an addition different from that made to clause 21, because it is obvious that if the commissioner is to satisfy himself by some method, other than an examination, as to the fitness of some officer in the clerical division to receive this salary, there is less reason for insisting upon a formal examination in the general division.
– The proposed amendment may appear to be inviting to those of us who desire to see the clause stand as it is, but it would be a very difficult matter for very many men in the service to obtain an opportunity of satisfying the commissioner that they are able to do the work referred to. I have in my possession a list showing the position of a number of civil servants in one of the States, who have been working for over ten years, and are not yet receiving £110 per annum.
– But theyare more than 21 years of age.
– Some of them are 42 and 48 years of age.
– Senator Higgs wants this provision to apply to men of 21 years of age.
-I am anxious to draw the attention of the committee to the fact that it is possible for men to be in the service for from ten to thirteen years without reaching a salary of £110 per annum, and without any action being taken in their behalf by their senior officers. For some reason or other their superior officers do not recommend them for an increase, although they are evidently doing their work well, for otherwise they would not be kept in the service. The fact is, that no one in a high position has time to consider whether these lower paid officials should receive higher wages. That will be the position in the future. The commissioner will have his time very fully occupied in dealing with other matters. The inspectors will be in the same position, and will be unable to make inquiries as to whether civil servants in the class we are referring to should receive an increase of salary in view of the fact that they are doing their work efficiently. When we find that so many men who have been in the service for many years are receiving less than £110 per annum, the safest course for us to adopt is to provide by law that all civil servants, on reaching the age of 21, shall receive £110 per annum. From the list in my possession, I find that one man, 32 years of age, who has been eleven years in the service, and another man of 31 years of age with thirteen years’ service are receiving £100 per annum. Other men, whose ages range from 21 to 48, have been in the service for as long as fourteen years, but are receiving only £95 per annum. Men with eleven years’ service are receiving, only £91, while others again, with sixteen years’ service are receiving £84 per. annum, In some cases, men with twelve years’ service are receiving £78 per annum. Does the PostmasterGeneral think that the number of men in the Commonwealth service who are receiving less than £110 a, year will be able to go to the commissioner - who will be occupied by more important matters - and satisfy him that they are capable of doing their work efficiently, and that they should receive more than £110? I firmly believe that the people of the different States are quite willing that their servants should receive a proper wage, notwithstanding that this proposal may mean that certain of the States will be involved in an increased expenditure of from £15,000 to £18,000 a year. I am sure that thepublicof Queensland do not desire to see the civil servants underpaid, but when men with families are receiving less than £110 in the service of the State, it must be admitted that they are being sweated. It is the duty of the Senate to set an example and prevent a continuance of the system.
– I intend to oppose the amendment, because I regard it as an insidious attempt to alter the whole scope and intention of the clause. The object of the clause is to provide that all civil servants in the clerical division, who have passed their examination and who have proved themselves persons of good character, shall receive a minimum salary of £110 after they have been in the service for three years. I admit that the intention of the Bill is that civil servants shall be paid according to merit; but no person should remain in the service of the Commonwealth who having passed his examination and worked in the service for three years, is not considered to be worth a salary of £2 2s. a week. It has been pointed out by the PostmasterGeneral that the proposal contained in clause 21 would impose a burden on the States of the Commonwealth, totalling something like £47,000. If that expenditure is necessary in order that justice may be done to the employes of the Commonwealth, it must be incurred. I want to obliterate the injustice which has been inflicted upon servants of the.Commonwealth, and to remove from us the reproach that they are sweated. Could we have stronger testimony in support of that charge than the statement just read by Senator Higgs ? We must remember, that clause 25 will apply not only to officers of 21 years of age; in the great majority of cases it will apply to civil servants of 30 and 40 years of age who have been in the service from ten to fifteen years. I shall give an illustration of the payments made at the present time to servants of the Commonwealth stationed in New South Wales. Seven men, whose average age is 22 years, and who have been in the service for an average of five years, are receiving £65 a year.
– Is not the honorable senator reading from a confidential document?
SenatorSTANIFORTH SMITH.- I am not quoting from any document. Again, I find that there are eleven men of an average age of 27, and with an average service of seven years, who receive £70 a year.
– Can the honorable senator vouch for the accuracy of these statements?
– I am like the honorable senator, who, I believe, takes some trouble to assure the accuracy of any statement he makes. I have this information on the very best authority. There are 119 men, of an average age of 31 years, who have been eleven years in the service and are getting £84 a year. Eleven men, of an average age of 30 years, . who have been twelve years in the service, are getting £91 a year. Forty-six men, of an average age of 32 years, who have been 13 years in the department, are getting £95 a year ; and there are nine men, of an average age of 30 years, who have been thirteen years in the department, and are getting £100 a year. Summing up all these figures, we find that in the Commonwealth service, in the State of New South Wales, there are 203 men, of an average age of 29 years, who have been ten years in the service, and who are getting an average salary of £86 a year. I say that rate of pay is a disgrace to any employer ; and the disgrace is the greater when the employer is the Commonwealth Government. Some of the States pay their civil servants wretched salaries, while others give a more fair remuneration, and in equalizing the salaries to be paid throughout the States we have to consider the question of whether we shall level up or down ; whether we shall pay salaries to the junior and poorer paid civil servants on the lines of the sweated wages paid in some’ of the States, or shall say that officers who have been three years’ in the service, have attained the age of 21 years, and are of good character, shall receive a minimum wage of £2 2s. a week. I have often had occasion to call attention to the wrongs committed upon civil servants in Western Australia, but I must admit that the wages paid to them are above those paid in the other States of the Commonwealth, and the whole cost of bringing the salaries of the officers in the servicein Western Australia who would be affected by this clause up to the minimum of £110 a year, would be only £1,692 a year. It is very often the case that if the largest employers’ pay good wagesthey set an example which must be followed by others, and during my election campaign I said I thought the Commonwealth Government should set such an example by paying its servants the highest standard rate of wages. I trust this clause will be agreed to without amendment, and that we shall have in the Bill a provision for the payment of a minimum rate of wages without leaving it to the commissioner to give that salary in some cases and to withhold it in others. An officer who is 21 years of age and has been three years in the service is entitled to £110 a year, or else he is not entitled to remain in the service. By adopting the clause asit stands, we shall fix a minimum rate of wages which, in my opinion, is none too much for any civil servant.
– Does the honorable senator think he will fix the officer in the service as well?
– I am glad the honorable and learned senator has reminded me of that. He dwelt strongly upon that phase of the question the other day, and said that the commissioner should simply sack these men, not because they were not doing the work they were called upon to do, not because they were not capable of doing work worth £110 a year, but because the work they were set to do was not in the opinion of the commissioner worth £1 10 a year. That is to say that the commissioner would override an Act of Parliament, and would act in opposition to the intention of Parliament and throw a large number of civil servants out of employment. I say that no commissioner working under this Bill would dare to do such a thing, and no menwill be thrown out of the service who are capable of doing the work they are called upon to do. The instances to which I have referred of sweated civil servants in New South Wales should be rectified, but they never will be rectified if honorable senators are prepared to defeat the intention of this clause by accepting the proposed amendment. We know that in New South Wales the Government are paying unskilled labour 7s. a day, or £2 2s. a week; and we are proposing that in many cases the skilled labour of people who have had to pass an examination shall be paid for at the rate of only £1 10s. a week, after the officers have been ten or twelve years in the service. I sincerely hope that honorable senators will insist that men who have attained the age of 21 years, and have been three years in the service shall get a salary of at least £2 2s. a week. If they are not capable of doing the work they are called upon to do they ought not to be in the service.
– I hope the committee will not accept this amendment. It is one of those little additions to a clause which the legal mind revels in. The intention is perfectly clear. It is to kill the minimum wage provision we have inserted, and leave it at the option of one man to say what he will give anofficer for the work he does. The three years’ service is three years of probation, and surely in that time the officers in authority over the men should be able to judge whether they are worth £110 a year or not?
– That is exactly what the amendment permits.
– I am coming to that directly. I agree with Senator Higgs that it is impossible for the commissioner to have a thorough knowledge of the work doneby these men. I do not agree with Senator Higgs when he gives it as a reason that the commissioner will have more important duties to carry out. I cannot conceive of any more important duty being imposed on a man placed in a high position such as this than that of seeing that, fair play and evenhanded justice are dealt out to those under him, no matter what their position may be. We have evidence that the lower paid civil servants, who are getting £110 a year and under, are not always dealt with fairly as has been suggested. Only last week I gave an instance when I mentioned that £25,000 a year was added to the salaries paid to Victorian civil servants, and that not one man receiving a salary of less than £216 a year got Id. of that amount. There could be no better proof that the lower-paid men are not considered. How can the commissioner give consideration to the lower-paid men in the Northern Territory, in Western Australia, or in parts of Queensland ? In a comparatively small State like Victoria he may, if he is stationed here, be able to inquire into matters for himself, but in all these matters he will have to be guided by the reports of those locally in control. It appears to me that if this amendment is carried we may as well abandon all idea of the minimum wage at once. We think that these men ought to get £110 a year, and that those in authority should after three years be able to say whether they can earn it or not. No honorable senator desires that men shall get £110 a year unless they are able to do their work, but we do desire that no man, or woman either, in the service of the Commonwealth shall, after three years’ service and on attaining the age of 21 years, receive less than £110 a year, which is only 7 s. a day.
Senator FERGUSON (Queensland).There is one thing clear from the debate, and that is that the public servants have a great ma,ny champions in this committee, and the people have very few. It is time that some consideration was given to the interests of the public who are to be taxed to provide the money to meet the cost of this liberal, and I may say, extravagant proposal.
– How would the honorable senator like to work for £2 2s. a week ?
– I worked for many years after I was 21 years of age for less than £2 2s. a week. When the PostmasterGeneral moved the second reading of the Post and Telegraph Bill he said that the Government intended to run the Post and Telegraph department on business lines, and that he would do his best to make . the revenue of the department meet the expenditure. I remember well that honorable senators on both sides applauded the remark. But what do we see now ? The very honorable senators who applauded that statement are now prepared to pass a clause which will involve the Commonwealth in an extra expenditure of over £50,000 a year, and at the same time we know that the telegraphic rates have been reduced, and that the reduction will mean a loss of something like £45,000 a year to the department. That appears to be nothing to some honorable senators, so long as the public servants are highly paid. I think the public servants are coddled and petted too much. They have been spoiled. The proposal to insert a clause in this Bill providing that every boy and girl in the civil service who has been in a department for three years is to receive a salary of £110 a year on reaching 21 years of age shows that honorable senators have no regard for the revenue of the Commonwealth, so long as they satisfy these petted public servants of theirs.
– I rise to order. I should like to know if the honorable senator is in order in imputing motives to other honorable senators. When he declares that honorable senators do not care about the taxpayer it is perfectly clear to me that the insinuation is that some honorable senators have no consideration for the interests of the taxpayer, and desire the civil servants to get any rate of salary they like to ask. I believe such statements to be out of order, and I regard them as a reflection upon myself because I am advocating a minimum wage of £110 a year.
– I do not think there was any improper reflection upon honorable senators in the remarks made by Senator Ferguson.
– I shall not say very much- more, but I maintain what I have said. I have not hitherto spoken upon the Bill, but I have watched the debate carefully, and since it has been introduced, I have seen that there are certain honorable senators who have. made the public service a pet question. It is not right that the Commonwealth service should be made more attractive than any other. We are making it so attractive that we shall be flooded with applications from all parts. I have no hesitation in saying that if the Government were prepared to accept premiums there are scores of parents who would be ready to pay a substantial sum to get their boys and girls into the public service. There are in the Commonwealth at the present time thousands of young men over 21 years of age who are as capable of doing the work required to be done as any in the public service, and I have no doubt that they would be glad to-morrow to get a position in the service at £70, £8Q, or £90 a year. If vacancies in the service occurred to-morrow there would be scores of applications for each position. It is not right that honorable senators should propose to raise the salaries of civil servants when there is no demand for it. The demand is only in this committee and not outside, because there are thousands who would be prepared to take the positions of officers at present in the service if they were to retire. I am going to support the Government, and if the amendment is not carried, I shall vote against the clause.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).I have not had an opportunity before of expressing an opinion on the ad visability of establishing a minimum wage. If this amendment is adopted - and I shall vote for it - my road will be clear; I shall vote for the clause as amended. If, on the other hand, the amendment is rejected, I shall vote against the clause. I have heard a great deal here about a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work. Surely the amendment aims at that object. What is a fair wage for a failday’s work but a fair equivalent of work for the money paid1? The amendment states that while a wage is fixed, it shall be paid to only those who are capable of giving a fair equivalent for the money. I have no objection to a salary of £110, as it is a very reasonable sum to pay to any one who has entered on man’s estate. But unless honorable senators leave in the hands of some controlling authority the power to say that the only persons to whom it shall be paid shall be those who give a’ fair equivalent, they are doing that which has been denounced here. They are sweating ; but they are sweating the taxpayers rather than the public servants.
– The taxpayer is prepared to pay a living wage.
– I wish to know where comes in the fairness of taxing men who are getting 15s. a week - as many men in these States are doing - to pay unfair wages to civil servants ?
– Because they do not get justice, they need not deny justice to others
– An injustice is done to the taxpayers, .if we pay a man more than he earns.
– Would ‘not the three years’ probation meet it ?
– We have had a little experience of what does happen after the probationary period is passed. The assumption underlying the interjection is, that if at the end of three years a man proves that he is not entitled to £110, he will be dismissed. Something of- that kind was attempted in the tramway service in Sydney. The moment the Railway Commissioners tried to weed out men who they alleged were not giving fair value for their money, a cry was at once raised - “ You are sacking the men not because they are unfit, but because they have reached an age at which they are entitled to an increase, so that you can bring in cheaper and younger men.”
– That may have been true.
– Whether it is true or not it will be believed, with the result that sooner or later it will break down the power vested in the Public Service Commissioner,, to dismiss a man when in his opinion he is not entitled to a certain salary.
– He is given specific power in the Bill.
– Honorable senators give him that power, but they paralyze him in the exercise of it afterwards.
– It would not have the same effect in the Commonwealth as in a State.
– No ; I think it would have a greater effect judging from the tenor of this debate. We have to consider not what an ideal commissioner would do if left alone, but what he would be able to do bearing in mind all the forces which would be working round him. He would be placed in this position : It would be absolutely impossible for him to weed out any men, except notoriously incompetent men - one here and one there. It would become a custom from which no commissioner would be strong enough to break away, that every man who had served three years and was of age should receive £110. He would never dare to sack any considerable number of men. I do not wish him to sack a man once he has entered the service, except for incompetency or misconduct.
– Has the honorable senator any reply to my statement about the £25,000 increases all going to the men receiving £216 and upwards?
– There are several things which suggest themselves to my mind - either that those who made the inquiry were not competent for the task, or that they were prejudiced. It maybe if all the increases were given ito the more highlypaid officers that the recipients had been previously underpaid. I do not know the circumstances, but.I think it very probable that there was a great deal, of bias on the part of those who conducted the inquiry. It has been objected that the commissioner would not be in a position owing to the multiplicity of his duties to determine whether an officer was competent to earn more money. That objection is offered rather late in the day. The committee has already approved of clause 21, which states that officers are only to receive the increase on the commissioner being satisfied.
– That is in a different division.
– Surely that is not advanced as an argument.
– That alteration was opposed.
-The committee has approved of the principle that the. commissioner shall be in a position to say that a civil servant shall not receive the statutory increase unless in his opinion he has fairly earned it. That is exactly the same principle which the Government propose to put into clause 25 by this, amendment. It lays it down as a broad rule that Parliament desires that a public officer who has served three years, and is of age, shall be paid.£l 10 a year, but in order to be just to the taxpayers, it says that if there is any man who, in the opinion of the commissioner, is not giving fair value for the money, he is at liberty not to adopt the alternative of dismissing him, but to fix him at a lower rate of salary. That appears to me to be a very fair compromise between the special interests of the civil servant and the general interests of the taxpayer.
– If we add the amendment suggested by the Minister, it seems to me that prima facie a man will be entitled to a salary - of £110 a year when he is of age. Senator -Smith interjected that if a man is not able to earn that salary, and is not worth it, the commissioner will have power to dismiss him. Not only will he have that power, but if he does his duty to the Commonwealth, he will dismiss the civil servant. There are many letter carriers who are capable of doing their work, but who, if they were asked to perform the duties of an .average workman, would not be .able to earn the specified wages. Consequently, if the clause were passed without .any rider, .all the unfortunate men who are not able to earn the standard wage would have to go, and that is where I contend the cruelty of the minimum wage comes in. The so-called friends of labour and the friends of the working man wish to throw them all absolutely destitute on to the country. That is what they call philanthropy. That is what they call protecting the interests of the poor and needy. They are going to make the poor poorer, simply for the sake of -establishing, in my opinion, a fad. I agree that we should pay a reasonable wage to all persons capable of earning it, but we have no right to pay civil servants more than they are worth. The whole scheme of this Bill is payment by results. In division -after division honorable senators have approved the principle that we should not pay a man necessarily for length of service, but according to his capacity to earn, money in different directions. We are to classify him ; when he is able to pass a certain examination, to give him more money, and when he is able to pass- a second examination to .give him another increase. I do not like the clause, because it draws an invidious distinction between clerks and persons in the . general division. The committee, rightly or wrongly, has asserted that a clerk shall . not receive a salary of £110 unless he has shown his fitness for the work. We are. now asked to turn round and say in another clause that because a man is a labourer he shall receive a - salary of £1.10 whether he is -fit for the work or not. That would be the logical conclusion if we passed this clause.
– The honorable senator may interject “ rot “ as much as he likes. I shall be glad to hear from him a justification for drawing a distinction between a man who works with his pen in a Government office and a man who works with a pick and shovel, or a man who walks round the streets delivering letters. What is good for the clerk in the civil service is good for the lettercarrier. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that under this clause, even with the rider, the able-bodied letter carriers will receive a salary of £110. The only difference which the addition of the rider will make is that those who are not able-bodied will not be arbitrarily turned out into the streets.
– They have to be able-bodied before they can get there. They have to be medically examined.
– Not necessarily. A man may have one arm and yet be a lettercarrier.
– He might be asgood as a man with two arms.
– A man may be incapable of doing the work. One man may be able, physically, to do three times as much work as another man.
SenatorMcG regor. - The honorable and learned senator does not know much about work.
– The honorable senator did so little that he wants a minimum wage. A man has a right to be paid for the work that he does, and a lazy man has no right to as much as the hard worker. Therefore, I submit that, for various reasons, it is our duty to support the amendment of the Government, which will leave a loophole for the retention of those persons who are not able, physically or otherwise, to earn the standard wage. We have no right whatever to make fish of a clerk and flesh of a manual labourer.
– If the committee were to follow the advice of the last speaker, we should not only have a loophole in the direction indicated, but hundreds of civil servants who are entitled by reason of the merit of their work to the increase proposed would not get it. In spite of what has been said about the expense entailed in passing the clause as it stands, I do not think that it is by any means certain what the expense will be. The Postmaster-General brought before us some figures, showing that the extra cost involved would be £34,772, but later on the Vice-President of the Executive Council said that the cost would be £45,770.
– That is under the two clauses.
– I call attention to the point in order to re-affirm what Senator Barrett said on this subject. It is possible that the second estimate of £45,000 may be the correct one.
– They are both correct.
– If that estimate be correct, the “ iniquitous burden” that we are attempting to place upon the people would amount, roughly speaking, to about 3½d. per head of the population per annum. Do honorable senators mean to suggest that the majority of the people of the Commonwealth are going to object to this principle which we are fighting for, when that is all it means financially? Granted, for argument’s sake, that only those public servants who are transferred to the Commonwealth, would come under this’ minimum wage principle, the principle would be established, and if by adopting it we bring about dissatisfaction in the ranks of those public servants who have not been transferred to the Commonwealth, I say, “All the better.” If that dissatisfaction induces those public servants to combine with the object of establishing the same principle in the State, I shall be glad.
– Where would be the 3d. per head then ?
– Possibly then there would have to be a little extra taxation in the States. If the civil servants receive more money they will be able to pay more taxation. If a plebiscite were taken on the subject a majority would be in favour of establishing the minimum wage principle; because the workers of every class would be in sympathy with the servants of the Commonwealth, and would recognise that this was a step towards the realization of their own ideals.
– Why should the working man be taxed an extra 3½d. per head to advance a particular class of the public service ?
– Because it is the working man who is always first to recognise the justice of a principle like that of the living wage.
– The civil servants are treated very well already.
– There is a large minority who are not receiving fair treatment. Possibly in a few cases the raising of salaries to £110 would be treating some civil servants too generously, but why should we on that ground penalize the large number of officers who are 35 or 40 years of age, and who are not receiving what they ought to get. I do not ask that those officers who are not worth £110 should be retained in the service, but any man who is retained and who has reached the age of 21 ought to receive £110, which is the lowest amount which ought to be called a living wage in Australia, considering the cost of living. It is a great pity that the Government, having accepted this clause in another place, are now trying to defeat it. By so doing they will bring about a great delay in the ultimate passing of the Bill. There is nothing surer than that if the Bill is sent in its altered form to another place it will come back to us in its present form.
– It does not seem to occur to some honorable senators that if the commissioner is to be compelled to pay £110 a year to every officer of the service on attaining the age of 21 he will probably begin by levelling up the pay of lower grade officers in one State to that of similar officers in another. He will say to those receiving the miserable wage of £84 - “ If you can show that you are worth £110 a year I will pay it to you.” I am sure that the majority of those receiving low salaries are quite capable of earning the larger amount. The PostmasterGeneral informs us that there are 1,375 officers in the general division receiving under £110 a year, and that to raise their salaries to £110 will mean £34,772. The Vice-President of the Executive Council said later on in the week that it would cost, so far as concerns the clerical division, about £10,000 a year more to bring the salaries up to £110. Those two amounts added together represent about £45,000 a year additional expenditure. According to the Constitution Act we shall require to raise four times as much through the Customs in order to distribute £45,000 a year. This means increasing Customs duties to the extent of £180,000 a year, which amounts, roughly speaking, to1s. per head of the population per annum. The increase of salary will doubtless act as a stimulus to rise to some officers. I should be delighted to see every person in the service of the Commonwealth receiving £110 a year on their merits. I have no sympathy with those who pay low wages or with those who wish to crush the workmen. But I think that, having debated this matter twice, we ought to proceed without delay to a division.
– I rise to express my astonishment at the position taken up on this question by Senator Ewing. My interjection while he was speaking was justified, because only a few mouths ago I heard him deliver a speech before the electors in which he dealt with this question, and went to greater extremes than those who support the clause are now going. A minimum wage without any qualification whatsoever was proposed for every portion of the public service, and yet the honorable senator is prepared to vote for an amendment which is designed to do away with the effect of this minimum wage clause.
– That will not be its effect.
– The honorable senator knows what will be the effect of the amendment. He has attempted to justify his action by saying that the committee agreed to the insertion of this provision in the clause relating to the clerical division ; but because the committee made a mistake in that case there is no reason why we should repeat it. Apart from that assertion, Senator Ewing has advanced no argument in favour of this amendment, which, on the admission of the Government, is to defeat the minimum wage provision. Why are not the Government honest on this question? Why do they not say straight out that they do not want a minimum wage clause in the Bill ?
– They brought in the Bill without it ; that shows that they do not want it.
– They accepted the provision contained in the clause without a division in the other House, and that practically makes it part of their policy. The Government should be consistent, and accept the provision in the clause as part of their policy now. What was the object of the Government in bringing forward figures showing that the cost of carrying this provision into effect would be something like £47,000 per annum ? Does not that show that the Government are totally opposed to it? Senator Ferguson is consistent. If the Government are going to support all the arguments against the clause, as well as those in favour of the amendment, they should take up the position adopted by Senator Ferguson and say at once that they do not believe in the minimum wage provision in the Bill. Then we should know how to fight them ; but when they take up the position that they are ready to agree to a minimum wage clause appearing in the Bill, but that because the effect of the clause would be an increased expenditure of £47,000 a year they are going to add a proviso which will reduce the expenditure, it is evident that they desire the present condition of affairs in the service to continue. I thank Senator Millen and Senator Ewing very much for their support of the minimum wage. I think we might say - “ Thank you for nothing.”
– We are not supporting the honorable senator.
– Senator Ewing says that he supports the minimum wage provision, and yet he asserts that the country will be saved an increased expenditure of £47,000 a year by the proviso which the Government are desirous of carrying,” and for which he is prepared to vote.
– I said that 99 out of 100 men would receive the minimum wage.
– The honorable senator must admit that the Government are putting forward the amendment because the clause, without this proviso, would cost the country £47,000 a year. That is the basis of his argument. We are being misled on this question. Some honorable senators are not prepared to take the responsibility of voting against the minimum wage clause, but they are ready, by means of this sidewind, to defeat its effects, while taking credit at the same time for voting for the payment of a minimum wage. The Government should act like Senator Ferguson, and unmask their guns. They say that if we pass the clause with this amendment, the giving of the minimum wage will be left to the commissioner, with the result that we shall not have to pay a penny more than at present.
– The Government have never said that the clause with this proviso can be carried out without costing the country anything. .
– They are dumb. They throw in this bone of contention, and allow the leaders of the Opposition to fight over it. In reality, the Government are fighting against the minimum wage, although they profess to be in favour of the principle.
– They believe in the principle reasonably applied.
– They believe in the principle, but they are afraid to have it applied, because they say that to apply it in this instance would be to involve the country in an increased expenditure of £47,000 a year. Senator Ewing says - “ I believe in the principle, but the men who receive this wage should be worth it.”
– I did not say that.
– The principle is that a man of 21 is worth a wage that will enable him to live decently.
– Whether he earns it or not.
– That question will be decided underthe Bill beforeanofficerreaches the age of 21 years. If the commissioner does his duty, no man who enters the service under the provisions of this measure will remain in it if he is not worth £110 a year.
– That is where the inhumanity of the proposal comes in.
– That is provided for in the clause which directs the commissioner to weed out any incompetent men, so that Senator Ewing’s philanthropy is applied rather late in the day. He ought to have brought forward these ideas when the committee were dealing with a previous clause, which says that no person who is incompetent shall be allowed to enter or remain in the service. I charge the honorable senator with having neglected his duty,
– A man may be competent to do a certain class of work.
– If he is competent to do any class of work he should receive a living wage, and we ask the committee to say that that wage shall be £110 per annum. If the clause were amended as proposed, it would be possible for the commissioner to say of the men referred to in the circular which we have all received on this subject - “They are receiving quite sufficient for the work they are doing.” Taking one of the cases cited in that circular, are honorable senators prepared to say that a man of 48 years of age who has been fourteen years in the service, and is receiving only £105 per annum, is not worth more ? Because a system has grown up in New South Wales by which these men have been under paid, are we to say that it shall continue? Those in favour of the payment of a minimum wage should refuse to accept this amendment. Senator Ferguson has said that the taxpayers will object to this proposal. If that is so, it is a strange thing that so many honorable senators place in their political programmes the payment of a minimum wage to civil servants. And if it is true that the public object to the principle, an honorable senator who included such a proposal in his programme would be committing political suicide. Who are the taxpayers ? Do they not include the men who are under paid, and who are receiving £50 or £60 a year? It is not to be said that, because a man has been ground down, and is receiving only £50 or £60 a year, that he would like other men to be placed in the same position. I believe that the majority of the poorly paid men are of opinion that other men should be treated justly, even if they are not. It is strange indeed to see the quarter from which this protest on behalf of the taxpayers comes. It ismany a long year since the men who bring forward this protest have had to live on £2 2s. a week, and I hope they will never have to do it again. It is time that we threw off all attempts to cloak the real issue, and in my opinion this vote will decide who are in favour of a living wage and who are not.
– I do not want honorable senators to imagine that, so far as I am concerned, this is simply a question of cost. I am opposed to the principle of theminimum wage, because I believe it is unfair. If I believed that it would act justly when applied to the service of the Commonwealth, the question of cost would not influence my judgment in any way. We have to do what we believe to be right and proper all round. Unmistakably the principle of the minimum wage is unfair, viewed either from the stand-point of what should be a living wage or from a consideration of what a man ought to receive. If we fix for the whole service of the Commonwealth one particular wage, drawing a hard-and-fast line, without taking into consideration the conditions under which men are employed, we shall losesight of the fact that a minimum wage ought to bear some proportion to the cost of living. As we all know, the cost of living varies in the different States. Will not the commissioner in classifying the civil service take into considerationthe case of men employed in the more tropical parts of Australia, such as in the Northern Territory and certain parts of Western Australia and Queensland? Will he not take into consideration the claims of men working in places where their health is likely to be injured? Will he not take into consideration also the increased cost of living in certain places ? Certainly he will, and therefore it is unfair to propose that a hard-and-fast line shall be drawn.
– But the minimum wage does not draw a hard-and-fast line.
– The provision in the clause is that a man reaching 21 years of age shall receive £110 per annum after he has been three years in the service, quite irrespective of the part of the country in which he is stationed, and of the cost of living in that place.
– The honorable senator knows better than that.
– I know what a minimum wage means. I oppose the proposal contained in the clause because it is unfair, and I shall continue to oppose it. So far as I have been able to judge from the working of the minimum wage provisions of the Factories Acts in Victoria, the minimum wage in factories has become practically the maximum wage.
– Where did the honorable senator obtain that information ?
– I am not going togive away my informant. If I were to tell the committee, the chances are that the trades societies would be down on the unfortunate man. I am acquainted with a young Scotchman in Melbourne who was a member of a trades association, and who, in consequence of his ability as a tradesman, received a higher wage than that paid to ordinary workers in his line of business. When the minimum was fixed in his trade, however, the masters agreed that, as they had to pay some of the men more than they were worth, they would make up the loss by paying only the minimum wage to those who had been receiving more.
– No doubt he was a blackleg.
– That is not the question. The question we have to consider is whether the statement is true. It was made to me by a respectable and well educated young man coming from Glasgow, and I have every reason to believe him. It follows, naturally, that such incidents must take place very frequently. The absurd position of those who are trying to fix a minimum wage in this Bill is apparent.. This Bill is intended to give the opportunity of appointing a commissioner, whose duty it will be to fix the wages of all civil servants throughout the Commonwealth. We very properly tell him that he shall fix the wages in accordance with the quality of the work done, and on the other hand honorable senators are saying that irrespective of whether a man is able to perform duties worth £2 2s. a week, every officer arriving at a certain age, and being a certain number of years in the service, must get the minimum wage of £110 a year. I suppose that Senator Pearce made a slip of the tongue when he said there were certain honorable senators who are prepared to go to greater extremes than the labour party. That is an admission that the honorable senator and his friends are going to extremes.
– I said at election times. *
– It is possible that the honorable senator was thinking of his own State, but I have- no knowledge of any man in South Australia who publicly announced himself in favour of a minimum wage who was not really in favour of it. I do not believe there is an honorable senator in this Chamber who has said that he is in favour of a minimum wage, and who is not now prepared to vote for it. I do not believe there is any truth in the insinuation that a man changes his opinions for the purpose of getting into Parliament, and that when he is elected he goes back upon those opinions and votes in such a way as to create a false impression. The insinuation in Senator Pearce’s speech was plain, and was levelled unmistakably against Senators Ewing and Millen. It was that they will be able to say that they have voted for the minimum wage, while they know perfectly well that in voting for the amendment they will do that which will destroy the effect of the clause altogether. I say that is .grossly unfair. Under the circumstances, I think the amendment a proper one. I shall vote for it as the least of two evils, but if it is agreed to, I shall be prepared to vote against the clause as amended.
– It is quite refreshing to listen to so direct and emphatic a speech’ as that delivered by Senator Playford. I confess I am proud to be shoulder to shoulder with the honorable senator in the representation of South Australia. Senator Playford was perfectly correct when he interposed in the speech made by Senator O’Keefe to say that in South Australia the feeling, so far as it has been expressed, is not only against the minimum wage, but that the South Australian Parliament has absolutely refused only this last session to sanction the introduction of a minimum wage. Those who come from South Australia are, therefore, not only not open to the imputation of Senator Pearce, but the honorable senator’s argument that public feeling in that State is in favour of this course is not well founded. On the contrary, we have, I may say, the mandate of the State Legislature in favour of the course we are taking, and there is also the fact that not one of us who are prepared to vote against the minimum wage has uttered a single syllable that would lead to a contrary impression on the part of our constituents. None of us can help feeling with what extreme earnestness and sincerity Senator Pearce enters into the advocacy of the cause in which he believes. I think that has impressed us before, and it has impressed me to-day. But I am sure that advocacy would have far more effect if the honorable senator abstained from those insinuations to which Senator. Playford has called attention, and which I think are very much better left to the platform hustings in Western Australia, when the honorable senator and his colleagues may have it out amongst those who take an interest in such things. I feel that the general imputation requires to be resented, that any honorable senator is likely for the sake of election to pledge himself to one thing, and immediately he enters the walls of the Commonwealth Parliament not only to violate his pledge, but to do it in a surreptitious and indirect fashion by means of a by-way provided by an insidious amendment to a proposition embodying the principle. .1 think with Senator Pearce, that it is desirable that we should go directly to this question, and should not be led away by side issues. I confess I feared for the stability and strength of the convictions of my friend Senator Walker when I heard Senator O’Keefe declare that this proposal would only mean an additional charge of 3£d. per head all round, because I believe Senator Walker convinced himself, and, perhaps, others, that because the £10,000 or £12,000 a year involved in the appointment of this useless commissioner and inspector under the Public Service Bill would only mean an additional charge of two-thirds of a penny per head, we ought to swallow it. I do not believe in that kind of argument. I say that if this proposal for a minimum wage were a good and a just one, I should be prepared to support it if the extra cost was not 3£d., but 3s. 6d., per head. If I were convinced that the proposal were in the interest of the public service and the general community, I should support it quite irrespective of these minimizing calculations intended to show us that it “is such a very little thing that we need not bother seriously about it. I confess that this amendment puts me in somewhat of a difficulty. The proposition in the clause, as Senator Pearce says, is a plain and straightforward one. It is that every young person, male or female, who has been three years in the public service, and has attained the age of 21 years, is to get £2 2s. a week. I do not know why it should not be £2 a week, and in that case a number of the instances referred to by Senator Higgs would be adequately met. I do not know that there are any serious principles involved in the additional 2s. I prefer guineas myself. I frankly admit that to my fancy there is a charm about that good old conservative word “guinea,” but I did not think that in these democratic days my friends on my left would have been so enamoured of it as it seems they are. I draw no distinction between £2 and £2 2s., and I do not think the principle is to be fought out upon the additional 2s. But the question raised is a very large one, and I do not wonder at my honorable friends fighting it so earnestly. The proposal is that this wage of £110 a year shall be paid under a rigid rule to men who have served a certain time, and have attained a certain age, irrespective of the value of their work. That is the essence of it. I quite agree that the amendment as introduced by the Government utterly destroys the principle of the minimum wage as put forward by my honorable friend. I make no disguise about that, because the amendment attaches to the principle a condition of capacity - and as I shall point out an unworkable and absurd condition. It attaches to this proposal a condition of capacity which is no element whatever in the bald proposition as it stands in the Bill. As the amendment to a certain extent destroys the principle by attaching this new element to it, I am disposed to vote for it, because I think that the proposition that a person on attaining the age of 21 years shall be entitled to the wage of £2 2s. a week, no matter whether work is available for him or whether he is fit to perform work worth that salary, is on the face of it perfectly unfair, unjust, and, I venture to think, unworkable. “What is the alternative ? It is that if the commissioner thinks that a public servant in this general division ought not to receive £110 a year, he must discharge him. I am not going to say whether that is cruel or inhuman, but it is admitted that that is the alternative. Quite apart from the merit or demerit of a minimum wage, I am not in favour of a system that would inevitably produce that result, and would throw out upon the world men who may be 21 years or 30 years of age, and who may at present be receiving £104 a year, and doing good work in a particular department. These men might have great difficulty in getting another situation outside the Government office. We must always remember that people in the Government service get into a groove. The longer they remain in it, the deeper the groove, and the greater their difficulty in extricating themselves from it, in getting employment outside, and in accommodating themselves to outside conditions. We should therefore be careful in anything we do in connexion with the adjustment of the public service to avoid, if possible, throwing people out into the world to get other employment as an alternative to giving them what is called a minimum wage. Now as to the clause, assuming that the amendment is carried, I confess I feel impressed by what Senator Pearce has said, and I think this is not an honest way of getting rid of the minimum wage. It minimizes it, and to that extent I am bound to support it, but I do not like it. I have no sympathy with it, and it is not an honest way of defeating the proposition.
– Then vote against it.
– I will do what my honorable friend urges me to do, because if the amendment is added I will then vote against the clause as amended. I hope that will satisfy my honorable friend.
– I am going to be perfectly straight about this, and will accept the advice of Senator McGregor. The objection to the amendment, which Senator Millen will see, is that it introduces a proviso which says that this minimum wage is to be given, provided that the officer is capable of doing the work of an office to which that salary is attached. The result of that will be that a number oE officers will be receiving £110 a year, with no work representing a salary of £110 to do. You ought to attach the minimum wage, if there is to be one, to the office, and there, I think, you could introduce a principle to which many would give their adherence.
– That is classification.
– Exactly. If you say that all the lettercarriers over a certain area are entitled to receive £2 2s. a week, there is an end to the question. No one of us would doubt that as a basis for sound classification for one moment.
– Let the com- ‘ missioner fix it.
– Exactly. I cannot understand why honorable senators should seek to introduce the rule that when a lad has come to a certain age, he shall get £2 2s. On the other hand, I cannot understand why they should say that while he is holding an office which is worth only £1 a week, if he is able to do the work of an office worth £2 2s.” a week, he should get the pay of the latter office. You might as well say of a letter carrier, that he is capable of being commander-in-chief of the Commonwealth forces, or of commanding the channel fleet, and pay him accordingly. The principle of the thing as embodied in the amendment seems to me a rank absurdity.
– But he would be wasting his time in that office.
– Why should a letter carrier, or any other officer in the general division, be wasting his time getting £85 a year, when he is fit to do the work of another office, to which a salary of £11.0 is attached? Because there is no room for him ; the billet is not open. Under what possible conditions can the honorable member conceive of a private enterprise being run in that way ? It would be utterly impossible, and the only solution of a minimum wage, in my opinion, is to attach it by classification to the particular offices which are being filled, and the particular work which is being done. But the minimum wage attaching to age is indefensible upon any condition. The amendment, to my mind, as a matter of principle, is equally indefensible. The two put together will not produce a sensible clause, which we ought to feel any pleasure in seeing in a law. Therefore, I shall vote against the clause with the amendment and proposition in combination, but I shall vote for the amendment, because, if it is carried, there will be a very big loop-hole through which the faults of the clause may escape, and by which theywill be prevented from doing all the mischief which many of us contemplate.
– I confess that the speech of Senator Symon is a most extraordinary one. I am positively puzzled by the opposition which is raised to this proposal for a minimum wage. I am more than puzzled that it comes chiefly from honorable senators whose beds are moderately soft, and whose cupboards are fairly -well supplied with the good things of life. It really astonishes me to find these honorable senators ready to deny to civil servants the very moderate salary of £110, when they have attained their majority and served the Commonwealth for three years. I can quite understand the position taken up by Senator Playford. He objects to the minimum wage on principle, because, as he says, in some instances, it becomes the maximum wage. There is no necessity for that. Why should it become the maximum wage? We say that £110 a year isa reasonable sum to pay men and women who have performed certain duties for so many years, and who have arrived at a certain age. That is intelligible ; at any rate, that position is tenable. But we are asked to provide that the commissioner, or those in charge of the working of the departments of the Commonwealth, shall have the right to say that a man shall stop at the salary he is getting. Surely we are not likely to do that ? That is no reason why we should not have a minimum wage. Senator Ferguson says that if we were to throw open the civil service and invite competition, a number of men would be only too glad to get in their sons, even if they had to pay a premium. There might be a few rich persons who would do that, but would it be fair to the general community ? Certainly it would not be fair to a vast number of persons who seek to get into these positions with a view to earning a livelihood.
– To get an easy billet.
– I do not admit that it is an easy billet. I had some experience as a civil servant, and I am bound to say that I never worked harder for the small wages I drew than I did when I was a letter-carrier. I am sure that on reflection my honorable friend will see that he made a mistake, when he interjected that remark from his beautifully-cushioned seat. Honorable senators have had an opportunity of seeing from a list the salaries which are paid in one State. Of course it is in New South Wales that these wages are paid. In some instances the mother State pays its men remarkably well ; but in a number of cases it pays them remarkably ill. Taking the first section of 25 persons in the civil service; the least service is ten years. One man is 42 years of age. Some of them have served thirteen and a half years, and one as longas nineteen years. I ask honorable senators who oppose this minimum wage is £115 a year not too little pay for these persons? Taking the next section at £100 a year, there are nine persons getting £100, and the least service is eleven years. There are 46 persons receiving £95. One of them is 48 years of age, another 40 years of age; and the youngest 22 years of age, and the least service is twelve years. Eleven men are drawing £91, after having served aconsiderable number of years. There are 119 persons drawing £84, and the least service is seven years. Eleven persons are drawing £78, and the least service is six years. There are seven personsdrawing £65, and the least service is five years. Do honorable senators think that these are fair wages for men who have served the State for so many years? There is no more arduous labour than letter-carrying in connexion with the civil service. There is no more responsible position held by a civil servant.
– But the surroundings are very pleasant.
– The surroundings are by no means pleasant. There is no body of public servants who earn their money more fully than do letter-carriers, and it is not a very liberal action for honorable senators to oppose this reasonable proposal. I was positively astonished at the opposition that came from Senator Symon. He believes in getting reasonable fees when he is employed, and very justly so, but for him to advocate here that a mandrawing £65 a year, or a man drawing £105 a year, should receive no more- -
– I did not advocate anything of the kind.
– The honorable and learned senator saidthat he would vote for the amendment because it would, help to cure certain mischiefs; but that if it were carried he would vote against the clause as amended. Why do not honorable senators be manly and tell us what they mean ? I ask the committee to put its seal and stamp on justice, to give a modicum of fair play tocivil servants who are now underpaid. I am speaking more particularly for the letter-carriers. New South Wales is not by any means an isolated case. There will be found poorly-paid men and women in all the States. I am glad that the Government has at last recognised that in all branches of our public service there should be no distinction henceforth between the sexes. Each is to receive the same pay for similar services, and there is to be no barrier in the way of their rising in the service. I appeal to, the reasonableness of honorable senators, and also to their liberality and generosity, not to take up a position hostile to this clause. Is it worth the while of the Postmaster-General to persist in his amendment? The honorable and learned senator has always taken the side of liberality and of advancement in Queensland. Certainly he never took the side of impecuniousness while he was in the Parliament of that State. I, therefore, appeal to him whether it is worth while to insist, upon this amendment to prevent a minimum wage being received by those who have been many years in the service of the country ? Those who come into the service afterwards might be subjected to such an examination as that proposed, but why should we enforce such a condition upon those who have been for a long time in the service and have faithfully served the State? It is not fair to leave them in the hands of the commissioner rather than distinctly to provide, as the Bill now does, that certain terms and conditions shall apply to them.
– Some honorable senators have expressed their surprise at the position assumed with regard to this proposal for the establishment of a minimum wage by others who have spoken. I do not share that surprise. I should have been much more surprised if any other attitude had been taken up by a number of honorable senators who occupy seats in the Chamber. Dr. Johnson said - “ Who drives fat oxen should himself be fat;” and I think we might say, concerning the members of this committee - “He who would legislate for the lean civil servant should himself be lean.” We have had an exposition, of the attitude of the “fat men.” I do not say this with any disrespect, but we have had an exposition of opinion from those honorable senators who ride in their carriages; from those who live in palaces, from the men who are clothed, not in purple but in broadcloth and fine linen, and who “fare sumptuously every day.” Each of them has an excellent minimum wage. I have often wished that it were possible to establish a maximum wage. If that could be done the minimum would settle itself. We have had an expression of opinion from those whom I have described, and also from the lean men in this Chamber ; men who know what it is to work, and in some cases to want ; who have had a variety of experiences of life, and who have known the troubles, and difficulties, and trials which working men of every class and relation of life have to encounter. I am going to oppose the amendment of the Government. In the first place, it is an extremely cowardly amendment. It would have been much more honest if the Government had come for ward boldly, and said - “ We object altogether to this minimum wage clause, and are going to insist upon its excision.” But the Government are just like other, everyday politicians. They want to get all the kudos for supporting something, whilst at the same time they take very good care tomake any attempt to carry out that something, and to put it into practical operation, impossible. We are going to endeavour to place the Government in their proper position with regard to this clause. What does the amendment say? I much regret that a number of honorable senators who have spoken do not seem to understand it. It says -
Provided that hesatisfies the commissioner that he is capable of doing the. work of an office to which such salary is attached.
That is a salary of £110. We may probably find that not a single letter carrier or stamper, or sorter, or officer in the general division, so far as the post-office is concerned, is paid £110 per annum. Are we going to judge the officer by his capacity as a stamper or sorter, or by his capacity as a clerk ? The two branches of the service are altogether dissimilar. The best clerk in the service might not be worth a penny a week as a stamper or sorter, and might be utterly incapable as a letter carrier. The view of the labour party is that a man, after serving an apprenticeship of three years, should be paid a living wage, upon which he would be able to support himself in comfort, and we have fixed that limit at £110 per annum, or the enormous sum of 42s. per week-, or 7s. per working day. Senator Ferguson says that is an extravagant salary, and that at the age of 22. he was not earning anything like as much. Probably the honorable senator was not filling a position of responsibility.
– I worked five years for nothing.
– That is no reason why others should work for nothing.
– He made up for it aferwards.
– Perhaps that was 50or 60 years ago. We are not going to deal with measures to-day by standards that prevailed before the deluge. We are working in the 20th century. This is an age of electricity. Even steam is getting out of date. We are getting something very much swifter. In Senator Ferguson’s earlier years I suppose that the steam-engine, when it went 1 5 miles an hour, was looked upon as something Satanic by a large number of people. Some steam-engines are now going at the rate of80 or 90 miles an hour, and experts are proposing to run a regular service at a speed of from 100 to200 miles an hour. We are getting swifter and swifter every day in mechanical appliances. So it ought to be in the arena of politics. Why should we not advance in regard to matters of Government as we have advanced in respect to the operations of industry ? We can, and we ought to do so ; and one of the first things that ought to be done by any Parliament is to see that every employe of the Commonwealth after he has served an apprenticeship of three years, and shown a capacity to do his work efficiently, should be paid a sum upon which he can live. That is the question. Honorable senators all round the Chamber wish to shunt it. Is it possible for any man to subsist in comfort in Australia, and to marry a wife and bring up a family, on less ? For we expect them all to do that. We want population here. That is the cry all the time. Is it possible for any man to do that upon less than 42s. a week?Senator Harney would not appear in the police court for anything less than £5 5s. I do not know that he would appear even for that sum. Senator Symon, who enlarged so magniloquently upon this subject, would, I suppose, want a retainer of about 100 guineas. And so all round the Chamber we find that the men most opposed to this clause, involving a minimum wage of 42s. a week, are those who themselves are in receipt of very large incomes. I am going to support the clause as it stands. I support it in the interest of economy. I suppose that honorable senators who have been talking about the £50,000 which the clause will cost will think that that is “ astretch.” But I say thatI am talking in the interests of economy, and in the interests of efficiency. It has been proved in the United States that the higher you pay your workmen the more economically are the operations of labour carried on. I believe in efficiency. I believe that our officers would be more efficient if they were better paid. If better paid they would be better fed. How are the letter-carriers in New South Wales, 30 and 40 years of age, who have been in the service fifteen and twenty years, and are only getting 30s. a week - probably having wives and families to support - to live and go round from place to place with their letters with anything like the vigour with which they ought to work ? It appears to me that a number of honorable senators are afraid that if the letter-carriers are paid a decent wage they will grow too fat, or get the gout, and will not be able to go their rounds quickly enough. They believe that if the letters are to be delivered rapidly the men should be underpaid. If they sought the homes of these men they would find them among the wretched dens of Sydney, for they cannot live decently on such a wage. How can a man with a wife and family afford to pay rent for a house in a respectable, healthy portion of Sydney on a salary of 30s. per week ? Let us go into a little detail. Take the case of a man with a wife and four children. He cannot obtain a house sufficient to accommodate his family in a decent locality under 14s. or 15s. a week.
– Would a man of 21 have four children?
– Has the honorable and learned senator been emulating . Rip Van Winkle ? Has he been burying himself for the last twenty years ? Has he not received a copy of the circular relating to the position of the service in New South Wales ? I suppose that it does not interest him ; but it interests me, and every other honorable senator in the labour corner. If a man receiving 30s. a week has to pay 15s. a week for rent, half of his salary goes at once to the landlord. I am sure that Senator Zeal will appreciate the magnificent return which landlords receive in Sydney.
– They do not obtain such rentals.
– The balance of the man’s salary has to be devoted to food and clothing and other necessaries required by his family. It is utterly impossible for any man over 21 years of age to live a decent life when he receives anything less than the minimum wage of £110 per annum named in this clause, and it will be a disgrace to the members of the first Commonwealth Parliament if they do not make this provision law. A number of honorable senators have professed a great deal of anxiety for the taxpayers. I am here to represent the taxpayers just as much as is any other honorable senator. What did the taxpayers in Queensland say to me when they sent me down here ? They said - However poor we may be, however wretched our condition may be, however much we may suffer under the grinding tyranny and oppression of the men who are robbing us, when we are in the position of employers we command you” - “command” was the word they used - “to see that every one of our employes is treated fairly and reasonably, and in such a way that he will be able to lead a decent, honorable life.” Those were my instructions from the men who sent me here, and those instructions I intend to carry out. I do not know what instructions have been, received by other honorable senators, but I would say to all the working men of the Commonwealth, that if they read Hansard - and I hopethey do - this debate ought to exhibit to them in the clearest colours the utter folly of sending rich men into any Parliament to represent them. Senator Glassey has referred to the revelations in regard to the service in New South Wales. We have read a great deal in the Melbourne press about sweating in Sydney, and we believe that it does take place. Here is further evidence of it. The circular we have received gives evidence of sweating in the Government departments ; sweating in the public service of New South Wales, notwithstanding all their democratic legislation ; sweating notwithstanding all their professions of advancement and progress. The Government of Kew South Wales spent nearly £200,000 on Commonwealth celebrations in Sydney, but all the while they were sweating their poor, wretched employes. That is tlie sort of Government we are sent here to-
– Put an end to.
– We ar.e going to do that if we can. We do not mask our intentions. Some honorable senators, in their anxiety for the working classes, seem to be under the impression that when we fix a minimum wage it becomes at once the maximum wage. Senator Ewing spoke of the cruelty of the minimum wage. It is very easy to use phrases. We have been told that language is used very often to conceal men’s thoughts rather than to express them’. The honorable and learned senator did not explain in what way the principle of the minimum wage is cruel. I have had occasion once before to refer to the ignorance of the legal profession in regard to the industrial conditions of this country. I repeat that assertion. Lawyers know nothing whatever about the industrial conditions of Australia ; that matter does not come within the scope of their horizon. Their minimum wage is 6 s. 8d. . Senator Pearce. - Fixed by law.
– Fixed by the rule of the society.
– It is not 6s. 8d. now.
– It is 13s. 4d. The minimum wage need not necessarily become the maximum. If a man is worth more than the minimum wage, why should not his employer pay him more 1
– Why should he do so when he can obtain others to take the man’s place at the minimum wage 1
– The honorable and learned senator wants to see men in every department of life placed in unrestricted competition. He wishes to place them in the position of a number of pigs wallowing in a trough, and each one trying to oust the other. Yet the honorable and learned senator is a member of a trade union which very carefully restricts its members from any such competition. Competition is done away with entirely in the serene atmosphere of the Law Society. If a man does not conform to the rules of the society he finds very soon the iron grasp of that union fixed around him. He is boycotted by his fellow men at the bar or in the solicitors’ chambers. Even the Judges on the bench frown upon him. I have seen the very Judges frowning on men who dared to attempt to blackleg in the legal profession, and frown upon them to such purpose that they were driven out of the profession. That is the condition of affairs in the legal profession. I do not say that we desire to bring about a similar state of affairs in the ordinary relations of life. It would not do. The sooner the barriers which surround the legal profession are broken down, the better it will be. However, we are not discussing that matter, we are discussing the proposed establishment of a minimum wage for the workers of the Commonwealth. I was astonished to hear the arguments of some honorable senators - especially Senator Playford - in opposition to this proposal for a minimum wage. I have always looked upon Senator Playford as a man who gave evidence of the possession of sound sense upon some questions.
– But even the gods nod.
– Yes ; we are told that even Homer nodded, and on this question Senator Playford has nodded. He has told us that he does not believe in a minimum wage because it is unjust. How can it be unjust to say that if a man is able to do certain work he shall be paid a certain wage ? We have heard expressions of commiseration for men who cannot come up to a particular standard. They ought to be considered. If a man is not physically fit for the work of a navvy, surely some other occupation can be found for him 1 He may be mentally or physically fit for some lighter occupation, and some employment ought to be found for him. But the invasion of industries by incompetent men should not he encouraged in any country. It tends to lower the standard of efficiency, because the competent man is always dragged down to the level of the incompetent man. We should do nothing to encourage inefficiency or laziness. While we support the establishment of a minimum wage, we insist that those responsible for the working of the service should have efficiency in their departments. I have a reason for insisting upon efficiency and economy in all departments of the public service which are managed by the State. All round us we have the agents of private enterprise endeavouring every day of the month to break down any and every attempt at collective action on the part of the people. I recognise as fully as any one that if we are to go on increasing the functions of the State - the functions of the people collectively - we shall have to infuse efficiency, more efficiency perhaps, than we have at present, into our public service. I recognise that its very life depends upon it being shown that it can be efficiently and economically carried on by the State. Therefore I am for efficiency and economy in every department. Senator Ewing, after talking for some time all round the clause and the amendment, found consolation in the fact that the amendment provided a loop-hole Apparently the honorable senator had been looking for a loop-hole from the first. The lawyer loves a loop-hole. When he draws out your will he is careful to leave some loophole for litigation. A lawyer cannot perform any function belonging to his profession without leaving a loop-hole.
– Lawyers very often get a criminal out by a loop-hole !
– And I am sure there is no honorable and learned senator more capable of getting a criminal out by a loop-hole than is Senator Harney . I trust that after the earnest appeals which have been made - and especially the appeal made by Senator Glassey - honorable senators will bethink themselves of the conditions pf civil servants I trust that they will vote against the amendment, and support the clause as it stands. If they do, I am sure that they will earn not only the gratitude of the civil service, but the appoval of a large body of their constituents. However much the workers may be oppressed themselves in their positions as employes they have no desire to oppress others.
– I take a very great interest in this clause, and one of my reasons for rising to speak upon the amendment is that I desire to put a question to Senator Pearce. I listened with great attention to his earnest and eloquent speech, but I think that for once the honorable senator, who is usually very logical, was a little off the track. My ideas with regard to the minimum wage have been formed after watching a number of workmen, engaged upon public works, who should be to a very great extent of equal capacity. I admit that even amongst pick-and-shovel men, and navvies generally, there may be men worth 8s. a day, in comparison with whom others are not worth os. a day, but I think that in dealing with this question we have to consider the case of a body of . men who, with the exception of the ganger, receive the same wages. For the first time in my knowledge, because I have never seen it anywhere else, we have in clause 21 applied the minimum wage to the clerical division of a public service. That is to say, we are going to have a minimum wage applied to certain officers, who are graded, it may be, into fifteen or twenty divisions. It has been somewhat surprising to me that my honorable friend’s of the labour party should go s© far as to say that the minimum wage is applicable, not only to a body of 100 or 1,000 men working ‘upon a railway or some such work, but equally to a public service, though it may be divided into halfadozen or a dozen grades and classes. How can we apply the minimum wage with justice to the taxpayer 1 I point out to Senator. Glassey that this is not a question of philanthropy, but of justice from first to last. I am at a loss to understand how we are to apply the minimum wage to a division of the public service, in which there may be half-a-dozen grades, without which the service could not be properly conducted, fixed according to efficiency, with salaries also fixed according to efficiency. In -order to further illustrate my point, let us look at the confidential document which honorable senators have received from Sydney. I call the attention of honorable senators of the labour party to the fact that among the mail carriers of Sydney there are no less than ten different grades. The first grade, the top men, get £105 a year. So that even in the great rich State of New South Wales, the highest pay given to these officers is less than the minimum wage suggested here.
– There are many men in the department who get much more than the salary stated in this return.
– I understand from Senator Glassey that the gentlemen whoprepared this statement dealt possibly with the lower grades of the service, but taking the return as it is, I find the highest grade mentioned has attached to it a salary of £105 a year. There are 25 men in that grade, aged from 27 to 42 years, and they have, been in the service from ten to nineteen years. The next grade is £100 a year, there are nine men in it from 27 to 32 years of age, and they have from eleven to fifteen and a half years service. The next grade is £95 a year. There are 46 men in that grade from 22 to 48 years of age with a service of from twelve to fourteen and a half years. The next grade is £91 a year. There are eleven men in that grade from 27 to 34 years of age, and they have from eleven to thirteen years service. The next grade is £84 a year. There are 117 letter-carriers in New South Wales getting that salary. They are from 22 to 42 years of age, and their length of service ranges from seven to twenty years. The next grade is £78 a year, there are eleven men in it from 19 to 43 years of age, and their service is from five to twelve years. The next grade is £65 a year. There are only seven in it from 20 to 23 years of age, and with five years service all round. Then we come to other grades in respect of which they were not able to get detailed figures - grades in which salary is paid at the rate of £52, £39, and £26 a year. I know nothing about the efficiency of these men, but my honorable friends will understand that in this department there are ten different grades according to salary, and they desire in this one department alone to sweep away the whole of these grades, and say that there shall be a uniform wage of £110 a year. We are to. assume that a man with twenty years service and a man with only three years service are equally entitled to the £110. We are to have nothing more to -do with grades in the lower branches of the civil service, but all are to be put on a dead level of £2 2s. a week, whether they are efficient or not, and though one man may be an energetic, intelligent letter-carrier, who finds out where a man lives, and another a dolt and a dunce, who cannot find out where a man lives, and hardly takes the trouble to do so. My honorable friends ought not to talk in the “hifalutin” way they do on a question of this kind with these facts staring them in the face. Having dealt with that point, I ask them if they think it is justice to the taxpayer and justice to men in the service that a man who is in the 1st division of a department, and has served for twenty years, should be placed on the same footing as a man who is in the 10th division, and has served for only three years? Yet, if the Governor-General assents to this Bill - and I hope he never will, and that it will never become law - each will have to get £2 2s. a week. Senator Symon seems to think that the amendment moved by the Postmaster-General entirely nullifies, or to a great extent does away with the advantage of the minimum wage. If my little 6s. 8d. worth of advice is of any use I may perhaps bring some comfort to my honorable friends in the labour corner. It appears to me that the amendment is a contradiction, and that when the first man appeals to the High Court because he does not get £110 a year - I am not positive of it, but I am inclined to think he will get it in spite of the amendment which the PostmasterGeneral has moved. First of all, the Bill says that a man shall, if he has attained 21 years of age, and has served for three years, get £110 a year, and the Judges will know at once that this is meant as the minimum wage clause, and they will say that there is the man’s rights embedded in an Act of Parliament. The clause, if amended as suggested, will then go on to provide - “ If he satisfies the commissioner that he is capable of doing the work of an office to which such salary is attached.” Then we come back at once to these ten grades. What is the commissioner to do under this clause with the minimum wage staring him in the face ? Will he be able to say, for instance, that he has the right to grade the letter-carriers into ten different grades giving £26 a year to the lowest and £110 a year to the top men? Will he be able to say that he will keep these grades and the salaries attached to them, and that whenever a young fellow attains the age of 21 years, and has been three years in the service, he will not grade him at £110 a year, but will say that the young man is only fit for a position to which a salary of £65 a year is attached ? It appears to me that it is very slovenly work indeed on the part of Ministers to submit such a clause ; but I can sympathize with them a little, and I shall point out how the clause comes before us. It was not in the original Bill, but it was passed by the other House when the Treasurer and the Minister for Trade and Customs were miles away, and the Government seemed to think there was a majority in favour of it. When people talk about sweating and degrading, and say that men should be enabled to live and all the rest of it, it is rather unpleasant work to get up and contradict these arguments, although we know perfectly well that they are grossly exaggerated and that, as a matter of fact, there are hundreds of letter carriers in New South Wales who are living, decently and honestly, thank God, on wages which some persons would describe as sweating wages. It is my honorable friends of the labour party who never know their facts and are always dealing in gross exaggerations. It is they who trample upon and violate the principles of nature, . and who think they can make water run up hill. It is they who never read their, papers and do not know what is going on in the world. I can tell Senator Stewart that I believe that in the last week or two I have read as much about industrial matters as the whole of the labour party put together. I have read, carefully and faithfully, article after article in the Times, and some of them three columns in length. I have read scores of letters in reference to them, and I find that the trade of the old country is being lost because the trades unions in England are ignoring the principles of common sense, of nature, and of political economy. The trade is also being lost because these trades unions will not believe in the principles of justice, and I can show honorable senators rules under which they decline to allow some of their men to produce more than a certain output per day. I can show them a rule in which they decline to allow a machine to be used. I can show a rule under which a trades union decline to allow buttons to bo put on by a machine in half-a-minute which, it would take five minutes to sew on. All these things are to be seen in the first journal of the world. I have seen letter after letter from union secretaries and presidents trying to upset the statements made, but not a single one of them dare deny the fact, though one man says the statements are exaggerated, and another makes excuses. The desire of trades unions to limit output is not of a selfish but unselfish nature, in that it is done in the interests of men who are out of work. There is good at the bottom of them.
– Did the honorable and learned senator read Hutchinson’s reply in the Nineteenth Century ?
– There is my honorable friend “ off like a bell wether,” and he does not know what I am going to say. All the articles I have read have appeared since the publication of the article in the Nineteenth Century.
– It is in the last issue of the Nineteenth Century.
– My honorable friend ought to know that a man does not write a letter for a monthly magazine on one day, that it is not printed the next, and that it does not come out here on the following day. The bulk of the articles I have read appeared subsequently to that to which the honorable senator refers. I shall have much pleasure in reading that article. I have not read it yet, as I have been studying the Times, and there is enough there to keep one going. I desire to say that the working men of this country are trying to repeat the blunders and the errors of the old country, and as sure as they do it they will lose their trade. I venture to prophesy that New South Wales and Victoria will lose some trade on account of the grandmotherly legislation they are adopting. Do honorable senators suppose that they can make any man in the Commonwealth service worth £2 2s. a week by Act Of Parliament? Do they suppose that sooner or later some Treasurer will not find out that many of the men who are paid the £2 2s. a week are not worth it? When dealing with a question of this sort we cannot get our honorable friends to go into the .details and the merits of it. If they would say that every married man in the service should get £2 2s. a week, I should be with them.
– Whether they are worth it or not? Does the honorable and learned senator wish to make them able to pay for a divorce ?
– I should be with my honorable friends if I thought that men in the service could not provide for their wives and children properly, without what is called the minimum wage. But they wish to apply it to a young fellow 21 years of age, living at home with his parents, and his sisters, who are to get the same wage when they are 21. We may have a man earning £2 os. a week with a son in the civil service earning £2 2s. a week, and a girl in the post-office also earning £2 2s. a week. I should like to see people getting these wages, but we cannot afford them, and they are out of all proportion to what is paid in the States, or by private employers.
– In the honorable and learned senator’s State.
– In New South Wales, the richest of the States. I believe that if Ministers had been firm and had shown, what they made no attempt to show in another place, that this clause means an additional expenditure of £52,000 a year - £4-6,000 for the Post and Telegraph department and £5,000 for the Customs department - it would not have been agreed to. It was never pointed out in another place that it meant anything at all. I believe that when people come to realize these things, and that the proposal is to apply equally to men who have been twenty years in the service and men who have been in it only three years, they will admit that we are perfectly right in objecting to this minimum wage clause at this stage, and in trying to secure some modification of it. Are men who have been fifteen years and twenty years in the service - the great bulk of them have been ten and twelve years in the service - to stop at £110, and a boy who joined two years and eleven months ago to get next month £110 1
– We do not say that they are to stop at £110.
– Do honorable senators suppose that we can afford to pay much more than two guineas a week 1 If a man has something in him and learns a profession or a trade let him go and get his 10s., Ils., or 12s. a day, but if a man will not apprentice himself to a trade or a profession and will jump into a good civil service billet he must not grumble if he does not get much more than two guineas a week for carrying letters. Are honorable senators always going to consider what the man is to get 1 Have they not to consider the value of the work he is doing, and what outside people all over the world are getting similar work done for ? If the members of the labour party had their own way the Commonwealth would very soon be bankrupt. About the very best thing some of us could do would be to join them in everything they want, to increase the minimum wage and give it all round, to increase our salaries to £1,000 a year, and then we should see what would become of violating every economic principle which we ought to have learned from our experience of the past.
Senator EWING (Western Australia).I should not have risen again except for a remark by Senator Pearce that on the hustings in Western Australia I advocated a. minimum wage applicable to the Commonwealth, or, not to split straws, a minimum wage applicable to the State. He is mistaken. What I did say and discuss during my campaign was that the Government of Western Australia were paying lower wages than any one else in the community. On various occasions I stated in my addresses that I believed that the Government should pay the standard rate of wages in each locality. I believe I went so far as to say that I would attach to all Government contracts a condition that the contractor should pay tlie standard wage in the locality.
– Did not the honorable and learned senator, at Southern Cross, in reply to a question, state that he was in favour of a minimum wage, without qualification 1
– I can assure tlie honorable senator that he is mistaken, because I am not now and never have been in favour of a minimum wage ; but I do believe in the Government arid everybody else paying a fair wage, and I think that object is achieved by giving the Public Service Commissioner the power to say how much a man in each grade is to get.
– And the honorable and learned senator acknowledges that it is a loop-hole tq get out of paying it.
– I vote not for a minimum wage for the whole Commonwealth by which a man in Victoria would get the same as one in Western Australia, but I vote for a man getting a fair and reasonable wage for the class of work he is doing and the circumstances under which he does it.
– I am extremely sorry that Senator Dobson has left the chamber, because he said certain things which call for a reply. His absence will not deter me from saying what I desire to say. He should be in his seat to listen to what takes places here. He claims a monopoly of the right to lecture the members of the labour party with regard to industrial matters, and tries to ape superiority. I resent the tone in which he has addressed the committee not only this afternoon, but on other occasions. I think the time has arrived when we should hit just as hard as he has done. He does not know what he is talking about, or he would not speak as he did this afternoon. One has only to talk about a minimum wage, and he is up in arms in a moment. He is the guardian of the taxpayers, and prophesies that all sorts of things will happen to the Commonwealth if we pass this iniquitous thing known as the minimum wage. And in this connexion no one knows anything about political, social, or economic questions except himself. I was surprised at the argument which he advanced this afternoon. I am prepared to take my stand, and risk incurring the pleasure or displeasure of the electors who have sent me here. I know that the great majority of the electors of Victoria not only believe in a minimum wage, but are prepared to see it enforced, as we are trying to do in this Bill. With regard to this amendment, I am extremely sorry for the position which the Government have taken up. They are not honest and above board ; they are trying to hide behind the commissioner in this respect. If the amendment is passed as the Government suggest, it will mean that no minimum wage will be paid. The commissioner will say that he sympathizes very deeply with the lower-paid officials. He will be just like a number of honorable senators, who have any amount of sympathy with those who are paid miserable wages in the States, but who, when it is a question of giving practical proof of their sympathy, invent all sorts of excuses, and put all sorts of amendments in the Bill in order to prevent the minimum wage being given. For very many years in the Victorian Parliament we tried to get a minimum wage clause introduced into all Government contracts. When retrenchment was rife in the civil service, what did the Government do ? Instead of attacking those in the higher branches, the Government reduced the wages of those in the lower branches; and years afterwards, even though Parliament had passed a resolution, especially as regards the Railway department, that the reduction of 6d. per day in the wages of the labourers should be cancelled, we had the Commissioner for Railways saying that it was not possible to pay the increase, and he stood in the way of carrying out the express wish of Parliament. It seems to me that the Public Service Commissioner under this clause will take up exactly the same position, and the result will be that no minimum wage will be paid. We have heard some extraordinary arguments during this discussion. Senator Playford has taken up a manly position. He says he does not believe in a minimum wage, and therefore he is going to vote straight out against the proposal. In arguing in respect to the justice of a minimum, he said it was unfair because it would not apply to special cases, and- the men ought to be specially considered. To my mind that ‘ is no argument. If there are special cases - cases where men are sent to a peculiar kind of climate, or where they labour under certain disabilities - that is no reason why there should not be a minimum fixed for any other branch of the service. In such cases we should not only give the minimum wage as prescribed by law, but as a matter of right and justice we should make a special application of it. Senator O’Keefe reminds me that that is provided for in the regulations. This afternoon we have had the spectacle of all the lawyers in the Senate opposing this principle, notwithstanding the fact that the legal profession is the closest trade union in the world. They not only regulate matters in that way for themselves, but they have their minimum wage clearly defined. Some time ago I had to go into a lawyer’s office about the transfer of a property. My lawyer went to his telephone and asked the lawyer who was doing the business on the other side - “ When will that transfer be ready, or when can I see you.” The other lawyer answered - “I can see you on Tuesday.” When I got my bill of costs I found that I was charged 6s. 8d. for attendance and for delivering that message through the telephone. We have not yet gone to that extreme industrially, because we believe in paying a minimum wage to those who will do the amount of work which is required of them. I sincerely hope that the committee will not be misled. I am prepared to give a straight vote. I should have preferred if the Government had come out boldly and said - “ We do not believe in a minimum wage, and we shall not incorporate it in this Bill.” From the time the clause was passed in the other House, I think the Government made up their mind that it should not remain in the Bill. As soon as it was passed in that House, what did we hear? We heard of its unfairness as between male and female labour. And when the argument was contradicted from this corner, and it was proved conclusively that in the public service the women are doing the same amount of work as the men, and in some cases doing it better, it was dropped. Now, we come back to the miserable subterfuge of allowing the commissioner to decide in these cases. What will the commissioner do 1 I suppose he will set up some impossible test. He will arrive at a certain standard, and, at his own sweet will, he will either give or withhold the minimum wage. Perhaps he will impose some test such as we have had imposed under the Immigration Restriction Act. The test may be of such a character as will make it absolutely impossible for any one to come up to the standard the commissioner desires. In any case I hope that the amendment proposed by the Government will not be accepted, and that the committee will not go back upon the vote already given, but will decide that there shall be a minimum wage. Lower than that minimum wage we should not go, but above it the commissioner may go if he pleases. ‘
– It is an extraordinary thing that during the whole of this debate, when any honorable senator has chosen to oppose the principles upheld by the labour section of the Senate, he has been immediately attacked as being entirely opposed to anything like fair play being given to those on behalf of whom the representatives of labour speak. That is a very great mistake. In the course of our debates we should always endeavour to give the fullest possible credit for honesty of purpose to any honorable senator who expresses an opinion contrary to our own.
– The honorable senator should read his own speeches.
– I give honorable senators the fullest consideration for conscientiousness with regard to what they advocate. I have no doubt that they are advocating what they believe to be best in connexion with the lower-paid officers of the civil service, and that they believe in the principle of the minimum wage. But at the same time I claim the perfect right of those who occupy an entirely different position to express their views. The position I take up is this. I am going to support the amendment. If it be carried, and there is afterwards a division upon the clause as amended, I am going to vote for it. My reason is that I recognise that there is a great deal of force in the argument which has been adduced that a man who is in the public service, having attained a ‘certain age and having certain responsibilities, should at any rate receive sufficient to keep him in decency and in fair comfort,, always providing that he is efficiently discharging the duties allotted to him. Senator Stewart’s speech was, to my mind, a strong argument in favour of the amendment of the Government, the object of which is to insure efficiency, to provide that a man shall not necessarily obtain the salary of £110 in the ordinary course of progress, but shall show merit in order to earn it. There is an idea in the minds of some honorable senators that this amendment is intended to prevent officers from attaining to the salary of £110. But let them bear in mind that the whole of this Bill rests upon its administration by the commissioner, who is not likely to be a man who will place himself in the position of depriving officers of something which they are honestly entitled to receive. If honorable senators look .it the Bill, they will find that under clause 18 it is provided that in the general division the officers shall be paid “such salaries and wages and increments in accordance with such fixed amounts or scales as may be prescribed.” Those amounts have to be prescribed by regulations. Those regulations will be made by the GovernorGeneral - that is, by the Executive - and will be laid before the Senate as well as before the other Chamber. If it be found that, according to the scale fixed, the salaries to be paid to letter-carriers are not sufficient, the Senate or the House of Representatives can bring the Government to book. The commissioner, when he certifies that the position a man is occupying is worth £110, will specify the position, whereupon the officer will get the salary. So that I think honorable senators will see that the provision suggested by the Government really safeguards both the efficiency of the officer and the interests of the general public. I am aware that many honorable senators say that they have promised their constituents that they will vote for a minimum-wage provision, and that they are not going back upon their pledge. But they have a duty to perform to the taxpayer generally, and have to do evenhanded justice all round. They should not, therefore, insert a provision in the Bill which will involve the payment of a salary to a man who may not be capable of performing such duties as will enable him to earn that salary.
– If he is not capable he should be dismissed.
– That would be a very cruel proceeding to take. If a man is worth £85 per annum in the work he is doing, it would be a cruel thing to dismiss him because he is not worth £110. That is where the fault comes in with regard to the minimum wage principle. The weaker person, who is not able to do the work of a thoroughly qualified man, can do such work as will entitle him to receive a lower salary. There are many men of 40 or 50 years of age who, in consequence of sickness or physical disability, are not able to earn as much as men in good health. The Minister for Public Works in New South Wales, Mr. O’sullivan, -has recognised that fact in connexion with the minimum - wage provision which he is carrying out. Although the minimum wage which he has fixed is 7s. a day he recognises three grades. The men of one grade are paid 5s., of another grade 6s., and the better class of men are paid 7s., a day. Mr. O’sullivan doesn’t insist upon a man starving because he is only worth 6s. a day. And so it should be with regard to our own public service ; if some men can honestly earn £80 a year and cannot honestly earn £110, it is better to allow them to’ earn £80 than to turn them into the street.
– Are there any men in the service doing work which is not worth £110 a year?
– There are cases of incompetency arising through sickness and so on.
– That cannot be, because they have to pass an examination.
– - I am alluding to cases where a man is in the service, and under this provision would have to be paid £110 a year. Of course, if a man wants to go from the general division to the clerical, a test of his fitness must be applied. I recognise fully that when a man has grown to years of maturity, and is probably married, and has a family to keep, if he remains in the service he ought to be able to earn a salary which will enable him to live in reasonable comfort ; but what I maintain is that if such a man is incompetent to earn £110 a year we should not turn him out neck and crop to starve in the streets. Another fault in connexion with this proposal is, that under it a man who has been in the service ten or twelve years will be in exactly the same position as one who has been in the service for three years. Statistics which have been supplied to us show that a number of men have been in the service for a few years and are now receiving £65 a year. Under this clause they would get an addition of £45 a year ; whilst at the same time men who have been in the service ten years, and are now getting £105 a year, would get an increase of £5. Would that be fair ?
– Our proposal is to improve that state of things.
– I am prepared to assist the honorable senator so long as the improvement is effected under reasonable conditions, with the provision proposed by the Government that a man shall get his increase to £110 if he shows himself fit for his position. I ask honorable senators to recollect that the grading scheme will have to be. placed before them for approval in the first instance ; and if they find that it is not fair, it will be the duty of Parliament to make it fair. Then it will be our duty to see that under this Bill the commissioner works in accordance with the rules laid down by and approved of by Parliament. If honorable senators believe in the principle of having a commissioner, as they do, they ought to give credit to him for the intention and ability to do what is right and proper.
– Senator Gould seems to think that because some honorable senators, belonging to the party of which I am a member, have spoken plainly on this question, we have been the only people who have been unfair. It does not do to be too thin-skinned in debate. Very often remarks are made in the heat of discussion that . would not be made in calmer moments. I have only to direct the honorable and learned senator’s attention to remarks made by other speakers, and he will find that the same complaint can be made by myself and my colleagues. There is some justification for what has been said, because my experience .in the Senate is that it is always the same set of honorable senators who oppose anything that is proposed in the interests of labour. If we find a certain set of individuals always on the same side, and always following one policy, what other conclusion can we come to than that they wish to cheapen labour t
When it is a question of stopping the subsidizing of steamers which employ black labour, or a question of establishing a minimum wage under a Bill of this kind, those honorable senators are always ready to take up the cudgels in the same cause. Those who are supporting the minimum wage clause of this bill are consistent with what they have done all through. Clause 5 of the Bill fixes the salary of the commissioner at £1,500. There was very little complaint about that salary from the honorable senators I refer to. The labour party are willing to pay handsome salaries to the higher grades of the service, but they also wish to see that a living wage is paid to those in the lower grades. Surely no honorable senator will say that anything less than £2 2s. per week is a living wage for a man who has attained his majority? It is nonsense to assert that the provision in this clause is meant to apply only to “ mere boys of 21.” It will apply to every man in the service who is 21 years of age and upwards, and the necessity of such a provision is shown by the fact that according to the document which has been circulated amongst honorable senators, men 40 years of age, employed in the civil service of New South Wales, receive a much lower rate of pay.
– Why do not they go elsewhere?
– That is the old free-trade argument. It is raised every time that the labour question crops up. The very same question is raised in freetrade England, where men are working for miserable wages. It is said that they could earn more if they worked harder. On that point I should like to read for the special benefit of Senator Dobson, an extract from a paper which I received from England by the last mail. I refer to the Clarion, a well-known English journal, which under the heading “Starvation at Stone,” publishes the following statement : -
I have just received from a reader a cutting from the Staffordshire Sentinel, of November 30, headed - “Great Distress at Stone: Families Starving : The Bad Boot Trade.”
It appears that a large factory in the export boot trade has almost ceased producing. The reasons given for loss of trade are Australian Tariffs, South African war, and American competition.
The “clickers” at this factory have earned about16s. 6d. in the last month, and they have been on “short time” for some months. Fifty families are said to be starving.
I would ask any reasonable honorable senator whether, under that state of affairs, a man earning such a miserable salary would hang back simply because of laziness, and refuse to earn more money if it were possible to do so ? I should like to read from the same issue of the Clarion another paragraph, which furnishes an answer to Senator Dobson.
– Would the minimum wage cure such a state of affairs as that referred to in the paragraph just read by the honorable senator? The factory has practically shut down.
– I am reading these quotations in answer to the statement, made by Senator Dobson that laziness is at the bottom of the whole trouble. The paragraph sets forth that the secretary of the Bricklayers’ Society, who was spoken torn reference to the allegations made by the Times about malingering on the part of the men, stigmatized the charge as a fabrication.
– It is in their rules.
– That is not so.
– The paragraph sets forth that -
As regards the railway workers, Mr. Richard. Bell, M.F., directly denies the Times allegations, which he stigmatizes as “ the mere fabrication of a fanatically-prejudiced mind,” and challenges the writer “to produce a single instance of his society or his colleagues, or himself, conniving at laziness on the part of railway men. “
That is the statement made by the secretary of the Railway Workers’ Association - perhaps one of the largest trades, unions in England - who represents Derby in the House of Commons.
– In reply to that statement, engineers and architects have quoted precise cases in which malingering has occurred.
-For the edification of Senator Dobson, I will read an extract from the Clarion, in regard to the engineers. It sets forth that Mr. George Barnes, who is the secretary for Engineers’ Trades Union -
Quotes the testimony of Mr. Mather (of Mather and Platt) to the effect that - “The men have produced as much work in eight hours as they did in nine, and as they produced as much in nine as. they had previously done in ten, it follows that the pace of the men in the engineering trade, instead of falling-off, as alleged by the Times has, in fact, increased by two-tenths and one-fifth. In other words, the eight-hours-shop men work 20 per cent, faster in the engineering trade to-day than they did in 1870.” And everybody who knows anything of the subject at all, knows that the pace has been similarly accelerated in every industry where machinery has been introduced.
I think that is a sufficient answer to the statements that have been made by Senator Dobson.
– Except that I have read that the output is 20 per cent, less in many trades.
– That is incorrect.
– I am quoting authorities which should be accepted by the committee. When we find men who are competent to express opinions on the subject speaking in such definite terms, I think that Senator Dobson should be prepared to accept their statements.
– I take them to be worthy of consideration.
– I think that the opinions expressed by Mr. Barnes as an engineer should have some weight, and that importance should also be attached to the opinions expressed by Mr. Bell, M.P., as secretary to the Railway Workers’ Association. I did not intend to speak at any length upon this matter. I admit that this is a question of the minimum wage, and viewing it from that stand-point alone, I refused to recognise in it any question of the maximum wage. If we are to get away from sweating with its attendant evils we must have a minimum wage, and we, who support this clause, say that £2 2s. a week is little enough for a man who has reached his majority.
– I desire to refer to some of the remarks which have been made by honorable senators on the question of the minimum wage. I agree with the statement made by Senator Stewart that at the commencement of the twentieth century we are working 100 per cent, faster than were the workers at the commencement of the nineteenth century, and that some alteration ought to be made in the condition of the working classes. Senator Ferguson imagines that because men worked for nothing 50 or 60years ago, people should work for nothing to-day, while Senator Walker considers that because people worked for low wages 60 or ‘70 years ago, the workers should be prepared to do the same thing to-day. The inference which I draw from Senator Walker’s interjections is that he considers that because 50 or 60 years ago men walked, for the reason that they had no trains in which to travel, or perhaps, no money with which to pay their fares, men ought to ‘walk to day. These honorable senators do not realize that living was much cheaper 60 or 70 years ago.
– On the contrary, the cost of living was higher.
– When I speak of the cost of living I do not mean the actual cost of the articles consumed ; I refer to what the people lived on. When Senator Ferguson was living on brose in Scotland, as I have lived on it, he did not consume the same value of goods that he does to-day, when he lives under entirely different conditions. The cost of clothing was less then, not because a man paid less for a coat or a pair of boats, but because very often he had to go coatless or bootless. The nineteenth century has gone ; the twentieth century has come, and our powers of production have increased in many directions from 50 to 100 per cent. If we are to pay any attention to economic laws we must remember that unless the rate of consumption increases there is no use for production to that extent. It is only by giving people legitimate reasonable wages, in harmony with the times in which they live, that they can be put in a position to consume as fast as they can produce under these improved methods. Therefore, the £2 2s. per week which we are advocating as the minimum wage for the lower grades of the civil service is no more than the world can afford and no more than the world ought to afford, if all the energies and machinery that is at man’s command are to be set in motion to produce the necessaries which the people require. We have had a number of honorable senators speaking of the minimum wage provision in a way which leads me to conceive that they do not know what they are talking about. They are eternally telling us that the minimum wage is unjust ; that it must act harshly. Senator Playford has told us to-day about some good honest Scotchman who informed him that he suffered in Melbourne by the application to his trade of the provisions of a wages board established for the purpose of creating a minimum wage. I should like Senator Playford to trot out that handsome, honest young Scotchman, for I believe that if he was a trades unionist he was only one because he was forced into that position. I believe he was a black-leg.
– That is pure imagination.
– Bring him to mc, and I will prove it. I have met a number of these so-called trades unionists. I have seen them come to a job and ask for wages and conditions which had not the slightest relationship to any rules of any union with which I was connected. If an employer objected they said - “ We cannot do anything else because the unions would not allow it “ ; although they were never in a union room or paid 3d. for the maintenance of unionism. It is men of this class who bring discredit on the unions, and’ they go whispering into the ears of innocent juvenile gentlemen like Senator Playford for the purpose of misleading the public. These are not rash statements, I have proved the truth of them hundreds of times. In no case that I have been able to examine have I failed to discover that a man who makes statements of this kind is not a unionist. Senator Playford and Senator Symon have asserted that there is no such thing as the minimum wage in South Australia. I do not know whether that statement was due to their want of knowledge on the subject or whether it was made deliberately.
– There is no minimum wage in the Government service.
– There is, and tlie honorable senator ought to know of it. He knows that besides the provision in the Government regulations as to the minimum wage, a resolution has been carried in the South Australian Parliament affirming that in every contract let by the Government a minimum wage clause shall be inserted. Is not tlie honorable senator aware of that fact t
– Of course. 1 believe I waa instrumental in passing that resolution.
– And yet the honorable senator has forgotten it already. I am not going to say that the minimum wage paid in the model State is what I should like to see adopted for the Commonwealth. There is also a regulation in South Australia that so far as the erection of public buildings and the construction of railway works are concerned, as well as in connexion with other forms of manual labour, the men engaged upon them shall receive not less than 6s. a day. Is not that a recognition of the minimum wage 1 It may not be the minimum I would like, but there it is, and Senators Symon and Playford ought to know it. Then, again, we were told that the Parliament of South Australia defeated a Bill that was brought in. It was brought in by a labour member, not for the purpose of establishing the principle of a minimum wage, but for the purpose of increasing the minimum wage to 7s. a day, and honorable senators ought to know that also. Then there is something else to which I desire to call the attention of Senator Playford and other honorable senators. Senator Playford has told us that, as a producer, he pays as high wages as he possibly can. He probably pays the men he employs 5s. or 6s. a day if he cannot get them for less. Five shillings a day in the Mount Lofty Ranges !
– I pay no man 5s. a day. I pay every man I employ more than 5s. a day.
– I knew I should draw the honorable senator. I am going to prove from his own statements that the minimum wage of £110 is not as valuable to tlie public servant as the 5s. or 6s. a day the honorable senator pays to his workers up in the hills is to them.
– My men are worth the money and do the work.
– Certainly, and I will tell the honorable senator something about that when I have time. He must look at the conditions existing in the hills where he is paying 6s. a day. I will take the highest figure. That is 36s. a week.
– No ; I pay 5s. 6d. a day.
– -Well. 5s. 6d. a day is 33s. a week. I only desire to get a basis, and the honorable senator is giving it to me every time I ask him. An individual working for the honorable senator up in the hills near Adelaide is working in a place where he can get firewood for nothing. How much would that represent to a man in the city of Melbourne 1 At least 2s. 6d. a week, if he has a family to support.
– It is worth more.”
– I am going for the minimum every time. That makes 35s. 6d. a week. Up in the hills where the honorable senator pays 5s. 6d. a day, one can get a house for about 2s. 6d. a week, or at the very most 5s.
– About 3s.
– There we have it again - 3s. In the city of Adelaide or the city of Melbourne no public servant would be considered respectable who was living in a house that cost less than 1 2s. a week rent. I am not going to take Senator Zeal’s word. He may have a lot of rattraps or ramshackles that he is prepared to let at 5s. a week.
– Death traps.
– I will not try to describe them. But if a public servant wishes to live in a respectable locality, and to be respected by the rest of the community, in any of the cities of the Commonwealth, he will not get a house for less than 12s. a week. Take 3s. from 12s. and it leaves 9s and add 9s. tq 35s. 6d., and it will make £2 4s. 6d. Then the people in the hills can have poultry, they can have a cow running about the scrub, and other advantages which have to be reckoned up. The advantage of being able to keep fowls, to keep a pig or a cow, to have a garden and to have milk and vegetables may be reckoned at another 10s. a week. Add that to your £2 4s. 6d., and you have £2 14s. 6d. Then again, people there do not need to wear expensive clothes, and Senator Playford knows that for half the year a man can go about the hills with very little on him but his boots and socks, a shirt and trousers, and an old hat. I have come to the conclusion that the men paid 5s. 6d. a day by the honorable senator, with all these advantages thrown in, are in a better position than the public servant, for whom we are asking £110 a year. Again, the men for whom we are asking £110 a year have to serve a very fair apprenticeship, and they are specially selected before entering the service. They are not to be compared with the general public in that respect. I can join a trade union blind of an eye, lame of a leg, or with other physical defects, but men cannot enter the public service with those defects. It does not matter whether they desire to enter the professional, administrative, clerical, or general division; they are selected, -and they must be superior to those who are competing with them for the same position. Honorable senators know that. Again, when it was suggested that they should receive this minimum wage at the age of 21 years, some wiseacre interjected that they have not got a wife and four children at that age. It cannot be expected that a young man who has just reached the age of 21 years and obtained a rise from £S0 to £110 a year can get married and have a family right away. The thing is. preposterous. But do not honorable senators desire that he should make some preparation ? The very birds in the air and the animals in the field make some preparation for the rising generation, buthonorable senators do not wish that a public servant should make any preparation. I say, it is only fair that civil servants should get £110 a year at that early age, that they may in course of a few yearsbe prepared to make a home for a wife and family as they ought to do. Then again there is a great deal of talk about the minimum. Senator Playford asks where do we find the minimum in anything. Hetells us that we have in this Bill provisions for the appointment of a commissioner, and we should not trammel him in any way; that’ he should have full scope to do what he likes in fixing wages and judging qualifications, and that it would be preposterous to put any restriction on his judgment. But do we not put restrictions on the judgment of the highest in the land? If we appoint a Federal Judiciary shall we not put restrictions upon the Judges ? Shall we not fix minimums and maximums in respect of the “fines and penalties to be imposed upon individuals ? Is not the age of consent a minimum, and is not the age of majority a minimum? These are all minimums which are fixed by law, and how is it violating a principle to extend it, and fix a minimum wage ? I desire now to draw attention to something which has been said about trades unions and their effect upon the prosperity or decline of a country, in their attempts to fix minimum wages, hours of labour, and other conditions of that description. Senator Playford has declared that the minimum wage is unjust, that it would not work, that it would be more injurious than anything else. “ Senator Dobson has declared that trades unionism, minimum wages, maximum hours, and all that sort of thing are ruining the trade of England. He says he knows as much about the trade of England as do any of us in this corner, because in the Times he has read accounts that are outside the experience of any one who has been in the work. I have been connected with trades unionism for over 30 years, both as a mechanic and as a labourer. I know the condition of things that exists in trades unions ; I know the condition of things that exists in the different departments of labour in Great Britain where there are no trades unions, and I know what can be expected from them where there are strong trades unions. Despite what Senator Dobson may cite from the Times, I challenge any one here to take the records of Great Britain for the last 25 years and deny that the greatest prosperity and the greatest productive power exists where labour is organized, where a minimum wage is recognised, and where reasonable hours are worked. Senator Ferguson knows what the building trade was when he was in it in the old country. I know what it was when I left there only 25 years ago ; that is nearly 25 years after he left, and I know what has happened since. Masons and bricklayers, carpenters and joiners, and labourers in all directions were organized. Senator Dobson has asked me privately to tell him if I know of any department of trade with five or six branches in which you can establish a minimum wage. He means that in the public service there are different grades - postmen, telegraph operators, telephone operators, line repairers, and he asks how can you fix a minimum wage for all those grades. The minimum wage we wish to fix for every officer is 7s. a day, no matter whether he is an able-bodied line repairer, or an able-bodied postman, or an able-bodied, intelligent operator, if he is of age and has served three years. In the building trade, the lowest wage paid in this country is to the labourer. The lowest wage paid in the old country was to the labourer. In our society we fixed the labourer’s wage in one State at 7s. a day, and in another at 8s. a day. Honorable senators will see that there is no difficulty. Although there are carpenters and joiners, bricklayers and masons, plasterers and painters, the lowest minimum wage in the whole trade is 7s. a day. But that does not prevent tlie employer from giving higher wages to any other grade. It does not prevent the masons and bricklayers having a society and making their minimum 10s. or lis. a day, or the carpenters and joiners from making their minimum 8s. or 9s. a day, or the painters or plasterers from acting in a similar way. That is what we desire to bring about in the general division of the public service. No matter whether the civil servant is a postman, a line repairer, or a telegraph operator, he should receive 7s. a day. If the work is equal in three or four of these grades, they will all receive 7s. a day. If the work is more important in one or two of them, then, as in the building trade, the men must receive more than that rate. We have been told that the minimum wage, the fixing of hours, and all that sort of thing have ruined the industries of any country where it has been established. Senator Playford knows where New Zealand is. Under an Act of Parliament the Government of that colony have established a board of arbitration that fixes the minimum wage in every calling, no matter whether a labourer or a mechanic is concerned, and it has not ruined the trade of New Zealand. New Zealand is in as flourishing a condition as is any other part of the world, but if the statements made by honorable senators were true, it would be in a deplorable condition. There is no trades unionism worth speaking of in the happy hunting ground of Senator Dobson, and I guarantee that’ Tasmania is the lowest paid place in Australia, simply because it has no trades unions, no minimum wage, no maximum hours, nothing that should exist in a civilized country. But Senator Dobson is far stronger on Great Britain than he is on his own country, and probably he knows more about it. In Great Britain every branch of industry - the ship-building trade, the building trade, the iron trade, tlie engineering trade - has had a trades union for the past 30 or 40 years, and those trades unions have all been working in the direction of improving the conditions of the operatives. Will any honorable senator say that trades unionism has done nothing for the people of England 1 Any sensible man, I do not care whether he’ reads the Times, the Windsor Magazine, or the Clarion, cannot help but admit that trades unionism has done a great deal for Great Britain. In the callings in which the best regulated unions exist, and the most harmonious agreement prevail between the employers and the trades unions, there is the greatest prosperity. Take all the other trades, such as the chemical works, the chain-makers, the wool-combers, and the match-makers, where there are no trades unions, no minimum wage, no maximum hours of labour, and there we find that the people are almost rotting under the conditions in which they are held, because they are not able to defend themselves. At the same time, neither the employers nor the working people are making the same profits, nor is business in as flourishing a condition as in the other trades. Is not that sufficient to prove to honorable senators that this minimum wage is not the deplorable thing they would like us to believe it to be. Senators Gould, Millen, and Ewing are going to vote for this amendment because they say they do not disbelieve in a minimum wage ; they have never confessed themselves against it, but they are going to support the amendment, although their leader tells them it is an immense loop-hole. He ought to have more intelligence than they, or else he would not be much of a leader ; and he tells them what the facts of the case are. Every one in this corner has’ stated the facts. Even the PostmasterGeneral does not deny that the intention of the amendment is to defeat the minimum wage principle. I wonder if these honorable senators expect the people to be gullible for ever, and to believe that they are still in favour of the principle of a minimum wage, when they would put in such an amendment as would have the very .effect which its opponents desire. I do not blame Senators Playford, Ferguson, and “Walker. They are against a minimum wage in any shape. They are against any kind of progress in labour legislation. They do not want anything. They want the people to believe when they are on the platform that they are the workers’ friends, but when they get the opportunity to act they are never prepared to do anything in the interest of the worker. They are never prepared to assist those people with whom they pretend to have such very great sympathy. These honorable senators are not even the farmers’ friends. They are not the producers’ friends, because with the great producing power we have at the present time, unless the people have the wherewithal to buy, there is bound to be nothing else in the country but stagnation. Here is Senator Playford, in the hills over Adelaide, who has to let his plums rot on the trees. . He cannot give them away, he says. I have never seen many carts hawking them about the streets of Adelaide, and giving them away to the thousands of children, who would be very glad to buy lots of them if they only had halfpennies or pennies.
– That is pure imagination. I never said I could not give them away. I said I could get 6d. a bushel for them, and that it would not pay me to pick them for that.
– That is what I wished the honorable senator to say, because that is exactly the position. With the socalled over-production that exists, themany have not the money to purchasethe produce. Go to the boot trade, the clothing trade, or any other trade, and it is exactly the same. The people are not actually starved, but they have not as much as they could consume with comfort.
– The honorable senator had better look at them in Adelaide.
– I have seen hundreds of children going about the lanesand streets of Adelaide without shoes, without hats, and with very miserable clothes, too.
– I never saw them.
– The honorable senator would only walk in the fashionable parts of the town, where these little urchinswould be ashamed to go, unless they wentto sell matches. Has he never been stuck up in the streets by little children in themodel city of Adelaide who had no shoes on their feet, and who had very little clothes to cover their backs?’ Has he never met them? He cannot sitthere and say he has not. While these conditions exist it is clear that there is a great, proportion of the people who, on account of’ not receiving sufficient wages, are unable to. get all the comforts and necessaries of life which they ought to possess. The same applies in connexion with our meat supply. People must go short of meat in Australia, although there is too much of it. Hundredsof people cannot get enough bread to eat,, yet we are told that the farmers cannot sell their wheat. Hundreds of people are notwell enough clothed, yet we are only getting 4d. or od per lb. for our wool in England, because the people have not the wherewithal to buy the materials that aremade from it. Look at the anomaly : because we have too much of everything,, we have not enough of anything ! Looking at. the absurdity of the position, honorable senators should come to the conclusion that it would be bet ser for the farmers and every one else if the farm labourers wereto work shorter hours and get better pay. It would be better for the graziers and thesquatters if their employes worked shorter hours and were better paid, simply becausethey would then be better employes, who would look after their employer’s interests with intelligence. But what are the conditions at present? If Senator Fraser were in the back country I am sure he would try to get people to work for him for fifteen “ bob” a week and their tucker.
– I am giving them 25s. and rations now.
– That is because the honorable senator cannot help it.
– The honorable senator is offensive and unfair.
– It is quite as fair as some of the remarks that have been made concerning me, and no one objected to them.
– I did not make them.
– I am saying this because any one who opposes the increase of the wages of working classes in any direction will give as little as he possibly can for his labour. I know it. I have tried to get employment hundreds of times, and I know what I was asked to work for. Of course I did not do it. But I do not want to be offensive to Senator Fraser. I am not applying these remarks directly to him. I am only referring to the class of people he mixes with and meets at the clubs, and with whom, perhaps, he discusses the “ abominations “ of trades unionism, and all that has for its object the improvement of the conditions of the working classes. Senator Fraser will not tell me that if a man came and offered to work for him for a £1 a week, he would compel him to take £1 5s.
– Who would ?
– I do not wish to be personal, but I apply my remarks to those who want to place the working classes in the degrading condition in which they existed a century ago. Senator Ewing made some remarks concerning me, which I dare say he did not mean to be offensive, and for which, perhaps, he was sorry as soon as he had uttered them. He said thatI was in favour of a minimum wage probably because I was lazy or incompetent. No one objected to that as being offensive to me ; but I can assure him and the committee that although I have been connected with one trade union for the last 22 years, lazy or incompetent though I might be, I always had1s., 2s., and in some instances 3s., a day more than the minimum fixed by our society. It is said that if a minimum is fixed the incompetents will not be able to find employment. We do not want to displace them. What we are contending is that the work they do is already worth the money that we say ought to be paid to them. In every trade union which fixes a minimum, provision is made for the aged and incompetent, and I have no doubt that with just administration allowance would be made for every one who had become physically incompetent while in the Government service. An incompetent man could not enter the service so long as the examiners were doing their duty. But if after the examination he met with an accident, or became incapacitated from earning the £110 minimum, consideration should be given to his case. In my society every man over the age of 60, or who, through illness, has been rendered feeble or incompetent, lays his case before the society, and gets what we, in our vulgar way, call “ a roving commission.” He is at perfect liberty to take whatever wages he can get. Therefore there is no injustice. In the Builders’ Labourers’ Union, to which I refer, there are not 2 per cent, of the members who have asked to be exempt from the general rules. With regard to the slanders uttered by Senator Dobson, that our trades unions, in many instances, retard progress by making rules for the purpose of doing less, work than could be done, I give his statement an emphatic denial, and challenge him or any one else to show me a rule of any society in Australia that contains any such provision. There is not a unionist in Australia whom I have ever met who is not prepared to do everything he possibly can for his employer, and to legitimately carry out his duties. They consider the interests of their employers to a far greater extent than the low-paid, ill-fed, badly-treated, blacklegs, who are prepared to do anything when a time of difficulty arises. There are plenty of such men in the country. They are probably the men who go about and call themselves trades unionists, complaining of the action of wages boards, courts of arbitration, and all that sort of thing. A good unionist will not do that, because he knows that it is to his advantage and to his employer’s advantage that such bodies should exist. A. good unionist, whether he works for a farmer or a grazier, or any other employer, will endeavour to carry out his duties according to rules which are just and fair to both sides, thus endeavouring to bring prosperity to both. . I hope this amendment will be defeated. Of course I am vainly hoping that ; hut if it is not defeated I trust that this Bill ‘will not be allowed to leave Parliament until the provisions concerning the commissioner are knocked out of it, or until it is in some other way amended to the disadvantage of the Government.
– Senator McGregor never talks without speaking well, and being quite understandable. Sometimes I agree with him, but I differ from him in this instance. We have a very simple issue before us. It has nothing to do with trades unionism.
– It is the same principle.
Senator Sir JOHN DOWNER.No trades unionist has ever advanced the position set up, and he would not dare to advance anything like it. When the trades unionist deals with the minimum w’age he deals with what he considers to be proper remuneration for the work to be done. He does not bother about age, or say that a man of 21 is to get so much, whilst a man of 65 is not. He says - “ Our wage is so much for this class of work, and we have come to the conclusion that you can afford to pay it, and that it is not fair to ask us to accept less.” That is an> understandable position. But it is quite beside the question for any honorable senator to say that the matter of liking or disliking trades unionism is concerned in this clause. I entirely approve of trades unionism. I approve of any number of people banding together to secure for the whole body of them what individually they would be unable to procure for themselves. I am in favour of such trades unionism for all classes of people. I do not mean to say that I am willing that any particular trade union should rule the community. I look upon trades unionism as a means of bringing better intelligence to bear upon the central body so that it may do the right thing, and so that the persons in the union may be able to’ lay their case before the community and give the public material upon which they may come to a sound conclusion. Here we are at the present time, under the freest possible Constitution that has ever existed. We have every opportunity of being returned by the same even source. There is no question of return by wealth. That is prevented, because the expenditure is cut down to such an extent that the influence of wealth is out of the question.
– What about agents? The expenditure of wealth is not stopped so far as they are concerned.
– I am speaking of the conditions in my own State. I believe that the people of South Australia returned their representatives fairly, and that no more money was spent upon the elections than has been stated. In fact, I doubt whether the spending of much money would have had any effect. We were fairly well known. Some of us voted, undoubtedly, for men whose opinions .were directly opposed to our own, because we thought that, although they disagreed with us upon some questions, we would rather trust an able man who knew what he was about than have a fool who never knew what he was doing. That will account,, probably, for the return of every honorable senator. I agree with Senator McGregor, that trades unionism is good, but what has that to do with the question? Trades unionism was not established in order that any man should be paid what he was not worth. It was established to insure that a man should receive what he ought to get. The proposition in this clause is that a man shall receive a certain salary - whether it is £110 or £150 a year is a mere detail - simply because he has consented after entering the service at’ the age- of eighteen to remain there until attaining his majority. Of course, I know that the clause will apply to men of 40 or 50 years of age.
– We say that the work is worth £110 a year, and that those who perform it ought to receive that salary.
– I will show that that is not what is said by those who support this clause. The argument is that simply because a youth has been fortunate enough to get into the civil service when eighteen years of age, and has consented to remain there, he should, on reaching the age of 21 years, be entitled to a certain fixed wage without reference to his merit. What has that to do with trades unionism ?
– It has a great deal to do with it.
– I cannot see it. The foundation of this principle is that every man of 21 who has remained three years in one situation - whether in the public service or outside of it - who has proved his reliability by remaining for three years i n that one situation, should receive £ 1 1 0 a year as a matter of course. He is to receive that salary without reference to his merit, but simply on the negative merit that he has not done anything for which he ought to be discharged.
– If he has special merit he will receive a larger salary.
– Of course. Senator McGregor has shown, to a large extent, thatheshouldbeonthe same side as I am. He has never had occasion to resort to means such as these in order to get on in the world. Although working amongst trades unions he has always obtained1s., 2s., or 3s. per day more than his fellow employes.
– Because he is an exceptional man.
– We are all exceptional men. Senator McGregor has said that, although there were trades unions regulations fixing a certain wage, he was always entitled - as I am sure he would be - to1s., 2s., or 3s. a day in excess of the fixed rate. I am surprised that there was any limit to whathe received. That, however, does not prove anything except what we know already: that Senator McGregor is a very able man. Does it prove the excellence of those who had to receive 6s. per day if he earned8s. or 9s. per day?
– The honorable senator misunderstood me. I made that statement in reply to Senator Ewing, who said that I must have been either lazy or incompetent.
– Then I am against Senator Ewing.
– I did not make that remark, but that does not matter to some people.
– It does not matter whether the remark was made or not, because Senator McGregor has told us very plainly that he is not in the class that requires any assistance. In proof of his statement that there is a class which requires to be paid irrespective of merit, he refers to himself as one who has always been paid, as a matter of course, a great deal more than the minimum wage provided for those in his own class.
– Senator McGregor did not say that his fellow workers did not earn the minimum.
– I know he did not; but I assume against Senator McGregor everything that he did not say, because he was speaking on a subject on which he would have said everything that he could. The honorable senator puts himself forward as an example, and says he never received anything like these wages. But what can there be in that argument to show that the men in the service are worthy of the wage that is proposed to be given? It is a different principle altogether, because, after all, it is a question between employe and contractor. A contractor can please himself ; if he does not care to carry out a work, he need not undertake it. He enters upon any undertaking as a free man, dealing with free men in respectof a contract for which he knows what he will receive. He can take it or leave it, just as he pleases - just as the member of a trades union may do - each man acting on his strict legal and constitutional rights, and bringing no pressure on the other ; one man wanting to earn money as a contractor by means of labour, and the other saying that he must have a certain share of that money. Everything is open and above board.
– The honorable and learned senator must know that necessity often compels a man to take lessthan he should receive.
– Necessity often compels us to admit that we have been wrong in our original conclusions. We may have been of opinion that a man had a certain sum of money, and therefore could afford to pay a certain price for his work ; but experience has shown us that he has not so much money as we expected, and we have had to take less. There is no infallibility in trades and labour councils.
– Yes thereis.
– There may be, but I do not think so. The trades and labour councils do not claim it, and I am not going to put the matter that way, because I wish to be fair. As Senator McGregor has said, every man has a right to obtain all that he can. He has told us that the rule which guides him in politics is that no matter who is in power or out of power the man who will give him the most for the people he represents is the man he will support. That, however, must be subject to the condition of what can the country stand. That condition never seems to occur to some honorable senators. They assume always that nothing is too much for the country to stand, and they begin by seeking to insert in this Bill a clause in which they provide, without reference to merit or ordinary questions relating to the minimum wage which proceeds on merit, that to a man who has served three years in the public service, and has attained the age of 21 or upwards, there shall be attributed merit whether he possesses it or not.
– The honorable and learned senator is entirely mistaken. We fix this minimum because we consider that the work is worth it.
– That cannot be so; The contention is that a man of 21 is entitled to receive a certain salary.
– That is the way in which the honorable and learned senatorputs it.
– No; I have heard it put two or three times during, the debate that a man of 21 should be in a position to marry and have a family ; that his wife and children should not be a drag upon, him; that, as we want to encourage population, a man, on reaching the age at which virility is assumed, should receive a wage of £110 per annum, which would enable him not merely to support himself, but to maintain a wife and family. There is really no question of the man being worth the money. So long as he has been three years in the service, and is 21 years of age, it is to be attributed to him that he is worth £110 a year, although he may have proved, by many more years service than three, that he is utterly incompetent to earn any such sum.
– Then he should be turned out.
– Certainly not. Is my honorable friend an advocate of the doctrine of the survival of the fittest t Is the weakest to go to the wall so completely that because a man cannot earn enough to indulge in luxuries he should not be allowed to earn enough to provide a bare means of living t Is the proposition to go so far that because a man cannot earn enough to. be married and. get a family, he ought to be wiped out 1
– No ; but he is not in the position in which he ought to be, and he had better be gathering bottles.
– The minimum wage principle is a different thing as applied to a particular trade in which work has to be done, and in which the employer is a free agent and can take a man or not as he likes, and also as applied to a civil service, where there may be no work to be done at all, or work that is only worth £60 a year.
– That is only boy’s work.
– But a man had better do it than starve: Senator Symon rightly referred to the only alternative - that of the commissioner weeding out the service, and sending men adrift. I say that .expedients like that are unjust in their incidence and most disastrous in their working out. We know that although the minimum wage might be fixed at £110, Senator McGregor would get a great deal more than that after three years service. We are thankful to know that the service has enough elasticity and life in it to insure that able men shall’ get on, and shall not be kept down. But we know there will always be a lot of drones - men who will not be fit for very much - and the question is whether we shall be driven to Senator Symon’s alternative, and let the commissioner send them adrift.
– The honorable and learned senator would keep on those incompetent men. Would it not be better to send them to gather bottles ?
– I think we are getting some information. Let me ask the honorable senator a question. Suppose a man is 21 years of age. He has been three years in the service. He is getting £80 a year. He is worth that, and no more. Would the honorable senator give him £110 a year, or send him adrift 1
– There should be no man in the civil service at the age of 21 who is not worth £110 a year.
– Observe the evasion. There is no man in creation who ought not to be worth £110 a year at 21, but the honorable senator would put the responsibility upon the State of giving that amount to those who are- not worth it. We have to- treat humanity as it is. I have asked a very simple question, and I can get no answer to it.
– What is the honorable and learned senator’s measure of value 1 He has not stated it.
– Nov has the honorable senator, except the arbitrary measure that a man 21 years of age is worth £110 whether he can earn it or not. The fact is we are talking in the clouds. Do we not know from our own experience that there are many men who at 21 years of age are not worth £2 2s. a week?
– I do not know them. They must be idiots.
– The assumption on the other side is that every man 21 years of age is worth £2 2s. a week. We had an argument from another honorable senator that we ought to give a man enough to enable him to marry and have children. We have been very industriously trying to bring the woman up to the same level as the man, and to give her every opportunity of advancement that is given to men, and why then should we assume that as soonas a woman becomes a wife she will simply be a drag upon her husband, that she will be a person he has to maintain, and that his children will be other persons he has to maintain ? Do we not know perfectly well that the wife is often a source of income to her husband? Do we not know that very often the children, about whom so much anxiety is expressed, as they get on in life, are a source of maintenance to their parents? Do we not know that marriage is very often in the nature of an insurance for old age for thepersons who get married ? Let me remind my honorable friends of old times. I am talking of the labouring classes, and of thedays when men would not marry
A woman unless they were sure that children would be the result of the marriage. That does not show that they looked upon children as a responsibility. Let me speak now of another class, of the highest class in France, where a young man of fashion would not think of getting married unless his wife had a considerable fortune. ‘My honorable friends opposite have been urging throughout that when a man gets married he ought to be in a position to make his wife independent, and to relieve her of all natural responsibilities, of all that our legislation is industriously throwing upon her, and of the rights we are industriously giving her. If she has been earning money why should she not continue to earn it ? If she could earn money when single, why should it be assumed that the whole responsibility will be thrown upon the husband after her marriage? I regret that any amendment has been moved. I agree with my honorable friends of the labour party that this is a straightout question upon which there should be no possibility of evasion. At the same time, if a proposition is brought before me that is so repugnant to my notions of right that I cannot agree to it, and I see some means of minimizing its bad effect by an amendment, I am bound to vote for the lesser evil.
– But would not the honorable and learned senator vote against the clause as amended ?
– If the amendment is carried, I shall vote against the clause as amended, and, in doing so, I shall do what I think Senator McGregor would do were he in my place.
– I am reminded of the remarks that were made bythe leader of the labour party when the Immigration Restriction Bill was before the Senate. The members of the labour party were prepared to take a certain course in connexion with that Bill, and they made a bargain with the Government to give way and abandon that course if they obtained from the Government their consent to the insertion of a minimum wage clause in this Bill. I find now that on that occasion they sold themselves for nought. I find that the Government are fighting them now as hard as they can in this matter which is of so much importance to them, and that they will receive no more from the Government than they would have received from the Opposition if they had adhered to the position they first took up in connexion, with the Immigration Restriction Bill. We have heard suggestions of State and commercial bankruptcy being the result of this clause. I contend that the question we have to deal with is not that to which Senator Downer referred just now. It is not that it should be necessary for wives to help their husbands to obtain food enough for themselves and their children, or that children should be compelled to go to work at an early age to become practically an asset to their parents. There was a time when there, were little or no opportunities for intellectual culture, and when it was necessary that every person should be engaged in some physical labour in order to procure the bare necessaries of existence. But we have passed beyond that. By bringing the intellectual forces to bear upon nature, we are enabled to-day to produce abundantly, and the question is no longer how we shall produce, but how we shall distribute our wealth in order to keep capital and labour fully employed. The question with the great millionaire Carnegie is no longer how he can produce more wealth, but how he can withdraw a large amount of his wealth from a process of breeding more. We find him contributing magnificently to universities and other objects in order to withdraw a certain portion of his annual income from breeding more income. We find that to-day there is a possibility of producing such an enormous amount of wealth that capital and labour are rendered valueless, because we have not yet learnt the true art of distribution. I say that this proposal is one of the methods which the State is justified in adopting in order that the standard of living may be raised,’ and that we may keep both capital and labour full)’ employed. To do that, it is essential that the consuming powers of the people should increase in the same ratio as their ability to produce. I contend that we are not showing a lack of economic knowledge when we advocate the establishment of a minimum wage in the public service. No one would have any selfish purpose to serve by attempting to evade that law. I grant that if we were to attempt to say that every employer should pay a minimum wage, there are a thousand and one ways by which the wage-earner and the employer would defeat it. It is because of that fact that I am not advocating that a minimum wage should be paid by all outside employers. We know that no one would be induced to evade the law if it were enacted for our public service. We know that the services which our officers can render us do justify us in saying to them “You shall for your services have a fair standard of comfort.” Out of the two guineas a week which an ordinary labourer would receive he would contribute to the . revenue under the Tariff at least 4s. a week. By increasing the wages of the people and raising their standard of comfort we are increasing the buying powers of those who serve the Government, and thereby we are increasing the revenue. Those are great arguments in favour of adopting a minimum wage. I see nothing in the principle that is destructive to our industrial, commercial, or social life. On the contrary I see in it everything which would tend to promote our prosperity commercially, industrially, and socially. I hope that the Government will not press their amendment but will act loyally. I presumed that when they agreed to the amendment in the other House, in obedience to the wish of a powerful party there, they would stick to it. But when they come here with the Bill what do we find them doing 1 Again throwing over their supporters and abandoning all the principles which they held dear.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH (Western Australia). - I desire to reply to the statement made by Senator Downer, that it is absurd to have a minimum wage. This principle has been adopted in almost all countries. It has been adopted by the Commonwealth Government, by public bodies, by municipalities, and others with regard to various contracts. In the House of Commons, which is admitted to be a, conservative body, ‘this resolution was carried in 1891 on the motion of Sir John Gorst : -
No person shall in Her Majesty’s naval establishment be engaged at wages insufficient for proper maintenance, and the conditions of labour, in regard to hours, wages, and other matters shall be such as will afford an example to private employers.
In England a Conservative Government approved of the payment of a minimum rate of wage, irrespective of whether, as Senator Downer contends, the man is worth it or not. The question was that they should have a minimum rate of wage under which no man could be employed The principle has been assented to by the very Government which is now endeavouring to vitiate clause 25 by inserting an amendment. On the 14th of June with the stated concurrence of the Prime Minister the House of Representatives passed the following resolution : -
That in the opinion of this House it is the duty of the Government to make provision in all its contracts for the payment of a minimum rate of wage and for the fixing of a, maximum number of hours of labour.
I admit that these cases are not exactly analogous, because one refers to contracts and the other to civil servants. But the principle I contend is exactly the same. We hold that there is a certain rate under which no man should be employed by the Government, and that that is a living rate of wage. It was not correct for Senator Downer to say that a minimum rate of wage is an absurdity, when the principle has been recognised by the House of Commons, the Commonwealth Government, and other Governments and public bodies throughout the civilized world.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … …. 20
Noes … … 13
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Question - That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … … 23
Noes … … … 9
Majority … … 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 46 verbally amended and agreed to.
Clause 47 (“Offences by officers in administrative division.”)
– I move that the following new sub-clause be added : - 1a. Where any inspector is charged with an offence, or is suspended by the commissioner, the board of inquiry shall be appointed by the Governor-General.
The Bill provides for a board of inquiry. The commissioner may suspend any inspector, who shall then be tried by the same board of inquiry as for the administrative division. But by the operation of this Bill, the board of inquiry to try the case would be appointed by the same person who had suspended the inspector, and who laid the charge against him, namely, the commissioner. My amendment is intended to have the effect of causing the board to try the inspector to be appointed by the Governor-General.
– I should like to have some information from the Postmaster-General as to how this amendment will fit in with the rest of the Bill. At present I see no reason why, if the power of appointing the board of inquiry is to rest with the commissioner in other cases, it should not rest with him in this case.
– Senator Pearce’s provision is a good one, because in case there should be any difference between the commissioner and the inspector, and the inspector is charged with an offence or is suspended, it does not seem reasonable that the commissioner should appoint a board of inquiry. That is to say, where the commissioner is proceeding against the inspector he should not be the person to appoint the board to hear the charge made by himself.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 49 (“ Procedure before board of inquiry.”)
– This clause provides that the officer against whom a charge is made shall be furnished with certain documents. I wish to insert the words “ where practicable,” because there might be cases where it would be impracticable to furnish the document. I move -
That, after the word “shall,” in paragraph (4), the words “where practicable” be inserted. .
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 50 -
Any officer ……
– I move -
That after the word “ officer,” line 1, the following words be inserted : - “[except officers of the Parliament] affected by airy report or recommendation made or action taken under this Act, other than a report or recommendation made or action taken under sections 31, 46 to 49 inclusive, 64, G(>, and 72 thereof, may appeal to a board consisting of an inspector, the chief officer of the department to which such officer belongs, or an officer nominated by such chief officer, and the representative of the division to which such officer belongs, elected under the regulations by the officers of the division to which such officer belongs in the State in which such officer performs his duties. The board shall hear such appeal, and transmit the evidence taken, together with a recommendation thereon, to the commissioner, who shall thereupon determine such appeal.”
It is not necessary for me to take up much of the time of the committee with regard to this appeal board. I spoke with regard to it at some length when I brought forward my original proposal a few days ago, and I was glad to find that the committee generally concurred in the necessity of having such a board to try appeals by civil servants against any action on the part of their superior officers which they may consider to be unjust.
– Is this the same proposition 1
– Yes, but I have deleted certain clauses from the operation of the amendment for the reason that otherwise the board which I propose would come into conflict with the board provided for already. In the first place, I have excepted officers of Parliament from this provision. We could not have a board to consider the claims of the few officers of the departments under the control of the President and Mr. Speaker. Clause 31, which I have excluded from this proposed new clause, refers to appointments, in special cases, to the administrative and professional divisions. Clauses 46 to 49 inclusive, and clause 64, which are also excluded, refer to dismissals for offences in respect of which another board has already been provided. It would be absurd to have the operation of this tribunal extending over another, so that it would be able to re-hear a case heard by the board which it has been decided already shall be appointed.
– How does the honorable senator provide for such cases.?
– By deleting certain clauses from the operation of this amendment, I exclude from, this provision appeals in regard to charges that have been made by the chief officer against certain employes and which will be tried by a> board somewhat similar to this. If that provision were not excluded from the operation of this clause, the board that I propose shall be appointed would be able to re-hear cases .tried by the tribunal appointed by the department. Clause 65 refers to an employe who is, on indictment or presentment, convicted of any offence. We do not want a board to deal with cases of that description. Clause 72 refers to the retirements of officers over 60 years of age. Those retirements are at the will of the commissioner, and no board should be appointed to deal with them. When my original proposal was before the committee, complaint was made that it had not been carefully drafted. The amendment which I have just moved has been drafted at my request b)r the Government Draftsman, and I think it is in order. The objects of the board which I propose shall be created were explained fully by me only a day or two ago. I do not wish to take up the time of the committee by repeating any of the arguments which I then adduced. I shall content myself, therefore, by simply moving the amendment and expressing the hope that it will be carried without much discussion.
– There is nothing left to appeal about.
– That is just the point to which I intended to refer. Perhaps I have not a complete grip of this Bill, but it appears to me that if the amendment is allowed to stand as drafted, there will be nothing left to carry to the board proposed to be appointed. It seems to me that- we must either allow the power of appeal from the board previously created, or dispense altogether with this proposed new clause.
– The object of this amendment is to give a right of appeal to any public servant who is dissatisfied with any decision other than those which may be given under the clauses exempted. The clause as it stood in the Bill gave .a right of appeal to the commissioner. That did not give satisfaction to some honorable senators, because they desired that there should be an impartial board appointed to hear any such complaints. This proposed new clause provides for the appointment of a board of three, and it is free from the principal objections that were offered to Senator Smith’s original proposal.
– All the really serious cases are excluded from the operation of this proposed new clause.
– All the others are provided for by boards of inquiry. Under the 46th and 47th clauses, a form of inquiry is provided for all grievances that may arise under either of those particular clauses. It is proposed to insert ‘this clause to provide a board of appeal for persons who are dissatisfied with the action of the commissioner under any of the clauses which are not exempted from its operation.
– It does not provide an appeal for tlie boards previously mentioned ?
– No; they are expressly exempted.
– It provides for appeals against the decisions of the commissioner under clauses which are not exempted.
– I have taken some trouble to ascertain whether this proposed new clause will fit in the Bill, and it appears to me that it will not. The commissioner, in many instances, is to make a recommendation, and upon his recommendation the Governor-General is to act. This is not an appeal clause in the proper sense of the word, and I think we may be apt to confuse measures by referring to it in that way. I understand that it is designed to meet the case of civil servants who may consider that with 11,000 officers in the service some of them are bound to be overlooked. They may desire the right to bring before the commissioner something which they think entitles them to a higher grade, and honorable senators are agreed that such an opportunity should be afforded to them. But should not the clause be one under which a civil servant with a grievance would have a right to ask the commissioner to reconsider his decision, and the commissioner having done so would make his recommendation to the Governor-General? Surely we are not going to pass an appeal clause providing that after the commissioner has made his report to the Governor-General, that after the Governor-General has considered it, and said, perhaps, “I do not like this grading of officers ; give me another one,” and a new one has been furnished - that after all this has been done, the reasons placed before Parliament, and the matter finally decided by the Governor-General - a civil servant shall have the right to appeal against that decision 1 I think that the draftsman has not quite caught the meaning of the clause. I have looked through the Bill to ascertain to what clauses this proposal would apply. Let us take for example clause S, which provides that the commissioner may propose a certain disposition of offices. If this proposed new clause is to be worth much, the commissioner should be required to make known his recommendation by publishing it in the Gazette, or in some newspaper. Then the officers of the service would be able to learn at once the nature of his recommendations, and so determine whether they were aggrieved before the matter was decided by the Governor-General. If an officer feels that he is aggrieved, he should have a right to ask the commissioner to reconsider the matter; but surely we are not going to provide that, after the Governor-General has decided the whole question, there shall be an appeal against the recommendation of the commissioner? That would mean really that the authority of the GovernorGeneral would be set at nought. Unintentionally, by passing this amendment, we should take the control out of the hands of the Governor-General.
– If an injustice is done, surely it ought to be rectified ?
– Yes ; but do not let the injustice go on until the final stage has been reached. In sub-clause (4) of clause 8 it is provided that if the commissioner finds that more officers are employed in a department than may be necessary, the excess of officers may be transferred. Are we going to give a civil servant the right to go to the commissioner and say - <!It has been determined that there is an excess of officers in my department, and you have ordered me to be transferred to the general division ; I do not want to go there.”
– This amendment would give the right of appeal in such a case.
– Yes. Are we going to give a civil servant a right to be the judge in his own case? The AuditorGeneral, for example, may say - “I have adopted a new system, with the result that I can dispense with the services of two or. three clerks who may be transferred to the general division.” Are we going to allow any officer whom it is proposed shall be transferred in this way, to say to the commissioner, - “ I do not want to be transferred ; please reconsider my case?” Even worse eases would occur under clause 9. Clause 16 provides -
The clerical division shall include all officers whose offices the Governor-General, on the recommendation of the commissioner, directs to be included in such division.
If a man were transferred from the general to the clerical division, he might be very pleased, but, on the other hand, there may be cases in which men would have a better prospect in the engineering or electrical department of the post-office than they would have in the clerical division. Are we going to give them the right to appeal under this clause 1 Surely the commissioner is to have the right of saying that he requires a man to be employed in one department as against another? Clause 20 provides that the Governor-General may fix the salary of any man in a department upon the recommendation of the commissioner. If there is any subject upon which civil servants are likely to feel aggrieved, it is the question of salary. No doubt amongst the 11,000 officers of the Commonwealth civil service many will consider that their salaries are insufficient, and before the Governor-General fixes a salary on the recommendation of the commissioner, should not the civil servant concerned be in a position to know what the recommendation is, and have a right to ask him to reconsider it 1 When the commissioner has reconsidered it, the GovernorGeneral should fix the salary. I will not vote to give this right of reconsideration to the commissioner after the Governor-General has acted practically upon the recommendation of the commissioner. I agree that the proposed clause ought to give the right to appeal against the decision of the commissioner, but it should also give the right to the servant to know at once what is the commissioner’s recommendation.
– Would the honorable and learned senator place the board of appeal on the same footing as the commissioner ?
– No. If a man thinks he has been unjustly treated because the commissioner has not been in possession of certain facts relating to his services, he should have anopportunity of saying to the commissioner that he desires to have his case reconsidered upon certain facts ; but I cannot understand such a clause as this. Clause 21 provides that the commissioner is to determine upon the report of the head of the department whether clerks are to receive their full increase of £20 a year as a reward for their diligence and efficiency. Supposing the commissioner determines that a certain clerk is not to get this rise of £20 a year, because during the previous year he has not been careful or diligent in his work, are we going to give that clerk the right to say - “Mr. Commissioner, I claim that under clause so and so I am entitled to ask you to reconsider my case “? In one case in a thousand a clerk might be able to excuse his want of diligence or care, but it is idle to say that the £20 a year rise is to be dependent on the certificate of the commissioner, and then to add that a clerk who feels aggrieved because such a certificate is not given shall be able to say - “ Mr. Commissioner, I was not so careless as you think, and I am going to appeal, and ask you to reconsider my case.” In matters of grading and classification, there may be good ground for the right of appeal, but I cannot support this proposal for the reason I have stated.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).Whatever force there may be in Senator Dobson’s argument, it applies equally to clause 50 and to the amendment, because the grading of officers and the fixing of their salaries will occur under the clause.
– The clause has been struck out. The only words that are left are “ Any officer.”
– I was not aware of that, but I may somewhat allay the feelings of alarm with which Senator Dobson views this amendment when I say that we have had some experience in New South Wales which may help him. The honorable and learned senator regards it as a difficulty that an officer should be allowed to appeal against the salary allotted to him after it has been gazetted.
– After the GovernorGeneral has assented to it.
– I regard the assent of the Governor-General as a formal matter. But see the difficulty which must occur if we allow the officer to appeal before the commissioner has determined the rate of salary. We shall have civil servants seething about the office of the commissioner to impress upon him that they ought to receive a certain salary. In New South Wales this principle has worked well. The whole of the grading of the salaries is gazetted, and then every officer knows not only his own salary, but the salary to be paid to every other officer. It seems to me better to allow the appeals when that information is made known.
– It is not an appeal ; it is a reconsideration.
– I agree with the honorable and learned senator that the term “appeal” is wrongly used here, and that it is really a reconsideration. The only way in which officers can be made aware of the determination of the commissioner is by publishing it in the Gazette, and in this case they require to know not only what their own salaries are to be, but also what the salaries of their brother officers are to be.
– I am sorry that it is necessary to give a little further consideration to this provision. It introduces matters which are inconsistent with the principle of some of the earlier provisions. Clause 50 as it stood provided for what is called an appeal to the commissioner - “ in such manner and within such time as may be prescribed.” The first thing that strikes one is that the amendment which is proposed retains the right of appeal to the commissioner. There is no substitution. I regret to say that the amendment gives evidence that the draftsman df the Bill has not profited by the criticisms passed upon it in order to produce a more lucid provision. He uses the expression “may appeal” to a board consisting of the inspector, the chief officer, and so on, when in reality there is no appeal to this board at all. The board will not hear the appeal. They are simply appointed to collect evidence which they are to transmit with a recommendation which may be totally disregarded, to the commissioner, who is thereupon to determine the appeal.
– It is an appeal from Cæsar unto Cæsar
– My honorable and learned friend has correctly expressed it. We are striking out a direct appeal to Cæsar assuming the commissioner to be Cæsar and we are repeating the appeal in a very long clause with the intervention of three gentlemen who will be no more capable of collecting evidence bearing upon the subject-matter of the appeal than the commissioner himself. The amendment will really be a very serious limitation of the clause as it stood : and Senator mith is really taking away a good deal of what was given by the clause. Under clause 50, as introduced, there was a wide right of appeal given to any officer feeling dissatisfied with any report made affecting his position, pay, promotion, or transfer, but it is proposed to exclude from the new body concerned in an appeal, all recommendations, reports, or action taken under clauses 46 to 49 inclusive, and these refer to matters in respect of which, if it is possible, I should like to support the honorable senator in establishing a right of appeal, if it is not sufficiently provided for already. All these serious matters are by this amendment removed from the consideration of this board, and from the consideration of the commissioner by an appeal. But the provisions under clause 8 may come in under the amendment-, and with what result t We have already provided in clause 8 for the very best appeal we could have - an appeal to Parliament. Under sub-clause (3) of that clause, where the Governor-General does not approve of any proposal or recommendation by the commissioner, it is provided that a statement of the reasons for not approving and requiring a fresh proposal, is to be laid before Parliament. That is the best appeal which the civil servants could have. If the recommendation is approved it is carried into effect, and as the Governor-General really means the Ministry, who are responsible to Parliament, Parliament can deal with them if they have done a wrong to any civil servant. If, as is now proposed, there should be an appeal again to the commissioner, his position will be simply intolerable, because he will be able to override the Governor-General, the Ministry, Parliament itself, and every one else. I should like to see provision made for an appeal in any case where a civil servant is aggrieved, but it appears to me that this amendment has not been sufficiently considered with reference to its bearings upon the other clauses of the Bill. It is certainly opposed to clause 8, and also to clause 20, under which salaries are fixed on the recommendation of the commissioner. Is that to be the subject of an appeal to the commissioner after the GovernorGeneral has fixed the rate 1 Surely we will not allow such an amendment to be passed unless Senator Smith is able to show that it is absolutely necessary 1
– Undoubtedly a reasonable time should be allowed to officers after they have become acquainted with any circumstances that may prejudice their position to appeal to this board. I have no doubt that a full opportunity would be given before the recommendation had been approved by the Governor-General.
– But that is not provided for at all.
– I notice that in the original clause it was provided that the appeal should be in such manner and within such time as might be prescribed by regulation. I think that provision should be re-introduced, and then by regulation it could be arranged that the commissioner should make public his intended action, and give an opportunity to officers, who might consider themselves aggrieved to appeal to this board before a recommendation was finally made to the Governor-General. It clearly was never contemplated that an officer should have a right at any time, to bring his case before the board, because he might have allowed such a length of time to elapse that it would be almost impossible to right him without doing injustice to others. Our object, I think, -should be to allow a reasonable time for all appeals to come in before final action is taken. I move - .
That, after the word “may,” line 6 of the amendment, the following words be inserted : - “in such manner and within such time as may be prescribed.”
– I hope that the committee will not agree to that. We have had boards and commissioners and all these questions debated ad nauseam, and I thought we had arrived at a tolerable understanding of what we were about. I have said nothing on this subject. Nearly everybody else has said a great deal. I have had much practical experience of both boards and responsible officers. In our State we had an experience of what was called an irresponsible board. We came to the conclusion that in our railway department it would be much better if we had an irresponsible board ; no more political influence ; no more of an officer getting a word in through his friends. We were going to live in a most beautiful, ethereal atmosphere in which absolute purity would reign and political influence would have no effect. We created a corporation and did everything to insure that it had no body or soul to be operated upon in any form. But we found after considerable experience that the political machine went pretty much the same as before ; that the same influences that used to work the Government worked them still ; that the Government still worked the board a good deal in the same direction, but not with the same directness and efficiency ; and that, although Parliament still had its omnipotent voice, it was heard only after many voices, and when it became very often too late for its utterances to have any effect. We gradually retired from that position, and we came to the conclusion, and I do not think Senator Playford ever departed from the opinion, that the more closely we made the whole of the services responsible to the Government, which, in turn, was responsible to the House, the better it was for purity and good administration.
– That is not our experience in Queensland, I am sorry to say.
– Let us hope that it will be our experience in the Commonwealth. Supposing that we had no commissioner, what would happen in the ordinary course of events ? There would have to be a general officer at the head of the department here. It would be absolutely impossible that he, on his own motion, could manage things properly. He would, as a matter of course, have to manage them through the responsible departments in each State, where the heads would be familiar with the work and would act and report from time to time as the regulations required them to do. The head officer would, as a rule, act upon the report from his officers, who would be subordinate but yet high officers. They would be in a much better position ordinarily to judge than he would, and he would, as a rule, simply accept the report of his responsible officers as being the most authentic information he could get. Then in the event of a dispute, he would inquire on his own account. . He would ask for more particulars from the responsible officers of each State and get the information they had to give. If the reports of the responsible officers of each State were not such as could be acted upon, those persons would not be fit to be responsible officers at all. In 99 cases out of 100 they ought to be acted upon as a matter of course.
Having satisfied himself in the few disputed cases which occur, the head officer decades. He sends in to the Governor-General, which means the Government, a recommendation. He says - “ There is a great row about this case. The head of the department in Queensland mode this report to me. I caused an inquiry to be held and evidence to be taken. I have come to this decision ; what do you say 1” The Government say - “We confirm the decision,” which is what they usually do, or “ We do not confirm the decision.” But whether they do or do not it becomes a Ministerial decision, and so is subject to the approval of Parliament. Could you have anything done in the light of day more perfectly than that? What do you want ‘? “We have had this fight. I did not bother about this question of a commissioner, because be was only an officer. Yon had to have some one as a general head, and it did not matter whether you appeared to give him authority or whether you did not. He was so circumscribed by that inevitable limitation that every decision he gave hod to be confirmed by the Government, and he ceased to be an irresponsible person and became a person responsible .to them. Therefore there was nothing to talk about. There had to be an officer in that position. It did not matter whether you called him the chief commissioner or anything else, and the whole point then was - Do you think it is expedient to have a . board between the department and the Government, or do you think it is better to administer in the broad light of day by a department responsible directly to the Government, than by the Government and next by the Governor-General subject to the supervision of the House. Those who disagreed with the commissioner point saw that he would practically be only an officer of the Government, and that there ought to be a board acting between the commissioner and the Government. I do not wish to see any board in the matter at all. The less machinery we have the better it will work.
– The less liability to friction.
– At any rate, the greater public confidence in the administration; and at the beginning of the Commonwealth, above all things we desire to establish public confidence in the administration. It cannot be too open ; it cannot be too Subject to the people’s representatives. Directly you throw in boards and matters of that description you get bodies to whom will be attributed holeandcorner influences, which possibly may not exist in the slightest degree. At the same time, directly you introduce an intermediate body not directly responsible to Parliament, you get the tongue of the busybody going, and in addition to that you weaken the influence of the direct officer;! of the Executive, who ought to be responsible, as they cannot act . without great authority. I wish my .position to be understood. I oppose the clause entirely. I thought that after all the debate we had hod, we had done with this subject of the commissioner, and I did not think that we” should have the same thing sneaked in in a less efficacious but in an equally insidious way after all that debate. I hope that the Government will take their own course in these things, and not advise us in one way one day and in another way the next; The other day they advised us that we should not consent to a board, and to-day they are advising its that we should. I think we ought to be consulted a little, and know when the particular change of feeling comes about. The amendment is moved this time by a direct member of the Opposition ; and to my absolute surprise, when I thought it would be opposed by’ the Govern-, ment, I find that it is not. Those sitting on this side who followed the Government through this debate in objecting to boards, in saying that we should have a commissioner, bat only a commissioner-
– We only want the honorable and learned senator ‘ to keep on following them in this instance.
– Such intelligence as I have - I do not appreciate it highly - I try to exercise on regular lines, so that there may be some sort of understanding that what I say to-day will be the same as I sholl say to-morrow. Whilst it would be a tribute to my great ingenuousness that I was so exceedingly easily satisfied that I might alter my opinion from day to day, it would be a poor tribute to my judgment. I have supported the Government in this matter because I object -to boards. I supported the Government in the commissioner point, because he is not irresponsible, because his every judgment has to be confirmed by the Ministry, and through the Ministry has to bo indorsed tacitly or actually by the Parliament. In my opinion iti was inexpedient at this early stage of the existence of the Commonwealth to have these under bodies introduced conducting their inquiries quietly. ! thought it was well that it should be done in the broad light of day, and that the Government should have the responsibility and prevent the feeling of unquietness which, without any cause, would certainly arise. I find that this view is to be abandoned without rhyme or reason. After the Government had been completely successful in carrying out their scheme by the aid of their friends, without the slightest reason given as to why they should -have changed their opinion, we have got another board introduced more anomalous and more ridiculous than anything that was ever suggested at any previous time. The time when it is to come in no one knows. It will come in sometime or other. It may come in after the Governor-General’s decision has been given ; but the PostmasterGeneral tells us in his placid way that he thinks that that would not generally occur. Is that the way in which we are going to legislate? Can we have the possibility of an inquiry into the conduct at the Governor-General? May I suggest to the Government that, when they have taken a strong line, in future it will be just as well for them to stick to it and not abandon it on the. suggestion of a member of the Opposition who moves an amendment. I hope that those who voted with me before in supporting the Government will disagree with this proposal which not only emasculates the principle for which the Government have been fighting, but puts it in a much more invidious form than ever it was in at any previous stage of the Bill.
– It seems to be forgotten that the Senate struck out the whole clause with the exception of the words “ Any officer,” showing in the most emphatic manner that it was in favour of some board of inquiry. After such an expression of opinion it became the duty of the Government to provide and submit to the Senate a new clause involving a scheme for the appointment of a board. We have submitted such a clause, and I cannot see that wo have been in any way inconsistent in doing so.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - I suggest on amendment which will meet the chief point I made in criticising Senator Smith’s amendment. It is to insert after the word “inclusive” and before the word “may,” the following words : - “ And before the report and the recommendations approved by the GovernorGeneral are otherwise acted upon.”
– I think the amendment just suggested by Senator Symon would be met by my amendment which is before the Chair.’ That is to say for the insertion of the words “ in such manner and in such time as may be prescribed.” But the matter is worthy of consideration, and I shall be glad to have an opportunity of consulting the draftsman about it.
– It seems to me that by the scheme proposed the Government invite a greater amount of dissension and more appeals against tho commissioner’s actions than they would do if they allowed his report to be acted upon, as proposed by Senator Smith’s amendment.
– On the other hand any mistake is more easily rectified.
– But the Government make the board of appeal of equal power with the commissioner. I hope the Postmaster-General will give that phase of the question serious consideration; otherwise the number of appeals Will certainly be increased.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania).- May I make a suggestion t I think the clause is dangerously drawn, because instead of excepting half-a-dozen clauses and saying there sholl not be an appeal with respect to those clauses in the Bill, I think that Senator Smith and the Postmaster-General should confer together, and state plainly on tho face of the amendment the clauses under which the right of appeal is to be given. Then we shall all know what we are doing. At present the clause is drafted in a Blip-shod way and an appeal is given, under every other clause than those mentioned. It makes it too exhaustive altogether, and absolutely conflicts in an objectionable way with other provisions.
Senate adjourned at 10.6 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 February 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1902/19020205_senate_1_7/>.