1st Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Senator McGREGOR presented a petition from 473 residents of South Australia, praying the Federal Government to take steps to safeguard the interests of the Commonwealth, as provided by the Constitution, in regard to the conservation of the waters of the Murray for the purposes of navigation.
– The Clerk reports to me that there is a slight technical objection to this petition, but inasmuch as the end of the session is so near, I think we might waive that, and allow the petition to be received.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear.
Petition received and read.
Senator CHARLESTON presented a similar petition from 1,269 residents of South Australia.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
To how many suburbs of Melbourne are there three postal deliveries daily ?
To how many suburbs of Sydney are there three postal deliveries daily ?
Will steps be taken to equalize the number of such deliveries ?
In view of the postage to be charged upon newspapers, will steps be taken to provide additional boxes for posting them ?
– The information necessary in order to enable replies to be given is being obtained, and when obtained will be forwarded to the honorable senator.
– That answer hardly applies to questions 3 and 4. Will the Postmaster-General give some indication of his intention in regard to the matters therein referred to?
– It is my desire that the postal facilities shall be the same in both capitals, and I shall have inquiries made with a view to bringing that about.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
What articles, otherwise dui table, are being exempted from duty altogether, or for use in special trades, under the clause in the Customs Tariff Act, page 35, reading as follows : - “ Minor articles to be specified in Departmental By-laws for use in the manufacture of goods within the Commonwealth ? “
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The articles mentioned in the Departmental By-laws gazetted on the 20th December, 1901, and 8th April, 1902.
These are as follow : -
Commonwealth of Australia.
Department of Trade and Customs.
Melbourne, 20th December, 1901.
I, Charles Cameron Kingston, the Minister of State for the Commonwealth of Australia administering the Department of Trade and Customs, hereby make the following By-law.
Minister for Trade and Customs.
The following Minor Articles, for use in the manufacture of Goods within the Commonwealth, are to be admitted free of duty under this Bylaw, viz.: -
Manufacture of Bellows -
Manufacture of Blinds -
Manufacture of Boots and Shoes -
Beadings, up to 1½ inches in width.
Caps, Toe, metal.
Clasps, Iron, for clogs and pattens.
Heels, Wooden, with or without leather covering.
Heels, for clogs and pattens.
Irons, for clogs and pattens.
Seamings, up to 1½ inches in width.
Shanks and Shanking.
Strappings, Back, up to 1½ inches in width.
Welts and Facings, up to½ inch in width.
Manufacture of FishingRods -
Hitches or Catches.
Manufacture of Furniture -
Caps or Ferrules for Bamboo furniture.
Manufacture of Harness, Saddles, and Whips -
Foundations, Iron, for winkers.
Manufacture of Hats and Caps -
Galloons (Hat), up to1½ inches in width, plain colours.
Leathers - real or imitation.
Peaks - Cap (except leather or embroidered).
Manufactures of Metals, viz. : -
Agricultural, Horticultural, and Viticultural Implements -
Manufacture of Parasols, Sunshades, and Umbrellas -
Mounts (except gold or silver).
Manufacture of Vehicles -
Buckles and Buckle Loops.
Beading and Bead Finishers.
Couplings, Shaft and Pole.
Manufacture of Vehicles - continued.
Fasteners, Apron, Curtain, Seat, and Patch.
Props, and Nuts for same.
Steps and Step Treads.
Miscellaneous Manufactures -
Bottle Stoppers (china top and wire fasteners for attaching to bottles).
Bottle Stoppers, screw, made of lignum vitas.
Bottle Stoppers (internal), viz.: - Marbles, lignum vitae, vulcanite, or ebonite.
Cups for cartridges.
Eyelets and Rings - Sail and sacking, for tents and tarpaulins, &c.
Screws, Lock and stove, up to 4 inches.
Springs, for leggings.
Knobs and Feet, for fenders.
Commonwealth of Australia.
Department of Trade and Customs, 8th April, 1902.
I, Charles Cameron Kingston, the Minister of State for the Commonwealth of Australia, administering the Department of Trade and Customs, hereby make the following By-law.
Minister of State for Trade and Customs
The following Minor Articles, for use in the manufacture of goods within the Commonwealth, are to be admitted free of duty under this Bylaw, viz.: -
Manufacture of Apparel -
Brace Fittings (metal).
Manufacture of Boots and Shoes -
Heel Seat pieces of leather, one inch and under in width.
Manufacture of Furniture -
Cupboard Turns and catches.
Handles - brass drawer and wardrobe.
Hinges - butt.
Nails - fancy.
Manufactures of Metals -
Rain ball knobs or buttons for bedsteads
Stomped and spun mounts for bedsteads, viz. : - Vases, tops, husks, middles, spindles, tees, caps, tips, roses, and rosettes.
Vases, spun or stamped, for fenders.
Manufacture of Vehicles -
Anti-rattlers (except india-rubber).
Bands, nave (except plated and mixed metal).
Conductors - water.
Hinges - concealed and butt.
J oints - concealed.
Lace - broad, seaming, and pasting.
Malleable cast hubs used in the manufacture of children’s cycles and perambulators.
Staples - breeching.
Miscellaneous Manufactures -
Bookbinder’s clasps and corners for books. Bucket ears.
Metal edging and studs for riveting boxes.
Purses - metal mounts for (except gold or silver).
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 8th October, vide page 16596).
First schedule agreed to.
Total vote, £30,550.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the item, “Usher of the Black Rod and Clerk of Select Committees, £550,” by omitting the words “Usher of the Black Rod.”
I do not desire to reduce the salary of this officer, but, as the title of his office gives rise to much misapprehension in the minds of the general public, and whenever the question of retrenchment or economy is mentioned, produces criticism on the action of this Parliament in having a totally superfluous officer, who. has no real work to do, and whose position is merely ornamental, I think that the title of the office should be amended.
– The officer in question has a good many duties to perform, though he has not been called upon to perform some of them this session, because of the orderly conduct of honorable senators.
– Even if he is called by another name he will still be able to perform the duties to which the honorable and learned senator refers. Why should we be tied down to the present antiquated title, which conveys to the public the impression that the country is paying £550 a year for a merely ornamental office. I came to this Parliament holding that view, but my investigations have shown me that the officer in question has a large amount of work to do.
– This officer is one of the hardest worked and most efficient of those connected with the Senate, and the public ought to be dispossessed of the idea that because he is termed theUsher of the Black Rod his position is merely ornamental, and he has no real work to do. It must not be forgotten that the officer in question was transferred from a similar service in the State Parliament, and that as a transferred officer he brought with him certain rights, of which it would be very unfair to deprive him. In my opinion it would not be right to alter the name of the office during the tenure of the present occupant of it. Shakspeare asks, “ What’s in a name?” If the public think that this officer has no work to do, they should be informed that he has, and not alter the name simply for the sake of alteration.
– I can scarcely agree with the remarks made by Senator Baker. Every honorable senator recognises the value of the work performed by the Usher of the Black Rod. He is a most efficient officer, and has many important duties to attend to, but there is no necessity to retain the old-fashioned title now attached to his office. Great misconception exists in the minds of the public regarding the position of the Usher of the Black Rod, and he would be more fittingly described as the “chief attendant of the Senate” or something of that kind. This would prevent his position from being subjected to a good deal of ridicule, and a change might be made with advantage to the officer himself as well as to the Senate.
– I have a great deal of sympathy with the suggestion of Senator Pearce, and I am sure that he has no idea of depriving the Usher of the Black Rod of any of the rights or privileges which attach to him as a transferred officer. I very much question whether an alteration of the title of the office would in any way affect the rights and privileges attached to it, and if it would place the Usher in a better position in the eyes of the public, we might very well make a change. I am not prepared to say what would be the best designation to apply, but we might well consider what could be done to assist the public to realize that the duties of the Usher of the Black Rod are important, and that the position is not simply ornamental.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - The object which I had in directing attention to this matter has been achieved. If my suggestion were carried out we should have to ask the House of Representatives to consent to an alteration of the title of an officer attached to this Chamber, and as there are some objections to our adopting that course, I beg leave to withdraw the motion. I hope that after what has been stated to-day the public will recognise that the Usher of the Black Rod does not occupy a purely ornamental position.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
– I recognise that a praiseworthy effort has been made to group the items in these Estimates in such a way that they may be readily understood, but there is still room for improvement. Under the head of “ contingencies,” items appear for office requisites, exclusive of writing paper and envelopes, writing -paper and envelopes, including cost of printing and embossing thereon, and account, record, and other books, including cost of material, printing, and binding. These items under the head of “ contingencies “ in connexion with all the departments represent a total expenditure of £28,000, and it would be interesting to know whether steps are being taken by the Government to keep down the expenditure as much as possible, and to make purchases in the best markets. I see that in the Postmaster-General’s department there are some wide discrepancies between the amounts set down for contingencies. In New South Wales, £75 was provided for the purchase of writing paper and envelopes, whereas iri Victoria the cost is set down at £1,600. I would ask the PostmasterGeneral to give us any information he can with regard to these items, so that we may be assured that the Commonwealth is being safeguarded in the matter of economy.
– Economy is being strictly observed throughout all the departments of the Commonwealth service. An endeavour is being made to arrange for obtaining supplies from one source in the most advantageous and economical manner. Several changes have been made, which, although small in themselves, will largely affect the cost of office stationery. We shall use the same class of paper throughout the departments, and adopt such a quality that whilst it will prove sufficient for all ordinary purposes it will not entail any unnecessary expenditure. With regard to the discrepancies to which Senator Pulsford has referred, I would point out that the Estimates were originally framed on the basis of the States Estimates, but that we are making inquiries with a view to find out what will be the lowest amount necessary to provide for all the wants of the departments, and to then adopt a uniform scale.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - The statement made by the PostmasterGeneral is very satisfactory. Under the head of contengencies there appears an item for travelling expenses, and I find that the travelling expenses provided for in all departments aggregate £57,000 in addition to the £10,000 provided to defray the cost of conveying Members of Parliament to and from their homes. It would be advantageous if we were afforded some information regarding this large expenditure. A very large item appears under the head of Defence, and the travelling allowances for Customs and Post and Telegraph officials are also very heavy.
– The amounts paid to individual officers for travelling expenses will be regulated by the Public Service Commissioner. The total amount involved must depend upon the necessity for moving officers about from one place to another. I am now endeavouring - and no doubt the same thing is being done iri other departments - to reduce the travelling expenses by refraining from removing officers unnecessarily from one place to another. A good deal of expense is involved in sending relieving officers to take the place of those who may be absent on leave. The £150 provided under the. head of contingencies in the vote now under consideration is available for the payment of the expenses of officers who require to travel at any time, and the allowances are made according to a stated scale.
Senator PULSFORD . (New South Wales). - The statement made by the Postmaster-General still leaves a good deal of room for explanation, which possibly may be afforded later on. I notice an item of £10 for bank exchange, and I find that throughout the Estimates altogether £5160 is provided for the payment of bank exchange. The largest expenditure occurs in New South Wales, where £2,000 is provided for. This seems to indicate an utter lack of system in regard to the transfer of money from State to State, and certainly calls for some explanation. I should also like to know what is being done with the trust funds of the Commonwealth, amounting to £140,000. Where are they deposited, and is any interest being paid upon them 1
– The £10 provided for bank exchange under this vote is required to pay exchange upon remittances of the monthly allowances to members of the Senate who may be in other States. I can assure the honorable senator that the Government are doing business with all the banks, and perhaps he will be satisfied with that answer as replying to his remarks regarding the charges for bank exchange in other divisions of the States.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - I am not satisfied, because I take it that the Government have money in all the States, and should not be under the necessity of sending remittances from one State to another to the extent to which they have apparently resorted to that practice. If there is money in New South Wales or Queensland belonging to the Government, surely it should not be necessary to pay commission to a bank to send money from Victoria to those States. It is all a matter of bookkeeping. I do not think the banks should be called upon to do work for nothing, but we should certainly be able to avoid a good deal of the expense hitherto incurred for exchange.
– Senator Pulsford has said that the Treasurer has money available in each of the States. That is very true, but the honorable senator forgets that banking exchange has to be paid in connexion with the transfer of money from one part of a State to another. For example money has to be remitted from the capitals of the various States to the back blocks in order to meet postal-notes and post-office orders. That fact accounts for the large amount involved in connexion with the Postmaster-General’s department. I can assure Senator Pulsford that not a single pound is unnecessarily transferred from one State to another.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - I wish to direct attention to the item “Parliamentary Reporting Staff” which appears upon page 7 of the Estimates. I am quite certain that every honorable senator is convinced that the members of that staff during the present session have performed their duties in a most admirable manner.Their reporting has been of the very highest class, and the protracted nature of the session has imposed an extraordinary strain upon their physical and mental energies. It has now transpired, just on the eve of the prorogation of Parliament, that a question has arisen as to the terms upon which they were engaged. In some quarters, I believe, it is claimed that outside of the purely parliamentary work to which they themselves understood their engagement was limited they should be called upon, to undertake extra duties, such as the reporting of Royal commissions, during the recess. I think it is the unanimous desire of the Senate that the understanding which was made with these gentlemen when they were appointed should be adhered to, at any rate, until next session. The session which is now closing has practically .been equivalent to two ordinary sessions, and throughout it, I am quite certain, that the strain imposed upon the Parliamentary Reporting Staff must have been a very exhausting one. If the terms of the appointment of its members are now to be varied, and if in the future they are to be called upon to do additional work, it would be a gracious and proper thing during the coming recess not to compel them to perform duties outside of those which they themselves believed they were to undertake. I believe that the following is a copy of the memorandum of agreement sent to each member of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff-
– There was no agreement.
– At any rate, the letter forwarded to each reporter ought to be accepted as such. Even if only a verbal promise was made by the Prime Minister or some person in authority, that promise ought to be redeemed. In the letter of appointment forwarded to each reporter the following appears : -
It will be your duty to assist in the preparation of accurate reports of the debates of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, the evidence taken at the Bar and by select committees, and the addresses of counsel to either House of the Legislature.
I am satisfied that I am voicing the general wish of the Senate when I say that these officers ought not to be called upon during the coming recess to perform any duties outside of those specified in the communication which I have read. I repeat that quite apart from any understanding the work which has been done by them during the present session has been of such a prolonged and exhausting character that we might well extend special consideration to them. I do not suppose that many honorable senators are aware of the long hours which the members of the reporting staff have had to labour - thirteen and fourteen hours a day having been of common occurrence. Owing to the fact that the Government Printer has to publish the Hansard for the State Parliament as well as for the Commonwealth Legislature, the staff have had to file complete reports of our parliamentary debates each night before leaving the office. They have been subjected to a strain of an unusual character, and it would be unreasonable to ask them to undertake duties which they did not expect to perform even if the session had been only of ordinary duration. It would be a simple act of justice if we adhered to the terms of their engagement as set out in the memorandum from which I have quoted.
– I am quite sure that the Senate will entirely indorse the remarks of Senator Pulsford regarding the heavy demands which have been made upon the energies of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff during the current session. But whilst I recognise that, and am quite willing that a reasonable holiday should be given to the members of that staff, I cannot subscribe to the doctrine that they should be required to give their services only whilst Parliament is in session.
– I did not say that.
– I understood that the purport of Senator Pulsford’s remarks was that the members of the Parliamentary
Reporting Staff should be required to report only our parliamentary debates. From some little experience of politics, I venture to say that the adoption of that course will be found absolutely impracticable. During the recess some reporting may be required. Is the Executive, then, to get together a scratch team to do work which requires the services of expert reporters? Whilst I think it is only reasonable that officers who have had to work long hours during the present abnormal session should be granted an extended holiday, I must altogether dissent from the proposition - even if it has been embodied in an agreement, and I have yet to learn that it has - that the members of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff are under an obligation to give their services only during the period that Parliament is in session.
– No one realizes more than I do the arduous character of the work which has been done . by the Parliamentary Reporting Staff, and the admirable manner in which its members have discharged their duties. But it seems to me that within the last few days, an attempt has been made to put these gentleman in an entirely false position. They are members of the Public Service of the Commonwealth, and their positions differ in no way from those of other officers of the service except that they are under the control of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives - being portion of the parliamentary staff - instead of being under the control of some other departmental head. There is no doubt that they have had to perform very hard work, but I certainly will not give any undertaking that they shall not be called upon to do work which may be necessary during the recess. The Government may be relied upon to extend the utmost consideration to them, having regard to the character of the duties which they have been required to perform. It may be that they will not be asked to do any work during the recess, but I will give no undertaking to that effect. Reference has been made to some agreement with the members of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff. There is no such agreement. The members of that staff are employed upon exactly the same terms as are other public servants. Their tenure of office is “ during pleasure.” They have rights under the Public Service Act, but their position differs in no way from that of other Commonwealth officers. Senator Pulsford has quoted from the document of instructions which was issued by the Prime Minister to Mr. Friend, the Chief Parliamentary Reporter, and which was passed on by him to the members of the staff.
– Does the Minister repudiate the terms of that document?
– No. I refer to those instructions because I wish to remove all doubt as to their character. Senator Pulsford spoke as if they were in the nature of a contract, but I say that no contract has been made other than that which is made with every public servant. Those instructions were given by the Prime Minister,but there is no reason why they should not be cancelled and fresh instructions issued. The document reads as follows : -
I say that those instructions may be altered at any time, or further instructions may be added, and there is no difference between the tenure of office of these gentlemen and that of any other public servant. I wish to make a perfectly plain statement, because those who have taken up this matter - no doubt from the best possible motives - cannot recognise more than do the Government the admirable services of these gentlemen and their claims to the fullest consideration. But beyond that the Government cannot go. Those honorable senators, who are the friends of these officers, ought to remember that if the latter are to be employed only upon sessional work exception may be taken to their salaries, which are certainly not based on a sessional engagement, but on an engagement all the year round. If it is to be said that they are to be employed only during the session, the next step will probably be to cut down their salaries to an amount which would be adequate remuneration for sessional work.
Senator Sir RICHARD BAKER (South Australia). - I should like to say one word in reference to this matter. The Senate may rest assured that the Speaker and myself will give due consideration to the very onerous and hard work which the Hansard reporters have had to perform during the session. They will be treated most liberally in reference to leave of absence; and perhaps in some other way their services will be recognised. But to hold that the Hansard reporters are not to do necessary work for the Commonwealth, which pays them salaries of £500 per annum as a minimum, is a proposition to which I certainly cannot agree. I wish to correct a statement which I made yesterday. In answering a question which was asked, without notice, I spoke of “the Chief Parliamentary Reporter “ as basing a claim on certain grounds. I ought not to have used these words, because the Chief Parliamentary Reporter bases no claim whatever on the grounds referred to; that is done by some of the reporters only. The Chief Parliamentary Reporter recognises most fully that it is reasonable that the reporters should, when their services are not required, and after having had accorded to them the consideration which is their due, do necessary work for the Government which employs them.
– In connexion with the Parliamentary Library, I see that there is an item of £1,000 for books and book-binding. I have no objection to the item, but I desire to know whether the expenditure is incurred with the object of forming the nucleus of a Federal Parliamentary Library.
– That is what the £1,000 is for.
– Under the heading of “ Senate “ there is an item of h 150 for travelling expenses. I cannot see ow such expenses can have been incurred by the Senate ; at any rate, I should like to know how it is that £150 is charged on this account in connexion with this Chamber, while the corresponding item for the much larger House of Representatives is only £100.
– “When the parliamentary staff was first appointed, before Parliament met, the Prime Minister promised the officers that they would be paid the expense of removing their furniture from their homesto Melbourne. Two of the staff have not yet been able to move their households, and in order to provide for these officers an amount of £60 is included in the £150.
– But what about the balance of £90 %
– That is to meet the cost of railway and other travelling expenses of the officers of Parliament.
– Where do they travel ?
– It was considered only reasonable that facilities should be afforded to officers who came from other States to federal positions in Melbourne, to visit their families once or twice at all events until arrangements could be made by them for establishing permanent homes in Melbourne. There are also other items.
Vote agreed to.
Department of External Affairs.
Total vote, £37,330.
– I have already said that these Estimates appear to me to be prepared on rather a generous scale ; but, of course, if good cause can be shown for -the various items, it is the duty of the Senate to pass them. But can good cause be shown for some of the items.? I notice that in almost every department provision is made for temporary assistance, the amount being £300 in the case of the Department of External Affairs. Considering the number of offices which have been engaged for this department, and also remembering the fact that offices for other departments are under the same roof, one would think that if one department or branch was a little overworked, officers might be borrowed from next door. But there is evidently no idea of doing anything of the sort. The appointments of new clerks have been numerous and, under the circumstances, I do not see why there should be this general provision for temporary assistance, which is simply a temptation to continue the scandal .of having in almost every department not only permanent, but temporary officers.
– Temporary officers who are employed year after year.
– Quite so. I should like to know whether this item for temporary assistance can be justified, and whether the suggestion which I have made has ever struck those who prepared the Estimates.
– (New South Wales). - There are two items in these Estimates to which I should like to direct attention. One item is that of £500, the cost of “printing and distributing “ the Commonwealth statutes to the States Governments. Such a charge for what is really only the distribution of surplus statutes already in print appears exhorbitan t. I do. not know that we are under any obligation to present even a single copy to the States Governments As a matter of courtesy we might do so, but when every little service which the States render the Commonwealth is debited to the latter, and when at the same time we are charged with gross extravagance, I am rather disinclined to vote for this free gift at the cost mentioned. But putting that consideration on one side, the amount appears to be excessive. I suppose a set of the statutes can be bought for £1 or £1 10s., and there are only six States to be supplied. Another small item under the head of contingencies is that of £100 for the travelling expenses of honorary Ministers, “ being for actual expenses incurred.” Is this £100 for expenses in connexion with travelling rendered necessary by official duties 1
– Under the heading of contingencies there is an item of £250 for incidental and petty cash expenditure. Then on the next page, of the Estimates there is an item of £100, under a precisely similar heading. In every department there appears to be an item of the kind ; and it must be remembered that this is money which Parliament votes, as it were, in the dark, and over which we have no control. I think there ought to be some explanation offered to the committee. Amongst other contingent expenses, I find £400 for interpreters’ fees and other expenses in connexion with the Immigration Restriction Act, together with £500 for legal expenses under the same measure. All these small items, throughout the departments, run into thousands of pounds, and this is an expenditure over which Parliament has absolutely no control.
– I should like to know whether the LieutenantGovernor of New Guinea will be under the control of the Commonwealth Government, or will be an Imperial officer? I should also like to know whether officers appointed in that somewhat unhealthy region will be, for health considerations, every now and then transferred to the mainland ? No fewer than four resident magistrates have, in one division, succumbed to the climate of New Guinea during the last five years,and it would be interesting to the Federal Public Service if some information were given in the direction I have indicated.
– New Guinea is being temporarily administered by the Commonwealth, and it is the intention of the Government to introduce a Bill next session which will constitute the basis of the administration. The Governor, or LieutenantGovernor, and all the other officers will be officers of the Commonwealth, and the probability is that New Guinea will be administered on the same footing as a territory. I cannot say now in any detail what the method of the administration will be : but, of course, these officers will not be members of the Commonwealth Public Service, or come under the Public Service Act, though, no doubt, consideration will be given to the hard and exceptional conditions under which they perform their duties. Senator Gould complains that not enough details are given in connexion with the items, and he instanced those dealing with the cost of the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act. How is it possible to give more details ? To do so it would be necessary to have a history of the varied work of the department, and honorable senators will recognise that items of the kind are absolutely essential if the Acts we have passed are to be administered. We must pay interpreters’ fees and other expenses. It must be remembered that this law has to be administered at great distances from the seat of government; and under the circumstances there must necessarily be incurred more expense than in the administration of an Act over a small territory. As to temporary assistance, that is an item which occurs in a good many of the Estimates, and honorable senators who have had any experience of the administration of a department of any kind, know that an ordinary staff is there for ordinary work. It would be very inconvenient and very wasteful if a staff were appointed more numerous than is necessary for that ordinary work. The Department for External Affairs has occasionally a sudden strain placed upon it, especially while Parliament is sitting, in order that work may be turned out within a certain time. It may be necessary to get out a return very quickly, or prepare some information for Parliament within a very few days. It would be impossible to do that with the existing staff. It is much better to be able to employ outside assistance when extra pressure is put upon a department, than always to keep the staff upon such a footing as to be able to do the work if the occasion arises. That is why it is necessary to employ outside persons to do work for the department. It cannot be avoided, and it is the most economical way of dealing with the work as it arises. With regard to the item of incidental and petty cash expenditure, I believe Senator Gould will recognise that it is very often necessary to incur expenditure which does not come within any particular class, and cannot be placed under any particular heading. But there are vouchers for all this expenditure. The Auditor-General has to inspect and audit them, and they are open to inquiry. It is impossible to do without an item of this kind which enables money to be expended for official purposes.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - The item of “ incidental and petty cash expenditure “ is found not only in the division before us, but in the Estimates of almost every department.
– I have said that is so.
– It appears to me that Senator O’Connor’s explanation is like every other one that he gives. I would back him to give what are most excellent reasons for any expenditure until the other side is heard. Any Minister of the Crown who is up to that kind of thing is able to do the same.
– The honorable and learned senator has done it himself.
– We have all done it. I have never seen Estimates framed upon a more generous scale than are these. I would point out to Senator Pulsford and certain other honorable senators opposite that if we really desire to show the Commonwealth that the Senate is going to look into the finances, we should move a request in order to test the feeling of the committee. If we are going to do nothing but simply ask questions, and pass the Estimates in globo, let us finish the work by lunch time, so that we may be ready for the prorogation. I do not propose to do that. I have the courage of my opinions, and I hold that these Estimates are too generous and extravagant. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the item, “ Printing and distribution of statutes to State Governments, £500,” by £250.
No explanation has been given in reply to Senator Millen’s very reasonable criticism of the item, and if the type is set up in the first instance for the Bills before they become law, it is difficult to imagine why such a large sum as this should be necessary.
– It appears to me that the honorable and learned senator has submitted this motion merely for the purpose of displaying the courage of his opinions. The honorable senator has had a great many different opinions since Parliament met. I do not know any one who has had more, nor do I know exactly which set of opinions he is now backing up. I certainly should have liked to have heard some reason for the request.
– I gave one.
– I should like to remind the honorable and learned senator that the request is certainly one which should not be made without some reason being advanced for it. It should not be made merely for the purpose of flaunting any honorable senator’s courage ; but no other reason has been given. Information was asked just now in reference to the item, but in replying to the many other inquiries I inadvertently failed to give any explanation in regard to it. The explanation appears on the face of the item. I suppose every honorable senator will admit that it is right and necessary that our statutes should be’ sent to the different States of the Commonwealth. It will be admitted that the sending of one copy to each Government, which it has been suggested would be sufficient, would be ridiculous. Copies must be distributed to the States Governments, and probably to their libraries. They must be I distributed in such a way as really to infor-m the States, and those who ought to know, what our legislation is.
– It is to the amount that objection is taken.
– Five hundred pounds is the amount which is estimated, from experience, to be no more than sufficient to provide for the work.
-Col. Gould. - It should provide for about 2,500 copies.
– And the distribution of them ?
-Col. Gould. - Yes.
– That is altogether contrary to the experience of those who have prepared this estimate. To say that the item should be reduced by £250 simply because the opinion has been arrived at in some haphazard way that £250 is sufficient for the work, would be to put the Commonwealth in a ridiculous position. If the full amount were found to be insufficient - and I do not think it will be sufficient - we should be obliged to restrict the distribution of the statutes.
– If it is too much there will be a saving.
– That is the excuse usually put forward by a Minister.
– I am very much obliged to my honorable friend, who has given me out of the fund of his experience a very proper answer. There are a certain number of States Governments to which our statutes will have to be sent, and no more money will be spent than is necessary. I hope the committee will not take thismotion, moved on such insufficient grounds, seriously. If we are to go on with the business, surely we should not have a lengthy discussion over a matter like this? I do not object to the ‘ fullest possible discussion over anything important, but do let us settle down to business.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - The plea made- by the Vice-President of the Executive Council that we should pass these items irrespective of their merits, because of the approaching close of the session, will show the necessity of requiring the Estimates in future to be submitted earlier, in order that the work of revision may be complete. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has said that no reason has been given for the motion, and that unless a reason is given we should not support it. Surely there is another ground for supporting the request, and that is that before we pass any item some reason should be given for it. What argument has been put forward in support of this item? Senator O’Connor has advanced the statement that we must supply certain copies of the Commonwealth statutes to the States. No onedisputes that. All that we want to know as whether the necessary number of copies are going tocost £500. No information has been given as to whether they will cost £1 or £500. We have merely been told by a sanguine and kindly politician, anxious to help the Government, that more money than is required will not be spent. My experience of Governments is that while they have an ample capacity for spending more than Parliament votes, they rarely commit the sin of spending less. On the information bef ore the committee, I cannot tell whether £250 or £500 will be sufficient. Therefore, instead of making a request for a reduction of £250, Senator Dobson should move that the item be reduced by£l.
– If we sent twelve complimentary copies to each State, surely that would not cost £500?
– I am sure Senator Dobson will recognise that we have no information as to whatamount is required. All that we desire to do is to mark our protest against the expenditure of £500, and show that we are not satisfied. We can do that by carrying a request that the item be reduced by £1, equally as well as by asking that it be reduced by £250. If we do that, and if the sum actually required be £250 or £500, we shall leave the Government open to expend that amount ; but we shall mark the feeling of the committee in regard to the item. Such a motion should have the effect of inducing the Government to give us an explanation. So far, we have not had one.
– The Government would do well to adopt the South Australian practice. In the Estimates for that State we have always had a line opposite each item, showing the amount expended during the previous year. If that course had been adopted in regard to this item we should have been in a position to judge whether the work would cost £500 or less.
– This is a new item.
– Yes. I suppose the Government have not had experience to guide them in regard to the exact amount that will be required, and they have made provision for the work at a guess. If they are economical men, they will not spend the full amount unless it is required ; and if they set down in next year’s Estimates the amount actually expended, we shall know how to act.
-Would it not be possible to allow the matter to stand over until next year? I do not know why we are in such a hurry to send the Commonwealth statutes to all the States Governments. If any State requires them, it will obtain them. I am in favour of striking out the whole item.
– Absurd !
– Of course, anything is absurd that proposes to restrict the amount of money to be expended. I happen to know that when some people frame Estimates, they consider it their duty to show that their calculations were sound, and they therefore spend all the money. I have known that to be done in many cases in connexion with works. When they make an under-estimate, they do not desire to show it ; but if they over-estimate any amount required, they are not anxious to have a large surplus. We should have regard to these facts if we are really to consider these Estimates, but I am somewhat of the opinion of the leader of the Opposition, that we might as well take one vote, and finish up by lunch time. What is theuse of bringing on the Estimates at the last moment, after we have been sitting here for sixteen months ?
-Col. Gould. - We must insist on them being brought up earlier next year.
– We are always talking in that way. I have heard the same remark made time after time in regard to Supply Bills.
– When we tried to alter that the honorable senator voted against us.
– I think that that is only a haphazard shot. I am not quite sure that I voted against honorable senators opposite. At all events, if I did I did wrong.
– I begin to think that we ought to be extremely astonished atthe moderation of the Government in regard to this estimate of £500. I see no reason why it should not have been £5,000 ; and the argument of my honorable friend opposite, who is up to all the tricks and dodges of Governments, would justify the putting down of any sum whatever. The answer made is that if the money is not wanted it will not be spent. I know my honorable friend’s great desire for economy, and I also know that this is not exactly the way in which he would frame Estimates. Estimates ought not to be framed and presented to Parliament on the assumption that it is a matter of perfect indifference what sum is put down, and that if a certain amount is not required it will not be used. The amounts set down in the Estimates should have some reference to the amount required. What we now want is some information as to how many copies of the statutes it is proposed to send to the different States. I should say that this estimate of £500 is not made by the Government Printer, but by Sir William Lyne. There is a fine element of glorious generosity about it. No one can say that it is not a proper thing that copies of our Acts of Parliament should be supplied to the different States; but this sum of £500, would be sufficient to supply copies to the public libraries of all the States. The cost of distribution is merely that of sending the volumes by parcels post. We need some information as to the basis upon which the estimate is framed. Of course, : Senator O’Connor cannot give us that information if he has not got it, and on that groud I implore Senator Dobson, not to press for any substantial reduction. He contends, properly enough, that this is a protest against the looseness with which the Estimates are framed. One cannot look through them without seeing that that protest is justified. The figures are nearly all lump sums. There are numerous lump sums for travelling expenses. I should like to know how they are made up. Then we find lump sums for. incidental expenses. What are they for ?
– In South Australia we have a big line - “ incidental and unforeseen expenses.”
– My honorable friend is giving our State away. I looked to him to keep that fact back. That is one line of action on the part of South Australia which we should not follow. It is an exception which proves the rule of the general, careful, and honest management of everything in that State. M y honorable and learned friend, Senator Dobson, moves the reduction of the vote by £250, with a view of approximating to the actual cost of the printing and circulating of the statutes. But Senator Millen points out that that object will be achieved by moving for a reduction by £1. No doubt that is so, because it seems to me to be idle that we should go through these Estimates with the view of asking for explanations, and after a little cross firing be content with an explanation and do nothing more. If our criticisms have any foundation we should give effect to them in the way of a protest in some shape or form. Otherwise the situation is exactly what Senator Dobson himself said it would be, and we might as well pass the Bill before lunch and say nothing more about it. The Government are in a position, without this line in the Estimates, to circulate copies of the statutes as a part of their administrative discretion.
– That will cost something.
– If that were so, we need not have any Estimates at all.
– Surely there are lots of things for which we do not want Estimates. There are those club-rooms, for instance; for which no estimates .are wanted. There is to bc no champagne there, but only whisky and soda - and that is a necessary of life ! There are two ways by which we might express our opinion. The first is by insisting that the Estimates ought to be produced at an earlier period of the session. But saying so at this stage, and talking as much as we please about it, will not alter the condition of things next year when the Estimates are brought before us, because, for one excellent reason, it will be next to impossible to have the Estimates brought before the Senate at an earlier period of any session. We might be able, by altering our procedure, in view of the different position of the Senate as compared with any Legislative Council, to accomplish a change. But the mere talking about it will not make any difference. The second point is that we might protest against the general looseness with which the Estimates are framed. That may be inevitable also. I do not wish to be too critical about them, but at the same time I think it becomes us to select some item with the view of recording our feeling of distrust as to items with regard to which the Minister is unable to give us any detailed explanation whatever.
– I am inclined to think that there must be some mistake with regard to this item. We are discussing the Estimates 04the Department for External Affairs. I cannot understand what that department has ‘to do with the distribution of statutes to the States Governments. T think that really this must mean the distribution of statutes to foreign Governments. We are aware that the Government of the United States of America has presented to the Commonwealth a huge shipment of State publications, and I suppose that the Commonwealth will reciprocate by sending to them and to foreign Governments copies of our statutes and publications. But £500 is clearly an absurd sum for the purpose of sending copies of the statutes to the States Governments ; and, further than that, the item ought not to appear in connexion with the Estimates for the Department for External Affairs.
– lt should, because that is the- proper channel.
– The distribution of statutes to States Governments is a matter of internal affairs. Surely also the printing of the Commonwealth Gazette, is not a matter for the Department for External Affairs. I suggest that those two items are wrongly placed. Surely, also, the item £.1,200 for telegrams is on account of cablegrams.
– Telegrams as well.
– If it is for telegrams, it is surely a matter for the Department for Home Affairs.
– The Department for External Affairs is the proper channel for communications with the States Governments.
– The statement that this expenditure is limited to the distribution of statutes to the six States reduces it to an absurdity.
– It strikes me that the Government have made a mistake in regard to the persons selected to frame these Estimates. They have chosen the wrong persons altogether. In future I would suggest that the Government, when they are framing Estimates, should send for the leader of the Opposition in the Senate, and particularly for Senator Dobson. It has been complained that the Estimates are framed in a loose and extravagant way, and Sir William Lyne is particularly set up as a butt for the shafts of honorable senators.
– The honorable sena-. tor must confine himself to the item before the’ Chair.
– I am not going to allow statements to go unchallenged as long, as I sit in this Chamber.
– The honorable senator will be good enough to obey the wishes of the Chair.
– If the wishes of the Chair restrict me from answering the speeches of other honorable senators–
– If the honorable senator uses those words as a threat to the Chair I appeal to him to withdraw them.
– There has been no threat used towards the Chair, but I will not be restricted in my criticism of speeches made in this Chamber by honorable senators opposite.
-I ask the honorable senator to confine himself to the item.
– I intend to do so; It seems to me that in the criticism of these Estimates two or three objects have been kept strictly in view. One is the condemnation, ‘by inuendo at any rate, of Sir William Lyne, and the other is the demonstration of the profound wisdom of Senators Dobson and Symon. There may be a certain amount of looseness in the preparation of the Estimates, but surely honorable senators should pay every consideration to the amount of new work that has had to be undertaken by Ministers. It should be recognised that it is impossible to know to a penny how much money will be required for the administration of departments extending all over the Commonwealth. In this instance it is impossible for a Minister to know exactly what amount of money it will cost to print and circulate a number of volumes of the Commonwealth statutes which are to be Sent not only to the different States, but to other countries of the world.
– Does the honorable senator call States Governments other countries of the world 1
– We could not in an item of this sort denote the place to which the volumes are to be sent. It is manifestly unfair to attribute by inuendo this and that to the Minister for Home Affairs. While it is quite right that the Estimates should be criticised, honorable senators should consider the amount of work which Ministers have had to perform, the new work upon which they have been engaged, and the number of persons from whom they have had to seek assistance in the framing of these Estimates. Every allowance should be made this year. But next year, when we shall have an opportunity of comparing the Estimates then submitted with the Estimates we are now asked to pass, we will be -in a better position to judge as to what amount should be expended upon the various departments. No mau attaches more importance to the judgment of Senator Symon than I do, but it is not fair, simply because the honorable and learned senator and Senator Dobson, who is one of the most changeable members of the Senate, have not framed these Estimates, to assume that they are all wrong.
– I really thought it would not be necessary to spend all this time upon an item such as this, or that so much detailed explanation would be required in connexion with it. Honorable senators have spoken upon the item as if there was some intention on the part of the Government to ask an absolutely extravagant sum for this service. I suppose that’ it will be admitted that the States Governments have a right to get these statutes, and the history of the matter- is simply this : The States Governments have made application- for a certain number of copies to enable them to supply all their courts which are likely to have to deal with our statutes, and their public departments which are likely to.be brought into touch with our administration. The Governments of different States have asked for various numbers of copies, from 450 asked for by New South Wales, to 120 by Tasmania. The total number we are asked to supply is something like 1,400.
– Too many, I should say.
– It is all very well for the honorable senator to make that remark, but we have taken the responsibility of saying that we are prepared to comply with the requests of the States Governments, and .send the copies of the statutes applied for, because we think it necessary that they should be sent. In order that 1,400 of the statutes may be printed and distributed, we say that a vote of £500 is required. How do- we arrive at this estimate ? That is the estimate of the Government Printer, who has to print and distribute them. Surely the committee is not going upon some haphazard suggestion that half that amount will be sufficient, to cut down the number of copies of the statutes which are to be supplied to the different States. If there is one thing which more than another we should be careful about, it is that the States should know in an authoritative way what we are doing in this Parliament. The statutes are to be sent simply as they are printed, and not bound, and the Cost of each is, I think, reasonably estimated at 7s. 6d. I hope that no action will be taken by the committee which will involve the necessity of cutting down the reasonable amount of information concerning our doings which should be given to the States.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).Senator O’Connor’s explanation puts the matter in a somewhat better light, but I cannot allow the item to go without saying that even with that explanation the expense proposed is grossly extravagant. The 1,400 copies of the statutes required will not require to be specially printed, they merely have to be taken off type already set up, and we know that where a few additional copies of the printed document are required, the only expense involved is the cost of the paper, and a very slight additional cost for the work of printing. How much, for instance, will it cost to supply additional copies of the Members’ Allowances Bill, which occupies but one sheet 1 We have passed several other Bills which are complete in four pages.
– There is the Public Service Act.
– It is true that that will cost more, but can the honorable and learned senator say what each additional copy of that Act will cost 1
– Seven, and sixpence.
– I accept the statement only that I may ask what copies of the other Bills to which I have referred will cost, if it costs 7s. 6d. to print an additional copy Of the Public Service Act. Those who have any knowledge of printing, and I have some, will agree that 7s. 6d. for unbound copies of the statutes is a grossly extravagant estimate.
– I should like some explanation of the first item under contingencies, - “ Official printing, stationery, travelling, telegrams, and other incidental expenditure for Governor-General, £1,000.” I find under the Department for Home Affairs a vote of £5,500 for the Governor-General’s establishment, and in view of the discussion which has already taken place in Parliament and in the press in connexion with the establishment of the Governor-General, I should like to have some explanations of the reason for the two votes.
– I should like to get some explanation of the item, “ Expenses of investigations in connexion with the Immigration Restriction Act, £500.” How is it anticipated that expense will arise under that item 1
Sena tor O’CONNOR,- Cases have already arisen in connexion with the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act, and we may anticipate that other cases will arise, in which persons will dispute the right of the Government to. stop them from entering the Commonwealth. We cannot administer a department of this kind, in which it may be necessary to exercise rigorous powers, without incurring some legal expenses. The estimate here set down is arrived at, after a consideration of the whole working of the department, as a fair estimate of the amount which will be required. I should like to remind honorable members that in future there will appear a column in the Estimates showing the actual amount spent from each vote, and if next year the whole of this £500 in the item to which Senator Charleston has called attention is not spent, it will be apparent from the Estimates what amount has been spent. In answer to Senator O’Keefe, I may say that the expenses of- the Governor-General, under the head of Home Affairs, is the amount which was approved by resolution of the Senate. That is very different from the item with which we are dealing now under the head of External Affairs. This item covers official printing which must be done in connexion with the GovernorGeneral’s office, stationery, . travelling, telegrams which have to be sent official!)’, and other incidental expenses of that kind. When the GovernorGeneral is obliged to travel from any one part of the Commonwealth to another he cannot be expected to pay his own travelling expenses. It is not yet quite settled that we shall have to pay the expenses of travelling done by the Governor-General on the railways of the several States, and if we have, it will, of course, amount to a very large item. It must be remembered that the Governor-General is an officer carrying on a large amount of public business, and this vote covers official expenses only, and has nothing to do with his private affairs.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to omit the item, Department for External Affairs, “ Temporary assistance £300.”
Senator O’Connor has not convinced me that this item is at all necessary. The honorable and learned senator has made no answer to my suggestion that where one department has a press of work it should apply to another for a loan of a clerk or two. It appears to me that this item is simply an invitation to the heads of departments to employ anybody they like, even without Ministerial sanction, whenever in their opinion .there is a little pressure of work in their offices. Surely that is a very loose way of doing business. The total amount set down for temporary assistance throughout these Estimates will be found to run into thousands of pounds ; in justice to ourselves, and as a matter of duty, I think we should omit this item.
– The expenditure under, this head last year was £258, and, in order to give a fair margin, it is necessary to ask for £300 this year. The suggestion of Senator Dobson that clerks may be obtained temporarily from other offices will appear to any one who knows anything about administration as utterly absurd. Under such a system a Minister would not have any knowledge of where a member of his staff was or what he was doing in any department. It is estimated that £300 is a reasonable sum to ask for. A certain portion of this work is being done by a clerk in connexion with the South African permits, but that system will come to an end verV soon. There are other instances in which this work will be carried on.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia). - From my- experience as a Minister, I am satisfied that there should be a- line of this sort in the Estimates of any big department. I admit, however, that it is liable to be abused if the Minister does not look after the expenditure pretty closely. I do not believe it has been abused in the smaller States. It has not been abused in South Australia to my knowledge. The work comes generally at a time when Parliament is sitting. Very frequently honorable members - very injudiciously I think - ask for all sorts of information which they require to be obtained at the earliest possible moment. The office staff is just sufficient to carry on the daily work, and if the Minister is not able to employ temporary assistance he cannot supply the return in a reasonable time. There are cases in which men, after being temporarily employed in this way, are kept on or retained, possibly doing unnecessary work. These men are what may be called knockabout hands. Very often they are not in very good circumstances, and out of pure kindness they are retained to do work for which there is no necessity. In these matters we have to trust to the Executive Government, and an explanation of the details can always be demanded if it is thought that a very large sum has been spent upon extra clerical assistance in an office. In his report the Auditor-General ought to call attention to such expenditure. In the South Australian Estimates there is a big line under the head of incidental and unforeseen expenses from which every department can draw when it is necessary, and it is the duty of the Auditor-General to make a special report upon the expenditure of every penny of that vote. Many. incidental expenses occur for only a time. For instance, a ship arrives with so many persons suffering from an infectious disease. No provision has been made for the case, which, of course, could not be foreseen, and the expenses are paid out of the general vote for the purpose.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania).- I propose to call for a division, because I think that the explanation of Senator O’Connor is absolutely unsatisfactory. He has ridiculed and sneered at the idea of an overworked department being pressed for a return which is wanted at once, and having to ask the Minister who is located on the other side of the wall if he can spare one or two clerks. The reason which the honorable and learned senator has given for the item affords a justification to me for insisting, so far as I can, upon the omission of every item for temporary assistance in the Estimates. Senator Playford has admitted that this is a dangerous practice, and open to abuse.
In South Australia they have the same practice as we have in Tasmania. We have no fund to resort to for contingencies and odds and ends. They are specified under a heading. The Supplementary Estimates contain a number of such items amounting to several hundreds of pounds for all the departments. The Auditor-General in most instances points out :that there was no authority for the expenditure, and at the end of the year the Parliament is acquainted with what has been donem and passes the items. This item does not occur once or twice, but it appears all through the schedule, and yet Senator Playford desires to retain a system which is open to abuse, and’ encourage Ministers to get outside help whenever they can. In every department is there not an officer who has two or three needy (friends outside who would be only too glad to have a day’s or a week’s work 1 Have we not had scores of men in the lobbies for the last yea.4 begging and urging us to get them billets, and telling us that they were out at elbows? That is the temptation to which the departments are to be subjected. The Minister cannot control all these expenditures ; very likely the head of a department or the senior clerk cannot control them.
– Must not these appointments be made by the Public Service Commissioner ?
– Possibly. In the office of the Public Service Commissioner there are seventeen officers, who may have a rush of work at one moment, but some of whom I am certain could be lent to other departments for weeks.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - I propose to support Senator Dobson. I regret, however, that he asks for the omission of the item, because the feeling of the committee would have been sufficiently marked if he had asked for a reduction of .a less drastic character. My vote will be given as a protest against the fact that in the schedule there are sums amounting to no less than £19,000 for temporary services. It is ridiculous to anticipate that in the year the Government are to have temporary clerks and assistance absorbing the sum of £19,000. It would be very much better to adopt the system in New South Wales. Under the Public Service Board there is a reserve staff of officers who can be drawn upon by any department in which there is a sudden rush of work. It is proposed by the Government to employ from 125 to 130 casual clerks during the year. Surely it would be very much better and more businesslike to have a reserve staff consisting of 50 or 60 men permanently employed, but available to be drawn upon by any department.
– The work comes in rushes, and on all the departments at once.
– Does it come with a rush in the Postal department of New South Wales, for which we are asked to vote the sum of £4,000 for temporary assistance, or in the Postal department of Victoria, for which the vote is £5,500 ? This expenditure will be spread over the year with a considerable degree of uniformity. A. very much more business-like arrangement will be to maintain a small reserve staff of permanent hands trained to do official work.
– A kind of breakdown gang.
– Any gang that will break down a system which is to cost £19,000 a year appears to me to be desirable. Why should a more closely settled State like Victoria require a third more than New South Wales in the matter of temporary assistance? The system bristles with opportunities for abuse, and for that reason I shall vote with Senator Dobson.
Senator CHARLESTON (South Australia). - I have a great deal of sympathy with what has been said in regard’ to the extravagance which may be practised under this head ; but having regard to the fact that the departments are scarcely organized yet, and that the Public Service Commissioner will be able to organize the departments more thoroughly within the year, I think it would be unwise just now to interfere with these items. It is quite impossible, I think, for the head of any department to know exactly what his requirements for the year will be, and at the present junctureI shall support the Government.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to omit the item, “ Temporary assistance, £300 “ - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … … 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Vote agreed to.
Total vote, £2,655.
– The Attorney-General’s department is one of the smaller departments of the Commonwealth, and one in whichthere is not a large number of officers employed. I wish to direct the attention of the committee to the salary of £800 provided for the Secretary and Parliamentary Draftsman, which is an increase of £50 on his original salary. The Estimates for 1901-2 provided for a salary of £750 per annum for this officer.
– And an allowance of £50 for extra duties.
– That is so. The Secretary for Home Affairs, who has charge of a larger department, receives £750 per annum, while the Secretary to the Treasury also receives . £750, and we ought to know the reason why this increase has been made. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the item, “ Secretary and Parliamentary Draftsman, £800,” by £50.
There are other reasons why we should keep this salary at its original rate. Some time ago we passed the Public Service Act, under which we appointed a commissioner and six inspectors, who are to receive high salaries for a definite purpose. They are to revise salaries and advise Ministers and Parliament as to the remuneration which should be paid to the whole service. But in the very first Estimates submitted to us after the passage of that measure provision is made for an increased salary to this officer. Surely the matter might have been left to the Commissioner to make a recommendation on the subject. There are two other departments the secretaries of which receive £750 per annum. The secretaries of other departments are in’ receipt of a higher salary, but the “Vice-President of the Executive Council gave us clearly to understand that whilst the present Secretary for Defence receives £900 per annum, because he was in receipt of that remuneration “when taken over from the State service, that amount is not to be taken as the salary attaching to the office. We have been told that the salary to be attached to the office is £750. Next year we shall be informed that the Secretary to the Attorney-General’s department is drawing £800 per year, and that, therefore, we must increase the salaries paid to the Secretary for Home Affairs, and the Secretary to the Treasury. I suppose the present session has been one of the most arduous we shall ever experience so far as the Parliamentary Draftsman is concerned. We have passed some 40 A.cts, while about ten others have been drafted. But Che work of the next session is not likely to be so arduous. The InterState Commission Bill, the Defence Bill, and the Judiciary Bill have been drafted ; and, so far as I am aware, only the Industrial Arbitration Bill remains to be framed. Therefore, I think that this officer will have less rather than extra work to do next session. Of course, there still remains the administrative work of the department tobe attended to, but I do not see that there will be any increase of work in the department sufficient to justify us in granting this increase. In view of the position of the finances of the States, I think we shall be justified in asking another place to make this reduction, leaving the salary at the rate at which it stood when the secretary took office. I shall divide the committee upon the question, and I hope the motion will be carried.
– I am unable’ to support the motion. I. think that when the honorable senator, who has moved it, has been longer in Parliament, and has obtained experience as a Minister, he will realize the immense value of a thoroughly efficient draftsman. A great deal of time is saved by the employment of a professional man in this capacity. So far us my experience goes - I am speaking only as a layman, but as one who has had some little to do with the preparation of Bills - parliamentary draftsmen are- by no means easy to be found. They are, I might almost say, bom rather than made. In the drafting of a Bill great knowledge is required of existing Acts, and great skill is necessary in order to frame the clauses as clearly and as tersely as possible. A parliamentary draftsman is also of value in dealing with amendments suggested in committee, and which have subsequently to be put into shape. I do not think that a salary of £S00 is too much for this office ; on the contrary, I think it is insufficient, and I should prefer to increase it so as to make it possible for us to secure the services of the very best man-.
– I do not think that Senator Pearce will persevere in his motion if he really understands what are the duties and position of this officer. It is true that an Under-Secretary, who has merely to do administrative work of the ordinary kind, receives a salary of £750 per annum. But an additional £50 is provided for this officer, who is not merely an administrative secretary but a parliamentary draftsman of the highest skill. I have no hesitation in saying that in the early days of the administration of the Commonwealth, the services of Mr. Garran have been invaluable. I do not speak with any exaggeration - I am stating what is a plain fact - when I say that I feel certain that, with the exception perhaps of some few prominent members of the Federal Parliament, there is no man in Australia who has anything like the same qualifications for the duties which have to be performed as has Mr. Garran. I know of no available man who possesses anything like such” qualifications for this office as he does, and I think the Commonwealth is extremely fortunate in being able to obtain the services of- such a gentleman at this particular time. As the result of his very great experience in parliamentary matters, Senator Sargood has very correctly described the work of a parliamentary draftsman. I feel certain from my own knowledge of drafting, which extends over a great many years, that the work which has been done by Mr. Garran and those under him in the Attorney-General’s department will compare favorably with any drafting ever done in Australia. I think that the drafting of the measures which have come before Parliament - and I believe they have all been drafted in- his office - has been exceptional. At the present time this officer performs not only the ordinary duties of an Under-Secretary,, but the responsible and important work of a parliamentary draftsman. In addition to that, his knowledge of the Constitution and of the law generally - because he is a professional man, possessing a good deal of experience - is such as to be invaluable in the AttorneyGeneral’s department. The AttorneyGeneral has to advise all the departments, more especially in the working out of the Constitution, and in regard to many different questions which arise between the Commonwealth and the States. A great deal of that work is taken off his hands - although the responsibility still rests with him - by Mr. Garran. As the department is at present there can be no question about it that the officer’s time is fully occupied, and that he is very much underpaid. The difference of £50 between the salary paid to ordinary secretaries of departments and that paid to the Secretary and Parliamentary Draftsman of the Attorney - General’s department is certainly nothing as compared with the work which these officers respectively perform. Senator Pearce has expressed the opinion that the work of the Parliamentary Draftsman is coming to an end. I see no sign of it. For many years to come much important work - and perhaps the most important work - will have to be dealt with. We have also to remember, that the Judiciary department when established, will be under the Attorney-General, and that this officer will have to discharge the duties of the combined offices. He has from the first been receiving exactly the same pay, except that in the first instance,£750 was provided in the form of salary, and £50 as an allowance for extra duties. No increase has been made ; but instead of providing £50 under the heading of an allowance for extra duties, that sum has been added to the salary. I think that is very desirable. I believe that honorable senators will see, after this explanation, that the officer stands in an entirely different position from that of the ordinary under-secretary of a department, and that the remuneration provided, instead of being something which ought to be cut down, is really exceedingly small, having regard to what the officer has to do.
– I did not think it would be necessary to say anything further in regard to this question after Senator Sargood had spoken. The honorable senator put the matter very clearly, and I thought there would have been no further opposition to the proposed vote. Theitem is beyond allquestion.
We want some sort of continuity in our drafting. We do not want to employ an odd man here and there. We are singularly fortunate in having as draftsman an officer who has been associated with the drafting of the Constitution, and is intimately acquainted with every line and word of it. He knows quite as much about the Constitution as any man in the present Parliament or in the Commonwealth. In my opinion his salary is rather too little than too much.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the item, “Secretary and Parliamentary Draftsman, £800,” by £50 - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
– There is an item in the AttorneyGeneral’s department of “ Books for departmental library, £700.” There should be some explanation of that. The amount seems large for one department in one year.
– It was necessary to purchase a number of books dealing with federal and other legal questions. A law library must be established for the Attorney-General’s department. It is absolutely essential. These books are his tools of trade. It was necessary to lay in a stock of them.
Vote agreed to.
Department of Home Affairs.
Total vote, £163,167.
– I wish to draw attention to the fact that under the heading of “ Contingencies “ there is a sum of £650 for travelling expenses. In subsequent divisions, in the same department, there are other items for travelling expenses running up to a total of £2,850. This surely is a very heavy amount, and calls for some explanation. It may also be pointed out that the travelling expenses for the Public Works staff might be reduced, because the proposed new works have been largely cut down since the Estimates were originally framed. It has been decided that there shall not be a Loan Bill, and that there shall only be a limited number of works undertaken. Therefore the expenses in connexion with them will not be as great as would otherwise have been the case. Why is so large an amount as £2,850 considered necessary for the travelling expenses of the officers of this department?
– I should like to know if theVicePresident of the Executive Council can inform us who has been appointed InspectorGeneral of Public Works as from the 1st October? Secondly, I wish to have some details with regard to the item £4,500 to recoup the States for salaries of professional and clerical officers employed by the Commonwealth. It seems a very large sum. It also appears to be a little absurd to have under Governor-General’s Establishment the entry “ Flags and Orderlies.” In justice to mankind the orderlies ought to come before flags.
– These Estimates were laid on the table on the 23rd September, and it was expected that an appointment to the office of Inspector-General of Public Works would be made as from the 1st October. But the appointment has not yet been made. As to the travelling expenses, the Home department has charge of public works all over the Commonwealth, and its officers have duties to discharge in various parts of Australia. It is necessary that travelling expenses should be allowed to them. They cannot be expected to travel at their own cost. This amount is no more than is considered reasonable, judging from experience.
– I notice in the first division the item “ Secretary, £750,” and lower down the item “ Senior clerk (also secretary to Minister), £450.” Is the Minister to have two secretaries ?
– The one officer is the secretary to the department, and the other is senior clerk and private secretary to the Minister.
– It appears to me that the Home department is not only over-manned, but that the salaries of some of the officers are extravagant. I propose to move certain reductions. First of all it might be suggested to the House of Representatives that the secretary of the department, instead of getting £750, should receive £600. That would be quite sufficient. Then we have a chief clerk at £600, a chief accountant at £550, and a senior clerk at £450. One at least of those officers ought to be eliminated. I do not see what work there can be for four or five highly-paid officers to do in the Home department. The four men I have named divide amongst them £2,350; £2,000 ought to be ample for them. I intend to move that we suggest that the salary of the chief clerk be reduced by £100; that of the chief accountant by £150, and that the senior clerk be eliminated. What does this department want with a chief clerk, a chief accountant, and a senior clerk ? First of all I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the item, “Secretary, £750,” by £150.
Question put. The committee divided.
Majority … . … …12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Senator Stewart) proposed -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the item, “Chief Clerk, £600,” by £100.
– I wish to . say that if the Commonwealth were in a flourishing state I should not be found supporting these proposals, because I am very anxious that our civil servants shall receive a good rate of pay. It is our desire to make our civil service as efficient as possible. It cannot be efficient unless we have capable officers, and we cannot get such officers unless we are prepared to pay them a good salary. But when a drought has affected the Commonwealth throughout to a disastrous degree, and when economy is being practised in various State departments, I think that for this year, at all events, the proposed reductions should be agreed to. The officers who have been referred to are receiving just. half as much again as members of the Federal Parliament. Members of the Federal Parliament are, in my opinion, entitled to a higher allowance than they receive, but they cannot get that higher allowance under present circumstances, because throughout the States there is need for economy. The party whose members are proposing these reductions is very anxious to test the real views of members of the Federal Parliament, and certain parties throughout the States who are going in for retrenchment, but only amongst the lower-paid workers and officials. Here is an opportunity for Senator Dobson. The honorable and learned senator is always talking about retrenchment and economy, but where was he in the last division ? Let us wait until Senator Dobson can get an opportunity of retrenching the day labourers in any particular department or the workers in various other occupations. We shall find that the honorable and learned senator has no objection whatever to increasing the burdens of the lower-paid men, but he is not willing to vote for any reduction of the salaries of the higher-paid officials who may come into persona] contact with him. The honorable and learned senator is ready to vote for a reduction of the salaries paid to the lower-paid men, whom he will never see, and who will probably never have an opportunity of protesting personally against his action. Honorable senators who talk retrenchment and economy, and still vote against these proposed reductions, are showing themselves in their true light, and I hope the general public throughout the Commonwealth will note what is being done. The labour party, I take it, will always be found voting good salaries for capable men, but on this occasion when the various States are crying out to the Federal Parliament to exercise economy, we should show that we are disposed to do so. On all hands we are being accused of extravagance. Not alone in the Melbourne daily press, which seems to think that its special duty is to disparage the Federal Parliament in every way, but throughout the Commonwealth we are being similarly accused. We should show that it is our endeavour to carry on the departments as economically as we can, and I think they can be carried on efficiently if the reductions proposed are made.
– Although I know that there is a general desire to finish these Estimates to-day, if possible, consistent with their due consideration, I am still glad that these divisions are being taken, so that it may be placed upon record that the one party in the Senate who are always being tilted at by the press of Australia,, and especially of Collins-street, as the party of extravagance, cannot be justly blamed with extravagance, and is not the party that wishes for extravagance. I quite agree with what has been said as to the necessity of paying good officers good salaries, and I am satisfied that no member of this party will object to that. When I feel satisfied that there is no longer that urgent need for . economy of which we are being reminded every day, I shall be willing to have these salaries increased, but I do think that for. this year the higher paid officers should be willing to take their share of retrenchment. I cannot find words with which to express my feelings upon the attitude of honorable senators who speak as one honorable and learned senator from my own State of Tasmania spoke last night, about the dire extremity in which the States are placed owing principally to labour legislation which has been carried into effect by one party in this House, and who, at the same time,- will not support the reductions here proposed. It is out of no personal feeling against these highly-paid officials that I support these proposed reductions, but because I recognise that the State I have the honour to represent requires- revenue.
– These salaries will be paid by the people of the Commonwealth per capita.
– That is so, but the honorable and learned senator will not say that the States in need of revenue will not be affected on that account. The more extravagance there is in our expenditure the less money there will be to return to the States. I am satisfied that I am right in voting for these proposed reductions.
Senator CHARLESTON (South Australia). - I think it is extremely unwise that honorable senators should attempt to pull out a brick here and there indiscriminately in the structure of the Estimates. If we think that the whole of the federal administration is being conducted on an extravagant scale, we should at the first opportunity deal with it as a whole. By reducing the salary of one officer by £50 and another by £100 in an indiscriminate way, we shall be doing great injustice, and destroying the harmonious working of the department. I am, therefore, opposed to the indiscriminate process of reduction which is being adopted.
– As my name has been mentioned by two honorable senators, I should like to explain my position. The offices which I have been attacking, and which I propose to attack definitely in a few minutes, are offices to which no appointment has, as yet, been made. “With regard to the appointments which have been made, I have always been of opinion that the salaries of some of these under-secretaries and chief clerks have been pitched a little too high. I am confirmed in that opinion by the necessity for retrenchment which is shown in every State, including New South Wales. The financial position in all the States is one of greater difficulty than it has been for years past, owing to the drought. But if the honorable senator thinks that he can now set to work to undo what has been done and to recast the salaries, two objections face us. In the first place, we have not time to do the work with justice, and in the second place, some officers have given up their positions and’ left their homes to obtain permanent service under the Commonwealth, on the understanding that their salaries would be so much. I do not say for a moment that we can never reduce their salaries, and I shall help honorable senators to recast all the Estimates. I have been grumbling, and I shall continue to grumble at what I consider the extravagant salaries, but the revision of them cannot be made in a slip-shod fashion. Senator O’Connor believes that we should be doing wrong if we touched a single item. I am afraid that he will get his own way, and that not a single request for a reduction will be made. Although I am willing to reduce the salaries of all the offices which have not been filled, yet I am not prepared to act in a piecemeal way, and perhaps do an injustice to officers who have given up one service to accept another.
Senator ‘STEWART (Queensland).- We hear most surprising reasons from all corners of the chamber for opposing any economy. Honorable senators all round are very strong advocates of economy until they are brought face to face with a definite proposition, when their ammunition is found to be mainly blank cartridges, and they seek refuge from the difficult position, by running away. The affairs of the Commonwealth in some directions are being administered in the most extravagant fashion. I cannot see how it is possible for any one to defend the expenditure in the department for Home Affairs. We are asked to vote a sum of £2,300 for four officers - £750 for a secretary, £600 for a chief clerk, £550 for a chief accountant, and £450 for a senior clerk. We ought to put our foot down and try and do away with this extravagance. Senator Dobson has said that it is impossible for us to undo what has been done. What are we here for? Are we here to make vain empty protestations against extravagance, and to run away like so many cowards when we are asked to vote 1 It is not only the right, but the duty of the Senate to examine the Estimates. Senator Dobson says that a number of these officers gave up their homes elsewhere, and came to Melbourne on the understanding that they were to have permanent employment at particular rates. This sort of thing has been going on in the public services of the States for 3.0 or 40 years, and is the cause of the present upheaval in Victoria. We are laying the foundation of future evil ; we are sowing a seed which will bear a most vicious crop. Such a policy will not be carried out with my sanction. Last night Senator Dobson almost wept at the fact that a minimum wage has been established. With tears in his voice he said that our credit had fallen, and everything was going to pot, simply because we had established a bread-and-butter wage. Then he was all for economy ; but now, when he is brought face to face with his own opinions, lie disavows them. I am very sorry that honorable senators who advance such forcible arguments for economy are not prepared to support their convictions with their votes. I listened with pleasure to Senator Playford decrying the extravagance of this Parliament ; and yet, when he is asked to support certain reductions, he will not do so. I should like to know whether he considers that the department for Home Affairs is not over-manned? Every honorable senator talks about the extravagance of the Minister for Home Affairs. If he is extravagant, why do not his critics place their fingers on the spot? His department is overloaded with officials. They are simply looking at each other and praying to Heaven that some one may come in to talk with them for a few minutes - sleeping, I suppose, for a certain portion of the time. I have been round the public offices, and therefore I have a very fair idea of what is going on there. There is the most rampant extravagance in this department, and the men have not half enough work to do. Senator Dobson would not employ sixteen clerks to do the work of this office. He would require the work to be done by about eight men, and the highest salary he would pay, I suppose, would be about two guineas a week. Yet when he is dealing with Commonwealth money he supports lavish salaries and unnecessary positions. I shall call for a division on every proposal for a reduction in order to see who are the real economists, and who are the sham ones.
– I do not know whether the officers in this department have anything to do or not, but I think the Minister does. If we have not confidence in the Minister he should be removed. It is unfair to attack the officers. The Minister who puts them in the department is the proper person to attack. I heard Senators O’Keefe and Higgs say that it was all right when the salaries of the lower-paid men were to be attacked. I am not aware that any honorable senator has attacked the salary of any of the lowerpaid men. The Senate acted quite properly in fixing a minimum wage of £110 per year. Surely honorable senators who differ from Senators Higgs and Stewart have a right to their opinions without being accused of leaning towards those who are so highly paid. Whether £750 is too much or too little for the office of secretary of this department,
I do not know. The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works .pay their treasurer a salary of £7 50, and their secretary a salary of £1,000. Surely the position of secretary to the department for Home Affairs is much more important than the position of secretary to that glorified municipal council. It should be remembered that if the salaries of those at the head of a department are reduced, the pruning knife will invariably be applied until it reaches the officers getting the minimum wage of £110 who cannot be touched, because of the provision in the Public Service Act. Senator Playford has been twitted with want of foresight. If the secretary to this department is getting £150 too much, South Australia contributes to that excess about £15 a year. I should like to see some larger measure of economy than that.
– We must begin, and we will go through the whole of the Estimates if the honorable senator likes.
– We should begin to retrench at the proper time, and not pick out two or three officers, because they seem to be highly paid and ask for £25, £20, or £15 to be taken off each salary, without making an effort to reduce the salaries of others who may be equally well paid for the work they do.
– We have heard a lecture from those who, while professing a desire for economy, have failed to support certain proposals in that direction. This morning Senator Dobson submitted a proposal for the omission of an item of £300 for temporary assistance in one department, and if it had been carried it would have meant an annual saving of £19,000 in all the departments. Not one of these stern economists had a vote to give for his motion when a sum of £19,000 was at stake, but when there is a prospect of attacking the salary of an individual officer they not only become keen on the job, but venture to lecture others.
– Good reasons were given.
– I did not hear one. Are these the honorable senators whoought to lecture us because we fail to fall in with their views and support every amendment they submit ?
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council showed that the. men referred to by the honorable senator’ were necessary. He gave good reasons in support of his contention.
– Exactly ;- but the Vice-President of the Executive Council also says that this man and this salary are necessary. His argument in this case, however, is not considered to be sufficient. If we are prepared to support retrenchment on the lines which our honorable friends in the. labour corner desire, we are true reformers ; but if we have ideas which do not fit in with their own, they decline with that aptitude which has always marked their policy to recognise that we are on the right track. I am prepared to avail myself of any opportunity to make a serious effort to effect retrenchment upon a broad definite policy, but I am not prepared to attack the salaries of individual officers. Not only would it be unfair to do so, but it would be absolutely impossible for this or any other Parliament to attempt to revise the salaries of individual officers, without having all the information which is necessary to determine whether they are ill or well paid. That being the case, and as I do not see the slighest possibility of being able to remodel these Estimates, I purpose not only to take no further part in the discussion, which will complete our consideration of them, but to refrain from voting for a motion which would alter them in this way
Senator WALKER (New South Wales). - I would suggest to those honorable senators who wish to make this reduction that they should propose something in the nature of an all-round reduction of 10 per cent. If we are to go into every item, and if the committee is to be divided again and again in regard to them, we certainly shall not finish our work for another month. I am not one who believes in cutting down salaries when the responsible Minister says that the officers to whom they apply do good work, and are worth the money. Although I sit in Opposition I have sufficient confidence in the Ministry to believe that they have the good of the country at heart, and that they would employ only good men to do the work of the public.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - Senator Millen did not take up his usual attitude this afternoon. He has forced us to make an explanation, and he knows that in making that explanation we may possibly appear in a bad light before the general public. Some of us were not in our places this morning ; but so far as I and Senator Stewart are concerned we did not know that the Senate was sitting. I left the Chamber about half-past ten p.m. yesterday under the impression that we should meet at the usual hour this afternoon. Instead of that the Senate met at eleven o’clock. Had we been here no doubt we should have been found supporting the proposition to which Senator Millen has referred.
– I do not know any thing about it; but we might have been found supporting it if it was a proposition to have the federal departments conducted in an economical manner. If honorable senators will consult the attendance list they will find that members of the labour party have attended to their duties just as closely as Senator Millen has done.
– Senator Millen is at the bottom of the list. He is hardly ever here.
– I should like to ask Senator Playford a straight question, knowing that he usually gives a straight answer. I wish to know whether he believes that we ought to pay salaries at the rate mentioned at the head of this list 1
– I believe that the Estimates ought to be recast from top to bottom. They are extravagant from beginning to end, but I know that we cannot recast them now.
– What is the meaning of Senator Stewart’s proposition 1 He does not desire to attack any individual. He desire’s that these requests shall be made, not because he believes they will bp accepted, but because he wishes the Government to sec that in the opinion of the Senate the federal departments are conducted upon extravagant lines, and that we desire the whole matter to be taken into consideration. We have no desire to attack individuals, but we are anxious’ that the departments shall be administered economically. If the gentlemen in Question have their time fully occupied, let the Minister who has charge of the department make provision in the Estimates for paying them a good salary. I venture to agree with those who say that the departments are to some extent overloaded. In Queensland the chief clerk of the Home Secretary’s department receives £500 a year. In this new federal department, the chief clerk receives £600 a year, and it appears to me that the salaries ought to be recast.
– That amount compares favorably with the salaries as a whole provided for in the Estimates. The honorable senator has no right to attack the salary of one officer unless he is prepared to go through the whole of the items.
– We adopt this attitude because we wish to let the Government know that in our opinion the department should be administered more economically. We do not propose that the salaries of the lower paid, officials shall be attacked. We are dealing only with the higher grades. For the first year or two, at all events, of the existence of the Common-‘ wealth, economy ought to be practised. I am sure that those whose offices have been mentioned will recognise that we have not made a personal attack upon any of them.
– Does the honorable senator think we can justly recast the salaries of the more highly paid officials between now and the prorogation ?
– Is not the Public Service Commissioner going to help us ?
– -There are circumstances which force us to take up this attitude. If I had been here this morning, I should have endeavoured to deal with the question in a general way.
– It would be useless to do that. It would be better to leave the Estimates alone.
– Then what are we to do 1 When next year’s Estimates come before us in the same form, we shall be told that we made no -protest before.
– We shall be told that we are the teachers of extravagance.
– We have been quite wrongly branded throughout the Commonwealth as the supporters of extravagance. When we came into the Federal Parliament, some of us, like the late Governor-General, thought that the purse of the public was as deep as a mine, and that we could draw upon it to any extent we pleased. We thought that we could have a vice-regal palace, an expensive court, a number of highly - paid officials, and very expensive departments. But when we find that the various States have to foot the bill, the 47 c position is different, and upon the heads of those who deprecate economy will fall the condemnation of the general public. Senator Styles ventured to assail the labour corner this afternoon.
– I was replying : I was not assailing any one.
– The honorable senator knows that we do not put him in the same box with Senator Dobson. When I mentioned that it was proposed to retrench the lower-paid officers of the service, I did not refer to the officers in the federal service, because no such proposition has been made. I was alluding to the efforts of the political party to which Senator Dobson belongs - the Kyabramites. They are in favour of retrenching the lower-paid men, and allowing the salaries of the higher-paid officials to remain untouched.
– That is most unjust.
– Senator Styles said today that he doubted whether the officials receiving £1,000 a year would be retrenched.
– I was referring not to Government officials, but to officials employed by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Beard of Works.
– Attempts are being made in every direction to curtail the earnings of the poorer-paid workers who have a hard enough struggle as it is to live on £2 or £3 per week. We do not object to the more highly-paid servants receiving good salaries if the lower-paid men are allowed to receive a fair wage. We stand up in defence of the poorer-paid men of the service. Our desire is that the departments shall be economically conducted, and if they are not, we shall have to remain here until the matter has been thoroughly thrashed out. At this late Stage of the session I am in favour of an early adjournment, but if honorable senators become obstreperous, there will be no other course open to us but to consider these items thoroughly. We have been here for eighteen months, and we are so well trained that we should be able, if necessary, to go on for another eighteen months. The length of time we stay here appears to make no difference in regard to the abuse heaped upon us. I should not mind remaining here for another two or three months if we could do any good by doing so, and succeed in showing that some honorable senators who are prepared to preach economy vote on the other side when the opportunity is offered to them to carry out their expressed principles.
– Senator Millen rose in a great state of indignation because of the request moved by Senator Stewart, and seemed to object very strongly to any criticism being levelled at himself and those who join with him in opposing the motion. He appeared to think he was perfectly justified in the attitude he took up, because certain honorable senators did not support a particular motion put forward by Senator Dobson earlier in the day. But a feeling of disappointment, engendered by the failure of certain honorable senators to support a certain motion, should not induce the honorable senator to refuse to vote for a subsequent proposal which he believes to be a just one. In reference to the charge which has been laid against the labour party, I should like to draw Senator Millen’s attention to this fact : The sum involved in- the motion was not £19,000 or £20,000, but a sum of £300 ; because the fact is that there are a number of amounts of the same kind right throughout the Estimates. The particular item we were discussing was one of £300, and in regard to that item Senator O’Connor made an explanation that was considered satisfactory, and would have appealed to any reasonable man. He explained that from the actual experience of last year, when £258 was spent on temporary assistance, it was evident that this sum would be required during the coming year. Senator Millen will recognise that the sum is one which may or may not be spent. If the temporary assistance is not required, the money will not be spent simply because it appears in the Estimates. But the present case is entirely different.. As soon as the Appropriation Bill passes the money will be spent in salaries. A good deal has been said this afternoon by honorable senators to the effect that the Estimates from beginning to end are framed on a most extravagant scale. I admit that extravagance is most unwarranted under present circumstances. If that is acknowledged I scarcely understand the attitude of honorable senators in not voting for the motion. Honorable senators say that we have not time to do this cutting and slashing at the Estimates. I venture to say that the only course that can be adopted by any honorable senator who desires to reduce this unwarrantable extravagance in the scale of salaries is to move a distinct motion on a specific item. If a motion were moved to reduce the total amount of the Estimates by a bulk sum, it would not be accepted by the Chairman. In order that a proposition may be in order it must be a distinct proposal on a particular item. Consequently, the course taken by Senator Stewart is the only course left open to him at the present juncture. If honorable senators say that we have not sufficient time to deal with the Estimates in this manner I reply that that depends upon ourselves. Parliament can prorogue to-morrow or three months’ hence, just as we please. If the Tariff had not been passed there would not have been this great hurry to end the session. But in order that we may prorogue to-morrow, honorable senators are anxious to get the Appropriation Bill through. If the Tariff were still before Parliament both free-traders and protectionists would scout the very idea of bringing the session to a termination without dealing with every item carefully. If honorable senators would be prepared to take up such an attitude on such an occasion, surely, notwithstanding the length of the session, they should follow the same course when we are dealing with the first Estimates, involving the expenditure of millions of money,in the first Federal Parliament. I have been away from Queensland during the whole time Parliament has been sitting, including the adjournments, owing to the impossibility of getting to the north in the limited time. But whether we prorogue tomorrow, or a month hence, is a matter of indifference to me. It appeal’s that the Commonwealth Parliament is following the same old course as the States Parliaments have pursued for so many years - a course to be deprecated. As soon as a Government get their principal measures through they bring down the Appropriation Bill, and wish to terminate the session with a rush. I object to that way of doing business. It would be a very good thing to teach the Government a lesson, and to say that whether they will get their principal measures through Parliament or not will depend on when we have the Estimates laid before Parliament. We should have sufficient time to effectually discuss them, and determine the amount of the expenditure. I am surprised, notwithstanding the many and fearful surprises that Senator Dobson has given me during the session, at his attitude last night in speaking upon the Estimates. He -was like a wild Indian, with his little tomahawk, dancing about in the Senate looking for scalps. He was determined to put an end to extravagance in all directions. But to-day he is the mildest-minded man one could possibly meet, and instead of his threatening tomahawk he holds a little bit of a lolly stick ! It is impossible to understand his attitude.
– The Public Service Commissioner has been appointed to do exactly what the honorable senator wants to do.
– Senator Styles has put forward a proposition that deserves every consideration. He said, in that tone of voice which makes a warning so valuable, and causes one to take heed, that reducing large salaries is a dangerous thing, and that by so doing we shall virtually be reducing the salaries of the lower-paid officers. He urged that the process of cutting down would be carried from top to bottom of the service if once we began it. If that were so it would be an excellent reason why we should pause before going so far as to propose to knock off a certain amount from the salary under discussion. But I would remind Senator Styles that in spite of the determined and consistent hostility of Senator Dobson, we have succeeded in inserting a section in the Public Service Act fixing a minimum wage, below which no salary can be reduced. We have to recollect that the experience in the States has been that whenever the Governmentor the heads of departments have been stricken with a desire for economy in the service, they have started by retrenching the lower-paid officers and have left the high salaries untouched. Whenever a cry for economy has been heard in the land, and demands have been made for reductions in the salaries of the civil servants, the highly-paid officials, who could afford a reduction without running any danger of compromising with their creditors, have been left alone, whilst the poorer-paid civil servants, who could ill afford retrenchment, have been made to suffer.
– In my own State I took 2£ per cent, off the lower-paid men and S per cent, off the higher salaries.
– That fact will go a long way to redeem the honorable and learned senator’s character.
47 0 2
– The honorable senator’s statement is altogether incorrect.
– My statement is not incorrect so far as Queensland is concerned. Every time retrenchments have been made there, it has been the lowerpaid nien who have suffered. The same thing has occurred in some of the other States. The retrenchment going on in Victoria is held up as a shining example, but a similar course appears to be contemplated here. I do not think that that evil course should be followed by the Commonwealth in its early history. I am afraid Senator Stewart will not be successful in reducing this particular salary, but, notwithstanding, I think he is doing what he ought to do. This is the only mode by which we can attain any definiteness or distinctness in expressing our opinions as to retrenchment. If any one has an honest and sincere desire for economy he ought to remember that this is the proper way of securing his end. I believe that Senator Stewart is perfectly justified in going right through the whole of the departments in the same manner. If this course were not taken, the charge would be hurled against us - perhaps by Senator Millen and Senator Dobson - when next year’s Estimates were brought forward, that we had allowed these Estimates to go by without suggesting reductions. That charge cannot now be made. I shall vote for the proposed reduction, in order that it may be put on record that this attempt at economy was made.
– I think that my honorable friends opposite who desire a reduction of salaries are somewhat unfair. In the first place, I cannot agree with them that those who vote for the salaries as they stand upon the Estimates are not desirous of economy. It is not for that reason, but because we wish for justice that some of us cannot support the amendment. I think that the whole service should be placed upon the same footing. The Estimates should be framed upon a certain basis, and we have no justification for attacking any individual officer on account of the salary which is paid to him. By doing so we shall do him an injustice, and I am sure our honorable friends do not desire that. I have already said that these Estimates are grossly extravagant. I say again that from one end to the other they are framed upon an extravagant basis. With the exception of some of the smaller salaries, I should take 1 0 per cent. off every vote, from one end of the Estimates to the other. By adopting such a course as that, we should not be paying unfair salaries to the various officers. The fact is, that these Estimates have been based upon the Estimates of New South Wales to a great extent, a State which has always paid extravagant rates. They are, perhaps, based also, to a certain extent, on the rates paid in Victoria, but they are certainly not based on the Estimates which are submitted in Tasmania, South Australia, Queensland, or Western Australia. If the)7 had been based on the Estimates submitted in the smaller States, or upon something between the Estimates of the extravagant and less extravagant States, they would have been at least 10 per cent. below what they are. But, while saying that, I am not going to be a party to striking off a few pounds from the salary of an officer in one department, and leaving that of an officer holding a similar position in another department alone.
– We do not ask the honorable senator to do that. We propose to go right through with these reductions.
– But honorable senators, as I point out, are not going right through. They should have started with the departments of the Senate and the House of Representatives. They have left their own departments severely alone.
– The honorable senator knows that we were not here, and that that is the reason.
– The officers of the other departments are paid upon the same basis, and honorable senators should have commenced their reductions at home. Then, again, I say that we cannot recast the Estimates. Even the House of Representatives could not recast them. Honorable members of that House had not the information necessary to enable them to do so.
– What can we do?
– The House of Representatives might have sent the Estimates back to the Government and have asked them to recast them. The House that has the initiation of these Estimates has agreed to them, and sent them up for our approval, and we can do nothing in the way of reduction, except in the case of a line here and there, unless we are prepared to do a great injustice to officers of the civil service. I have had experience of the passing of Estimates ever since 1869. I have passed many Estimates through Parliament. I have known Parliament to use the chopper, and I have known how unfairly that operation has worked in many cases. Where we find that it is necessary to practice economy the economy should be practised all round, and we should take, say, 2½ per cent. off the lower-paid salaries, 5 per cent off higher salaries, and 10 per cent. off salaries that are still higher. To say that throughout the various States the rule has been that when economy has been practised the lowerpaid members of the service have had to suffer while the more highly-paid have escaped, is, in my experience, to make a statement which is altogether untrue. We are only wasting our time in considering these proposals, and if we agree to the reductions proposed we should only be inflicting injustice upon the officers whose salaries are attacked. I, therefore, ask Senator Stewart not to press these requests. We are practically powerless in this matter - except, perhaps, to reduce a few individual lines. We had better acknowledge that we are powerless, because, if we do not, we shall be forced to acknowledge it, and we shall be shown that a committee of Parliament is not the place in which to recast Estimates. I am sure that our friends in the labour corner do not desire to do any injustice ; but when they say that we who will not vote with them are not in favour of economy, but are in favour of cutting down the lower-paid men and leaving the more highly-paid untouched, they are altogether mistaken. We are as much in favour of economy as they are, and we are as much in favour of serving men throughout the service alike as they are. But we make no pretence about it, and we do not charge others with wishing to do an act of injustice when we know that they really do not desire to do anything of the sort. I again repeat that we cannot, in fairness or justice, alter these Estimates in a committee of the Senate. In myexperience, that cannot be done even in a House of Representatives, and I have known Estimates to be before such a House for many months. We have had in South Australia a special finance committee to consider Estimates, and we know how badly the whole thing has turned out afterwards. Men were retrenched here and there through out the Estimates, and a regular jumble was made of them, instead of a sensible general policy being adopted under which all officers would receive something like equality of treatment.
– It was said that we could not recast the Tariff, but we did it.
– :We left it practically the same Tariff as when it came here.
– We did not recast it. What we did was to alter a line here and there. But we have had enough of the Tariff. I do not mean to say that it is not possible for us to strike out a whole department in these Estimates. We might, for instance, decide that there, is no reason why we should not make use of the officers of the Public Works departments of the States, and on that account strike out the vote submitted in these Estimates for the Federal Public Works department. That might be a sensible proposal, but to knock off a little from a salary here and there would be only to do an act of injustice which would effect no real saving.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).- Seeing that Senator Millen has so pointedly stated that Senator Dobson could not get any support from honorable senators of the labour party in his previous attempt at economy, I think it ,is only right that I should give the reason why I was not here this morning. I remained here last evening until half-past ten o’clock, and I was assured that the sitting would not last longer than about eleven o’clock. I did not hear the slightest whisper of an early meeting to-day. I think the hour of meeting was most improperly and unconstitutionally changed. I do not think the VicePresident of the Executive Council really had the power to change it without giving due notice at the beginning of the sitting.
– The Senate changed it ; I did not do so.
– I contend that it was most improper that it should have been changed without due notice. If this sort of thing is going to be permitted a majority in the Senate may spring any mortal thing it pleases upon the minority, unless the minority sits here continually. It comes with a very bad grace from Senator Millen, who has been absent much oftener than he has been present, to pass such remarks upon honorable senators who have been regular in their attendance. I was not to blame for not being present this morning, and I can tell the Vice-President of the Executive Council that the alteration of the hour of meeting without notice will not assist in an early closing of the session. I asked the honorable and learned senator a week before if he would not go on with the business, because of the disadvantages to which honorable senators from Queensland were put, myself amongst the number. He would not, and he Scoffed ‘ at the idea. The honorable and ‘learned senator, and some other senators, desired to get to their homes in New South Wales and South Australia.
– I think the honorable senator has had a sufficient opportunity for a personal explanation, and he must now confine himself to the motion.
– There is no personal explanation about it. I consider that the action of the Government has been most improper. I admit that-I should have remained here last night, but did not. I went away, like a fool, before the sitting was concluded, and I intend to make up for it now. If the Government think that this sort of sharp practice is going to do any good they are mistaken. I listened with great patience to Senator Playford, hoping that I would get some light from such an old and experienced parliamentary hand. I did get some light ; but, unfortunately, it was not the kind of light which leads to anything profitable. The whole of the honorable senator’s address simply amounted to this : That the Senate is powerless. We can do nothing. Even the House of Representatives can do nothing. I do not wonder that we hear people outside calling attention to the impotence of Parliament. It has been allowed evidently to sink into a condition of helpless, hopeless impotence. So far as I am concerned, I am not going to allow it to sink any deeper in the mire. I believe we have power, and that we can do something. We were sent here to do something. We should have, not government by Ministers but government by Parliament. I am just as responsible to my constituents as is any Minister of the Crown, and I believe I ought to be consulted as much in connexion with any legislation passed here. I am going to make an attempt anyhow, and if I fail it shall not be my fault. Why are the Estimates submitted to us 1 Are we to be placed in the position of being allowed merely to say “ ditto “ to the House of
Representatives, while the House of Representatives says “ ditto “ to the Government, and the Government may do what it pleases? I do not accept that position. Senator Playford condemned himself out of his own mouth, because the honorable senator admitted and asserted that these Estimates are framed from beginning to end on a most extravagant basis. Yet the honorable ‘senator is unwilling to lend any . assistance to change them. He allows the extravagance to pass because he says the Senate has no power to interfere. The country blames the Senate for permitting this extravagance to exist. The States look to the Senate to keep a control over the public purse. Senator Playford is guided by precedent, whereas I have no reverence for precedent at all. So far as the control of the Senate over the finances is concerned, I am trying to establish a precedent. Everyone who has sat in a State Parliament has listened to the wellworn tale about civil servants, which we heard from that honorable senator. How does he know that the Estimates are framed on an extravagant basis 1 ‘ He takes the totals and says that the expenditure is too much, whereas I take the details and point to where I consider the extravagance exists. When a man consults a doctor he expects to be prescribed for. Sena- tor Playford is in exactly that position. He says that the items in the schedule are so much out of sorts that he despairs of being able to put them right. The more the items of expenditure are out of sorts the more incumbent it is upon the committee to attempt to practice economy. We must begin to retrench somewhere. I have been twitted with having omitted to move a reduction on the items for the Senate and the House of Representatives. If I had been here I should have moved for a reduction in the salaries of the officers, from the President downwards. I had intended to move for a reduction of £500 in the salary of the President. Would Senator Playford have voted for a motion of that kind ? The fact that I was not here this morning was entirely owing to the decision come to at a late hour last night to meet at eleven o’clock in the morning instead of at the usual hour in the afternoon. Of course, if I had read the newspapers more fully, I should have known that it had been decided to meet at an earlier hour, but like a great many honorable senators I only look for a report of my own speeches in the press. Senator Playford is afraid that we shall be doing an injustice to this officer if we cut down his salary. I do not know the occupant of the office, but I have an impression not only that the officers are paid too much, but that there are too many of them. I find that since last year a secretary to the Minister has been appointed, at a salary of £450. In the department there are six clerks, and a clerk and shorthand writer ; and if the Minister needs a secretary he might very well be assisted by the chief clerk, or the clerk and shorthand writer. I intend to move a request for the omission of the salary of the secretary, because the office is altogether unnecessary.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - I should like honorable senators for a moment to consider the strenth of the staff in the office of the Commissioner of Public Works in South Australia. The secretary receives £550, the chief clerk £290, the second clerk £110, the junior clerk £65, and the office-keeper £210. I consider that South Australia is a little mean there, and if Senator Playford proposes to carry out his South Australian ideas when he gets a chance I shall be against him ; but there is a very great difference between what is done in that State and what is done in this Parliament. In the Department for Home Affairs the chief clerk receives £600, but I imagine that the work of these chief clerks is very much the same. So far as I can see New South Wales is the only State which pays a chief clerk £600 a year. In some respects Queensland is a little mean with its officials. In the Chief Secretary’s department in that State there is a number of very low paid clerks, whose salaries run down to £60 and £70. The chief clerk receives £500, and I have no doubt but that he has quite as much work to do as has the chief clerk in the Department for Home Affairs. Senator Playford says “I have been through all the items which are cast extravagantly, and if I had my way I should reduce them by 10 per cent., except in the case of the lower-paid men.” If we like to take the time we can recast all the items. The honorable senator knows very well that the reason why the Bill is brought before the Senate so late in the session is because the Ministry hoped that it would be rushed through by honorable senators in their anxiety to get away. That is a trick of old parliamentarians, and I suppose that it is not unknown to Senator Playford. We wish to fully discuss these proposals, otherwise we shall get into great difficulties. I do not desiretoget intoany difficulties if they can be avoided. I am anxious to preserve my reputation for a desire to do my duty by the State I represent. If I were to give way, even at this late hour, to the desire of honorable senators to get to their homes, and allow these items to go by the board, I should not deserve well of my constituents. I should deserve to make way for a man who would exhibit a backbone, and show the Ministry that he, at any rate, would not hesitate to make some observations upon their extravagance.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the item, “ Chief Clerk, £600,” by £100- put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
In Division :
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to omit the item, “ Senior Clerk (also Secretary to Minister), £450.”
This is a new appointment so far as I can see, and I think it is unnecessary.
– I have looked through the Estimates for the various States, and it appeals to me that there are too many officers in this department. I have not been able to find that anything like the same numerical staff exists in any of the States departments. It thus appears to me that the department is overmanned, and I shall support the motion.
Question put. The committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Senator Stewart) - That the House of Representatives be requested to omit the item, “Temporary assistance, £200 “-put. The committee divided.
Majority … …18
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I desire to obtain some information as to the item in the Estimates of the
Department for Home Affairs - “ Officecleaners, £679.” I should think that the Postal and other departments would employ their own cleaners. .
– This item is to provide for office-cleaners in the Department for External Affairs, the Department for Home Affairs, the Attorney-General’s department, the Department of Defence, the Public Service Commissioner’s office, and also the Sydney offices. There are two male cleaners and seven female cleaners employed in the Melbourne offices, and one female cleaner in Sydney. The item also covers charges incidental to the service.
– I should like to draw the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council to item 5 in the Contingencies relating to the Department for Home Affairs, which provides £630 for travelling expenses.
– The honorable senator may obtain the information, but he cannot move any request in regard to the item, as we have now got beyond it.
– Am I to understand that that is your ruling Mr. Chairman?”
– I understood from you that we were to deal with this department as a whole. It is true that Senator Stewart .suddenly rushed passed this item, but am I to be deprived of an opportunity to move a request because of that fact ?
– It cannot be helped.
– It seems to me that the sum of £650 for travelling expenses foi” the administrative staff is outrageously extravagant. We can all see that it is utterly out of proportion to the travelling expenses of every other department. Although I am debarred from moving a request in regard to the item - and but for the Chairman’s ruling, I should have done so - I think the VicePresident of the Executive Council should endeavour to show some reason why, in the first place, the amount is so - large, and secondly, why it is so out of proportion to the provision made for the travelling ex- penses of other departments.
– This item is to provide for the travelling expenses, while on duty, of officers who have to administer the Department for Home Affairs. The department includes the administration of the Electoral Act and the Public Servicer Act, and deals with public works all over the Commonwealth.
– There is special provision for the Public Service Commissioner’s travelling expenses.
– Of course; but the officers for whom these expenses are provided have to deal with the whole of these departments. I do not mean to say that the travelling expenses of the Public Service Commissioner’s department are not put under another heading, but that this money is provided for the principal officers who have to deal with all the branches connected with the Department for Home Affairs, and in the discharge of their duties have to visit every part of Australia. No State department would find it necessary to cause its officers to travel to a greater extent in proportion to the numerical strength of its staff, than does the Department forHome Affairs.
– But every branch has its own travelling expenses. *
– Provision is made for the travelling expenses of the Public Service branch.
– That is a separate item relating to the several officers of that particular branch, but the principal officers of the administrative staff have necessarily to do a great deal of travelling.
– But separate provision is also made for the travelling expenses of the electoral officers.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania). - Inreply to what the Vice President of the Executive Council has said, I wish to point out that in addition to this item of £650, £300 is provided for the travelling expenses of the electoral officers, £1,500 for travelling expenses in connexion with the Public Service Commissioner, and £400 for the travelling expenses of the public works staff. All these branches of the service are under the Department for Home Affairs.. The total amount for travelling expenses for this department alone is £2,850. That seems to me to be outrageously extravagant. I desire therefore to move a reduction in the amount.
– The cost of this travelling last year was £718. We are now asking for £650. The officers appointed under the Electoral Act in the various I States will have to travel, and there is other travelling in connexion with the head office on account of the inspection of works. It is unfortunately a necessary concomitant of administering the whole of the affairs of Australia from one centre that there should be a great deal of travelling. If this amount is cut down it will be impossible to carry on the proper work of the office, or else the department will have to resort to indirect means, taking the money out of contingencies or getting it in some other way. It is very much better to put down the amount to be spent, so that Parliament may know exactly where the money goes, and may next year compare the Estimates with the actual expenditure.
– With reference to the point raised by Senator Clemons, when Senator Stewart’s amendment was disposed of we had dealt with subdivision 2 as far as “Temporary assistance, £200.” If the honorable and learned senator wishes to reduce the total amount of the division he can do so, but that will mean that there must be a reduction of some subsequent item, because the previous amounts have been carried.
Senator CHARLESTON (South Australia). - I should like to ask whether, when the Minister for Home Affairs travels and occupies, as I understand he does, a twoberth or four-berth compartment all by himself in a boudoir car, the Government has to pay the full amount for the accommodation he occupies? I know that when an officer of Parliament travels, he very often takes a two- berth place for himself, but he has to pay for the extra berth. Does the Minister for Home Affairs have to pay more than is represented by the gold pass which he carries? If so, and if he frequently travels in state, as I hear he does, we can very well understand that this entails a very large sum of money. This is a fair opportunity for ascertaining whether the Minister has to pay for the extra accommodation out of his own pocket, or whether it is paid for by the Government or paid for at all.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania). - I gather from the Chairman’s ruling that it is competent for me to move a reduction in the total amount of subdivision 2, “Contingencies.” I intend to persist in my attempt to reduce the amount of the travelling expenses of the administrative Staff. They amount to £650. I notice that the number of persons employed on the administrative staff is sixteen. The messengers would not require to travel. Probably only the secretary, the chief clerk, the chief accountant, and the senior clerk would have any need to have their travelling expenses paid out of this vote. Under these circumstances the allowance of £650 is outrageous. I therefore move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the vote “ Adminstrative Staff, Contingencies, £2,389” by £1.
– A request of that nature will have no meaning. There would be nothing to show what it meant, because the honorable senator does not signify in, his motion that he desires any amount to be taken off any particular item.
– I think it will be clearly understood.
– It would be a most irregular thing to do,andwould have no beneficial effect. With regard to the remark of Senator Charleston, I am not acquainted with the way in which the Minister for Home Affairs travels. I am informed that recently he was travelling in the brake-van, though I do not mean to say that he habitually does so. When he has a little extra accommodation, no extra charge is made for it. It is all calculated in the general charge that is made.
Question put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I wish to call the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council to the item. Electoral Office, “ Temporary assistance, £300.” We have already had two divisions with regard to this matter. We have already had two divisions upon these items, and in each case the Government have won by a large majority. But I still ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council if he is going to attempt to justify this item. It may be said that in the Electoral Office there will have to be temporary assistance, because at a certain time in preparing the new rolls there will be an enormous amount of work to be done. But if honorable senators will turn to division 23, they will find a vote of no less than £35,000 for -
Expenses in connexion with the introduction of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, including the preparation and printing of electoral rolls, electoral registration, &c.
In view of that vote it appears to me that this item of £300 for temporary assistance cannot possibly be defended. I therefore move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to omit the item, Electoral Office, “Temporary assistance, £300. “
– The item . of £35,000, to which the honorable and learned senator has referred, has nothing whatever to do with the item of temporary assistance which he proposes to omit, and which is a provision of exactly the same kind as that which we have already made in connexion with the Department for External Affairs, and upon which the honorable and learned senator’s objection was thrashed out. If the money is required, as no doubt it will be, it will have to be expended. I should like to remind honorable senators that, by the legislation they have passed in giving the franchise to women, they have added enormously to the work of the Electoral Office.
– All that is included in the £35,000.
– It is not. A great deal of work will have to be done in this department under exceptional circumstances, because if the rolls are to be ready for the election next year, the greatest expedition will have to be used, and it is probable that a large amount of extra assistance will be required. It has been admitted by honorable senators who have spoken on the other side that this assistance is required ; but some of them consider that we should have a sort of separate department, which will be able to give this extra assistance to all the departments when it is required. It is possible that such a scheme might be worked in some way as applying to a State, but it is quite unworkable as applied to Australia. Does the honorable and learned senator propose that some members of this flying-gang shall be occupied in Melbourne, in Sydney, and in some part of Queensland, and travelling about between the different States ? It is absurd to say that we could carry out such a method of giving temporary assistance when we are dealing with the departments oE the Commonwealth. We have agreed to a similar vote in connexion with two departments already, and what is the use of. raising a special objection to this one 1
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - With reference to the Public Service branch I intend to propose several requests, in order to test the feeling of the Senate as to whether honorable senators are prepared to create this unnecessary and highlyexpensive department. A Public Service Commissioner and five inspectors have already been appointed, but I must confess that I was astonished, as I am sure many other honorable senators have been, to find that, in addition to those officers, we have here provided for a secretary at £600, a registrar at £400, and an examiner at £350, as well as a number of clerks. It appears to me that there is here an opportunity for my honorable friends in the labour corner to join with me in objecting to the creation of new offices.
– The honorable and learned senator does not always join with them.
– I am asking them to join with me on this occasion, because I am not’ attacking an officer who has given up his work and his home in some other State, to accept an appointment in the federal service. I am now speaking of offices which some of us think are absolutely unnecessary. What is this registrar to do ? He will be simply an official head, who will have his work done for him by an army of clerks. When the classification of the whole of the 12,000 servants of the Commonwealth has been carried out by the Public Service Commissioner and his inspectors, the names will be copied into a book called a register. Do we require a registrar at £400 a year to keep that book up to date? I take it that he will never make an entry in it, or if he does it will be an entry in the column for remarks. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to omit the item, Public Service Commissioner, “Secretary, £600.”
Senator STEWART (Queensland).- For once I happen to agree with Senator Dobson. While I supported the appointment of a Public Service Commissioner and several inspectors, I never anticipated that this department would swell to such proportions as the Government evidently intend it shall. I agree with the honorable and learned senator that this so-called registrar will probably never make an entry in the register. I do not know what he will do, but I suppose he will simply move around and see that somebody else does his work. With regard to the secretary, there may be some necessity for a head of the office, but I think his salary at £600 per annum is fixed on altogether too extravagant a scale. I should like honorable senators for a moment to compare the responsibility of this officer at £600 a year with the responsibilities of Members of the Federal Parliament at £400 a year. I do not say that we are underpaid, but I do say that when it is remembered that we have to take all the responsibilities of theCommonwealth on our shoulders ; that we have to pay very often for elections to the Commonwealth Parliament ; that we have a very uncertain tenure of office, and are subject to a great many extraneous expenses, it must be admitted that if £400 a year is sufficient for us with all these responsibilities and calls, £600 is far more than sufficient for an individual holding a position which is simply that of chief clerk in the Public Service Commissioner’s office. This proposal is simply ridiculous. Three hundred pounds a year is quite sufficient for the duties of the office, and the office of registrar ought to be abolished altogether. Then what is this examiner to do ? What is he to examine ? We have not been told anything about that. In addition to these officers I find that there are to be eleven clerks - five at salaries not exceeding £260, and six others who are to be clerks to the inspectors, and who perhaps may be necessary. Inany case, it appears to me that the expenditure proposed for this department is far more than is necessary, and I shall support the amendment.
Question put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to omit the item, Public Service Commissioner, “Registrar, £400.”
My desire is that the secretary should be required to act also as registrar. I have no desire to add to what I have already said, except to say that this department appears to me to be the most extravagant in the whole of the Estimates. I feel that I can state without fear of contradiction that there is not a member of either House who thought that it was going to cost £15,000 to provide for this department to manage the three transferred departments of the service.
Senator DOBSON . (Tasmania). - I protest against the language of Senator O’Connor. I am not trying to kill the system, but to cut down the Estimates. The department has been created, and it has to be carried on. I did not catch all that my honorable and learned friend said ; but I understand that the registrar is to see that the claims of no officers are overlooked. That is a nice statement to make. We have five inspectors, who are to examine every officer in the Commonwealth service and to report to the Commissioner, and it is idle to tell us that the registrar, who sits at home with a big book in front of him, can see that no claims are overlooked. It is simply making work for the officer. I believe that this department, with its extravagant expenditure of £15,000, has startled Members of Parliament more than has any other department. But because we are told that the session is to be finished at once, no one seems inclined to move in the matter, but I shall ask the committee to divide. I think that the chief clerk at £600 a year might very’ well keep the register. We all know that the register will be kept by the clerks, of whom there are to be twelve or thirteen. The registrar will not enter up the names of the 12,000 officers, and when once their names are registered, what further work will there be which cannot be done by a clerk at £250 a year from the reports of the inspectors and the commands of the Commissioner ? Honorable senators keep forgetting that we have six highly-paid inspectors who cannot be reduced in salary or removed for seven years. On the top of those officers they wish to have a secretary at £600 and a registrar at £400. But to my mind, it is quite unnecessary.
Senator CHARLESTON (South Australia). - I also think that it is quite unnecessary to have a’ registrar of this character. In every State the General Postoffice will have a record of its officers. If the secretary to the Commissioner wishes to have a return of the employes, he will ask the head of the department to furnish him with the names of his officers, and when the information is supplied, the names could be entered by one of the five clerks at £260 a year. Those who are the friends of the Public Service Commissioner ought to support this motion, otherwise the department will be made so expensive as to be condemned throughout the Commonwealth. With the Commissioner, six inspectors, and a staff of seventeen officers, it will cost an enormous sum. The Customs and Excise departments, and the Post and Telegraph departments are already organized, and I do’ not see that it is possible to get a return commensurate .with the enormous expenditure.
– I am surprised at the opposition to this division in the schedule. I am a director of an institution which employs about 1,200 men, and the registrar has to keep a separate record of each officer, so that at a glance his career can be traced from the day he entered the service. To tell me that when we have 12,000 officers in the Public Service a registrar is not needed is unreasonable. It will be true economy to have a registrar who understands his work and keeps his records properly.
– Senator Dobson has sufficiently protested, and it is of no use for him to attempt to pre* vent the passage of the Bill. We have agreed to the creation of this department, and therefore I think the honorable and learned senator will do well to allow the item t© pass.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - I do not propose to allow the item to go. I agree with every .word Senator Walker has said. Whoever thought that he could manage 12,000 officers without having a complete record of their careers? Has he forgotten that in almost every State there have been Public Service Boards, Anomalies Boards, and Reclassification Boards? Every State Public Service Board, I presume, has forwarded to the Commissioner a complete record of the services of the transferred officers. All the work has been done, except that of classifying six separate services into one federal service, and for that purpose we do not need all the officers whose salaries we are now asked to vote. If the work has to be done de novo, and the record of every officer has to be inquired into, the State Public Service boards have been an absolute farce, but I believe they have done their work well, and will be able to supply nine-tenths of the information which the Commissioner and five inspectors require. Of course, we must have a registrar, but we do not need a separate officer for every title. We want a chief clerk and registrar, or a secretary and registrar. The keeping of a register is the foundation of the whole system. It is most important that we should have no unnecessary officers in the service. What is to happen to this department when the momentous work of classifying six separate services into one is completed ? We shall then have officers looking at one another and praying for something to do.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to omit the item, Public Service Commissioner, “Registrar, £400 “ - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - Provision is made here for five clerks at £1,025. I desire toreduce the number of clerks to three, and I therefore move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the item, Public Service Commissioner, “Clerks, at salaries not exceeding £260, £1,025,” by £520.
Senator CHARLESTON (South Australia). - Since we have a secretary, a registrar, and six inspectors, each of whom is to have a clerk, it is fair to ask that the number of the other clerks should be reduced to three. I cannot understand what work these five clerks will have to do. Each inspector, when travelling, will have a clerk to keep his records, and to hand them in, and the registrar, who is supposed to take the records from them, is also to be assisted by five clerks. That seems to be ridiculous.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - I am seeking to reduce the number of these clerks, because I find that six are provided for in the very next item. At the inception of this, as at the beginning of every other department, there must be more work to do than there will be when it is in full going order ; but in addition to the eleven clerks we find that provision is made for £500 for temporary assistance. That amount would be sufficient to pay for the employment of three or four junior clerks in doingcopying and correspondence work all the year round. My honorable friends in the labour corner have quite deserted the demand for economy, because in this case, I suppose, it suits their policy to do so. I would ask them, however, whether all these clerks are necessary?
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania). - I wish the Vice-President of the Executive Council to explain why provision is made for six clerks for the inspectors? We have been given to understand that there will be only five inspectors appointed, and that the inspector for Victoria will carry out the necessary work in Tasmania. If that) is so, why are six clerks to be appointed for five inspectors ? Are there to be six inspectors, or is one inspector to have two clerks ?
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania). -No doubt the explanation given by Senator O’Connor is the best that he can put forward, but he must recognise that it is wholly inadequate.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - I intended to move that in the next line provision should be made only for four instead of six clerks - “at salaries not exceeding £250, for inspectors’ officers,” but I was afraid it would be useless to do so. I overlooked the item, “Examiner at £350 per annum,” but I would point out that there is .not likely to be any examination of applicants before the 30th June. In Tasmania we get inspectors of the Education department to examine candidates for the service, and I think it is wholly unnecessary to appoint an officer for this work. There are scores of scholarly men, with plenty of leisure, who would will,ingly do the work at so much per head. Another item under the heading of Public Service Commissioner is “Travelling expenses, £1,500.” I do not know whether the gentleman who made out that estimate gave any consideration to it. I am inclined to think he did not, but if I am doing him a wrong I am sorry for it. If the five inspectors each travelled for 35 weeks in the year at a cost of £3 10s. per week that would represent a total of £612 10s. per year. If we allow £20 each for travelling by rail and steamer we have a further sum. of £100, and allowing £100 for the travelling expenses of the Commissioner, who will really have little more to do than to sit in his office and receive the reports, we have a total of £812 10s. How then is the £1,500 to be spent 1 I defy the Vice-President of the Executive Council, even with the help of his friends in the corner, to explain this item. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the item, Public Service Commissioner, “Travelling Expenses, . £1,500,” by £750.
Question - put. The committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania).- The next item towhich I desire to call attention is “ Expenses of holding examinations, £1,000.” I think it is very improbable that examinations will be held before the 30th June, and if they are they will simply be examinations of a very simple character. How £1 ,000 is to be spent in this direction I cannot understand. The examiners will require a room and a little paper, but the expenses ought to be very small. In Tasmania the inspectors of the Education department do the whole of this kind of work, and I am certain that similar gentlemen can be found in other States who would do it. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the item, Public Service Commissioner, “ Travelling expenses, £1,000,” by £500.
Senator CHARLESTON (South Australia). - TheVice-President of the Executive Council ought to explain this item. I wish to know how the examinations are to be conducted. When the Public Service Bill was under consideration I asked whether, if persons in distant townships were desirous of being examined, they would require to go to one of the centres of population, or whether the examination papers would besent up to the candidate and an officer of one of the departments in the locality would conduct the examination. I was told that in all probability examinations would be held in the towns where the candidates lived.
– Honorable senators are probably aware that, in consequence of an anomaly in the Public Service Act, those in the clerical division must undergo an examination before they can become entitled to the minimum wage of £110 a year. The examinations will add to the work to be done.
– Will not they be conducted by the inspectors?
– No. Taking into account the enormous amount of work that must be done and the great area of country affected, Senators Charleston and Dobson must realize that the examiner will have plenty to do. As the Vice-President of the Executive Council has pointed out, there will be an income from fees which will considerably reduce the £1,000 that we are asked to vote. Some thousands of persons in the clerical division will wish to be examined inorder to qualify themselves for the £110 a year. I did all I could to prevent that being necessary, but unfortunately I was unsuccessful. The work to be done must involve some expenditure.
Senator CHARLESTON (South Australia). - I wish that Senator Glasseyand others, who have been fighting so hard to give every lad an equal opportunity of entering the Public Service, would think of the difficulties of those who live in distant places. A person may be living 200 or 300 miles from a township. As Senator Glassey comes from the State of magnificent distances, he must know how real this difficulty is. The candidates will have to pay their own railway fares and their board during the time they ave in the township where the examination takes place, in addition to which they will have to pay the fees. How many amongst the poorer classes will be able to afford this expenditure? It really means limiting the number of applicants for the Public Service to an extent which the members of the labour party fail to appreciate. If so large an amount is to be spent on travelling expenses, the candidates in such cases’ should have their travelling expenses paid ,to the places where the examinations are held.
– Does the honorable senator want to increase the vote?
– I want to give every poor man’s child an equal opportunity of entering the Public Service, and I contend that the system proposed will limit the area of choice, and make the service a special reserve for certain applicants. When the Public Service Bill was before the Senate, I understood that if an- applicant was living at Oodnadatta the papers would be sent up to the postmaster at that place, and the candidate would be examined there. The papers would then be sent down to the examiner; but the verbal examination would be conducted by the postmaster. If examinations are only to be held in the capitals and principal towns, those living in the outlying districts will have a very poor show indeed of entering the Public Service.
Senator GLASSEY (Queensland). - I wish to obtain a little information from the Vice-President of the Executive Council with regard to the Public Sen-ice regulations. When are they likely to be framed, and how far advanced is the work ? Will the public servants in the general division have to wait until the examinations take place before they are able to obtain the minimum wage of £110 a year? It is to be regretted that these examinations for the minimum wage are required. It is also unfortunate that the regulations have not been framed, and that Parliament has not had an opportunity of examining them. I trust that the examination will not be too severe in character ; otherwise considerable hardship will be inflicted on a number of persons who I think ought not to be examined except with respect to their capacity for doing the work for which they are engaged.
– The regulations are finally completed, and in a revised form. They are now before the Commissioner for his approval, and they will be published as soon as1 possible.
– Not until after Parliament is prorogued.
– I hope that that is so, but really I do not know when Parliament is going to be prorogued ! It has been a very difficult matter to ‘get the regulations into shape, because it has been necessary to incorporate everything that was in the regulations of the different States, and to harmonize them as much as possible. 1 cannot give an answer to the other question that has been put to me. I shall have to make other inquiries.
-I take exception to the item - “Incidental and petty cash expenditure, £750.” It is too large altogether. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the item, Public Service Commissioner, “Incidental and petty cash expenditure, £750,” by £250.
Senator Sir WILLIAM ZEAL (Victoria). - I would point out that it does not necessarily follow that this money will be spent.
– The more you give them the more they will spend.
– That may be so, but it is quite possible that not half the money set down for’ contingencies will be required. ‘We should give the Government reasonable credit for exercising common sense. It is ridiculous to be continually dividing the committee in this way. If we have a Government in power we should support them.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - I desire to strike out the whole of the expenditure on account .of the Public Works Staff. But if I were to move to that effect and were to fail, the whole division would have to stand as printed. Therefore I am rather in a dilemma. To test the matter I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to omit the item, Public Works Staff, “ InspectorGeneral of Vorks, at £’.1,000 per annum, ffrom the 1st .October, 1902, £750.” it have carefully read what Sir William Lyne has said as to the necessity for hav- ing this branch of his department brought into existence, but I consider that the whole of his arguments were an attempt to justify the creation of an unnecessary staff. The .Minister says that he cannot be responsible for any work unless he has control over bis officers. I should like to know if there is any reason why these -officers should not have control over the public works constructed in the States, if an -arrangement is made with each State that -officers of the State departments shall perform federal work. If they are negligent in passing buildings which have been improperly constructed, or are unskilful or careless in preparing bogus estimates which -are always exceeded, they can be’ punished and sent about their business. It is idle, therefore, for the Minister to say that he must have a separate department, of which lie can have sole control, to carry out the work of constructing post-offices, customhouses, and an occasional fort for the very States that will be using these buildings. These Estimates appear to have been framed on the assumption that we have here seven different nations ; that the -Commonwealth is one nation, consisting of heaven knows what, and that there ;are six other little nations with which we have nothing to do. There ought to be the closest relationship between the Commonwealth and the States. They ought to work together, and there ought to be no difficulty in arranging that States officers shall perform federal work when they are not employed by the States. We have in Tasmania, as in all the States, a Public Works staff employed in the construction of buildings, roads, and railways, and most of the buildings constructed are schools and post and telegraph offices.
– Has the honorable and learned senator never heard of the difficulty of serving two masters ?
– I have. But I desire to point .out that in this case we have not two masters, but practically the same master. Does the Minister for Home Affairs think that he can send a galloping inspector over from Victoria to teach men in Tasmania how to put up a post-office costing £500 ?
– They know how to do it, but they may know how to charge for it also. 47 d
– It is not a question of charging. If we are foolish enough to ask State officers to put up our buildings, and allow them to charge 5 per cent., as would private architects, the charge will be a monstrous one : but I see no reason why we should not work with the States departments in exactly the same way as we are here working with the State Printing department. The Minister for Home Affairs has, no doubt, defended himself, but I think that, in doing so, he has made a most unjustifiable attack upon the officers of the Public Works departments of the States, by leading the people of the Commonwealth to believe that he cannot trust them to carry out- federal public works efficiently. We have had two illustrations of his difficulty given, and in one case the honorable gentleman blames an officer in ‘New South Wales for the very extensive repairs made to the federal offices in Sydney, of which we have heard so much. I lay the whole of the blame for that on Federal Ministers. It was their duty te instruct the State Public Works department, or the officer employed, that the premises were only leasehold premises, which would only be required for so many years, and that therefore the. repairs made should be in accordance with the interests of the Commonwealth as lessees of the premises. But as no such instructions were given, and as the work has consequently been carried out . in the extravagant way in which many of our departments have been accustomed to carry out their work, the blame for the extravagance attaches to the Minister for Home Affairs. Another illustration has been given, and the particulars have been trumpeted in the newspapers. The Minister states that since he has taken the purchasing of furniture into his own hands the Commonwealth Government have been getting f furniture for 50 per cent, less than they did before. I should like to know who is responsible for the furniture which was first purchased. If Federal Ministers employed some officer who did not know how to purchase furniture, or who was a grossly extravagant man, the blame must rest upon them. For the Minister for Home Affairs to tell us that this furniture is now being bought at 50 per cent, cheaper than it was before, is like telling us that some noodles in a bank were exchanging 30s. for a sovereign, and then claiming that he had done something wonderful in seeing that the)’ gave only 20s. for a sovereign. It is a disgrace to Federal Ministers that they should have employed an officer who bought furniture in this way, and it is a disgrace to the man who bought it, but that is not an argument in support of the contention that State officers are not capable of buying furniture or of putting up buildings if they get proper instructions from the Minister under whose control they are for the time being. If we are going to insist that there must be separate Commonwealth and State departments for every purpose in the words of the Premier of Queensland “our machine will become unworkable,” and we shall have an outcry from the citizens of the Commonwealth generally that we are grossly mismanaging our ‘affairs in starting the Commonwealth machine on a wrong basis.
– Mr. Chairman-
– If I cannot be seen I shall leave the chamber.
– I think that that remark should be withdrawn by Senator Neild.
– If the honorable senator were present I should take good care that it was withdrawn.
– Of course you, sir, are quite right in the view you have taken, but it is also I think our duty to protect the Chair. If we think it right to take exception to such remarks as that which we have just heard we should be allowed to do so, and I think that Senator Smith should not be called upon until this matter has been dealt with. I shall certainly take an opportunity when Senator Neild again presents himself in the chamber of asking that his remark be withdrawn.
– The Public . Works Staff, as provided for in these Estimates, necessitates a large and increasing expenditure. I think we should seriously consider whether suda a department is necessary, or, at all events, / whether its establishment at the present time is not premature. It will be seen that some of the amounts as set down do not cover a full year, but if the vote asked for, irrespective of contingencies, is worked out for the whole year, it will be found that it represents an annual expenditure of £5,005. I believe that when the Minister for Home Affairs was speaking on the Estimates last year, he stated that the Public Works department would cost £2,000. It is already costing £5^005 a year, and the Treasurer informed us, in his Budget statement, that the staff was not complete. When it was proposed to float a loan of £1,000,000 for public works there might have been some reason for establishing a Public Works department, but seeing that the total expenditure proposed upon public works for the current year has been reduced to £400,000, we may reasonably ask whether it is necessary that this department^ with all its clerks and expense, should be established for the purpose of supervising the construction of works which will cost so small a sum comparatively.
– It is only 1 per cent., and architects will charge from 2^ per cent, to 5 per cent.
– The States are charging 10 per cent.
– I intend to make a proposition that the State Public Works departments should work in unison with the Commonwealth. authorities. I point out that in these Estimates it is proposed that we shall have four inspectors of works. In the States of South Australia and Tasmania the Minister for Home Affairs lias already arranged that the States inspectors of works shall act as superintendents of works for the Commonwealth as well as for the States, and shall be Federal officers. This is in accordance with proposals made by the Premiers of the two States named, and to which the Minister for Home Affairs lias, I think, very properly agreed. If it is possible to carry out federal public works in Tasmania and South Australia on those lines, why should not the same procedure be adopted in the case of the other States 1 Prior to federation, the States officials were doing all this work of supervising the construction of post-offices and works of that kind. If they are continued in the same work, and their salaries are paid conjointly by the Commonwealth and the States, they will have no more work to do than they had to do before. I venture to say that as a matter of fact they will have less to do, because the States in the aggregate spent far more than £400,000 of loan money on public works in connexion with the services which we have taken over. The arrangement which has been agreed to at the suggestion of the Premiers of South Australia and Tasmania was proposed with a view to bring about economy in those States; but, as the expenditure under this department will all be new expenditure, debited per capita to the people of the Commonwealth, if the other States do not fall into line and the Minister for Home Affairs does not extend the same system to them, the States in which this system has been adopted will receive little, if any, pecuniary advantage as the result of the arrangement referred to. The whole of this sum is unnecessary. The creation of the department is premature, and I sincerely hope that the committee will pass no item that is not absolutely necessary at the present time. If loansare floated it may be necessary at a later stage to establish a department, but in view of the very small amount of work which is to be done purely out of revenue this year, it is absurd to create a large department with all these officers, and which, as the Treasurer said, is only in its inception. We can secure just as good control over the works by a proper agreement with the States. In Tasmania and South Australia we have federal officers, and we have the first call on their services. The precedent which has been established in the case of Tasmania and South Australia might be followed “in the case of the other States. I intend to support the motion.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - We have to be very careful that we are not saving at the spigot and wasting at the bung-hole this year. A sum of £400,000 is to be spent upon public works. W e shall not save the cost of their supervision even if this item be omitted. The question to be considered is what is the cheapest and most effective method of supervision. From what I have been able to gather, the States are quite willing to take over the work of supervision, and also to charge an unfair price. What charge would a private architect make for supervising the erection of a public building? Five per cent. at the outside, and in some cases even less than that rate. The proposals of the Government include the establishment of a supervising staff, and the utilization of State officers to a certain extent at a cost of £4,500. Supposing the expenditure on this service were £10,000 it would represent a cost of only 2½ per cent. for supervising the erection of public buildings to the value of £400,000. If the item for the administrative branch were omitted, the erection of those buildings would not be supervised for £4,500, but we should have to pay the States 10 per cent. on the capital cost. It is not fair to the Government to say that this is a wild expenditure, when we know that if we allowed the buildings to be erected under a system which has been found faulty, the cost of supervision would be four times as much as under the proposed system. We ought to be quite sure that we are substituting a better system before we blindly ask the other House to omit the item. Judging by our experience during the past year, the proposed system will be less costly than that of allowing State officials to do the supervision. It has to be remembered, too, that the Federal Government will have only second call on the services of the States officers. I have had considerable experience in the erection of buildings, and I hold that more money can be wasted by ineffective supervision than in any other manner. If there is one way of wasting money it is in supervision by persons who have no direct responsibility. The Ministry propose that instead of indirect supervision by States officials, they shall have to a certain extent direct supervision by their own officials, and that, I. believe, is true economy. I hope that the committee will not ask for the item to be omitted unless better reasons are given than have been advanced.
Senator CHARLESTON (South Australia). - A great deal has been said about the costliness of the supervision by States officers. In South Australia it is proposed to carry out additions to Post and Telegraph offices at Glenelg, Port Adelaide, Mount Gambier, Gawler, Clare, Cowell, Eudunda, Elliston, Farina, Hahndorf, Largs Bay, Maitland, Mallala, Port Broughton, Port Elliot, Port Germein, Riverton, Semaphore, Two Wells, Wirrabara, Wallaroo, and Yorketown. All these towns will have to be visited, and the sum provided for the additions is £4,280. If the Minister does as he did last year he will send to the Public Works Office in Adelaide, and ask to be supplied with a report upon a post-office at, for instance, Farina. An officer will have to go to Farina to see whether, in his opinion, the additions are necessary, and by-and-by an instruction will be received from the Minister to carry out the work. The State department will provide the necessary tools, and perhaps the total outlay will amount to only £100. Surely, if the State charges only 10 per cent, on that sum, it will not be too much for the work of supervision ? I am sure that the Minister could not, for the same money, send an officer from Melbourne or elsewhere to Farina to make a report, and then provide or rent the necessary tools. If the Minister has to send officers all over the Commonwealth, to provide railway fares, and to pay for their time while absent on the service, the cost of supervision will be far more than it is under the pre’sent system. In South Australia we have been able to reduce the cost of supervision to some extent, because, instead of sending a man all the way from Adelaide, we have been able to send a clerk of works from Hergott or Hawker or some nearer spot to report on the work. Surely the federal officers will not be scattered all over the Commonwealth in the same way as the “State officers are now disposed of ? It will be far less expensive to the Government to employ the State officers even if they have to pay a charge of 10 per cent. Supposing that a new building were being erected at Port Adelaide at a cost of £2,000, probably the charge would be only 5 per cent. Before the Government establish an expensive staff they ought at least to try the other system for a little longer, because I feel sure that it will be found to be the most economical.
– My first answer ito Senator Charleston is that we have tried the other system quite long enough to test it. We have found that it is much more -expensive than the proposed system will be, sand that it is extremely unsatisfactory. I do not think it will be necessary for ane to say very much after the very practical speech delivered by Senator Pearce, who understands this matter, and has done work of the kind himself. But there is one feature which should be brought before the committee. When the different acquisitions of property from the States have been completed the Commonwealth will be the owner of between £10,000,000 and £12,000,000 worth of property. That property comprises postal buildings of all kinds, ranging from structures like those in Sydney and Melbourne to those at Oodnadatta. It comprises fortifications of every kind, and other public buildings, as well us furniture and fittings. It will be seen at once that such property requires some repairs and some looking after. That cannot be done unless it is paid for. There must also be some officer, responsible for the maintenance of the property, and responsible for its preservation in every respect. It has also to be remembered that in the departments taken over by the Commonwealth there must always bea large amount of repairs and extensions. The Postal department exists to accommodate the public, and as population increases, further accommodation has to be provided. To a certain extent it is a paying department, and I hope that it will gradually become selfsupporting, but I do not think we can expect it to be a paying one as long as extensions have to be made in the less settled parts of Australia, for the public convenience. In any event, repairs and extensions must go on, and we must provide for the care of these great properties. How is that to be done without an expenditure of money? There are only two methods of dealing with the matter. We must either employ State officers, or have a staff of our own to do the work.
– State officers have done the work from the first.
– Because there has been no other way of doing it. ‘ It has been done in a way that is extremely unsatisfactory. I do not complain of any want of courtesy on the part of the States in allowing their officers to do this work, but the old arrangement has been found unsatisfactory, for the reason that the Commonwealth has no control over States officers, in dealing with this immense property and the great expenditure involved. They cannot be directed to go to a particular place at a particular time. If there is a certain work going on at Farina, in South Australia, for instance, and a great deal of material is being wasted, or a building is being erected there in an improper way, owing to the want of proper supervision, it is necessary to send some one to look after the work. But we cannot send States officers. It may not always be convenient for them to be sent away.
– But iii such a case there would always be a clerk of works on the job.
– I am assuming that it is necessary to send somebody to supervise the works. We have to trust to the States, and to the convenience of the States in these matters, when we have not a staff of our own. I am not putting an ideal case, but one which is in accordance with many that have actually occurred. Our interests must necessarily be subordinated to the States interests in these matters. As Senator Pearce has said - and it must be apparent to’ honorable senators who have had any engineering experience - there is no easier way of losing money quickly than by want of proper supervision over1 works. Over and over again it has become apparent that the interests of the Commonwealth would be very much better served if we had our own officers on the spot to deal with these works. We have to remember that we have very important properties that require attention, and need to be looked after by officers of very high knowledge and experience. It is the intention of the Government to appoint an Inspector-General, who will be an engineer of very great experience - if possible, an engineer with some military knowledge and experience - in order that the Minister may have some one to act as his adviser.
– That will be a very poor way of carrying out postal work.
– The idea of a military engineer to supervise the erection of a postoffice !
– The honorable and learned senator would do more justice to his intelligence if he refrained from jumping at conclusions in this way. I say that it is the desire of the Government to appoint a man who will have the capacity to look after the most important works in the Commonwealth, and’ by reason of’ that capacity will be none the less able to supervise the smallest of our works with the assistance of others under him. Considering the immense value of our property, we ought to have an officer of that kind to direct the way in which our work shall be carried out. The officer will have to do the same work as is clone in New South Wales by the gentleman known as the Government architect, who receives £1,000 per annum. He advises the Government in all matters relating to construction, repairs, and contracts, and is responsible for them.
– He is cheap at the salary.
– Undoubtedly. This officer will be competent to deal with every kind of property, and’ every kind of work which has to be carried out by the
Commonwealth. In time it will be necessary to have certain superintending officers. We have already taken over from Victoria one officer at the salary he was receiving in the State service. There are two States, namely, South Australia and Tasmania, in which we do not intend to appoint an inspector, because we believe we shall be able to make other satisfactory arrangements with the States authorities. We have found it impossible to make those arrangements with the remaining States, because their officers have so much to do. The remainder of the expenditure in this department is simply that which would take place in the office of the Government architect of any one of the States. We’ find by actual experience that it is much more economical to have the control and the direction of our own officers in dealing with these matters, than it would be to continue the plan hitherto in force. We shall apply the plan of having an officer paid jointly by the Commonwealth and the State wherever it can be adopted. It seems to me that some honorable senators -such as Senator Dobson, for example - do not realize that we have the responsibility of this great property, that money must be spent upon it. and that we must have the control of the officers who are to supervise the maintenance and repair of it. The work could not be done in a more economical way than we propose, and I think these facts, together with the statement made by Senator Pearce, constitute a complete answer to the objections which have been taken.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH (Western Australia). - The Vice-President of the Executive Council condemns the system of having an officer1 under the joint control of a State and of the Commonwealth, to cany out works. He says that it would be .unsatisfactory, and that the Government could not accept such a proposal. Notwithstanding that statement, however, the Government have made arrangements with two of the States- for the continuance of that practice.” They have made an arrangement with the Governments of South Australia and Tasmania, by which, according to the Minister for Home Affairs, a public works officer in each State will be made a Commonwealth officer, while his salary will be paid jointly by the Commonwealth and the States. Although that arrangement has been made in those States we are told that it would be an unsatisfactory and absurd system to apply to the others. What is the ground for that statement ? Where is the consistency of the honorable and learned senator’s argument ?
– The volume of work in each of the four remaining States will require the whole attention of a Commonwealth officer.
– I am glad the honorable and learned senator has mentioned the volume of the work to be carried out, because I have the whole of the figures relating to it. The works to be carried out in South Australia will involve an expenditure of £44,000 ; in Tasmania, an expenditure of £16,000 ; in Victoria, an expenditure of £74,000: and in Queensland, £70,000. I have taken those figures from the Estimates. It will be seen that there is a difference of only £26,000 between the volume of the works to be carried out in South Australia and Victoria. Surely that difference should not be a fatal objection to the adoption’ in Victoria of the system proposed to be followed in South Australia? The argument that it is is’ one of the most absurd that could possibly be brought forward. Senator Pearce says that we could not have officials under the authority of the States to carry out these works. Evidently he has not read the debate which took place upon this question in another place, for undoubtedly the same arrangement could be made in the other States as has been made in Tasmania and South Australia.
– I have told the committee already that it cannot be made, because in the other States we require the whole time of these officers.
– How did the States officers do the whole of the work before ?
– It has been done very unsatisfactorily.
– Prior to federation an officer in each State did the whole of this work. No additional public works are. being executed, and why should not the same officer in each State be able to do the work which he carried out prior to the establishment of the Commonwealth? What does it matter to him whether his salary is paid partly by the State and partly by the Commonwealth, or whether it is paid wholly by the Commonwealth or the State ? There is absolutely no reason for the establishment of this system except the desire on the part of the Government to create extravagant departments. Under the arrangement made in South Australia and Tasmania, the State cannot have the first claim upon the officer, because, although he is paid jointly by the Commonwealth and the States, ho is a federal servant. Senator O’Connor has urged that the expenditure upon public works is much larger in some States than in others. In South Australia the expenditure is only £26,000 less than in Victoria, and it has been found possible to appoint an officer there to act for both the Commonwealth and the State ; yet it is said that in Victoria that would be an unsatisfactory and dangerous arrangement. A public works department may be necessary in the future,, but its establishment now is premature. It is wholly unnecessary to establish a costly public works office to carry out works to the extent of a paltry £400,000. The office has already cost over £5,000 exclusive of contingencies, and according to the state-1 ment made by the Treasurer in his Budget speech it is not yet fully manned. This is an establishment’ which, under the benign influence of the Minister for Home Affairs, may probably increase its expenditure to £10,000 a year. They have established the principle in joining with two of the States, and there is no reason- why they should not do the same in the others.
– In dealing with this matter yesterday I outlined the position I intended to take up. Some arguments which have been used by Senator Pearce have, to some extent, shaken my intention, but they have not quite convinced me that the establishment of a public works, department is a necessity in the immediate present. It seems to be forgotten that the States and the Commonwealth are all one. I am actuated simply by a desire to see the work done as efficiently and as economically as possible. The argument that appeals to me is that there were a certain number of works to be carried out prior to federation, and a certain number of officers in the States to do them. I do not see that we shall have any more works to carry out or any more maintenance to undertake now that the States’ have federated than there were before; and I am afraid that if we create a new department and appoint fresh officers the States will not discharge any of the officers they now employ. There is a strong disinclination on the part of the States not to discharge their old officers who have given them faithful service. We might at least do without the department for another year, until we see that its establishment is absolutely necessary. Then I shall certainly be found voting for its establishment : but, as we have only the same amount of work to’ do as before, I cannot see that it is necessary now.
- Senator O’Keefe has made a mistake in saying that we have only the same amount of work to do as before. The defence works are always kept separate, and were looked after by the engineers’ staff in the different States. They are now all under the Commonwealth. In addition to that, it is quite true that there are. the same works to be maintained as before ; but it must be remembered that they ‘ are under different owners, and affect different interests.
– Under ‘ the same owners - the people own them.
– They are the same owners, but differently organized
– In every sense they, are the same.
– I could well understand that argument if there were any great difference in the cost ; we might then knock along somehow under a condition of things under which the States might do our work by means of their officers. But the cost of doing the work, in the way we propose, is much less than the cost of doing it understate officers, because we have to pay them commission.
– It is very unpatriotic of the States Governments to charge commission.
– We have nothing to do with that. I can quite understand the view they take. They take the view that they have to pay their officers a certain salary for doing certain work, and if they are employed in doing Commonwealth work, the Commonwealth must pay something. I do not blame them for putting forward that claim, but the payment amounts to a great deal more than we think we should be asked to pay. - Senator Dobson. - Who pays for the work 1 Each State pays for it.
– The work is charged against each department, and each State pays in accordance with the work done in each State. If the works are carried out as we propose, it will be Commonwealth expenditure distributed over the whole of the States. Although it is true that the people in the States and the people of the Commonwealth are the same people, there is a responsibility in a different way. We cannot make a State officer a Commonwealth officer merely by saying that the same people pay him. If we employ a New South Wales officer, he owes allegiance to the New South Wales Government, is paid by them, and will naturally obey them. We cannot have any control over him. It is a most extraordinary position to place the Commonwealth in to have it controlling these immensely valuable interests and properties all over the Commonwealth, whilst not having our own officers to look after them, and having to depend upon State officers as to the way in which any particular work is carried out, and as to whether it is carried out in a particular time or not. That is not a position in which the Commonwealth ought to be placed. It is to be remembered that we shall be saving money by making an alteration in the system, and employing Commonwealth officers which the Government can direct as it likes. It will also be seen that we shall be giving the Commonwealth an opportunity of having highly trained officers who will be able to look after every portion of its works. From that point of view the change certainly ought to be made. My honorable friend Senator Smith spoke just now of the old system having been adhered to in two States. The reason is that in those two States it so happens that the amount of public works to be carried out is comparatively small. Therefore; a State officer who, under an arrangement now made, is a federal officer, can very well look after those works. But it is entirely different in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, where there is so much work to be done that it requires the whole time of an ‘officer to carry it out. To attempt to follow out the existing system with regard to those States, can only result in unsatisfactory, costly, and inefficient management of our public works.
Senator CHARLESTON (South Australia). - Senator Smith has shown that it is premature to establish a Public Works department just now. I should like to refer to the fact that when these new works were contemplated, it was thought that they would . be built out of loan money. Now, owing to the wise decision of the House of Representatives, they are to be built out of revenue. Probably some of the States would rather do without the proposed new buildings during the lean years in order to conserve to themselves more revenue. Probably fewer works would be carried out by having them constructed out of revenue than would .be the case if the Government had continued their first idea of erecting them out of loan money.
– The question is : which of the two systems would be the cheaper ?
– The other House has decided that new works shall be constructed out of revenue ; and some of the States, such as Queensland, which are suffering severely, might prefer to have the money returned rather than have the works constructed.
– That has nothing to do with this question.
– I think it has, because, as the works are to be constructed out of revenue, probably they will not be so extensive; and, consequently, fewer officers will be required to carry them out. Only yesterday I was speaking to the Postmaster-General, and I asked him about the sum of £7,000 to be spent in South Australia in connexion with his department, at a time when we are suffering from a drought, and our finances are in a weak condition. He said that if the State desired that the Government should not go on with the work, they would not press it this year.
– The question is : which of the two systems will be the most beneficial to the Commonwealth ?
– I say that the system, of allowing the State officers to do the work would be more beneficial. It- is premature just now to establish a works department, which would be costly, and would not have the amount of work to do that has been anticipated.
Senator GLASSEY (Queensland). - I listened carefully to the arguments of Senator Charleston, in order to hear from him which of the two proposed systems he thought would be the cheaper - whether it would be cheaper for our public works to be supervised by State officers or to have a Public Works department created. Senator Pearce put the matter clearly and forcibly. He contended - and I think his contention is correct - speaking from experience in matters of this kind, that the Government proposal is’ not only much mora economical, but will give far more satisfaction and be much cheaper than the system of leaving the supervision of the works tobe done by the States.
– They have left it to State officers in two cases.
– It may have been right to leave those two States to undertake that particular work at this particular time ; but we are not merely dealing with two States. We are creating a system which is likely to be beneficial to the whole Commonwealth. I have come to the conclusion that it is much better to create a public works department, although we. are not to have any loan money spent. Personally I regret that there is not to be a Commonwealth loan. My own State has been waiting for some urgent public works for some time, and it is necessary for this department to be created in order to undertake the supervision of them. Some honorable senators have taken exception to the salary of £1,000 a year proposed to be given to the Inspector-General of Works. Those who have had any experience in the administration of affairs, will have no difficulty in arriving at the conclusion that for a first-class man - and I presume that the Commonwealth will secure the services of a first-class man for this position - a salary of £1,000 per year is not too much. Honorable senators must not deal with these questions as though the Commonwealth were always to be in its present straitened condition for want of funds. I hope the time will come, and that before very long when we shall have a reasonable amount of money at our disposal for the construction of public works in the different States. I am not one of those who say »that we must not borrow, and who are at the same time constantly urging the construction of public works in their own States. I desire to see certain public works which are urgently needed constructed in the State of Queensland. For instance, I desire to see a first-class post-office erected in the city of Brisbane.
– Surely the office there at present is large enough?
– No, it is not ; and I can speak upon the subject from experience as an employe in the office as far back as 1S85 and 188G. lt was even then found that the accommodation afforded by the existing building was not sufficient for the requirements of the service, and those requirements have considerably increased during the last seventeen or eighteen years. In my opinion a new Post and Telegraph office is essential in Brisbane.
– On the same site ?
– Possibly ; but it may be that the Commonwealth will be able to exchange the magnificent site of the present post-office at Brisbane for another which will afford more scope for the erection of a new building. That may be found preferable to adding to the building which at present exists. I can tell honorable senators that the existing post-office provides entirely inadequate accommodation for the present requirements of the service, and the officers of the department are driven into all sorts of nooks and corners in order to carry on their occupations. But a new building there cannot be provided for out of revenue, and it is perfectly idle for honorable senators to argue that we must not borrow. I do not approve of borrowing on any large scale, but I have no objection to borrowing money in a rational way for the construction of necessary public works for carrying on the affairs of the Commonwealth. We cannot afford a shilling of revenue for the construction of public works in Queensland at present, and I deeply regret . the action taken in another place in rejecting the Loan Bill. Victoria has been more fortunate than many of the other States in providing for many public works from revenue, as Sir George Turner, when at the head of affairs, tried, as far as possible, to provide for a reasonable expenditure from revenue for public works. I see that action is being taken by the Government of my own State to urge that the Commonwealth shall not suspend reasonable expenditure upon public works. But they also urge, as reasonable and practical men must, that it is impossible for the State of Queensland to provide for the construction of public works from revenue. ‘ The finances of that State are in such a position that it will probably be impossible to carry out any public works there from revenue, either this year or next year. I hope that at an early period of next session we shall have a Loan Bill introduced, not for a large and extravagant sum, but for a reasonable sum, so that public worksurgently needed in Queensland may be proceeded with. With respect to the salary of £1.000 a year for the Inspector-General of Works, I may say that that officer, if he is worth his salt, will be able to save his salary five or ten times over in the year. He may not have a great deal to do for some little time, because the ship is not yet fairly launched. But I presume that the time will come -when there will be a great deal for this officer to do in the supervision of new works. There will no doubt be a great deal for him to do in the supervision of repairs to old buildings even at the present time, and his time will, certainly not be frittered away doing nothing. I am not favourable to high salaries ; but I say that if this man is worth his salt, his services to the Commonwealth will certainly be worth £1,000 a year. I desire to correct one or two statements made by my honorable and learned friend, Senator Dobson. The honorable and learned senator condemned the Minister for Home Affairs very strongly, because of extravagance displayed in the shape of elaborate furniture for some of the offices. I think Sir William Lyne has sometimes to carry a number of sins, which are not of his own creation. I am in a position to give the committee some light upon these ‘ matters, as I have taken the trouble to consult the Minister for Home Affairs regarding them.
– Has the honorable senator seen the federal offices in Sydney ? I have, and they are luxuriously furnished.
– That is because State officers carried out the furnishing.
– I have not yet see» those offices, but the Minister for Home Affairs has informed me that the custom in the past has been to leave the furnishing of offices to State officials. The Minister is unable to attend to all these little details himself, and he had nothing whatever to do with the furnishing of these offices, which was left in the hands of State officers. With respect to the furnishing of the offices in Victoria, I find that the great expense which is complained of has arisen from the fact that the State officials intrusted with the duty, invited competition of a very limited character, and not competition between a reasonable number of firms as any business man would do.
The officers who looked after the furnishing were in the habit of calling for tenders from three firms only, with the result that these persons laid their heads together and charged such sums for the furniture supplied as were quite exorbitant. The Minister for Home Affairs had nothing to do with the contracts which were entered into, but when he did look after the business he widened the area of competition in purchasing the goods. It is manifestly unfair under the circumstances to charge Sir William Lyne with extravagance for which he is not responsible, and which occurred under a system which he has altered. I hold no brief for the honorable gentleman, but I like a man to get fair play, and I took the opportunity of asking the Minister for Home Affairs for some information bearing upon these matters. The honorable gentleman has, no doubt, made mistakes, but it is quite unfair that he should be set up as a target for every honorable member because of a little feeling against him which has largely been created by the public press. I trust that the proposals of the Government in connexion. with this vote will be carried.
– No doubt, when these .Estimates were prepared, it was intended that there should be large public works constructed out of loan money. It has been decided that the cost of public works shall be defrayed out of current revenue, and, therefore, the expenditure should be very much smaller than otherwise it would have been. At least one half of the works are telegraph and telephone lines. Do we require eight professional men and thirteen or fourteen clerks to look after their construction t I admit that a department will be necessary hereafter, but for this year its creation is premature, and for that reason I shall support the motion.
– We have taken over a large number of works, and we are about to erect others. It is very undesirable that the expenditure in connexion with the Public Works departments of Australia should be increased now that those works are under the control of the Commonwealth. The same trouble occurs in connexion with the Public Sendee. Each State has had its own civil service, and now that we have a Federal Public Service the expenditure upon the State departments is not reduced. In the various States there is a considerable expenditure on the Audit departments, and the Commonwealth has created an Audit department of its own. It ought to have been the aim of the Government, as far as it was possible, to avoid duplicating expenses and increasing the cost of public departments to Australia as a whole. I wish to know the exact position with regard to this Public Works department. Have any of the overseers, superintendents, and draughtsmen been engaged ? Is the Commonwealth committed to any expenditure in that regard ? I believe that the Estimates were prepared when it was intended to expend a very much larger sum on public works than is now likely to be spent. In view of the fact that the new works during the current year are to be constructed out of general revenue, is it intended by the Government to construct public works in any States which feel that they cannot afford to meet the expenditure out of revenue account, and would rather that they were not so constructed ? If that view is taken, and there is a further contraction of the new works, then there becomes less need than ever for a new department. If we are informed that the Commonwealth is committed to a new department, and that engagements have been entered into, I shall hesitate very much before I throw the Government into a dilemma. Information on this point will influence me a good deal in the vote I shall give.
– One superintendent of works has been transferred from the Victorian service at a salary of £608, and he is the only permanent officer who has been appointed to the staff. The chief draughtsman, and a junior draughtsman at £75, are the only two officers who are temporarily employed. These temporary officers were transferred with the military department, and have been appointed to this service in the Public Works, office. The superintendent of works who was transferred occupied a similar position in Victoria. I may as well give an illustration of the way in which this work has been carried out for the Commonwealth. A little while ago Senator Pearce referred to the fact that there was not sufficient control over the expenditure. It was in that way that we found particularly the defects of the system of employing State officers. A State officer is not responsible to the Commonwealth directly for the expenditure of the money on any work which he is carrying out by clay labour, or in which extras are involved. In any case where he has a discretion he may spend what money he likes. He is under the impression that it is Commonwealth money. He is not responsible to the head of his own department or to the Commonwealth for any extravagance in expenditure. He is responsible to nobody, and we cannot make anyone responsible. There we have a very -great source of leakage in the Commonwealth expenditure. It is in that respect, perhaps more than in any other respect, that it is found necessary to make an alteration in regard to those States where a large amount of work has to be done. The alteration need not be made in the case of Tasmania and South Australia, because the gentlemen who carry out our work have been made federal officers, and are responsible to us. Those two States have consented .to their officers becoming our officers and doing our work. If the officers act extravagantly or neglect their duty we can call them directly to account. We can remove them from their position, so far as they are federal officers, and their federal remuneration will come to an end. But when State officers carry out the duties under a system of commission, we have no control, and no check on extravagance, and the Commonwealth is always at a disadvantage.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - The committee is placed at a very great disadvantage. We are considering the Estimates of Expenditure for the first time, and instead of Senator O’Connor giving us the explanation to which we are entitled when a motion relating to an item is moved, he waits to hear all the criticism, and then we ascertain from him in a piecemeal way what the real facts of the case are. I hope that the committee will not be led away by the fact that two officers have been appointed temporarily, and that the head officer at a salary of £600 has been taken over from the Victorian service. I am certain that if the item is omitted, this superintendent will be taken over by the States, or provided with other employment, as he certainly ought to be. I hope that the committee will not be swayed by the fact that, notwithstanding the cry of retrenchment which is heard from every corner of Australia, Ministers have seen fit to anticipate the passing of the Estimates. They had no business to do so. The States officers are only asked to do for the Commonwealth the same class of work which they have been doing for the States. It is the States which will have to pay for the work, and it is all moonshine to say that the Federal Government are to be put in the position of partly employing an officer and yet having no control over him. Does not the fact that they will enter into an arrangement with a State that its officer shall do the federal work presuppose that they will have control over him ? - Will not the officer become more efficient than he was before, because he will have two masters to serve ? We have been told that five public service inspectors will examine into the administration of - the departments, ascertain the duties of the various officers, and earn their salaries - I de not know how many dozen times over - by suggesting how economies can be effected. Is it unreasonable for us to ask that the formation of one of the departments provided for in these lavish Estimates should be left over to the consideration of the Public Service Commissioner and his inspectors, who could give a keen eye to the working of the departments in each State, and see if they could not suggest some way in which the expense of creating a federal department could be saved ? Is it unreasonable to request that the creation of this department should be postponed for nine months ? The Estimates for public works have been cut down by 50 per cent. A large part of the expenditure is for telephone and telegraph lines. Do we need an Inspector-General at a salary of £1,000, and four superintendents to supervise their construction? The fact that the public works are to be paid for out pf the general revenue, that the proposed expenditure has been cut down by one-half, and that two or three States will not be justified in spending any money in that direction for the next nine months, goes to show that the creation of this federal department should be postponed. I listened to Senator Glassey, who seemed to have been briefed by the Minister for Home Affairs. I have no wish to bring against the Minister an accusation of extravagance for which he is not to blame ; but, at the same time, for him to make use of the press, as he does daily, to point out that he can buy furniture for 50 per cent, less than it was bought for is, to my mind, evidence of intense weakness. He had no right to allow any furniture to be bought at 50 per cent, above its value. He had no right to appoint any officer who did not know the value of a table and chair. I suppose that he appointed the officer who furnished the room for the Legislative Council of Victoria, next to our club room. It was about the most extravagant piece of expenditure that I ever saw. Scarcely a Legislative Councillor enters the room in a day, and yet the furniture cost hundreds of pounds. If the Minister for Home Affairs likes to employ State officers with these extravagant ideas, who are we to blame1! Are we to blame officers over whom we have no control ? No; we have a right to blame the Minister, over whom we have a little control. The Vice-President of the Executive Council seems to be displaying his great firmness once more. We are to go through the Estimates and not alter one item. All our suggestions are turned into ridicule -and we are asked to imagine that the whole of this money will be required. The only satisfaction that I and other honorable senators have, is that on the 30th June next we can see how much money has been spent, and can ask for a very close account of how it has been expended. I was glad to hear from the Treasurer that whenever a new department is being created, he makes it a point to see that the officers are taken from the States services. May I assume that if this department is created, officers who will npt be required by the States to erect postal buildings and defence and customs works, inasmuch as these departments have been transferred to the Commonwealth, will be taken from the States services? What is the use of retrenching men in the Defence department if we are to be told at the end of a long debate that they have been stuck into some other department which some of us think is absolutely unnecessary ?
– What ground has the honorable senator for making that statement? Perhaps he will allow me to explain. What. I said was that these officers came over to the Commonwealth service with the transferred Department of Defence. I said they were States officers, and were automatically transferred under the provisions of the Constitution. They were not “ appointed “ from the States services.
– I understand that. But what is the use of effecting a saving of £60,000 in the defence expenditure, if part of that saving is to be lost by creating a new department with officers whose services were dispensed with by the Defence department ?
– That has not been done.
– I repeat that it has been done. Certain officers have been taken over with the Defence department. The Government have very foolishly pledged themselves to another place to retrench in that department ; but the retrenchment exists merely in name, because with some of the retrenched officers a new department is being created, which, even if it may be necessary a year hence, is unnecessary now. I can do no more than protest against this extravagant expenditure.
Senates HIGGS (Queensland). - lt is to be regretted that Senator Dobson was brought up in such a small place as is Tasmania. 1 understand that the State Parliament meets there in a cold, cheerless Chamber, the floor of which is covered with fibre matting.
– No ; I think we have a carpet.
– The honorable and learned senator and Senator Charlestonhave attacked the Minister for Home Affairs, and, although I admit, that on some occasions, the Minister appears to forget that there is a limit to our credit balance, I think that Senator Dobson and others who attacked him should be sure of their facts. I have no doubt, that when Senator Dobson appears in court and is able to prove that a witness has made a misstatement he appeals to the jury to discount the whole of his evidence. I think that I can show that the honorable and learned- senator has to-night made a most misleading statement, and that, therefore, no notice should be taken of his arguments. Senator Charleston has discovered a mare’s nest. He says, that the Minister for Home Affairs when travelling by rail, occupies no less than four compartments in a carriage. I have made inquiries from Senator Walker and others who frequently travel between Sydney and Melbourne, as to whether they have ever observed the Minister making an unfair use of the railway carriages.
– There were four others in the compartment in which Sir William Lyne travelled from Sydney to Melbourne the other day.
– Honorable senators must be aware that the Minister for Home
Affairs is not infrequently in a state of illhealth, and on some occasions his attendant has occupied a berth above that occupied by him. That is all that has happened. That statement can be proved on reference to those who have travelled with the Minister. We come now to Senator Dobson’s statement that the Minister for Home Affairs is responsible for the elaborate furnishing of the room set apart in this building for the use of members of the State Legislative Council.
– I said that if he appointed an officer to furnish that room he was responsible for the extravagance.
– I would invite honorable senators to have a look at the room. It is the most elaborately furnished apartment I have ever been in. It has a beautiful pile carpet, and an attempt has even been made to paint the lily by painting the marble mantelpiece. It is replete with most elegantly turned furniture, and it was furnished for members of the Legislative Council - otherwise the 48 rich landlords -
At the instance of the State Parliament. State officers were appointed to furnish it, but the Commonwealth Parliament will have to pay. That is the kind of thing we are endeavouring to prevent by providing for a public works staff under our own control. No doubt these States officers are of the same opinion as were the Governments of some of the States, who thought that as soon as the federal referendum had been carried, they could load, up :the .transferred departments and make all Australia:pay for it. Probably the States, officers think that the States will not have to bear the whole cost, but that people in other parts of the Commonwealth will have to share it. They will not keep that close control over the expenditure which a Commonwealth officer responsible to this Parliament would do. I think that Senator Dobson is as usual on the wrong track. I am sorry to say that he is very seldom right. He is no more right in attacking the Minister for Home Affairs than he was when he attacked the members of the Tasmanian Parliament, and when they .locked him up for having made use of unparliamentary language. I believe they locked him up at his own request in the refreshment room.
– If I understand the purpose of the motion which has been submitted, it is to raise the whole question of whether or not a separate
Public Works department should be created for the Commonwealth. If that, is the object of the motion, I am entirely opposed to it. Before giving reasons for the vote which I shall give, I should like to suggest that if there is any genuine desire to make any real retrenchment, those who are animated by that desire should select something substantial rather than cavil at the few shillings which may have been expended in providing a little additional railway accommodation for a Minister not in the best of health. I. do not know whether honorable senators have looked into the cost of the supposed additional accommodation provided for the Minister ‘for Home Affairs. I have frequently travelled with the Minister at times when he was really not in a fit state of health to travel. Even if the accusation be correct that he has on one occasion occupied three compartments instead of one, what would be the additional e pense involved ? The cost would he 12s. 6d. a berth, and the outlay in providing three berths for an invalided Minister would thus be 37s. 6d. It is beneath the dignity of this Chamber to cavil at such items.
– The Minister has never travelled except for the sake of public business.
– And he has travelled at times when .he has not been in a fit state of health to do so.
– I hope the honorable senator is not mixing me up with that argument.
– I am not referring to the argument of any individual, but to a general line of argument which has been adopted in the name of retrenchment. Listening to some of the arguments one would assume that if the whole of the items in this department were struck out, the total’ amount standing against it would be saved. Supposing that we did not employ, as a distinct federal officer, a single gentleman to conduct these works, should we not have to pay the States Governments for the use of their officers ? It is incumbent upon those who ask us to strike out these items to show what saving would be effected by doing so. Something like £5,000 is the total which is debited against the special federal staff for the construction of public works. What should we save, by striking out that provision 1 Are the States officers going to do the work for nothing if we do away with this staff?. So far as I have been able to judge, the States Governments have not displayed any undue anxiety to render any service to the Federal Government without making a sufficient charge.
– Arrangements have been made with two of the States to supervise our public works.
– For nothing?
– In those cases the officers have been made federal servants, responsible to us.
Senator MILLEN. If arrangements have been made with two of the States, I should like to know what the cost is to be. If we think that any saving can be effected by carrying out our works with States officers, it must be upon the assumption that the States officers would work for us for less than would federal officers. I have not heard a solitary assertion, not to say an argument, to prove that it would be more economical to conduct our works with States rather than with Commonwealth officers. I wish to invite the attention of the committee to one simple fact, and an ounce of experience is worth a ton of theory. We have had experience of trying to work one department under two Governments. I refer to the Government Printing-office. Can any one say that our work is being satisfactorily turned out ? I do not mean satisfactory in a mechanical sense; but I allude to the fact that we are frequently kept waiting for Bills and reports which ought to be in our hands.
– What reason has been given for the delay ? We have been told that the “Victorian Government Printer, having other work to do for the State Parliament and State authorities, is unable to give the whole of his time and attention to our demands.
– I know of only one case of delay in sixteen months.
– I shall not dispute the statement that Senator Dobson -knows nothing about the delay which has taken place, but I am certain that the majority of the committee know of it. Upon one occasion we were asked to go on with the consideration of an important Bill before copies of it had been placed in our hands.
– That was the fault of the Government.
– The excuse given was that it was impossible, for the Government Printing-office to meet the demands made upon its time by the State and the Federal authorities.
– Once in sixteen months.
– That has occurred more than once. Only the other day we had to deal with amendments in an important measure, not with the schedule which ought to have been in our hands, but by the aid of copies of the Voles and Proceedings of another place. I shall put forward two important reasons in support of the vote which I intend to give. The first is that it has not been shown that the work can be carried out more economically by States rather than by Commonwealth officers, and the second is that even if we could effect a trifling saving in that way, it appears to me that we should have a much less efficient service.
Senator WALKER (New South Wales). - It is my intention to vote with the Government on this motion. I cannot forget that we have taken over from the various States property estimated to be worth £10,000,000, and even if we are not going to erect any new buildings it is our duty to make provision for keeping those properties in good order. I have sufficient confidence in the Government to believe that until they want these four superintendents of works they will not appoint them. I ask honorable senators to remember that we want Parliament to be prorogued at some time, but if every item is to be debated at such great length, the session will not end for a month.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH (Western Australia). - The Vice-President of the Executive Council has stated that the Commonwealth would have been put in an invidious position if it had had to employ to do federal work the same superintendents as are employed by the States. If it is necessary to appoint a Commonwealth officer, why is it not necessary to do so inthe case of South Australia and Tasmania, where the Government have made an arrangement that appears to be satisfactory both to themselves and to the States ? No objection has been raised to the condition of things that exists there. I should like to ask my honorable and’ learned friend if the Government have approached the Queensland Government, and asked them if they would be agree able to enter into a . similar arrangement as has been arrived at with the States I have mentioned? If the Queensland Government say they would not fall into such an arrangement, there is some warrant for this large sum of money being spent. But, as I pointed out before, when the Commonwealth scheme of public works was originated there was an intention to spend a very large sum of money. It was intended to bring in a Bill to authorize a loan of £1,000,000. A Public Works department would then have been necessary, and it might have been advisable to appoint Commonwealth officers. But Parliament has whittled down the amount to be spent upon public works to the sum of £400,000, and that is for the purpose of additions, as well as of construction. The sum of £76,000 put down for Queensland will not all be spent this year. I understand that the Queensland Government are desirous that the work shall not be initiated at present, because the effect would be to add to their financial burdens and increase their deficiency. Tasmania will be in the same position. What on earth is the use of proposing to appoint a number of officers’ to go to those States for the alleged purpose of superintending works which will have no existence ? The expenditure will amount to £5,000 or £6,000, and there is no reason whatever why we should not come to an arrangement with the States by which not the whole, but a very large portion of the amount might be saved. Prior to federation certain services were carried on by the States, to superintend which a set of officers and superintendents were appointed. A portion of those services have been transferred to the Commonwealth. The very same set of officers could superintend the erection of all the buildings that are necessary exactly as well now as was the case before. The difference would simply be that a portion of their salary would be paid by the Commonwealth, and a portion by the States. The arrangement made in the case of Tasmania and South Australia is one that is beneficial to both parties to the contract. Why can it not be extended to the other States ? The VicePresident of the Executive Council has given no reason why, if it is advisable to make such an arrangement in two States, it is not advisable in the others. I venture to say that the public works carried on in Queensland during this financial year will be less in value than the public works carried on in South Australia, where the Government have arranged that the State superintendent shall superintend the works on both the State and Federal Governments. I hope the committee will resolve to recommend the striking out of any items of expenditure that are not absolutely necessary.
– Have we not already resolved to do that f
– I shall be able to give a reply to that question after a division has been taken. I do not think the Vice-President of the Executive Council will assert that these public works are absolutely necessary.
– I do. I say that they are absolutely necessary.
– Then why not make an arrangement with the other States such as has been made with Tasmania and South Australia?
– I have already said that in those States the officers are responsible to us, and such an arrangement cannot be made in the other States.
– The creation of this Public Works department, at all events, is not absolutely necessary. If it may be necessary in future, it is premature now. During the period of this devastating drought, when the various States are faced with such enormous deficits that they are unable to balance their ledgers, is it wise for us to create departments that are unnecessary and extravagant, to burden the ratepayers with an increased expenditure, and make the people of the Commonwealth antagonistic to federation, because they consider that the effect of it has been to increase enormously their taxation. I sincerely hope that the committee will not countenance this extravagant outlay.
– I join with those- who oppose the creation of a public works department in the Commonwealth. We have enough public works departments in Australia to carry on all the works we require -for the next year. They total only £400,000. This money is to be expended on alterations, additions, enlargements, and some new works. Who are so well able to carry out those works as the men who have been carrying them out for years past ? No fresh, staff can be so thoroughly well acquainted with the details as the men who have been working amongst the buildings, and some of whom have spent a lifetime in the service of the States.
– What about the Legislative Council room 1
– That room was not furnished by the Public Works department of “Victoria. I will guarantee that it was mot furnished under the direction of the ; Inspector-General of Public Works in this State.
– Does the honorable senator guarantee that it was not ?
– I will guarantee from any knowledge of Mr. Davidson that he had ; nothing to do with it. He is too economical, and too good a judge of the value of money to waste it, in my opinion. Senator Millen has said that an ounce. of experience as worth a ton of theory. That is exactly what I am contending - that the States officers who have experience of our public buildings all over Australia should be employed. Every one knows perfectly well that there will be large reductions in the civil services of the States. That is inevitable. Large numbers of men will be turned adrift. If we can put some work in their way to help to fill up their time, surely we shall be doing a proper thing. Then some of them will be retained in their positions, instead of a new department being created, officered by entire strangers. I have heard it said that the “Treasurer- has stated Lhat it was his intention to put State civil servants into these positions. I have no doubt that if Sir George Turner said that - and I believe he did - he is the kind of man to do it - he would carry out his promise. But he does not happen to be Minister for Home Affairs. He is the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, and will -have nothing to do with appointing the officers of the Public Works department. That will be done under the direction of that rather strong-minded man - a man of great force of character - Sir William Lyne. He will put into the department those whom he thinks fit to appoint. Senator Millen has referred to the Victorian (Government Printing-office, and compared it with the Public Works department of this State. The two cannot be compared in any way. Our printing-office was manned for the purpose of doing the printing of the State of Victoria, but it has had to do the printing, for nearly the whole of the Commonwealth as well. Then, because it is alleged that we have had to wait once or twice for a Bill, Senator Millen seems to be astonished.
– And the work has been most admirably done.
– There is no doubt that all the public works required to be constructed in Victoria can be done by the Public Works department, where they have splendid men and splendid officers. I was rather sorry to hear the Vice-President of the Executive Council cast such grave reflections upon the heads of the Public’ Works departments in Australia. On behalf of the head of the Victorian department, Mr. Davidson, I say that there is not a shadow of foundation for the insinuation that in working for the Commonwealth he would not do his level best in all cases as he does when working for the Government of Victoria. It would make no difference to Mr. Davidson, in my opinion, for -whom he was working. This is my view of him, and I have known him well for twenty years j and I think I am right in saying that the heads of the Public Works department, of the other States would do the. same. If they were not men of that character they would never have reached their present position. I should like to hear Senator O’Connor state that he had no desire to cast any reflection upon the Public Works departments of the States. I speak more particularly on behalf of the State I represent. I know Mr. Davidson so well, and have such unlimited confidence in him, that I am quite sure that such a charge is altogether undeserved and unwarranted in his case.
Senator GLASSEY (Queensland). - There is still a little matter that requires to be cleared up, and that is concerning the elaborately furnished club-room in connexion with the Senate. Senator Styles repudiates the idea that the furnishing of that room was superintended by Victorian officers. I have the authority of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth for saying that it was so. The room was furnished under the- superintendence of a Victorian officer, and Sir William Lyn had nothing whatever to do with it. The Minister for Home Affairs is not going to be a butt for honorable senators without my offering some defence. The honorable gentleman has enough sins of his own to answer for, and it is not fair that he should be asked to carry the sins of others.
I hold no brief for him, but I shall not sit here and allow an absent man to be attacked without saying a few words in his defence. I say that the extravagance perpetrated in the furnishing of these rooms inVictoria was entirely due to a Victorian official, and the Minister for Home Affairs is absolutely innocent of the transaction. My intention in rising is to make certain that the responsibility for that extravagance shall be placed upon the proper shoulders. On the question of the alleged extravagance of this Public Works department I make bold to say, as the representative of one State, that the system of a separate department here proposed will prove to be more economical and certainly more effective than would any division of supervision in the various States.
Senator CHARLESTON (South Australia). - The argument of the VicePresident of the Executive Council has shown clearly that what we are contending for is best in the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole. The honorable and learned senator has told us that the Commonwealth Government have made arrangements with the States Governments of South Australia and Tasmania, to cany out federal public works under the supervision of the public works staffs of those States. I find upon reference to the Estimates, that it is proposed to spend more money upon repairs and new works in South Australia, than in either Queensland or Western Australia, and I therefore say that arrangements might easily have been made to carry out necessary public works in the four States I have mentioned under the same system. Senator Millen endeavoured to make a great point about the failure of the Victorian printing-office to meet federal requirements, but there is no analogy between the work which has had to be done by the printing office, and the work which under the system we propose, would have to be done by public works officers of the different States. We shall really be carrying out no more repairs, and new works in the various States than the States departments would have had to carry out if there had been no federation. Whereas in the case of the Victorian printing-office, it must be remembered that the Federal Parliament has been sitting for seventeen months, and during that time the State Parliament has also been in session. And while the machinery and staff of the printing-office were intended to cope only with State requirements, there has been a sudden additional demand made on them for practically the whole of. the printing required to be done for the Commonwealth. Under all the circumstances, I contend that Mr. Brain has done remarkably well in meeting as he has done the demands made upon him, and the work he has performedsupplies one of the best arguments which could be adduced in favour of States staffs being called upon to undertake these duties for the Commonwealth.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to omit the item Public Works Staff, “ Inspector-General of Works at£l,000per annum, from 1st October, 1902, £750 “ - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … …8
Noes … … … 10
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I think the Vice-President of the Executive Council will admit that during the next nine months there will probably be less money spent upon public works than in any period of nine months which we have previously known. As arrangements have been made with two States to have the work carried out by State officers, and as I believe temporary arrangements could be made in the case of the other States, I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the item “Four superintendents of works, £1,950,” by reducing the number to two.
– I hope the honorable and learned senator will take the result of the last division as an indication of the feeling of the committee upon this matter. If we are to discuss every item in this way we shall never get through with this Appropriation Bill. Every honorable senator has, of course, a perfect right to discuss these matters at any length he thinks fit ; but I put it to my honorable and learned friend whether it is worth while our going through the form of a division upon item after item when the same principle applies. I would ask the honorable and learned senator in the public interest to put an end to these discussions as soon as possible.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - I point out to my honorable and learned friend, Senator O’Connor, that I occupied about 30 seconds in proposing my amendment. Considering that I am not making .’any impression upon these audaciously expensive Estimates, I desire to say that perhaps Ministers in future will pay more respect to a division than they will to forgotten talk. I therefore propose to call for a division upon this amendment, because I am satisfied that for months and months these officers will have nothing to do.
– They will not be appointed until there is something for them to do.
– If Senator O’Connor will tell me that he will only appoint two superintendents of works between this and the 30th June, I shall take his word for it. I have not been convinced, and I desire, so. far as I can, to make the division, and attacks upon the Estimates which are now going on a stepping-stone to a sounder, wiser, and more economical policy. If I cannot get my own way now, in reducing these extravagant Estimates, the action I am taking may be productive of good in the future. I am bound to carry out what I believe to be my duty as a representative of the State of Tasmania, and it is not my duty to sit here without protest against the extravagant and reckless waste of money which I believe, rightly or wrongly, is going on.
– I am getting quite confused. I cannot understand the variations of Senator Dobson. I came here this afternoon with a desire to tell the Government, as straightforwardly as I could, that their departmental estimates were framed upon an extravagant basis. Senator Stewart and others of his party endeavoured to place that opinion upon record, but Senator Dobson did not vote with us. He was not found voting with us when we proposed certain reductions in the salaries of highly-paid officials. The honorable and learned senator now desires to take away the salaries of these officials altogether. Has something taken place since this afternoon ? Is there one Senator Dobson for the afternoon and another for the evening 1 I remember that the honorable and learned senator, in writing to a Tasmanian newspaper, threatened the Government that if they did not do certain things they would lose several solid supporters, and amongst them himself.
– The honorable senator is drawing upon his imagination. I never wrote anything so silly.
– We can show the honorable and learned senator the matter in print if he has forgotten it. A few days afterwards the honorable and learned senator was talking in this Senate about “ his respected leader, Senator Symon.” I ask honorable senators whether they think they should pay any attention to the arguments of the honorable and learned senator. Why should we waste time in taking the division for which Senator Dobson proposes to call 1
– Let us get on.
– Senator Playford should direct his guns against Senator Dobson and not against me, because I am endeavouring to induce Senator Dobson to desist from what is evidently only a little bluff and electioneering.
Vote agreed to.
– I propose now to put the remaining Estimates in departments.
Department of Treasury.
Total vote, £283,544.
– I think that will be a mistake. We must have time to see what we are doing. Although we desire to close the session to-night we should not take three or four pages of these Estimates at a time. I protest against the Estimates being submitted in this way.
Vote agreed to.
Department of Trade and Customs.
Total vote, £256,591.
– I find in the Estimates of the Department for Trade and Customs, under the heading of expenditure in the State of New South Wales the item, “Protection of revenue and reward, &c, £1,435.” I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the item, “Protection of revenue and rewards, &c, £1,435,” by £435.
My reason for submitting this motion is to try to put some effective check upon the persecutions - I believe the Government call them prosecutions - of the commercial community which have been going on. When we were discussing the clause in the Customs Bill last year, Senator O’Connor said it was of no use for us to trouble our heads about prosecutions, because in 99 cases out of 100 no prosecution would take place, and Senator Playford said-
– The honorable senator must not allude to any debate of the present session.
– I wish a stop to be put to the nonsensical proceedings of Charles Cameron Kingston, the Czar of the Custom-house. I made a lengthy statement on this subject yesterday, and earnestly asked Senator O’Connor, when he was replying to the debate on the second reading of the Bill, to give us an assurance that in the future there would be no criminal prosecutions where it was evident that there was no intention to defraud. Surely that could have been given. What did the honorable and learned senator mean by the statement he made a year ago that in 99 cases out of 100 these small matters would not be taken into court. They are being taken into court.
– We have heard all this before.
– This game of bluff might just as well stop. I do not desire to waste the time of the committee, but I have a fair right, and the mercantile community of Australia have a fair right, to ask that the conditions under which the Customs Act was passed should be observed. If Senator O’Connor did not mean what he said when the Customs Bill was before the Chamber, he obtained its passage by false pretences. There is not an honorable senator who does not believe that everything which was said on the subject by Senator O’Connor at the time was sincerely said, and that he did not expect for one moment when he asked for these extreme powers they would be put into use on trumpery and absurd occasions. Most certainly he did not, and now that the Customs Act is being used in a way which was never intended, have we not a right to call upon the honorable and learned senator to be true to the Senate and to the country, and to see that this state of terrorism and persecution comes to an end ? Yesterday I mentioned case after case in which more money had been paid to the department than it was entitled to, but because there was some error in connexion with the entry a prosecution was instituted. Honorable men were dragged up to the police court, and, in police court language, were convicted and fined £5, because that was the minimum amount which we were persuaded to fix in the measure. Time after time the magistrate not only inflicted the minimum fine, but he kept down the costs to what are known as court costs. Has not the day arrived when this disgrace to Australia should be terminated ? I think it should, and if this motion is carried and acted upon in the other House, we shall have done something to bring an iniquitous system to a conclusion.
– I wish to call the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs to another of the discrepancies which seem to exist right through the department as between Tasmania and the other States. The salary of the Collectors of Customs is £920 in New South Wales, £750 in Victoria, £750 in Queensland, £600 in South Australia, £700 in Western Australia, and £500 in Tasmania, and the salaries of the State collectors may be taken as a fair guide to the salaries of the subordinate officers. In the Customs department, as in other transferred departments, it will be found that the transferred officers are not receiving fair play.
– The Commissioner will give them that.
– Exactly ; but not until the Public Service Act has come into operation. I would urge the Minister for Trade and Customs to take steps before the Public Service Act comes into operation to have all these anomalies remedied.
– In the case of New South Wales £1,435 is required for the protection of revenue and rewards, &c., but in the case of Victoria for the same purpose only £500 is asked for. Can Senator O’Connor tell me why the cost of protecting the revenue is £935 more in New South Wales than in Victoria?
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the item, “ Costs and expenses of prosecutions under Customs and Excise Acts £1,435” by £250.
There is no necessity for me to repeat the arguments I have used on this subject, and I only move this request with the view of affording Senator O’Connor an opportunity of making some reply to the statements I have made.
– I wish to answer in very few words what Senator Pulsford has said. On three occasions I have answered the same charges made by my honorable friend in almost precisely the same language* and there must be a limit to repetition. I hope he will believe me when I say that I intend no discourtesy to him, but I really have nothing to add to what I have said on this -question. Senator Styles will notice that, in the case of New South “Wales, the sum of £1,435 is required for the “ protection of revenue and rewards.”
– What is meant by the “ &c,” there ?
– I suppose it is something in the nature of rewards and protection of the revenue. In the case of Victoria, the sum of £500 is required to meet the “costs and expenses of prosecutions under Customs and Excise Acts.”
– It is the same tiling.
– No. The larger item includes an allowance to persons appointed to protect the revenue in outlying districts where no permanent officer is stationed. In New South Wales, with a much larger coast line, there are many more places in which the revenue requires to be protected than there are in Victoria. In many of the outlying places there is no permanent officer, and, therefore, persons have to be specially employed for the purpose. In Victoria, the only object of the item of £500 is to defray the costs and expenses of prosecutions under the Customs and Excise Acts.
– Does that apply to Queensland, for which State £3,000 is down under the same heading ?
– No doubt the same reason will apply in the case of Queensland.
– I am very loath to go to a division on this matter, but the figures presented to us are perfectly startling. The aggregate estimate for the protection of the Customs in the six States is £6,515. In New South Wales the expenditure under this head is £1,435; in Victoria, £500; in Queensland, £3,400;
South Australia, £900 ; in Western Australia, £80 ; and in Tasmania, £200. W& ought to be careful in regard to this outlay, if we may judge from the fact that the otherday the fines came only to £200 or £300. Surely it is not necessary to spend £6,515> for such a return ?
– I can understand Senator Walker’s anxiety to have no money at all, spent under this head. The honorable senator is a freetrader, and does not want any smugglers brought to book. It is. more in favour of the honorable “gentleman’s argument that protection is bad, if he can show that a. great quantity of goods is smuggled.
– How is it that the cost is so high in Queensland ?
– In. Queensland we have ports, and not “ one-horse shows “ such as we see in New South Wales, where there is really only one port. There are several harbors in Queensland, including Gladstone and Bowen ; and if Senator Walker were Minister for Trade and Customs, we should probably find in theabsence of this expenditure of £6,000, that we had suffered a loss of £60,000. This, expenditure of £6,000 is merely an insurance.
– I really cannot see what we canaccomplish by attempting to deal with items of this sort. If the Minister for Trade and! Customs thinks any one has broken the law,, there must be a prosecution, even if the expense be met out of “ incidental expenditure.”
– Why anticipate aru expenditure of £6,000 in the course of the year?
– It does not follow that £6,000 will be spent. I presume that provision is made for a much larger sum than under ordinary circumstances, owing to the introduction of the new Tariff. I cannot see that we shall stop prosecutions by attempting to reduce an item of this character. I am sure that the Minister for. Trade and Customs will do what he conceives to be his duty, though I think in some instances he has been sosevere that prosecution has amounted to persecution.
– Let the honorable senator give us a case.
– I have no wish to cite cases, but I know that the
Minister for Trade and Customs is doing what he thinks to be his duty, and is convinced that his action has saved the revenue of the Commonwealth enormously.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - The reply given by Senator O’Connor is not at all reasonable. He says that he has spoken several times, and has always replied to me in the same way. The honorable gentleman has certainly given similar replies on two or three occasions in the past, but the time has arrived when we ought to hear something different from him. We have been told by the honorable gentleman, as on previous occasions, that the law is being administered ; but I have shown to-night that when we agreed to the Customs Bill, we did not intend or expect that it should be administered as at present. That is the point on which I expected some reply, and on which I . have received none.
– I rise to a point of order. I think there is a standing order which provides that a member shall not be guilty of repetition. Senator Pulsford has said for a thousand and one times that the Customs Act is being administered in a wrongful way.
– -It is necessary for the Chairman to twice warn an honorable senator in cases of repetition, and it is then for the committee to deal with the offender.
– I think it is about time that,Senator Higgs knew when it was not prudent or becoming of him to interfere. The question before us is one of great importance, and Senator O’Connor will gain nothing by trying to “ bluff” it out of court. J. do not care whether the amount be £3,000 or £6,000, because, in order to protect the revenue, we ought to spend £20,000 if necessary. I should be prepared to do anything to assist in prosecuting and convicting those who break the law, and if the law is not strong enough, it ought to : be strengthened. But let us be honest. We carried a law last year to punish evildoers ; but there are being punished those who are not evil-doers. I have drawn attention to cases, and have asked - and I nsk again - when these prosecutions are to stop ? I have done all that one man can do, and I cannot help it if Senator O’Connor does not feel it to be his duty to rise and say that he has no sympathy with the present administration. It is the Customs department, rather than those who have been prosecuted and convicted, which has done wrong. The Customs officials have been more guilty of falsification than the people who have been brought before the police court and fined. I shall not say anything more on this subject, and if Senator O’Connor does not choose to reply, I leave Australia to judge between him and myself.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).No one can dispute the earnestness of Senator Pulsford, and I would lay the blame on the Government for the frequency with which that honorable senator has referred to the subject of the Customs prosecutions. The Government ought to know that if they introduce, even in an Appropriation Bill, such a word as- “protection,” it is liable to be viewed with a great deal of suspicion by those who hold the true fiscal faith. The whole point in this item is a matter of words. If the item, instead of being described as “ for the protection of the revenue,” were set forth as “ for ‘ extending facilities to the trading community,” it would probably be passed without any criticism. And that is really the purpose of the expenditure. If I understand the explanation of Senator O’Connor aright, it is that in many places in the country .where it would not be practicable or desirable to pay a permanent official, it is the practice, by means of some subsidy, to obtain the services of an official in some other department to look after the interests of the Customs, as occasion requires. The result is that many small isolated ports can be declared ports under the Act, in order that shipments may be made there. The whole question is an interwoven one. In many cases, such as that to which Senator Pulsford first drew attention, the words used are “protection of the revenue and rewards, &c.” In New South Wales the two items are indicated under one heading. In “Victoria, on the other hand, there is discrimination, arid the expenditure is placed under two headings. If honorable senators consider that £500 is not too rauch to allow for this purpose in Victoria, surely an additional £900 is not too much to spend in New South Wales in affording additional facilities to the mercantile community.
– I do not think I shall be out of order or wasting time if I remind Senator O’Connor that he did not answer an important question which I asked him last Wednesday. I tabled a. notice of the question last Tuesday evening, having given the Minister for Trade and Customs a copy on the previous Friday. I certainly think that, as this is a matter which so greatly affects every importer in the Commonwealth, the question might have been answered ; at any rate, I hope I shall have an answer now. I am satisfied that section 265 was put into the Customs Act for the purpose of enabling the Minister to settle in his own office, at a kind of open informal inquiry, all cases in which he was satisfied there was no intention to defraud or pass a false entry. Senator O’Connor has already told us that this matter has not been before the Cabinet; but the Cabinet in this instance is the Minister for Trade and Customs. Under the circumstances, I think that Senator O’Connor might have spoken to the Minister for Trade and Customs, or communicated with that gentleman by means of the telephone. I now ask whether the Minister for Trade and Customs intends in the future to settle any, and, if so, which cases in the way I have indicated, under section 265 - I mean cases in which he is satisfied that there is no intention to defraud ? I understand that Senator O’Connor says that the Minister cannot make up his mind until he knows the circumstances; but I am supposing that the circumstances are that there is no intention to defraud. At the present time there are prosecutions in which the department admit that there is no intention of passing a false entry, and I ask Senator O’Connor to have the courage to say whether the Minister for Trade and Customs will or will not administer section 265 1 If the Cabinet think that that section was not put there to be administered, let Senator O’Connor have the courage to say so, in order that importers may know where they are. This matter was brought before the House the other day by Senator Gould, who cited a most trumpery case in which it was admitted in court on behalf of the Customs department that there was no intention to defraud, but that there had been a mere clerical error. Are importers in future to know that simple cases of that sort are to be the cause of prosecutions 1
– I am asked to say that the policy which the Minister for Trade and Customs has adopted for some months shall be reversed - whether the
Minister will -cease sending certain cases to the police court, and hear them before the Ministerial tribunal created by section 265. My answer to the honorable senator is that the whole question will be considered by the Cabinet. It has not, however, yet been considered, and, until it is, how can I say what are the intentions of the Minister’ for Trade and Customs or of the Ministry ? All . I can say is that the matter will be given the full consideration it deserves.
– I hope that obstinacy will not prevail, and that the importers will know within the next few days what is to be done.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - I wish to know whether there is anything in the standing orders to prevent you, Mr. Chairman, from putting the remaining Estimates in globo 1 We have had quite enough speeches from Senator Dobson and Senator Pulsford.
– Before we pass the remaining items in the Estimates relating to the Department for Trade and Customs, I wish to ask the “Vice-President of the Executive Council - and I think he will be able to obtain an answer from his colleague who, I notice, is in the vicinity of the Chamber - whether the officers of Trade and Customs at any of the principal ports other than Melbourne perform services for the States Governments, and if the answer be in the affirmative, whether the States Governments pay the Commonwealth Government anything in respect of those services. I am moved to ask this question for the reason that, notwithstanding the fact that Inter-State free-trade has been established for some considerable time, incoming vessels from other States are, I understand, always bailed up at Williamstown, and have to wait until the Customs launch conveys Customs officers on board for the purpose of inspecting them. It seems to be a mere formality ; apparently they do nothing of value, but simply detain the boats, to the very great inconvenience of passengers and crew and all concerned. I have noticed this myself. I have inquired what is the actual work done by the officers, and those interested in the vessels have been unable to inform me that they do anything of value. The matter has been brought under the notice of the representatives of the Government in this Chamber more than once, and an- answer given in reply to a question that the object which these officers have in boarding incoming vessels was to carry put the provisions of certain State acts relating to immigration and other matters. I have since taken the opportunity of observing the actual work done by them. I have been in vited by the officers of different vessels to see what they actually do, and I find that they do what, in the opinion of every one who observes their work, is practically of no value. The work which they purport to do is done in other ports by State officers when vessels berth alongside the wharves. I have learned this week from the captain of a vessel who is usually trading between Tasmania and Melbourne, that recently on visiting Sydney no such inspection was made of his vessel, and that ( quite recently a steamer carrying forward English mails from Tasmania, which were to be sent to Adelaide by train from Melbourne, was delayed so long at Williamstown, in waif> ing for the Customs launch, that the delivery of the mails in time to go by rail to Adelaide to catch the mail steamer was seriously jeopardized. I have endeavoured recently to obtain information direct from the Minister for Trade and Customs by writing to him, and fully setting out the circumstances, but I have not yet received a reply. Before the session closes I should like to learn that the practice, whatever it is, will be uniform throughout the States, in this respect, that if the Customs officers in any port are used by the States departments to administer any particular legislation peculiar to State matters, the Commonwealth Government will be recompensed. It seems to me, in the instances shown, that they are not carrying out any special, duty, and that they are simply filling in their time in this way. It would appear that the department in Melbourne is over-manned to a certain extent since the establishment of Inter-State free-trade, and that the officers find it impossible to get out of the routine to which they were accustomed when they used to board vessels for the purpose of sealing ships’ stores. A. vessel was then treated as a foreign-going ship when it went from one State port to another, Now that they have not to carry out that work they put forward some flimsy pretext for boarding vessels. The practice is being adhered to simply for the benefit of. a few officers, and to the detriment and inconvenience of the travelling public and all those concerned in the inter-trading of the States. It may also greatly prejudice the delivery of mails at the time within which they should be delivered. If the practice is not followed at Sydney and Adelaide, it seems to me that there can be no vital reason why it should be observed in Victoria, unless there be some special arrangement between the Victorian and the Federal Government, the Victorian Government showing that it is necessary that this work should be done, and compensating the Federal Government for the services of officers properly under the control of the Commonwealth.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - I should like an explanation with regard to the item, “ Subscription to International Tariff Bureau, Brussels, £199.”
– The International Bureau at Brussels is one at which Customs information throughout the world is collected. The Bureau publishes reports which are distributed to subscribers. The Customs officers here receive them and send them to the States Collectors of Customs, who in turn place them at the disposal of different Chambers of Commerce. We think it is very necessary, in the interests of the trading community, that this information should be obtained, and that this subscription should be given tothe Bureau. As to the question asked by Senator Keating, from what I can learn the Customs officials in Melbourne discharge duties under the Federal Immigration Act. It is necessary for the purpose of carrying out that Act that they should board vessels before they are berthed at the wharfs. I understand that there are also certain duties to be performed by them in carrying out State immigration laws. They are not paid by the State for the discharge of those duties, and the Commonwealth does not receive any remuneration for the work done by them in that respect. I undertake that the matter will be more fully inquired into by the department, and if there be any cause for complaint that it will be remedied. In reference to what my honorable and learned friend has said about the possibility of loafing on the part of customs officials, I think that if there is one department more than another in which every man has to pull for every ounce that is in him it is this. I do not think there are any loafers there, or in any other branch of the service. In the Customs department a man has to do .his day’s work, and probably at the end of it has another half-day’s work to do as well.
Vote agreed to.
Department of Defence.
Total vote, £787,151.
– We have now reached the Defence Estimates, and. I wish to draw attention to a matter which can be quickly explained by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. The present Secretary of Defence receives a salary of £900 per annum. When that salary was first considered by the Senate an attempt was made to reduce it to £750 per annum. The Vice-President of the Executive Council then gave us the assurance of the Government that £750 was the salary attaching to the office, but that the present Secretary was receiving £900 a year as he was in receipt of that salary when taken over from the State service. In last year’s Estimates there was a foot-note setting forth that this salary was allotted on appointment, and would not apply to officers occupying the position in the future. That foot-note has disappeared both from the Appropriation Bill and from this year’s Estimates. The consequence may be that when another appointment is made, it will be taken for granted that £900 per annum is the salary attaching to the office. I shall be satisfied if the Vice-President of the Executive Council will give us his assurance that the Government have not changed their policy, and that the salary attaching to the office is still £750 per annum.
– There has been no change in the policy of the Government. The salary attached to the office is £750 per annum, but, owing to the exceptional circumstances in which this gentleman was taken over from the State, and on account also of the exceptional value of his services, the salary of £900 was attached to his occupancy of the office. As my honorable friend has pointed out, there was a foot-note attached to this item in last year’s Estimates, and that means that there is a record of the arrangement in the department. Of course, it will be observed by any Ministry which may be in office. ‘
– -There is an item in the Defence Estimates for New South Wales which refers to the “ Instructional staff for militia, partially paid, and volunter forces,” and there are similar items in the’ Estimates relating to the instructional staffs of other States. I should like to have the assurance of the Vice-President of the Executive Council that the greatest caution will be exercised by the Government in making any curtailment of the payments to this body of men.
– What are their duties ?
.- I do not desire to go into the details ; I prefer to confine myself to the word “ Instructional.” It is upon that word that the whole matter turns. This body of men is responsible for the A B C of the work that is carried out in detail by the forces of the Commonwealth. It is upon them that the efficiency of the forces depends. I shall be glad to have some assurance from the VicePresident of the Executive Council that the Government will very jealously guard the lights of this body in any curtailment of charges that is to be made in respect of the department.
– I quite assent to every word that the honorable senator has said as to the importance of the instructional staffs. But, I take it, that the instructional staff mentioned here includes the commissioned officers, adjutants, and others, as well as non-commissioned officers, who are instructors. No doubt it is of great importance that the efficiency of the staff should be preserved. Whatever our system of defence is, we ought to preserve the nucleus of the instructional staff. But there is no doubt that in the carrying out of the retrenchment which has been promised, it will be necessary to interfere with the permanent staff. That is inevitable. I think it will be found that some officers and non-commissioned officers will have to be dispensed with. But the Government realize just as strongly as does the honorable senator, the importance of not interfering any more than is essential with the number and personnel of the instructional staff. I cannot promise that they will not be interfered with, but every regard will be paid to them, and thev will be retrenched as little as possible.
– I desire to ask for a little information with regard to the naval cadet corps of Queensland. I observe, looking through the Estimates, that very little provision is made for them. I regret this very much. I have taken some interest in the cadet corps for some years past. They have been admirable institutions, both for the boys themselves and for the country. It is deeply to be regretted that so little attention has been paid to their continuance and maintenance. There is a feeling in the district of Bundaberg, which I had thethe honour to represent for some years in the Parliament of Queensland, that the naval cadet corps should be further encouraged, and that feeling also prevails throughout the State. So strong is that opinion, indeed, that a joint letter has been signed by the Members of the Queensland Legislative Assembly, protesting strongly against the neglect of the naval cadet corps. I have a mass of correspondence on the subject, but will not read it. I wish, however, to impress upon the Government the desirability of not only continuing the corps, but of increasing them, and giving greater encouragement to them in order that our boys along the coast, many of whom take a deep interest in the subject, may receive thebenefitof the training. I daresay the correspondence to which I refer has reached the Defence department. I trust that a larger sum will be provided, with a view of increasing the numbers of the corps, and ultimately their usefulness. I hope that the Vice-President of the Executive Council will bring the subject under the notice of the Cabinet and of the Minister for Defence.
– Senator Cameron has expressed the hope that the Government will see that the instructional staff is not reduced. So far as concerns South Australia, more members of the instructional staff have been sent to us than were necessary, and so far as I can learn it is impossible to find work for them.
– They are being withdrawn.
– I shall be very glad if, when retrenchment is being carried out, some of the surplus drill instructors from South Australia are retrenched.
– I desire to say, in answer to Senator Glasssey; that the Government have every desire to carry out his view in maintaining the naval cadet corps so far as is consistent with economy, and that his representations will certainly be conveyed to the Cabinet.
Vote agreed to.
Total vote, £2,342,653.
– With regard to the Postmaster-General’s Estimates, I cannot allow the opportunity to pass without congratulating the Senate equally with another branch of the Federal Legislature upon the great success which has followed one of the acts of the Federal Parliament ! The only result of our action in passing a certain famous - or rather notorious - section of the Post and Telegraph Act, has been to deprive the department of revenueamountingto from £40,000 to £50,000 a year. The members of this Parliament cannot very well lay the flattering unction to their souls that they have accomplished what they aimed at, because although they thought they had stamped out a certain form of gambling by passing that legislation, that gambling is flourishing just as much to-day as it did before. The only result of what I thought was a foolish action on the part of this Parliamentsfoolish, because it disregarded the possibility of creating friction between a State and the Commonwealth - has been to deprive the State I represent of something like £15,000 a year of revenue through the post-office, and to deprive the Commonwealth, as a whole, of revenue to the extent of £40,000 or £50,000. I trust that this Parliament, the members of which were so anxious to declare themselves as antigamblers, will understand what is the net result of their action.
– As one of those who voted for the section referred to by Senator O’Keefe, I am not going to allow this crowing over our action in that matter to pass without a word of protest. What we did. was not to stop gamblingin Tasmania, but to refuse to allow our Post and Telegraph office to be used as a vehicle for gambling. Even if we have lost £13,000 of revenue, it is money well lost.
Senator O’KEEFE (Tasmania).- I might inform the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat that the section of the Act in question has entirely failed in what it was intended to do. In fact, the Act is not being administered as it should be. If the intention was to carry it out in its entirety, that has not been done. Honorable senators can pick up a newspaper in Melbourne this evening, and see there certain advertisements. I am not satisfied that other promoters of sweeps have not been stopped from using the post. The only result has been to declare the addresses of a certain person, in Tasmania and another person in Germany to be prohibited under the Act.
– But the letters are not going through the post now, are they ?
– Not to those two people, but they are going to other persons whose addresses might just as well be gazetted as prohibited. Senator Keating some time ago called attention to certain cases in which the post-office was being used for gambling purposes, but no action has been taken by the department.. The whole system flourishes as before.
– “We never intended to stop gambling by that section ; we would if we could. v
– I think it was intended, when the section was put in the Post and Telegraph Act, that it should be administered impartially. It is not being administered impartially, but is being directed only towards one State in the Commonwealth. .
– I notice that the chief attendant of the telephone branch in South Australia, a very experienced officer, receives only £160 a year, whereas the manager of the telephone branch in “Victoria receives £400, and one of the supervisors receives £160 a year. I call attention to that, because I think that the chief attendant in South Australia is not paid anything like as much in proportion to the work he does as are similar officers in other States.
– The matter to which the honorable senator has called attention is one of the anomalies which will be attended to by the Public’ Service Commissioner. I hope that when the whole of these adjustments are made, the honorable senator will be found to be a strong supporter of the policy of appointing the commissioner.
– I regret the absence of the Postmaster-General, but perhaps the Vice-President of the Executive Council can tell us what practice is being followed in Queensland in regard to the acceptance of tenders for the carriage of mails? Some time ago it was the practice in Queensland to accept the tenders of Messrs. Cobb and Co. covering a vast area of the territory of that State, because they were willing to undertake the work for 10 per cent, less than any other company, if the whole amount was given to them. The result was to leave the State completely in the hands of what was practically a monopoly. We had an evidence of what that monopoly was prepared to do not long ago, when Messrs. Cobb and .Co. threatened to stop the whole of the mail service under their control unless the Commonwealth Government paid them a bonus of something like £18,000. I know that great injustice has been done in certain instances. In one case the tender of a mail contractor in the Blackall district was less than that of Messrs. Cobb and Co., but because that company were willing to do the whole work for 10 per cent, less, this man’s tender was not accepted. I want to - know whether the Federal Government intends to place itself at the mercy of Messrs. Cobb and Co., or whether it is not their intention to accept contracts from other persons in particular districts whose tenders are lower than those of Messrs. Cobb and Co.?
– I should like in the first place to explain the reason for the absence of my colleague, the PostmasterGeneral. He has been obliged to go to Brisbane to meet the Prime Minister. He had hoped that the Estimates of his department would come on before he went, but he had made his arrangements to leave Melbourne and was compelled to go. With regard to the question which Senator Higgs has asked, I can assure him, that the policy of the department will be to accept the lowest tender, come from whomsoever it may, so long as the post-office authorities are satisfied of its being substantial.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - I omitted to mention that it is stated that many of the tenderers for mail services have been placed at a disadvantage, because the department required a certain description of vehicle. It would be as well if the department were to allow the tenderers to use any vehicle which will serve to carry the mails, instead of requiring them to provide a state coach such as is used in many cases by Messrs. Cobb and Co. for carrying passengers as well as mails.
– I should be glad if the Vice-President of the Executive Council could give us some information regarding the practice followed ] in the purchase of material required by the
Post and Telegraph department. Are the requisite supplies imported, or furnished by local contractors, and are they in all cases obtained at the lowest possible price ? I notice that in New South Wales one contract was let for the supply of 37 tons of sealing-wax, the value of which would amount to about £1,000. I presume that if that supply were obtained from the manufacturers in Europe, the price would be lower than that quoted by the importers here. I should like to know whether it is the intention of the postal authorities to take advantage of their power of importation without payment of duties.
– The practice of the department is to call for tenders throughout the Commonwealth for all supplies of stores which involve the expenditure of £100 and upwards. The tenderers include those who are carrying on business here, and those who are simply acting as agents for business-houses abroad, and no doubt the competition is sufficiently keen to insure the lowest quotations. I cannot give the honorable senator any information with regard to the supply of sealing-wax, but I will make inquiries.
Vote agreed to.
Bill reported ; report adopted.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is an Appropriation Bill for the services of the year 1901-2, and I think that honorable senators will understand at once that it is not necessary to make it the subject of a long discussion. The total covered is £4,211,348, of which all but £52,497 has been granted under the Supply Bills setoutin the first schedule. The latter amount is the only new feature in the measure. It consists for the most part of amounts which have been short-voted in the different Supply Bills. In order to keep the amounts asked for in those Bills well within the mark, something less than the amounts mentioned in the Estimates was asked for, and, therefore, the sum voted was short of the total amount on the Estimates. Although this amount is now asked for, savings will be effected under several headings, because it is only where arrears occur that any use can be made of the money voted. It is impossible to discover, without an elaborate bookkeeping operation, the different amounts which have been left unexpended, and which have to be paid, and, therefore, it is necessary to appropriate the full total provided for in the Estimates.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages.
In Committee. - (Consideration of amend ments recommended by the GovernorGeneral).
– This is the first occasion on which the very convenient power given to the GovernorGeneral in section 58 of the Constitution, has been exercised. When a Bill is presented for his Excellency’s assent he is empowered under this section to return it to the House in which it originated, and transmit any amendments which he may recommend. The section also authorizes the Parliament to deal with the recommendations. Of course, this is a power which is exercised under the advice of the Government and of the Attorney-General. It is only exercised in cases where the amendments to be made involve no matter of principle, but are simply corrections necessary to make clear the intention of the Legislature. The Attorney-General, onlooking through the Bill, has advised that these amendments are necessary, and that they are merely consequential. Although they are. merely consequential amendments, the Chairman of Committees did not feel himself justified in making them, and it is, therefore, necessary to adopt this course. The practice is well-known in Victoria and South Australia, and, as a matter of fact, the standing orders under which we are working make provision for dealing with a matter of this kind. I have been through the whole of the amendments myself, and I think it will be found that they are amendments which were missed, because they are consequential upon amendments made at a late period of the exchange of the Bill between the two Houses, when the clauses in which it is necessary they should be made were not before us. I have satisfied myself that they are consequential and formal, and are necessary to carry out the intention of the Legislature. I propose, therefore, to move that they be agreed to, and if the motion is carried, the other House will be asked to agree to them, and the Bill will then be sent to the GovernorGeneral for his assent. Some honorable senators may think it necessary that I should explain them, and I propose to do so. The first amendment is required in clause 16. In that clause a reference is made to “ the quota of election,” and it is proposed that the word “electors” should be substituted for the word “election.” Then, two amendments are necessary in clause 33. The wording of the clause is “ the Commonwealth electoral officer in each State,” while the wording ought to be “ for eachState.” The next amendment is required in clause 62. The clause provides that -
Rolls may be altered by the returning officer or electoral registrar us follows : -….. (a)By changing on the written application of the elector,…………
The amendment proposes that that should be altered to read “for” the same division. That is necessary, because a polling place may be proclaimed outside a division. The next amendment occurs in clause 109. The clause reads at present -
An elector who has reason to believe that he will on polling day be more than five miles from the polling place at which he is entitled to vote ….. may, after the issue of the writ, and before the polling-day, make application in Form K in the schedule to the returning officer for the division in which he lives for a postal certificate.
Since he is entitled to vote at places altogether away from and outside the polling place to which his name is attached, it is necessary that the words “ At which he is entitled to vote “ should be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof “ For which he is enrolled.” The next amendment is required in clause 130, where a similar alteration is necessary, and is consequential upon the provision requiring that an elector shall vote for the full n umber of candidates. The clause as at present stated provides that - “A ballot paper shall be informal if . . . in elections for the Senate it has (not being a postal ballot paper) no cross in the square opposite the name of any candidate, or has crosses in squares opposite the names of a greater number of candidates than the number required to be elected, or, being a postal ballot paper, it has no name written on it, or has a greater number of names written on it than there are candidates required to be elected.”
Inasmuch as clause 150 declares that an elector must vote for the full number of candidates to be elected, a voting paper which had not the full number upon it would probably be informal. In order to make the matter perfectly clear, it is proposed by the amendment suggested in this clause to insert the words “ or less “ after the word “greater” in the portion of the clause I have read. These words were originally included in the clause, but by mistake they were struck out instead of being allowed to stand. They clearly carry out the intention of the Legislature, and it is very much better that in a matter of this kind the Act should be particularly clear than that there should be any doubt about it. The next amendment is required in form K of the schedule, and it is similar to that which it has been found necessary to make in clause 109 to which I have referred. The next amendment is required in form R of the schedule, in which it is proposed to omit the words “ paid G. H., my election agent,” which is necessary as a result of the decision not to permit election agents. The last amendment required, is a consequential amendment in the same form of the schedule, proposing the omission of the words “ the agent and “ for the same reason. I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a Bill which appropriates the sum of £406,092 for the construction of certain works in accordance with the attached schedule, which sets out in detail the works proposed to be carried out. It is divided into two parts, the first portion dealing with works with which honorable senators are acquainted, because they were included in Estimates which have been laid upon the table - of works to be constructed out of revenue. The second part deals with “additional expenditure for additions, new works, and buildings,” and covers works which it was originally intended to construct out of loan. By reason of the fact that the
Government decided not to introduce a Loan Bill it has become necessary that these works should be carried out from revenue. The works proposed are fully described in the schedule under the headings of the different States to which they belong. The schedule will give honorable senators all the information I could possibly give them, and I therefore think it unnecessary to make a fuller statement.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
– Perhaps I should have raised the question on the second reading of the Bill, but it may be not too late now to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council if he will say what is the change between this and the original proposal covered by the Loan Bill which it was at first intended to introduce. How much money was intended to be expended under the Loan Bill? What is the reduced expenditure now proposed ?
– -It will be seen from the second part of the schedule that £26,500 has to be spent on additions, and £230,995 on new works and buildings, making a ‘total of £257,495. The total amount of the loan was considerably more, being, I believe, £500,000.
– I do not exactlyunderstand yet what is the total amount to be spent out of revenue ?
– The total amount is £406,092, which must come out of revenue. The schedule consists of two parts, one under the ordinary heading of works, and the other under the heading of additional expenditure for additions new works and buildings. What was originally intended to be constructed out of loan, is now to be constructed out of revenue.
– Is it the intention of the Government to at once proceed with the works, a number of which have been waiting for months, and many of which are urgently required in the State which I represent ? The people are very anxious, and I hope that as soon as the money is available the works will be put in hand.
– The need for this Bill is the only reason for delay. Works which are urgently necessary will be carried out immediately authority is given.
– I see that foiSouth Australia there is an item of £1,000’ for the emplacement of 6-in. B.L. guns.
– Those guns havebeen for a long time in the possession of theSouth Australian Government, and the expenditure is necessary for completing the gun-pits and the emplacement necessary to> put them in position.
– I hope the schedule, as printed, will not be passed., for the reasons already indicated by Senator Dobson. It has been pointed out that theTreasurer of Tasmania has already communicated with that honorable senator, and with other representatives of that State, pointing out that some of these works are not of absolute urgency. These works are to be constructed purely out of revenue, and the present state of the finances in Tasmania does not warrant the proposed expenditure. The Federal Government are the trustees for theState, and for the people of Tasmania, and there is no urgent necessity at the present time for calling upon the already depleted revenue of that State for the proposed telegraph and telephone extensions, or for a new switch-board at Hobart. To make the revenue of Tasmania meet the cost of theseworks would prove very harassing and! inconvenient to the State Treasurer, who is now endeavouring to equalize the finances. I hope Senator O’Connor will recognise that there is no demand on the part of the people of Tasmania for these improvements at the present juncture. I understand that when the Bill was before another place, none of the representatives of Tasmania urged that these works should be proceeded with, and I think it will be found that there is not a senator from that State who will support the implied proposition of urgency for immediate expenditure. Under thecircumstances, I hope the items which I have indicated will be struck out of the schedule. The Postal department, in Tasmania has in the past been carried on with a certain amount of convenience and financial success, and the additions proposed are not of any great value. The work has not increased to any alarming extent since the Federal Government took control ; if anything, the demands on the department have diminished. Many telephone subscribers have already discontinued their connexion with the exchanges, and others have given notice of their intention to do so when their current term expires. Many of these proposed added conveniences may have been considered desirable many months ago, in view of the probable success of the passing of the Loan Bill, but circumstances have now altered.
– I would remind the honorable and learned senator ‘that a vote for the switchboard for Hobart does not now appear in the schedule, having been withdrawn. *
– I hope that the Vice-President will see his way to also withdraw the other items, which are not of immediate importance.
– I presume Senator Keating refers to the two items which amount to £7,000. I should like to remind ‘ the honorable and learned senator that this Bill only gives authority to spend money. The Government are not compelled to spend the money at any particular time, but if they think it necessary, may carry out the works during the year ending June, 1903. The Government recognise that as the State of Tasmania has to pay for these works the greatest consideration should be paid to the wishes of the people of that State in regard to them ; and what I say now applies, of course, to other States. The Bill merely gives authority to carry out works which have been represented as necessary. There is always a degree of urgency, and if the urgency is not so great as to make it necessary to . carry out the works in the face of the expressed wishes of the State, they will not be proceeded with. I think that the honorable and learned senator will see that it is necessary there should be harmonious working between the States and the Commonwealth in matters of this kind, and the Commonwealth does not wish to force expenditure which is not absolutely essential. If the works proposed are not considered essential by the people of a State, that view will be inquired into, and no work, unless it be absolutely necessary, will be forced on any State. Honorable senators may rest assured that no works will be carried out without the fullest inquiry in the direction I have indicated.
– I am very well satisfied with the assurance of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. Some of the works in the schedule may claim to be urgent, but a large number of those proposed for Tasmania are not so immediately necessary as to require their completion in the present financial condition of that State. I join with Senator Keating in hoping that there will not be any violent hurry to spend this money, especially “on some of the items in the Defence department and the Department for Home Affairs. In the matters of telephones and telegraphs, some small matters may be urgent, but that cannot be said of the majority of the items.
– I was going to ‘call attention to the items £11,780 for the Department for Home Affairs, and the- £29,000 for the Postal department, but I am quite satisfied with the reply given by Senator O’Connor.
-While Ministers say that the money, although voted, ‘ may not be spent, those in whose interests the items are voted take a very different view. My experience is that when money has been voted, the people interested in the expenditure at once begin to clamour for the immediate construction of ‘ the works. It seems to me that Tasmania and Queensland are much in the same position. I see that for Queensland the expenditure is i’50,000 odd ; but from what I know of the attitude taken by the Queensland Ministers, I should say they do not desire anything like that sum spent out of the current year’s revenue. I wrote to the Treasurer of Tasmania on the subject, and in his reply, after speaking of the hardships which the proposed expenditure will entail on that State, Mr. Bird says -
If it comes to the worst, do your best in the Senate to strike out of the Estimates every item for new buildings, additions to buildings, new switchboard and everthing that can be left without harm for another year or two. We cannot afford to pay for these out of the current year’s revenue.
I venture to think that, in view of the crisis through which Tasmania is at present passing owing to a shortage in her Customs revenue, none of these works are urgent. The whole of them might well stand over for the next nine months. I ask the VicePresident whether, in the case of States which cannot afford to proceed with public works, it is wise to vote the necessary money to carry them out ?
– I think that Senator Dobson will see that there is a difficulty in the way of carrying out his suggestion. A number of works are mentioned in this schedule, some of which are unquestionably urgent. Of course, it is just possible that others are not urgent ; but it would be very unfair to Tasmania to eliminate the whole of these works from the schedule, and thus deprive the Commonwealth of the power to carry them out, even though they may be found to be necessary. If they are not urgent they will not be undertaken, and the representations of Tasmania in this connexion will receive the fullest consideration. Certainly, we shall do nothing to disturb the harmonious relations which exist between that State and the Common wealth .
Senator CHARLESTON (South Australia). - I think that we should be acting injudiciously if we altered the Bill. When I return to South Australia I shall interview the State Treasurer, and, if he considers it inadvisable to spend the money which we are now asked to vote for the carrying out of public works there, I shall ask him to place himself in communication with the Minister for Home Affairs.
– On every occasion upon which Senator Dobson rises to address this Chamber he springs some surprise upon honorable senators. He has just told us in one breath that Tasmania is prospering - and I believe she is, at the expense of other portions of the Commonwealth - and in the next that she cannot afford to spend the amount set out in this schedule for the construction of public works.
– She cannot afford it, on account of a shortage of £150,000 in - the Customs revenue.
– Why do not the Government of Tasmania impose additional taxation upon the people ? It appears to me that Senator Dobson holds a brief for the property-owners of that State. The very best thing which could happen to Tasmania would be the bursting up of the big landed estates and their being thrown open to settlement. Surely Senator Dobson does not wish to stop tlie progress of the State which he represents.
– Why should the people be called upon to spend money when they cannot afford it 1
– The State of Tasmania is more prosperous now than it was prior to federation. The only difficulty with which the Government are. confronted is that they cannot raise as much from Customs as they formerly did. They. cannot skin the poor man as they have done in the past, and they absolutely refuse to touch the rich man. As far as my vote is concerned, I intend to compel the Government of that State to tax the wealthy.
– There is already a land tax and an income tax in operation there.
– The land tax in Tasmania is an abortion. It is a tax which falls upon the man who improves his property, and leaves the individual who does not almost untouched. Senator Dobson would not grumble one bit if the taxation through the Customs had been doubled. Tasmania would then be getting any amount of revenue, and would be able, to spend thousands of pounds in carrying out additions to post-offices, <fcc. But because an attempt has been made to alter the incidence of taxation, and to relieve the poorer classes of the community of a certain proportion of their burdens, the honorable senator is up in arms. The position of Queensland is very much worse than is that of Tasmania. The State which I have the honour to represent is not prospering. It is afflicted with drought at the present moment. Tasmania is actually prospering by the misfortunes of Queensland. Tasmanians talk about, the evils which have resulted from federation. As a matter of fact, no State in the union has profited more by federation than has Tasmania. Do we not know perfectly well that the present drought is only of a temporary character, and that the development of Australia cannot be stayed simply because it is passing through a temporary period of misfortune 1 If we are to promote the settlement of the land we must provide the people with increased facilities for communication. If a Loan Bill had been passed in the other House, Senator Dobson would have uttered no word of complaint.
– I was absolutely opposed to the Loan Bill.
– I am very glad to see that the House of Representatives has had a lucid interval for once, and has blocked the policy of borrowing. I wish that Senator Dobson would take a more liberal view of this matter, and assist the Government to promote the prosperity of his own State.
Schedule agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (onmotion by Senator O’Connor) read a first time.
– Pursuant to contingent notice of motion, I move -
That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the passing of the Bill through all its remaining stages during the same sitting of the Senate.
I intend to ask honorable senators to pass the second reading of this measure to-night. The Bill is one of some importance, and, therefore, I merely propose to take it formally into committee, and to postpone its further consideration until to-morrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This measure - as its title indicates - is one which is intended to make temporary provision for enforcing claims aga’inst the Commonwealth. No doubt honorable senators are aware that, as the law stands at the present time, no individual or State has any right to sue the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth has the power to make a law authorizing actions to be brought against it, and allowing all the ordinary remedies which are available against an individual to be applied against it; but, in the absence of the High Court which it is intended to establish, it is notopen to any individual or State to bring an action against the Commonwealth. The necessity for this measure has been emphasized within the last few weeks by a case which has occurred in Sydney, Hannah versus Gray. In that case my honorable colleague, Senator Drake, was willing to submit himself as PostmasterGeneral to the jurisdiction of thecourt, and to go as far as he possibly could without incurring personal liability ; but the court ruled -as it was bound to do - that consent did not confer jurisdiction in a matter of that kind, and the Judge would not allow the case to proceed. The plaintiff, therefore, was unable to obtain any redress. It is to remedy that state of things that this Bill is introduced. Honorable members will realize that it is necessary to make only temporary provision for enforcing claims against the Commonwealth, because it is the intention of the Government to introduce a Judiciary Bill amongst the first measures submitted next session. We hope that that Bill will shortly be passed into law, and that very early next session permanent provision will be made by which actions may be brought against the Commonwealth, and the jurisdiction of the courts in regard to them clearly defined. But we wish to bridge over the interval which must elapse between the present time and the period when such legislation is enacted. We propose to do it in thisway : There is a power in the Constitution to invest the States courts with federal jurisdiction. We propose to invest the Supreme Courts of the States with federal jurisdiction in suits against the Commonwealth. The courts determining those suits will hear them as federal courts.
– Supposing that the Queensland Government wish to bring an action against the Commonwealth, what judges will try it ?
– If a certain procedure were followed, to which I shall allude in a moment, enabling the case to be taken into the Supreme Court, it could be heard, and in hearing the case that court would act as a Federal Court.
– Would it not be better to have the Supreme Court of New South Wales or of some other State to try a Queensland case?
– I do not see how it could very well be arranged. I hope that no cases which involve very important rights between a State and a Commonwealth will arise before our own Courts can be constituted. There may be individual cases in which claims against the Commonwealth may be raised, and it will be a hardship that they should stand over until the creation of our own Courts ?
– Shall we have to pay the local judges for their services?
– No. We do not appoint the Judges of the State courts as Judges of our courts. We simply enlarge the jurisdiction of the State courts, so that they may sit as Federal Courts and hear cases against the Commonwealth. Before acase gets to the stage of coming into court, there is a certain procedure to be followed which is set out in the second clause in these terms : -
Governor-General praying him to appoint a nominal defendant on behalf of the Commonwealth in the matter of the claim.
Then, after the nominal defendant is appointed, the petitioner brings his action, and it goes on with all the remedies which obtain in ordinary cases. Honorable senators will notice that the procedure to be followed there is that which takes place in all British countries where an authority to sue the Crown is given. If this matter were being dealt with now on a permanent basis, and we were enacting a measure by which the Commonwealth might be sued in its own courts, a different form would be adopted, and I am very strongly in favour of the view that the right should then be given to sue the Commonwealth direct, just as any one can sue a corporation or an individual without the necessity for a petition such as is described in clause 2, or any other formality of the kind. But we are not dealing with that state of things now. We are now dealing with an entirely new state of things. The Commonwealth is now, in order to bridge over a temporary difficulty, submitting itself to courts which are outside its jurisdiction, although legally within the territory which it covers. If the Commonwealth were submitting itself to its own courts it might be sued directly without a formality of any kind, just as the State Governments submit themselves to the jurisdiction of their own courts. But we are now consenting to have cases against the Commonwealth from any part of Australia heard in the Supreme Courts of the States, and, under these circumstances, we think it only right that we should, by the adoption of this procedure, mark the difference between giving jurisdiction to Commonwealth courts and giving jurisdiction to State courts. It is not intended in any way to prevent any individual or State from bringing an action upon the exercise of the discretion which is given to the GovernorGeneral here. That discretion will not be exercised to keep anybody out of these courts ; it is simply a marking of what really is the proper constitutional position - that we are consenting, for their convenience, to allow suitors against the Commonwealth to go into the State courts. There is only one other provision to which it is necessary to refer, and it is clause 7, which provides that -
In any action or suit brought under this Act, any appeal, or application for leave to appeal, from a decision of the Supreme Court of a State, which, in the opinion of the Attorney-General, involves a constitutional question, or a question of importance to the Commonwealth, shall, on the application of the Attorney -General, be postponed until a time not later than the date of expiration of this Act.
The Bill will expire at the end of 1903, and we hope that long before that date our own courts will be in existence. In cases where a suitor is unsuccessful against the Commonwealth and wishes to appeal, there is a power on the part of the AttorneyGeneral to stay that appeal on an application to the State Court, until a period after the end of 1903 - that is, we hope, until the creation of our own courts. That restriction is imposed in a case in which any constitutional question, or question of importance to the Commonwealth, is involved. In the passing of our Constitution it will be remembered that the people of Australia were unanimous that in all cases of the rights of the States and the rights of the Commonwealth amongst themselves, we should preserve the decision in our hands and by our own courts. We have refused to allow the Privy Council to have the decision of these questions except by leave of the court which we are to create. We do not wish to depart from that principle in the interval which may elapse before the creation of our own court. We do not wish any cases involving important Constitutional principles - principles which may go to the very root of the relations between a State and the Commonwealth - to get into the State courts, and be placed in such a position that they must necessarily go to the Privy Council for decision, because, with the utmost respect for the decisions of that court, it has been determined that Australia in its own courts should lay down the principles which must regulate the relations of the States and the Commonwealth. That is the reason why this power is given to the Attorney-General, not to take away but to postpone an appeal until the end of 1903. Those are the provisions of the measure. Honorable senators will recognise that it is one which ought to be passed, and the general form of it I think will commend itself to the Senate.
– I very cordially approve of the object of the measure. founded, as it is, on the well-known principle that justice must not be delayed to His Majesty’s subjects. At the same time I cannot express myself in full sympathy with the expression which has fallen from Senator O’Connor, that it is to be competent for the Governor-General to graciously permit any one who so desires to recover what he regards as his rights. I should have infinitely preferred that a privilege of that kind should not be a concessionto the subject ; and as showing this same spirit or anxiety to permit a swift and ready remedy to anybody seeking to secure his rights as against the Commonwealth, I would draw the attention of Senator O’Connor to a defect, which I trust he will see remedied in the measure In certain cases where money has been lodged under protest by various importers, and the lodgment of money has been followed up by necessary legal proceedings in the terms of the Customs Act, the Crown Law department has - most improperly and unworthily, I think - entered appearances, subject, however, to the right of the department to object as to jurisdiction. That is certainly not in harmony with the sentiments which have been expressed by Senator O’Connor to-night.
– But does not the honorable and learned senator think that if they waived any plea to the jurisdiction, it would give the courts hereafter the right to assume that they had the jurisdiction?
– It may be, because the appearing there might give them the jurisdiction.
– I have already said that I am not in sympathy with that view at all, because I think that these persons have a right to recover the money which they claim was improperly levied, and that consequently for a technical objection to be taken that the courts have no jurisdiction is unworthy of the Federal Government. What I ask Senator O’Connor to do in the Bill, is to provide that those persons who have proceeded in a bonâ fide fashion shall not be put to unnecessary expense, and that their proceedings shall be covered by the measure.
– But these actions are all against the Collector.
– Of course, they are.
– They will not be touched by this measure, because there is a specific right given to sue the Commonwealth: They do not want a Bill of this kind at all.
– But they do, from this stand-point, that the Crown Law department has, by its appearances, indicated that it is going to object to jurisdiction.
– Quite right, because the courts would afterwards cite that as a precedent, and say that they had jurisdiction, as the point was not contested in a previous case.
– I do not think it is quite right. I think it was the intention of the Customs Act, and certainly the intention as expressed by Senator O’Connor to-night. I feel that it would be a most unworthy act on the part of the Crown to attempt, by a mere technical objection to jurisdiction, to delay the right of these men to recover the money which they have lodged. I would ask Senator O’Connor, between now and to-morrow, to give attention to this matter, because if there is any doubt as to jurisdiction I think it should be remedied.
– I wish to say a few words with reference to clause 2, dealing with the gracious permission of the. Governor-G eneral to permit the prosecution of a right. Senator O’Connor has pointed out that no advantage will ever be taken of the provision by the Crown. I have no doubt that he has spoken in the most perfect good faith, and he will understand that I am not questioning his statement in the least degree; but, unfortunately, things have happened in connexion with previouslegislation to which I must draw attention. We were told practically the same thing with reference to the action which would be permissible, and which would certainly be taken by the Minister for Trade and Customs under the Customs Act. We were told over and over again that there would be no risk of undue persecutions - I think I am justified in using the word, though prosecutions is the legal phrase - under the Customs Act ; and that all things would be done, to quote St. Paul, “decently and in order.” The majority of the Senate - there were some unbelievers, and I was amongst that number - accepted that assurance, an assurance which I know my honorable and learned friend gave in good faith. But he cannot run the show so far as all his colleagues are concerned, and, although he has, in a parliamentary sense, to bear the responsibility of their actions, I do not suppose I am doing him any injustice when I say that things have happened since then which, if he had had his way, would probably not have occurred. I am sure that he would have made good to the Senate the assurance which he gave, but, unhappily, effect has not been given to it by one of his colleagues. We are asked to pursue exactly the same course ; to accept the assurance of the Minister that things will be done decently and in order, and that no man will suffer any refusal of justice. After our experience - of which I personally acquit my honorable and learned friend - it would be better to pursue the course suggested by Senator Best instead of leaving this matter to the absolute mercy or the whim of the Ministry of the day. At some future day - it might happen before the period which this Bill is designed to cover expires - we might find another Ministry in office which would not be as willing to give as gracious an assurance as the honorable and learned senator is prepared to give, or be prepared to see that assurance carried out. Bather than run the risk that his colleagues may not do exactly as the Minister who gives the assurance expects they will do, it would be better to give effect to the amendment indicated by Senator Best. Instead of the right to sue the Commonwealth being after all a matter of gracious permission, it should be one of statute right. Surely no Ministry need imagine that, in legislating togive statute right to apply for justice, the Commonwealth would suffer any wrong? I hope sincerely that the Minister will consent to a reasonable amendment so as to bring the Bill into line with the New South Wales Act, which provides that if the Government do. not appoint a nominal defendant within, say, one month, the person anxious to institute proceedings shall have a right to go on with his suit. Surely that cannot be a hardship? When we reach the committee stage, I propose to move such an amendment, although I should greatly prefer the VicePresident of the Executive Council to submit it. I have not the slightest desire to play a hand in the part, but will very willingly give the Minister my support if he will propose such an amendment.
– Idesire to say only a few words with reference to the motion for the second reading of this
Bill. I cannot say that I agree with the arguments which have been put forward by the last two speakers as to the inadvisableness of including in this Bill some such provision as is contained in clause 2. In ordinary cases it very often happens that where the legislature makes provision for the recovery of redress on the part of an aggrieved subject against the Crown, there is a different form of procedure prescribed for such an individual to follow. In many instances, instead of being an ordinary writ, or summons, or plaint, it takes the form of what is called a supplication to the Crown for redress. When we come to consider the circumstance pointed out by Senator O’Connor, that in this case we are making provision only to invest existing courts with a federal jurisdiction which is not inherent in them, and which cannot possibly be hereafter inherent in them - that we are simply making a temporary provision to bridge over the time between now and the establishment of our own federal courts - there is, to my mind, greater reason why there should be something in the initial procedure in connexion with any claims under this measure to mark the distinction between the jurisdiction of these temporary federal courts and the jurisdiction that will be exercised hereafter by the permanent federal courts. With regard to the other matter which has been dealt with by Senator Best, I can very well understand that an individual who has taken action in a case belonging to the class he has indicated would feel naturally very much aggrieved at the first blush on finding that those who were responsible for the defence of the suit, had put forward the plea of want of jurisdiction. Such persons would naturally attribute to that attitude a desire on the part of the Crown to evade its legitimate responsibility. I would agree in toto with what Senator Best has said as to the want of dignity and the smallness on the part of the Government of the Commonwealth in taking up such an attitude, did it take up that attitude for the purpose of evading the responsibility that its action had entailed. But I do not conceive that such a plea has been or ever will be put forward in any instance for such a purpose.
– But the Commonwealth Government could take advantage of it if they desired to do so.
– I venture to say that if they took advantage of it in order to evade payment of what they would in ordinary circumstances pay but for this legal objection, the subject would find here or elsewhere the means of obtaining the redress to which he was entitled. If in any case in which a subject, no matter how legitimate his grievance might be, resorted to a tribunal which did not, and could not, have jurisdiction, I do not think the officers representing the Crown would be attending to their duty if they failed at the hearing of the claim to object to the jurisdiction. They should do so, having regard to the future, and looking at the possibility of the failure to object being afterwards construed into an acquiescence in the jurisdiction of that particular court. That is what it might lead to.
– The Commonwealth authorities offered to submit in the Postoffice case.
– Quite so. But. that offer would not give the court jurisdiction in a subsequent action. The offer in any case could not do so. Consent could not give jurisdiction, but consent by Par- . 1liament as expressed in a statute would. If an individual resorts to a wrong tribunal, no matter how just his claim might be, he should not expect the Commonwealth as representing the people of the States, and the States themselves, to acquiesce in ‘his wrongful act. ‘ Its acquiescence would probably lead afterwards to interminable troubles, by reason of the fact that the case might be cited as a precedent establishing the jurisdiction of a court never intended at any time to have jurisdiction. I hope the honorable and learned senator will consider the matter in that light. I have had two or three cases brought under my notice during the present week by persons who felt that they were doubly aggrieved because in an action they had taken against the Customs, one of the pleas put in was a plea to the jurisdiction. I pointed out to them all these circumstances : That in their own interests, and in the interests of the whole of the citizens of the Commonwealth, it was desirable that where resort was had to a wrong tribunal, those representing the people should not acquiesce in any assumed jurisdiction on the part of that court, or to any assumption of its jurisdiction which might be made by the person who’ resorted to the court. I pointed out that, whatever might be the merits of the case, the question of jurisdiction should be settled, and that the only way iri which to settle it, was by raising that plea. The persons who brought this case under my notice said that after hearing my explanation they understood the matter in a totally different way from that in which they had regarded it before. They recognised that in the interests of the public generally, it was desirable to know and to have firmly established from now forward, what particular courts would have jurisdiction with regard to actions against the Commonwealth. They felt perfectly confident that if the courts were not competent at the present day to establish their claims, as put before them, they had other means of resort which would not fail should they ever turn to them.
– (In reply). - Senator Best has mentioned some case in which. the legal advisers of the department of Trade and Customs objected to the jurisdiction of the court. These actions were all brought against the Collector of Customs, who is the person designated in the Customs Act as being one against whom an action may be brought. As there is no. limitation whatever to the jurisdiction, and the Collector of Customs is directly indicated as the person to be sued, I can see no ground for believing that there could be any objection to the jurisdiction of the State courts to try these cases.
– Neither did I until I saw the appearances as entered by the Crown.
– I have not looked into the matter. It may be that there are cases in which the objection has been taken, but I do not know of any case, except one, in which the Secretary to the Attorney-General’s department informs me, some objection was taken. That was a “Victorian case of Grimwade against the Collector of Customs, but it has been settled. We know of no other case..
– I can assure the honorable and learned senator that there is another.
– Supposing there are cases of that kind, I do not see that they have any relation to this measure.
– The principle is the same.
– I do not see that it is. I fail, to see how we could’ deal with a matter of that kind in this Bill. The Bill deals simply with actions against the Commonwealth. There is no power to bring an action against the Commonwealth without authorization. The other cases to which the honorable and learned senator has referred, were actions against the Collector of Customs, and there is a statutory right to sue that officer. As I propose now to take the Bill into committee, I do not think it is necessary to reply to all the observations which have been made in regard to particular clauses in the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro formd
Senator O’CONNOR laid upon the table the following papers : -
Military forces of the Commonwealth - Report by Major-General Hutton.
Ordered to be printed. - 2. Report of the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the transport of troops returning from South Africa by the Drayton Grange.
Senate adjourned at 11.30 p.m./
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 October 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1902/19021009_senate_1_12/>.