1st Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the Chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Will he obtain a report from the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of South Australia as to the accommodation of telegraph -office at the Gawler Railway Station, South Australia ?
– Yes, since the honorable senator gave notice of his question I have taken action to obtain the desired report.
asked the Vice-Presi dent of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Bounty : Cane-growers.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Ordered (on motion by Senator Higgs) -
That the return laid upon the table on 22nd July, 1903, by the Postmaster-General, in reply to certain questions asked on that day, be printed.
– I have given notice to move that in the opinion of the Senate certain regulations under the Public Service Act should be amended. Honorable senators will recognise that, as the motion deals with a vast amount of detail, each regulation must be dealt with on its merits. I propose, therefore, in order to save time, to abandon my proposal for the alteration of several regulations, and to begin with regulation 4.
– Will the honorable senator indicate how he ‘wishes to amend his motion, in order that it may be put in the amended form?
– I have had printed and circulated a list of the proposed amendments of the regulations. My original intention was to take the amendment of each regulation in its turn. I do not see how we could deal with all the amendments in one motion.
– I understand that the honorable senator wishes to move a series of motions.
– I wish to move that regulation 4 be amended in a certain way, and so on.
– I suppose it is a complicated question, and, if the Senate does not object, the honorable senator can move now that, in the opinion of the Senate, regulation 4 be amended.
– I move-
That in the opinion of the Senate regulation 4 should be amended by omitting the word “half,” and inserting in lieu thereof the words “ threequarters of.”
I find that while the leave allowed in the clerical division is three-quarters of an hour the time allowed in the general division is shorter. I think that three-quarters of an hour for luncheon is quite short enough for any one.
-I strongly object to any distinction being made between officers in the clerical and professional divisions and officers in the general division. I find a sectional spirit running right through the regulations. I strongly object to any distinction of this kind being made between class and class. If the officers of any section in the public service deserve a littleextra time in which to take their meals it is certainly those in the general division. Their work is much more laborious, their remuneration in some instances is by no means commensurate with their services, and certainly if any distinction is to be made extra time should be allowed to them. I do not ask for any extra time to be allowed to them. The officers themselves do not desire any favour in that respect, but they certainly claim equality of treatment as regards the time allowed for meals and other privileges which are granted to the officers in other branches.
– I ask your ruling, sir, whether the motion can be altered in this way, because it is very inconvenient, and certainly it is sprung as a surprise on me. I never heard of a motion being altered in this way before.
– How else could I have done it ?
– I naturally concluded, when I saw the notice of motion, that the honorable senator would make a speech in which he would state what alterations he desired. But I understand that he has abandoned his motion, and proposes to move a separate motion in respect of each regulation which he desires to be amended. It will be impossible for us to follow him, and we are called upon to do this without any preparation.
– The Senate has agreed to this course being taken.
– I do not think it has even been asked to agree to this course being taken.
– In what other way can it be done?
– By the honorable senator going on with his notice of motion.
– The President asked if the Senate would give leave to the honorable senator.
– I do not think any honorable senator understood what he was asked to consent to.
– I call the attention of Senator Drake to standing order 182, which provides that the Senate may order a complicated question to be divided. I do not say that an order has been given by the Senate, but I stated that if it would give leave I would divide the motion in this way. There was no dissentient voice, and it seemed to me that it was the unanimous opinion of honorable senators that Senator Stewart should proceed in the form in which he desired to do. Perhaps, strictly speaking, if Senator Drake objects, it will be for the Senate to decide whether the motion should be divided or not.
– I do not think it should.
– I asked if any honorable senator objected, and there was no objection. If there had been a dissentient voice I should at once have said that the Senate would have to settle the question whether the motion should be put in the form that Senator Stewart desired or not. If Senator Drake now wishes to test the opinion of the Senate, I shall put that question.
– I do not ask that that be done.
– Then I shall allow a separate motion to be made in respect of each regulation which Senator Stewart desires to be amended.
– I think that this matter should be left to the Public Service Commissioner. At all events, if the decision of the Senate is to have any weight, some reasons should be given for altering the regulation. The Senate is asked to agree to a motion which will practically be an instruction to the Commissioner to increase the time . allowed for luncheon in the general divison. Have honorable senators considered all that it means? I confess that I have not. I know that it is an extraordinarily diverse service, in which men are engaged in all kinds of occupations and working different hours. I believe that the time allowed for luncheon is sometimes more and sometimes less. No doubt, it is a popular thing to say - “ Certain men have half-an-hour off for luncheon : give them three-quarters of an hour.”
– I do not think that is a right thing to say.
– It is true. It will be almost impossible for the public service to be carried on if the Commissioner, in small details of this kind, is to be told by Parliament what he is to do. It will be very inconvenient to suggest to the Commissioner what time he should allow the employes for lunch. These regulations cost the Commissioner a great deal of time and consideration. He had the public service regulations of all the States before him, and endeavoured to draft regulations which would, to a great extent, carry out the existing practices in the States. The regulations were approved in the ordinary way and laid before Parliament, when no objection was taken to them. No information has been given as to this particular matter. I have obtained some notes from the Commissioner, but when they were drawn up we did not know the details of Senator Stewart’s proposals. The Commissioner was not aware that the Senate was to be asked to vote to alter the regulations in this manner. This is not the way to go to work.
– Would the passing of this motion mean that the time which the public servants have to work would be extended proportionately.
– I do not know. I am not aware of what Senator Stewart mean’s, or how the motion will be interpreted by the Commissioner. We are absolutely reversing the’ proper procedure, which would have been, had there been any discontent with the regulations, to ascertain the opinion of the Commissioner.
– The honorable senator is trying to block the motion.
– No : I am asking the Senate to consider what we are doing. If there had been any discontent, the proper course would have been to ascertain from the Commissioner what his reasons for making these regulations were, and to point out where there was any cause for dissatisfaction.
– We have tried that, and failed.
– I do not know that. It is not within my knowledge.
– We did not even get a reply. If public service opinion- had been regarded, as it should have been, I should not have moved this motion.
– That is not within my knowledge.
– It is true, nevertheless.
– The honorable senatorcould have brought that matter before the Senate, and drawn public attention to it. -Instead of so doing, he proposes to take a division in a thin House, dictating to the Commissioner the way in which the regulation shall be altered, after which - when it is too late - the Commissioner will be able to give his reasons for putting the regulations in their present form.
– I hope there will not be a long debate on this question. I may point out to the Postmaster-General that the Public Service Commissioner is required to lay the regulations upon the table of both Houses of Parliament. I am sure that Senator Stewart has not submitted his motion with a desire to interfere with the length of hours worked by public servants, but he contends that three-quarters of an hour for lunch is necessary for officers who are engaged in manual labour as well as for those who are doing clerical work. If in consequence of the proposed alteration it is thought to be necessary to extend the hours of work till 5.15 p.m., that is a matter that can be considered afterwards. Weare not now discussing the length of hours. As one who has had to work for his living at manual labour, I may say that three-quarters of an hour for luncheon is absolutely necessary from a health point of view. ‘We want our public servants to be healthy. A man who is engaged -all day in hard manual labour needs to take in a fair amount of “ coal,” and he should not be required to swallow his meal in half-an-hour.
– With, perhaps, some distance to go to get it.
– Possibly the Public Service Commissioner has not given particular attention to this aspect of the matter. If the Senate indicates its opinion that the men in the general division should have at least three-quarters of an hour for lunch, probably the Commissioner will adjust the hours of work accordingly.
The Postmaster-General seems to think that we are endeavouring to shorten the hours. Nothing of the sort. Senator Stewart has not contended that the public servants work too long. But we hold that, in the interests of the men, it is necessary that the time allowed for lunch should be extended, even although it involves extending the day’s work till half-past five. The public servants will not then be working more than 48 hours a week.
– Why not affirm the principle, and let the Commissioner alter the regulation? It is proposed to dictate to him as to how he shall frame the regulation.
– The PostmasterGeneral did not say so when we were altering regulation 41.
– That is only one regulation.
– I do not say that I am going to vote for the whole of Senator Stewart’s proposed alterations, but my experience as a working man shows me that half-an-hour for lunch would be detrimental to the health of the men. Therefore, the alteration should be made.
– I do not believe that any honorable senator desires to burke reasonable discussion, if any injustice is done to members of the public service, whetherin theclerical orgeneraldivision. But the course upon which we are entering is an extraordinary one. I suggest that, in justice to the Minister, and to the Public Service Commissioner, Senator Stewart ought to amend his motion by asking the Senate to go into Committee. That is the proper course when we are asked to consider amendments on about a score of regulations. In Committee we shall be able to speak more than once, if necessary. I am perfectly certain that the Minister will require to speak more than once, and perhaps Senator Stewart will require to do sp also. By proceeding in the present manner we shall certainly do a gross injustice. Personally, I think that thirty minutes is rather too short a time in which to expect a man to get his lunch and have a smoke. But, of course, some regard has to be had for the convenience of the public. I presume that the regulation has been drafted on the assumption that letter-carriers and other officers have to do work in the ordinary mid-day meal-hour. I suggest to my honorable friend that he should first of all get the Senate to affirm the principle that we are going to sit as a court of appeal from the Commissioner.
– The suggestion made by Senator Dobson is a practical one. I should think it would present itself as such to Senator Stewart himself.
– It will give an opportunity of talking the whole tiling out.
– There is no need to say that. The proper place to discuss a question of this sort is in Committee. The standing order referred to by the President enables the Senate to consider the portions of the motion separately, but it does not enable a senator to make several speeches. Senator Stewart has spoken on his motion, and cannot speak again. I am sure that my colleague, who is in charge of this subject, will take no exception to the honorable senator altering his course of procedure in the manner suggested ; but certainly I should be disposed to object to such a breach of the standing order as would be involved in the honorable senator submitting each portion of hismotion as a separate question, and making, perhaps, fourteen or fifteen different speeches, whilst the Postmaster-General, or others who had to answer him, would not be in the same position. What is the difference between going into Committee and dealing with the question in this way? I am speaking in the interests of fair discussion. It would be fairer to the Senate, to the Government, and to the honorable senator himself, to move the Senate into Committee, and have a debate which would enable Senator Stewart to give his reasons for each amendment, and the Postmaster-General to answer him. I should like to say, generally, that, although this power of revising the regulations is given to the Senate, and the honorable senator is justified in asking us to consider them, it was never intended that the Senate should turn itself into a court of review upon these very small details connected with the administration of the Departments.
– It was arranged that the regulations should be laid on the table, and an opportunity given for their discussion before they were finally adopted, but that arrangement was not carried out. The regulations were laid on the table, but no motion was made that they be printed, and they were lost sight of for weeks.
– The observations I am making now would apply equally to the regulations before they were actually passed. When a Public Service Commissioner has been appointed to deal with the transferred Departments all over Australia - Departments embracing a great variety of circumstances and conditions - it is impossible for the Senate to turn itself into a court of review in matters of detail. Great powers have been conferred on the Public Service Commissioner, and surely he ought to be trusted with the details of “administration. I make those remarks without expressing any want of sympathy with the views of Senator Stewart. But, when aregulation of this kind is made, it must be so elastic as to be capable of being altered, not by this Senate, but by the Public Service Commissioner, whenever occasion requires. Regulation 4 itself provides that the hours of attendance of officers in the general division shall be determined by the Commissioner “ from time to time,” but that the ordinary hours of duty for mechanics and other similar classes shall be “ so far as practicable “ those set forth. There is nothing in the regulation to prevent the Commissioner extending the half-hour for luncheon to three-quarters of an hour ; and, whatever regulations may be made, a discretion of the kind must be allowed. Although the Senate has a perfect right to consider the regulations, and to suggest alterations, we should restrain ourselves in the exercise of that power so as not to interfere unduly in matters of mere detail with the duties of the Commissioner.
– May I be permitted, on the question of order raised by Senator O’Connor, to say that I believe that honorable senator to be quite correct. In 1884, a question arose in the House of Assembly in South Australia, under these very standing orders, and the record may be found in the Votes and Proceedings of that House, as follows : -
A complicated amendment was moved ; the Chairman said he would dividesame, and proceeded to put one word, “ religious “ - discussion ensued, and a motion was carried that the Committee do now divide ; and the Chairman ruled, and the Speaker supportedsuch ruling, that no further discussion could take place op the remainder of the amendment.
That is the procedure suggested by Senator O’Connor. Although each of the regulations desired to be amended must be put separately, still, it is one discussion, and each senator can make onlyone speech. Therefore, I think that the suggestion that the House resolve itself into a Committee for the purpose of considering the various proposed amendments points to the proper way of dealing with the matter.
– I ask leave to withdraw my motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Resolved (on motion by Senator Stewart) -
That the Senate resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole for the purpose of considering regulations 4, 16, 18, 24, 38, 43, 63, 66, 98, . 102, 149, 158 under the Public Service Act with a view to amending the same.
The hours of attendance of officers in the general division will be determined by the Commissioner from time to time ; but the ordinary times of duty for labourers, mechanics, and similar classes, shall be as far as practicable from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with half-an-hour off for luncheon, and on Saturday’s from 8 a.m. to 12 noon.
Amendment (by Senator Stewart) proposed -
That the word” half” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “threequarters of.”
– I am now able to give the Committee an explanation of the reason for the difference made between the clerical division and the general division in the matter of the time allowed for lunch. It is not a matter of accident that three-quarters of an hour is allowed in the clerical division, and only half-an-hour in the general division. The explanation is that the majority of the officers of the general division do not have regular continuous hours of labour, whereas the officers in the clerical division work continuously from the time they arrive in the morning until lunch, and afterwards are engaged straight on until the evening. I am informed by one of the officers of the Public Service Commissioner, that men in the general division work broken hours, owing to the nature of their employment ; and that that is the reason for the shorter interval allowed for luncheon. The words used in thisconnexion in the regulation are “so far as practicable,” and the meaning simply is that men in the general division who, after working so many hours have a “ spell,” cannot claim three-quarters of an hour at any particular part of the day.
– Are men supposed to have “spells” during working hours?
– They do get “ spells” during working hours on account of the nature of their employment.
– What sort of officers are they?
-I think Senator Glassey will agree with me that there are a great number of men in the Postal Department who work under such circumstances. A letter-sorter, for instance, may work for an hour or an hour and a half, and then have a break of half-an-hour or more. Under those circumstances it is not considered so absolutely important that a man should have a long interval for lunch as it is when he is kept continuously employed ; and it appears to me that there is very good reason for the difference made. I am informed that the eight-hours’ principle has been applied where practicable to mechanics, labourers, and similar classes, most of whom are day workers ; and most honorable senators know that there are conditions as to working after hours and the payment of overtime as set forth in regulations 60 to 63. I think the explanation I have given ought to be regarded as satisfactory.
– I am afraid that the PostmasterGeneral has been compelled to enter into this discussion without having had the opportunity of considering the proposition.
– That is so.
– That is clearly shown by the reasoning which the Postmaster-General has adopted. Regulation 4 provides that the hours of attendance of officers in the general division shall be determined by the Commissioner “from time to time.” Men who are engaged on the roads fixing electrical wires and in similar work have, of course, broken hours ; they are called out at all times, and consequently it is necessary to arrange the hours of their attendance from time to time, as may be convenient. The regulation that the hours of mechanics and labourers shall be, as far as practicable, from eight a.m. to five p.m., with half-an-hour for luncheon, applies very largely to those who are employed in shops where electrical and other machines are fitted up, and whose work is fairly regular. I am sorry that this question has been introduced as it has been this morning. I meet almost every week men connected with the Postal and other Departments of the Commonwealth Public Service, and I have not yet heard any complaint respecting the hours fixed by the Commissioner. I can quite believe that there are scores, perhaps a majority, of officers who would much rather have only half-an-hour for lunch than work a quarter of an hour later each evening. I can also imagine that in the clerical division, where it is necessary to sit at a desk for four hours, it is very desirable that an officer should in the luncheon hour be able to take a little walking exercise before resuming for another three or four hours. On the other hand, a mechanic is moving about continuously.
– And therefore wants a rest.
– The conditions of work in the two divisions are altogether different, and I am sorry I shall be called upon to vote without knowing whether or not I am meeting the wishes of the men concerned. But these are mainly matters of detail in administration which ought to be left to the Ministry.
– To the Public Service Commissioner.
– The public servants have their associations through which they can approach the Commissioner, if they deem the hours of work inconvenient ; it is purely matter of arrangement between the men themselves, the heads of the various departments and the Commissioner. It is true that the regulations were laid on the table, and that we are supposed to take care that they are in accord with the Act ; and the motion of Senator McGregor the other day was quite a proper one, dealing, as it did, with a matter of policy which had been introduced into the regulations. To attempt to go further would be to enter upon an almost endless task. Am I to be expected to come here and argue the matter of every complaint which may be made to me by any person in the service of any of the Departments? I contend that to expect honorable senators to do. that kind of thing would be to ask us to depart altogether from our proper functions as Members of Parliament.
– The tone of the remarks which have fallen from the two representatives of the Government in the Senate would lead us to believe that it is expected that there shall be no review of the work of the Public Service Commissioner. As one who opposed the appointment of such an officer, I resent any such suggestion. This, in my opinion, is the proper place in which to ventilate the grievances of public servants. When we were considering the appointment of the Public Service Commissioner, we heard a great deal about political influence, butIremindhonorable senators that there are influences of different kinds, and political influence expressed publicly in a place like this is a proper influence, the importance of which should not be belittled. I think it is right that the work of the Public Service Commissioner should be reviewed in this Chamber, more particularly when we remember the way in which these regulations have been introduced. Honorable senators have had no proper opportunity given to them to discuss these regulations, and for that reason, if for no other, Senator Stewart is justified in. bringing forward the motion which he has now submitted. With respect to the regulation immediately before us,I was surprised to hear Senator Charleston contend that those engaged in work of a laborious nature do not require the same opportunity for rest during the day as those engaged in clerical work. As. one who has been engaged in laborious work all his life, I am satisfied that half-an-hour is not a sufficient time to allow for the mid-day meal of persons engaged in that class of labour. I know what it is for a man to get halfanhour or twenty minutes for a mid-day meal. Men engaged in this class of work really require more rest at meal time than do those engaged in clerical employment. All that is being asked for here is that the general and clerical divisions should be treated alike in this matter. Senator Drake has said that, owing to.the irregular work of officers in this class, it is not convenient to give an extended time for meals.
– I have said that it is not so necessary.
– Surely an extra quarter of an hour would not seriously inconvenience the Department?
– Does the honorable senator desire that the men should be kept a quarter of an hour later in the evening ?
– Then why not propose that amendment also?
– I understand that that also is suggested by Senator Stewart.
– I understood the honorable senator to say that he thought these men should work the same hours as those employed in the clerical division.
– They are working longer hours now.
– If they are working longer hours now, what is being asked for is that the conditions shall be made the same for both divisions. I have yet to learn that it is reasonable to ask men engaged in hard manual labour to work longer hours than those who are sitting at a desk all day. I have no desire to depreciate the work of those engaged in clerical occupations, but I know from experience that half-an-hour is not sufficient for the mid-day meal of those who are following laborious occupations.
– Before the Committee wastes more time, may I be permitted to. direct the attention of honorable senators to what we are doing? Surely it cannot be contended that both Houses of the Federal Legislature should sit as a court of review upon the regulations made for the conduct of the public service, when at very considerable ex pense we have appointed a Public Service Commissioner to do this work ?
– The honorable and learned senator desires to make him an autocrat.
– I desire to allow him to attend to his own business, and I wish to goodness the Senate would attend to its business, and would not bother about these trumpery matters. What hope have honorable senators in the labour corner of getting these amendments made unless they are agreed to by both Houses of the Federal Parliament ? Do honorable senators suppose that if fifteen or a dozen members of this Chamber agree that certain amendments in the regulations should be made, that will be considered as a mandate to the Public Service Commissioner to ignore the other House, and to set to work to make the amendments suggested ?
– The other House may decide to give another quarter of an hour.
– We ought to do what we think proper.
– We may waste time for another six weeks, but I am asking honorable senators what good they expect will come of it? The other House must indorse what we do, or the Public Service Commissioner will have no mandate whatever, and indeed he might rightly say that he knows more about the matter than any dozen honorable senators put together. Why cannot Senator Stewart give Ministers and the Public Service Commissioner an opportunity of considering the amendments which he suggests?
– They have had that opportunity. The men complained months ago.
– Does my honorable friend believe that the work of the public departments can be carried on if we listen to all the complaints of 11,000 officers? To save an interminable waste of time, I suggest that Senator Stewart should give the Public Service Commissioner an opportunity of considering the 24 amendments which he suggests, and of making some statement on the subject through the Minister. When we see what the opinion of the Commissioner is on the amendments suggested, we shall know what we are being asked to argue about. It is possible that six or eight of these regulations should be amended in the way suggested by Senator Stewart; there are some of them of trivial importance, and which should not be allowed to occupy our time, but one or two of them may be of such importance that, when we get the opinion of the Public Service Commissioner upon them, we may feel called upon to say that amendments are necessary.
– From the tone adopted by Senator Dobson, it would appear that we have committed a grievous sin in attempting to discuss the regulations made by the Public Service Commissioner. We would appear to be doing wrong because we say we believe that these regulations ought to be amended, and that we refuse to allow the Public Service Commissioner to be an autocrat. According to the honorable and learned senator, everything should be left to the sweet will of that officer. Senator Dobson tells us that, because there are only ten or a dozen honorable senators present this morning, the Public Service Commissioner will take nonotice of any opinion we may express. That is a nice doctrine to lay down here. If the honorable and learned senator is right, the best thing we can do is to hand over the public service to the
Commissioner, and allow him to do what he, pleases, admitting that Parliament has nothing whatever to say in the matter. That is a proposition to which I shall not assent as long as I am a member of the Senate. Senator Dobson some time ago told us that political influence was rife in the various Departments, and should not be allowed to exist for a moment ; but now, when, according to the honorable and learned senator’s dictum on a previous occasion, a proper course is being taken, he says that it is wrong. I am prepared, not only to discuss the proposed amendments of the regulations, but to do all I can to see that the regulations are carried out in a spirit of justice. The Postmaster-General has spoken in the same strain as Senator Dobson. Senator Drake has said in effect - “Fancy Parliament giving instructions to the Public Service Commissioner ! “ It would seem as though some great catastrophe would follow if Parliament were to do anything to question the acts of this officer. I believe that some honorable senators havelost their heads in discussing this matter, and do not quite see the effect of what they have said. The Postmaster-General has told us that the broken time of these officers prevents arrangements being made to give them sufficient time for meals. That there is broken time in connexion with their work we all know, but that should not tell against the men, because they are required to be on duty for specified hours, whether there is work for them to perform during the whole of the time or not. That these men are working broken time is no reason why they should not get a sufficient interval for meals. The amendment of the regulation proposed by Senator Stewart is a reasonable one. I hold that it is positively inhumane to give a man only half-an-hour for his mid-day meal when he is engaged in hard manual labour. It is possible that these men may have to go some little distance in order to get their meals, and threequarters of an hour is quite little enough to give them for the purpose. I repeat that I for one intend to question the regulations, and, if I think them unfair, I shall do my best to have them amended.
– I am very glad that those who were so anxious to appoint a Public Service Commis sioner are now finding him out to be what those who opposed his appointment suggested he would be. I should be very sorry that those who are in the service of the Commonwealth should have to suffer in any way because of it, but I hope that we shall have a little more of this kind of thing to emphasize the lesson. Honorable senators in discussing the matter have lost sight of Senator Stewart’s intention. It is not with that honorable senator a question of an hour or three-quarters of an hour, but a question of the general division being treated in the same way as the clerical division. The Postmaster-General has come here with a rambling story, which he has learned from some one, about the intermittent character of the employment of those engaged in the general division.
– Is it not correct?
– I am going outside the General Post-office altogether. Senator Charleston has dealt with the mechanics and labourers employed inside the office, and their labour as a rule is as continuous as those of. any other employe in the public service, but if we go out into the country and consider the work of men engaged in the construction branch, and in the repairing of telegraph lines, we shall find that they are also in the general division. I have no wish to deprive those who are in the clerical division of any privileges which they may enjoy, I am very glad that they are treated so liberally. An officer in a centre of population - and that is where the men in the clerical division are usually employed - is always in close proximity to a place where he can get a meal. But a man who is engaged on the construction of a telegraph line has to boil his billy, and, probably, to fry his chop or steak. Does Senator Drake imagine that a man who has to prepare his meal does not require as much time as a man who has only to walk out of his office and go into into a refresh ment- room?
– Are construction gangs subject to regular hours ?
– According to the regulations they are. Those who work irregular hours will be dealt with from time to time, and the regulation applies more particularly to those who have regular hours. No doubt the Commissioner has done the best he could, but he only acted in the light of his own knowledge, and that is based on the customs of the different States where, as far as possible, officers in the clerical division were treated as gentlemen, while those in the general division were treated as inferior beings. We do not desire any discrimination of that kind. I am sure that the only object of Senator Stewart is to place the men in all sections of the public service on the same level.
– I wish to say a few words on the question whether, under ordinary circumstances, the Senate should sit as a court of review on the regulations made by the Commissioner. we ought to be careful that we have very good ground before we interfere with the work of his Department. I was very sorry that the Senate thought fit to sanction the appointment of a Commissioner. I foresaw that trouble would arise from the drawing up of cast-iron regulations, which might properly apply to one portion of the Commonwealth, but not to other portions. As one who has had experience of both manual and clerical labour, I contend that half-an-hour for meal time is not sufficient for a labouringman. Although it may be said that thework of sitting at a desk is exceptionally monotonous - one honorable senator has suggested that a clerk may get very tired, and require to take some exercise during his luncheon hour - I can say that I got a great deal more tired when I used a pick and shovel than when I sat at a desk. I found that I did not need to walk in the middle of the day, but to repose and to take a full hour. Every man who has ever worked for me has had a full hour in the middle of the day in which to take his rest and to get his meal in something like peace and quietness. I consider that the Commissioner has made a mistake in drawing this distinction between two classes in the public service. My opinion is that he ought to have given the labouring men longer time than he has done. I do not like to interfere with the regulation. Possibly, if the Commissioner had been asked for a report on all the cases which Senator Stewart has brought forward, on reconsideration, he would have made the desired alterations. At the same time, if Senator Stewart presses for a division, in common justice I shall feel bound to support him.
– The Minister ought not to be blamed for the statements which he has just made, because they are based on information which has been supplied to him from the office of the Commissioner. Tf three-quarters of an hour be necessary for the officers in the clerical division, certainly it is necessary that a similar time should be allowed to men in the general division where the work is much more laborious. I wish to correct the statement of Senator Drake that letter sorters have broken time. Their work in most instances is continuous. In New South Wales and Queensland telegraph operators are not in the clerical division, nor are telephone operators.
– Are all these persons willing to work an extra ‘ quarter of an hour 1
– No. If it is necessary for officers in the general division to work an extra quarter of an hour, then it is equally necessary for officers in the clerical division to do so. The former are supposed to work an hour longer per day than the latter. Why should that distinction be drawn in favour of the men who work less laboriously ? This trouble has arisen from the fact that the two Houses had no opportunity of discussing the regulations, as undoubtedly they expected to get, before they were finally adopted. I shall be no party to making any distinction as regards the length of the meal hour. I have no desire to reduce the time which is allowed to officers in the clerical division, but I contend that the officers in the two divisions should be put on the same footing as regards meal time.
– I think that this matter should be decided, not by a court of appeal, as has’ been suggested, but by the Senate. The Act established certain courts of appeal to deal with individual grievances, but not to deal with a complaint which affects all the men in the general division, numbering some thousands. I was very pleased to hear Senator Playford relate his experience, which, I am sure, is borne out by that of several other senators who have done both manual and clerical work. I would have preferred a longer time in which to take my dinner as a manual worker than as a clerical worker. It has been hinted that if any distinction should be made between the two grades of officers, the clerical workers should be allowed only half-an-hour and the manual workers three-quarters of an hour. But I do not think that any one holds -the opinion that three-quarters of an hour is too long for any official to be allowed for taking his lunch. As regards the suggestion that officers should be called upon to work an extra quarter of an hour, I suppose it will have to be left for future consideration. Generally speaking, I am in favour of the eight hours’ principle. Even if the time for luncheon were extended as we desire, the men in the general division would still work eight and a quarter hours per day. If any man in the public service cannot do a fair day’s work in eight hours he is not fit to be there. The men in the clerical division do not work 48 hours a week. I have never been able to understand why the clerical workers should be called upon to work only five or six hours a day.
– Very often they are eager to get out-door employment for the sake of their health.
– When I was fortunate enough to leave the ranks of - the manual labourers, and to get lighter work at a desk, I was not eager to get back to manual work. I think that if the honorable and learned senator ever has a similar experience he will not be found displaying any anxiety to get back to the pick and shovel. I trust that whatever be the fate of the other amendments, this one will be carried.
– Personally, I am sorry to have heard the disparaging remarks which have been made concerning the Public Service Commissioner. I was one of those who supported the appointment of the Commissioner, and I do not intend to go back upon my opinion. But I think there should be no difference between the clerical and the general division in the matter of time allowed for lunch. I am inclined to think that manual labour is harder than clerical work. , I have not had much experience of manual labour, but occasionally, when a youth, I lent a hand at work upon my father’s farm in Scotland, and I remember that one was always glad indeed to get a spell. If the members of the service doing manual labour desire to have threequarters of an hour for lunch I do not see what objection can be offered to it, especially as it is conceded that there is to be no lessening of the amount of work done per week. No one can say that threequarters of an hour for lunch is too long. I shall support the motion.
– I do not think that we can be found fault with for discussing these regulations, but at the same time we ought not to come to any decision until we hear what the Commissioner has to say. It is not fair to arrive at conclusions without hearing the other side. Whether clerical or manual labour is the harder depends upon the individual. I have done both myself, and I know that I am always very glad indeed to have an interval for exercise instead of sitting all day on a stool.
– The supporters of this motion should give us specific cases of hardship.
– I desire to know what the Commissioner has to say, and therefore I support the suggestion Senator Dobson has made that we should have some report with regard to the matter.
Question - That the amendment be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
– As I do not think there is any likelihood of the Committee being able to deal with all the regulations of which I have given notice of my desire to amend, I propose to avail myself of the suggestion made by Senator Dobson, and to abandon all the proposals up to that with regard to regulation 63.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN. - Those regulations have been referred to the Committee.
– Can it not be done by leave ?
– I ask leave of the Committee to abandon the proposals up to that with regard to regulation 63.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN. - The Committee cannot give leave to the honorable senator.
– Senator Stewart can move his amendments and allow them to be negatived.
Question - That regulations 16, 18, 24, 38, and 43 be amended - resolved in the negative.
Senator STEWART (Queensland). - I find that I did not give notice with regard to amending regulation 62 ; but on looking over the regulations I discover that the question of Sunday work and overtime can be dealt with upon regulation 63? I had intended to amend regulation 62, and if the Committee could give me leave, I should prefer to proceed upon one.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN.- It is an unchangeable rule that the Committee can only consider what has been remitted to it by the Senate, and I have no power to give the honorable senator permission to proceed upon regulation 62.
The following shall be the rates of payment for overtime where such payment is sanctioned, and shall apply only to officers of the professional and clerical divisions : -
Officers receiving a salary of £100 a year and under,1s. an hour.
Officers receiving over £100 a year and up to £150 a year,1s. 6d. an hour.
Officers receiving £150 and up to £200 a year, 1s. 9d. an hour.
Officers receiving over £200 a year and up to £300 a year, 2s. an hour.
Officers receiving over £300 a year, 2s. 6d. an. hour.
– I move-
That after the word “sanctioned,” line 2, the following words be inserted - ‘ ‘ In time worked between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. on week days, time and half, and for Sunday work, double time. “
In the Post-office in Great Britain, overtime is paid for at time-and-a-half rates between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., with double rates for Sunday work. In Scotland, the day’s work in the Post-office consists of eight hours, and night duty is limited to seven hours between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. Overtime is paid for at time-and-a-half rates during the day, with an addition of one-seventh for overtime at night, and for Sunday work double pay is allowed. Surely we in Australia may make allowances of a similar character. In no occupation are the same wages paid for Sunday work as for week day work. Wharf labourers, . for instance, get double pay for Sunday work, and many private employers pay similar rates. The railway porters and railway labourers and employes in Queensland are allowed time-and-a-half for overtime ; and even the tramway men have a shorter day’s work as a return for Sunday duty. So that on the whole I think a very good claim is made out by the post-office employes. There has been a great deal of trouble in connexion with overtime. In some cases men are paid £2 a month, and in other cases 28s. a month in return for extra work ; but a general conclusion has been come to by the employes that it would be much better to have some definite and uniform arrangement. I am assured that the post-office employes do not wantextra work on week days or on Sundays ; but it has been found that overtime is absolutely necessary. At present, instead of these men being paid more for Sunday work, they are in many instances paid absolutely less than on week days; and that to me is an extraordinary state of affairs. I am informed that in Queensland the present practice is to pay to telegraph employes no more for Sunday work than for week day work. A day consists of seven and a half hours, and on many occasions men work twelve hours on Sunday, but are paid as only for an ordinary day. It does not matter how long they work on a Sunday, they are given only one day’s pay ; but if they work less than seven and a half hours - if, for instance, they work five hours - they are paid only for the actual time they are employed. A man getting . £110 a year may be called on Sunday to work from 5 a.m. to 7.30 a.m., and again, on the same day, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.; and, although his whole day has been spoiled, he is paid for only four and a half hours work, or 3s. 7d. He actually receives less than he would for the same amount of work on a week day.
– The regulation provides that officers in the general division receiving a salary of £100 and under shall be paid 9d. per hour for overtime. How does that compare with the rates which Senator Stewart has quoted as prevailing in Great Britain?
– I am not sure.
– I think that the payments under the regulation will amount to more in some instances, and to less in others, than is paid in Great Britain. The payment is on a different principle.
– The employes would be quite satisfied with timeandahalf for overtime, and double time on Sundays. If my motion is not carried, I should like to direct the attention of the PostmasterGeneral to another difference there is between the treatment meted out to the clerical division and that of the general division.
– There is the same old class distinction.
– In the clerical division an officer receiving a salary of £100 and under is paid1s. an hour for overtime, whereas in the general division the allowance is 9d. In the clerical division an officerreceiving a salary of f rom£100 to £150 is paid1s. 6d. per hour for overtimeasagainst 1s. an hour paid in the general division. I really cannot understand why these differences are made ; and so far as I am informed the officers would be quite satisfied if the motion I have submitted were carried.
– I am sorry to see a tendency to raise a sort of feeling as between the clerical division and the general division.
– The regulations have done that.
– I noticed in the previous discussion a tendency to “fling stones” at men who work with their brains more than with their hands ; and just recently I have heard more to the same effect. Senator O’Keefe referred to my own particular case, but I can say that I work with my hands pretty hard in the open air, as well as with my pen elsewhere. The man with the pen works quite as hard as the man with the tool or implement in the open air; and the occupation of the former is certainly more detrimental to health. A man who is chained to a desk throughout the day is more likely to suffer from illhealth than one whose occupation lies in the open air; and a great number of young fellows have shown particular anxiety for employment in the Queensland tramway service - laborious as that employment is - simply because it is in the open air, which has wonderfully curative effects. We ought to have as much consideration for the men who work with their brains as for those who work with their hands ; but I. think I discerned a feeling or suggestion not quite so favorable to the former class.
-We say that one class is entitled to as much consideration as the other.
– The information supplied to me by the Public Service Department on the question of the rates for overtime, is that the difference is made because the rate for the clerical division does not begin until one hour after the ordinary closing time, whereas in the general division overtime is paid without this restriction.
– That is because the day’s work in one case is much shorter than in the other.
– But even so, the hours of labour do not govern the payment made for overtime ; and the information supplied to me by the Department shows an equalizing circumstance. The overtime commences in the one case from the actual hour of finishing the ordinary work, and in the other case, not till an hour later.
– That should have appeared in “the regulation.
– It is not a regulation, but merely a fact in the working of the Department. I am further informed by the Public Service Department that overtime is not paid in the clerical division, where an officer is bringing up arrears of work; the higher rate applies only to special work, which from its nature and the circumstances connected with it, cannot be performed in office hours. The officers of the general division are paid all overtime in excess of ordinary hours ; and I can bear that out from my experience in the working of my own Department. There the officers work long hours over their usual time in order to overtake the ordinary work of the office, whereas a man in the general division is paid a certain wage for working up to five o’clock, and the moment he works after that hour he gets overtime.
– Do those in the clerical division get no consideration for overtime 1
– In some cases they have had tea money, but, as a rule, in Departments like my own, the central Department of the Post-office, men have worked late continually without getting overtime. I. believe it is not now so bad as it was in the earlier stages of Federation, but at that time when there was a great rush of work, the officers in my Department used to be worked up to six o’clock night after night, and sometimes they came back later, and they got no pay for overtime. In the general division it is looked upon as a rule .that a man should get so much for working up to a certain hour, and if he works after that hour something extra That is another reason justifying the lower rate of pay. I have this note supplied to me on the subject -
The clerical work, although the officers may be getting the same salary, is of high quality, and should command a higher rate of pay per hour For example, a general division man - say a sorter - may be sorting letters for two hours overtime, and a clerk in the statistical branch, getting the same salary, may be working the same two hours. The latter is much’.more exacting and exhausting work, as well as being of higher quality, and should be paid for at a higher rate.
I agree with that. Another note I have is to this effect -
The work of the clerical division is regarded as higher in class than parallel grades in the general division, and the rates for overtime were fixed with due regard to all the circumstances attendant on employment in the respective divisions. There is only a slight increase in the rate of the clerical over general. In many cases the overtime in the general divisions is practically for “ standing by no real work is often involved. Different rates of overtime are, and always have, been fixed in the several States for clerical.and general divisions respectively.
I do not profess, of my own knowledge, to be able to support these contentions, but I can support them to a certain extent. Honorable senators must see the difficulty of the position in which I am placed by having this discussion sprung upon me without time for preparation. It is impossible for me to speak with the knowledge which, no doubt, is possessed by the Public Service Commissioner. In the course of this discussion it would appear that several honorable senators consider that they know more of the matter than does the Public Service Commissioner. It may be so, but I think we have a right to assume, until the contrary is proved, that the Public Service Commissioner knows more about his own business than do individual Members of Parliament.
– He is carrying out his business on the old lines.
– We cannot expect everything to be made new in a day. He is dealing with the old material, and he has before him the experience of the Public Service Commissioners in the various States, and he has also before him the Public Service regulations in force in the various ‘ States. I believe that he has conscientiously endeavoured to draw up regulations which will do justice to the officers of the service. It seems to me that the criticism in Parliament ought to be very convincing, and should be supported by very good reasons, to justiy a request to the Public Service Commissioner to make alterations.
– I desire in reply to the PostmasterGeneral to point out that the principle which we should like to see embodied in the regulation is that of equality of payment. It is not fair to compare the’ character of the work, .because the officers engaged in clerical work . have the character of the work in which they are engaged recognised in the wages paid to them. A man in the clerical division is, as a general rule, paid a higher rate of wages than a man in the general division. It is admitted that a man in the clerical division receives a higher rate of wages because he is doing a higher class of work, and we desire that, when he works overtime, payment for the overtime work should be based upon the rate of wages he receives. A. man in the general division is working for a lower rate of wages, and the payment for overtime he works should be based upon that lower rate of wages. A man getting 7s. a day, for instance, in the general division should get overtime at the rate of timeandahalf during week days, and at the rate of double-time on Sundays, based on his wages of 7s. a day. An officer in the clerical division may be getting £210 a year instead of £110, and the overtime payment he receives should be based on his wages of £210 a year. For the Postmaster-General, or those who advise him, to tell us that an officer in the clerical division because he does a higher class of work, should be treated differently to one in the general division in respect to overtime is all nonsense, because he is treated in that way in receiving higher wages, and his overtime payment is based upon the higher wages he receives. It is the rate of wages paid, and not the character of the work performed, which should regulate the overtime payment, and overtime worked by officers in the clerical division should be paid for on the basis of the higher scale, whilst that worked by officers in the general division should be paid for on the lower scale.
– The question of overtime in the Government service is one with which I had to deal some years ago. I found that I had to discourage it, as it is a very bad system. It is a great deal better, if there is more work to be done than the officers at the disposal of the Department can perform, and if it is of a temporary character, to call in outside assistance. If the necessity for overtime continues, and it is clear that there is not a sufficient staff in the Department to cope with the work required to be done, another officer should be taken into the Department and overtime should be discouraged in every possible way. There are bad characters in the Government service as well as in every other service, and overtime is liable to great abuse. In some cases I found that the officers were guilty, so far as I could see, of deliberately neglect- ing their daily work in order that they might be able to do it at night at overtime rates. We had to make drastic regulations to put a stop to that. During a temporary glut of work it may be necessary, in special circumstances, that officers should be called upon to work overtime, but every case of the kind should “be looked into very carefully. If the glut of work is not of a temporary character, fresh hands should be employed, or some poor beggar outside, who cannot get a day’s work at all, should be given a show. I hope that the Public. Service Commissioner, and the heads of the various departments of the service, will do all they can to discourage overtime. I point out, however, that we shall be placed in an awkward position if we agree to the proposed amendment. Senator Drake hastold us that in the general divisionovertime commences immediately the ordinary hours of work are finished ; but in the clerical division, a man may have to work an hour or two before he is allowed overtime. Officers in both divisions should be placed upon an equality in this respect. I think” that, under the circumstances, it will be better for us to leave the matter to be further considered by the Commissioner, with, the understanding that we desire that officersin both divisions shall be placed upon anequality in respect of overtime.
– I think Senator Stewart should be asked to amend his proposal. Honorable senators will observe that an officer getting £500 a. year might, if the amendment to allow a. double-time payment were accepted, be paid at the rate of £1,000 a yearwhen working for an hour later than, usual on Sunday. I think that an officer- getting £100 a year in the general division should receive the same overtime payment as an officer getting the same salary in the clerical division. I sympathize with the proposal up to a certain point, but I think that the overtime payment should be exactly the same in both divisions for the same salary, and it should not exceed half-a-crown an hour. Honorable senators will see that a professional man may be getting a salary of £1,500, and if, in certain circumstances, he is obliged to work on a Sunday, to pay him at the rate of £3,000 a year for that work would be altogether too liberal.
– The more these regulations are considered the more necessary it appears that we should try to remove some of the anomalies apparent on the face of them. The Postmaster-General has referred to the fact that overtime in the case of officers in the clerical division does not start until an hour later than it does in the case of officers in the general division, but that is only another reason why we should try to secure equality of hours and overtime payment for officers in both divisions. I agree with Senator Playford that we should do what we can to discourage overtime. I bebelieve there is a great deal of abuse in connexion with it, and that during the day some officers are willing to while away the time in order to secure as much overtime work as possible.
Orders of the day called on.
– Now that thisdiscussion has begun, I think it is desirable that it should be continued, as that is likely to save time in the long run. So far as the Government is concerned, they propose to give up the afternoon, if necessary, to this discussion, and I hope there will be no objection on the part of honorable senators who have private business on the noticepaper. If this is agreed to, I shall be prepared to move that the orders of the day and notices of motion be postponed until after the consideration of this notice of motion.
– The Vice-President of the ExecutiveCouncil may, of course, move the postponement of Government business, but orders of the day in the names of private members should be dealt with by the honorable senators in charge of them.
– I move -
That there be laid upon the table of the Senate a return showing -
What system, giving terms and conditions, has been adopted by Ministers for contructing and maintaining federal public works in each State, and giving the cost or expenditure to be debited to each State in connexion with such system.
The names of all officers appointed in the Federal Public Works Department from January, 1901, to date, with the salaries of such officers.
From time to time reports have appeared in the press that the Minister for Home Affairs has been urged to appoint an InspectorGeneral of Public Works. It was then stated that he did not intend to appoint such an officer until he was required, and lately I read that an appointment had been made. I have read in the press again and again that some States are carrying out public works far more expeditiously than the Department for Home Affairs can do. Several States, I understand, are not falling in with the suggestions that have been made to allow State officers to carry out Federal works and to charge a reasonable sum. I have read of very high commissions and very high rates being charged by the States. Under these circumstances, I should like the representative of the Government to give, as shortly and as roughly as he pleases, some indication of how Federal works are being carried on in each State. It is a most important matter. If there is a natural tendency towards extravagance it is in the Public Works Department, whether it be of a State or of the Commonwealth. I desire to prevent extravagance. What are the facts? Three Departments - Defence, Post and Telegraph, and Customs - were taken over on a certain day from the States. Whatever Post and Telegraph buildings or Custom-houses may be required have to be built for the same people and in the same localities as if there had been no Federation. Why. in the name of common sense cannot they be built by the same officers ? I suppose that the officers are not overworked in any way. If there is an extravagant or overofficered Department in a State it is the Public Works Department. Why cannot State officers see to the construction, maintenance, and repair of all State buildings which byAct of Parliament have become Federal buildings ? I understand that the
Minister for Home Affairs says that thecommission charged by some States comes to a larger amount than he would have to pay if he employed his own officers. I can hardly understand why that is the case, unless the States are charging a most exorbitant rate, and making a profit out of everything they do for the Federal Government, and, if they are, I wish to sheet the blame home to them. I desire to help the States to economize in every way, and I am perfectly certain that it is the bounden duty of the States to help the Federal Government to economize. Here is essentially one Department standing out above all others, in which, by a little mutual conciliation and co-operation, we can avoid extravagance and maintain economy. But then the Minister for Home Affairs says - “ I am not going to do any work unless I have sole control of the officers, and they are Federal officers.” That sounds very right and like common sense. But if we go on in that way we shall commit the grossest extravagance. The Public Works Department is one in which I humbly point out to the Minister for Home Affairs his axiom ought not to apply. Does he mean to say that the builders- - the clerks of works, engineers, and architects - in the States have been fit to do the State business for ten, fifteen, or twenty years, but are now too extravagant to do the Federal business? Does he desire to belittle any one of the officers in the States? What are the States to do if Federal officers are appointed? It stands to reason that since the control of three large departments has passed away from the States - and the Post and Telegraph Department is a very large one as re.gards construction and repair of buildings - if Federal officers are to be appointed to do what State officers are there to do, the latter must be dispensed with to some extent, or other employment must be found for them. In every way, I think a case has been made out for the Federal and States Governments to work harmoniously in regard to the three departments. Will Senator O’Connor give me as shortly as he likes the particulars I ask for, so that if we find that economy is not being practised, and the States and Federal Governments are not working together, we shall know whether the States or Ministers are to blame.
– The Government do not object to the passing of the motion. Senator Dobson will, of course, understand that it is impossible to supply in detail what he asks for. Every information will be supplied which can fairly be given to. him.
– That is all I want.
– It ought to be borne in mind that no Department is more difficult to manage than the Public Works Department. If we had not been regardful of saving expenditure in every possible way, we should have had our own department in each State long ago. We saw that it might lead to extravagance in the first instance, aud that that extravagance would grow. Therefore we tried, as far as we possibly could, to work in with the State officers. That is now being done in many cases, and the only eases in which it has been departed from are those in which a departure has been found to be absolutely necessary. I would remind Senator Dobson that in every case where a State officer is used as a Federal officer it is done by consent of the States, and that necessarily Federal work is given second place to State work.
– That ought not to be . so.
– Surely the honorable and learned senator cannot expect it to be otherwise. He cannot expect that when an official is paid the bulk of his salary by a State it should consent to his services being used by the Commonwealth on any other condition than that State’ business must be first attended to.
– Is not the erection of a new post-office a State business ?
– The Post-office is, used by the State ; but the business of the Post-office is conducted by the Federal authorities, and although the people of the Commonwealth are the same as the people of the States, the responsibility is that of the Federal Government. Honorable senators who have had practical acquaintance with the carrying out of public works will recognise that on the method of superintendence and care exercised by a clerk of works over the erection of a big building, on his accuracy, industry, and acuteness, may depend the saving or the losing of thousands of pounds.
– That is quite right. But these officers are all in the States.
– I am only pointing out that that fact has to be considered.
Perhaps, by some ill-judged economy in using the services of a State officer, who really has not proper time to attend to Federal work, we maylose thousands of pounds.
– He has as much time as ever he had.
– All these matters have to be considered. We cannot lay down a hard-and-fast rule here. We are following out an experimental policy of administration ; we are feeling our way. Wherever we can employ State officers, we are doing so. When we find that that plan does not work satisfactorily, and that the Commonwealth is losing money by its adoption, then we must have recourse to some other plan. With these observations I may state that the Government have no objection to furnish this return in the manner which I have pointed out.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
InCommitee (Consideration resumed, vide page 2580) :
– I think we need not discuss the advisability of doing away with overtime. It isa very big subject, and it is not exactly the point in issue. The question is that whenever the necessity for overtime arises, there should be the same rate of pay for one class of officers as for another, The present regulation is evidently unfair to the lower paid officers of the service considering that a man in the clerical division receiving a salary of £100 when he works overtime is to receive payment at ls. per hour, whereas a man in the general division only receives 9d. The unfairness becomes more obvious when we look down the list and see that the officers in both divisions receiving comparatively high salaries have their overtime rates increased. Remembering also that a clericalofficer finishes his work at half-past four, whilst an officer in the general division does not finish until five, it will be seen at a glance that the present regulation should not be continued. Furthermore, a clerical officer commences work an hour later than an officer of the general division, and gets an extra quarter of an hour for lunch. There is a general lack of uniformity with regard to these officers. Fairer treatment should be dealt out to the men of the general division, who often discharge duties which are quite as responsible as those performed by officers of the clerical division. Officers who do manual labour are entitled to overtime pay at the same rates as officers of the clerical division. When the general salaries are fixed on the same basis, overtime should be paid at uniform rates.
– I think it is impossible for the Committee to amend these regulations as we are now proposing to amend them, and I, therefore, intend to move an amendment upon Senator Stewart’s motion ; or if he will withdraw the proposition before the Chair, I will submit a substantive motion. If the Committee lay down a general principle the commissioner will be able to take it as a direction to amend the regulations dealing with overtime.
– That is the better way to do it.
– If we intend to amend the regulations affecting overtime we should commence with regulation 61, not with regulation 63 ; but it is evident that it is impossible for us to amend the regulations piecemeal.
– I have already pointed out that the proper way to proceed is for the Committee to declare by resolution exactly what general alteration is desired, leaving the Public Service Commissioner to amend the regulations wherever necessary, so as to give effect to our wish. That would be dealing with the question in a comprehensive manner. If we proceed as Senator Stewart has asked us to do, we may be making an alteration in one regulation, though leaving untouched other regulations in which alterations should also be made.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That for time worked as overtime by the public servants, whether in the professional, clerical, or general division, the rates of pay for such overtime should be uniform as between the various divisions, and that the Senate desire that the regulations regarding overtime should be amended to provide accordingly ; also to provide that ordinary overtime shall be paid at the rate of time and a half, and all Sunday work double time ; and that no overtime be paid to any officer receiving £400 per annum or more.
– I do not see exactly how this motion can be considered at this stage. We were considering the amendment of one of these regulations, and Senator Pearce proposed that instead of passing that amendment we should make a report,
I presume to the Senate. Although this may be the right way to achieve the ends which Senator Stewart has in view, I think that the motion of Senator Pearce should be moved in the Senate and not in Committee. Perhaps Senator Pearce will explain what he desires.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - Senator Stewart submitted an amendment of Regulation 63, in order to deal with the same subject as I mentioned in my motion. I pointed out that regulations 6 1 and 62 also dealt with the question of overtime, but as those regulations were not referred to the Committee, the Chairman ruled that the Committee could not amend them. It was pointed out that it wasimpossible to deal with the question properly unless we could amend regulations 61 and 62, and my motion was submitted in place of Senator Stewart’s motion.
– Senator Pearce’s motion cannot be regarded as an amendment of the regulation.
– Any alterations we may make will go before the Public Service Commissioner, who will amend the regulations in accordance with the instruction of Parliament. Senator Stewart withdrew his motion in favour of my amendment, which was then accepted by the Chairman as the motion. I take it that if my motion be carried it will be reported to the Senate, and, if adopted, will go as a recommendation to the Commissioner on the question of overtime generally, but in particular on the question of overtime raised in Regulation 63.Senator Stewart’s principal object was to remove a difference in regard to the payment for overtime in the general division and the clerical division ; but there were other subjects which he desired to deal with. These were raised by regulation 62, and not by the regulation immediately under discussion.
– I do not think that it can be said that the Chairman actually accepted Senator Pearce’s motion as an amendment.
– Senator Stewart withdrew his motion, and the Chairman accepted my motion in place of it.
– If that be so, then the motion of Senator Pearce, ought to be submitted as an amendment of the regulation, which from its language it cannot be, because it is a general instruction to the
Public Service Commissioner with regard to a matter covered by many regulations.
-It appears to me that strictly speaking it would be more satisfactory to put Senator Pearce’s motion as a sort of addendum to the Committee’s report after the various matters have been dealt with.
– How will it appear in the report ?
– It will appear simply in the form of an instruction, but an instruction most awkwardly and irregularly given. It has, however, been moved, and no matter how ugly it looks, I do not know how I can refuse to receive it.
– It is germain to the subject.
– I cannot very well reject it, and it willmanifestly appear to be simply an opinion of the Senate. Senator Pearcehad better move it as an amendment to Regulation 63.
– If that be the case I ask permission to amend my motion so as to provide that the words be added to regulation 63.
Motion amended accordingly.
– My opinion is unchanged that it would be advisable before passing a motion of this kind to ascertain what the Public Service Commissioner has to say as to his reasons for making a difference in the ratesof pay for overtime. I donot know whether honorable senators are aware that the provisions of the Public Service Act have considerably increased the cost of the several Departments. I am not speaking particularly of the minimum wage section, but also of the provisions, for instance, with regard toleave of absence. I agree that that provision is humane and very proper, but, at the same time, its effect has been to considerably increase expenditure. In my own Department a man on leave is paid, and another man has to be engaged to do his work ; and the effect will be seen on the Estimates when they are submitted. I cannot tell to what extent these provisions have increased the cost of working the Departments ; but I think that the Commissioner should be asked to advise us before we take action, and not afterwards, when it is too late. The proposal, so far as I understand the speeches of Senators Stewart and Pearce, is to limit the hours of regular employment by providing that all time worked between certain hours shall be regarded as overtime.
– There is nothing in my motion about that.
– That was the effect of my motion.
– The intention clearly is that, although it may be convenient to work men at late hours, rather than during the earlier hours of the day in certain occupations, they will have to be paid overtime rates for all work done between six o’clock in the afternoon and eight o’clock the following morning, and that in the general division overtime will have to be paid for at the same rates as in the clerical division. All these proposals tend in the direction of increasing the cost of the Departments.
– The object is to do away with overtime.
– But overtime cannot be done away with altogether. In a Department like the Post-office it is impossible to get all the work done before six o’clock in the evening.
– The honorable and learned senator is arguing upon Senator Stewart’s amendment, which deals not only with the subject of overtime but with the subject of night work. The amendment I have moved does not deal with night work.
– I do not understand that Senator Stewart has altogether given up his views with regard to overtime payment for night work. Whether the amendment goes far or not, it is clearly in that direction. These amendments are manifestly brought forward in the interests of the employes, the object being to secure better pay for them. I do not blame honorable senators on that account, . but I remind them that the effect must be to increase the cost of the working of the Department. I do not object to the amendment on that account any more than I objected to the minimum wage provision inserted in the Post and Telegraph Act for the same reason, though I knew that it would have that effect. But I think we have a right to know what these amendments are going to cost. We should not go to work blindly, and there is no doubt that in regard to the minimum wage provision in the Post and Telegraph Act we did take action blindly. We did not wait to know what would be the cost involved. In the same way with regard to the alterations made with respect to leave of absence under the Post and Telegraph Act, we did not know what expense would be involved, and, in fact, it is only now that we are beginning to find out what the cost is likely to be. We are now being asked to tell the Public Service Commissioner to make another advance in the same direction before we give him an opportunity of estimating the cost. We should look after the interests of the general taxpayer as well as those of the employes of the Government, and all these proposed amendments involving increased expense mean an increased burden on the general taxpayer. I do not say the proposals made are unjustifiable on that ground, but that that is a good reason for asking for time to ascertain the probable effect of them.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia).I think this is a very good way of bringing these questions under the notice of the Public Service Commissioner. In what other way could they be brought under his notice, except by asking a question or moving for a return? We do not propose here to alter the regulation, but to indicate to the Public Service Commissioner the lines upon which we think the regulation should be framed. If the regulation is altered as we propose, some honorable senator can easily move for a return of the probable expenditure involved. If, in view of the increased cost, the Public Service Commissioner frames a regulation which ‘is found not to be on exactly the lines which honorable senators desire, it will then be for the Senate to say whether we shall insist upon all that is asked for in these proposed amendments. I think the Committee would do well to pass this amendment, seeing that it does not alter the existing regulation, but leaves it to the Public Service Commissioner to say whether he thinks it practicable to alter the several regulations relating to overtime in the way suggested. The Postmaster-General brought in the matter of night work, but I do not regard night work as overtime. I look upon overtime only as time worked beyond a man’s regular hours of labour. I think it is unfortunate that we have not a better attendance of honorable senators to discuss these matters involving an increased cost in the working of the public service. It may be said that allowances paid for overtime are likely to increase the cost of the public service, but we know that men I who have to work too long hours do not give the best return for the wages paid to them. I think it can be demonstrated that economically an eight hours’ system is better than a ten hours’ system, because a man will produce more if his labour be continuous in eight hours than he will produce in ten hours. I should like the Postmaster-General to withdraw his opposition to my amendment, and let it go before the Public Service Commissioner. We can then get a report f ram that officer as to whether he thinks it advisable in the public interest that the alterations suggested in the regulations should be made. I have not proposed to deal with the question of night work, because men who have to do night work have shorter shifts and other advantages, and I do not wish to confuse the two questions of night work and overtime.
– I have not the smallest objection to Senator Pearce’s amendment. I think it is very desirable that we should have some means of getting these questions before the Public Service Commissioner. So far as my knowledge goes, and I speak with some experience as an old employe, in the Brisbane Postoffice, public servants do not desire overtime where it can be avoided, nor do they desire to have to work on Sundays. But in the Postal Department, I know that it is utterly impossible to avoid overtime and Sunday work. In so large a territory as Queensland, with its scattered population, the delay of a mail may mean that perhaps weeks will elapse before the people in somelocalities will be able to get their letters. I agree that wherever it can be avoided all overtime work should be discouraged. The Postmaster-General says that these amendments if adopted will involve an increase of pay to numbers of officials. I know that the effect of the regulations in the Queensland Departments has been to cause a serious reduction in the remuneration of those engaged in the mail and telegraph branch of the postal service. Officers had previously certain allowances in the shape of mail money, overtime payment, and pay for Sunday work, and their remuneration from these sources have been considerably reduced. If these matters are to be brought before the Public Service Commissioner, I think that officer would be well advised if he invited a few persons who have had practical experience in these matters to assist him in framing the .regulations. It is probable that the regulations are defective so far as the conditions existing in Queensland are concerned, in consequence of the absence of the Queensland inspector, Mr. Bourne, who was unfortunately laid up by illness for a considerable portion of the time during which the regulations were framed. I would point out to Senator Pearce, on the subject of overtime, and so far a’s it affects Sunday work, that the matter is one which must be carefully considered, because I find that the Public Service Commissioner calculates payments to be made for Sunday work on the basis of a year of 365 working days. That I think is an absolutely unheard-of arrangement.
– I propose double time for Sunday work.
– That is quite right. I think that the working day. should in no instance exceed eight hours.
– That is fixed by Regulation 24.
– I remind the honorable senator that in many branches of work, that, for instance, performed by telegraph and telephone operators, eight hours continuous work would simply be cruelty. There is no more severe physical and mental strain than that involved in the work of a telegraph operator. The same conditions are largely applicable to the case of telephone operators, and no person could continue-at that class of work for eight hours. These are matters which require to be considered, and whilst for some classes of work the working days should be exceedingly short, it should not exceed eight hours for any class of work. I believe that the Public Service Commissioner has no right to divide the year into 365 working days, and pay for overtime accordingly.
– What regulation is that ?
– I can tell the honorable senators that that is what is being done, because I interviewed the PostmasterGeneral on the matter, and I have . had this correspondence from the PostmasterGeneral’s office on the subject -
Postmaster-General’s Department, Melbourne, 9th July, 1903.
With reference to your interview with the . Postmaster-General on the 2nd instant, when you inquired as to the rate of payment of officers of this Department for Sunda)’ duty, I have the honour, by direction, to inform 3’Ou that the Secretary to the Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner, to whom the question has been submitted, advises as follows :- “ The method of calculating payment for Sunday duty is thai prescribed by the regulations issued by the Commonwealth Treasury in regard to the payment of public moneys and cannot be varied. A copy of the regulation referred to is attached hereto for your information.” . . .
The regulation to which I have been referred has been issued by the Treasury, but it will be for the Senate and the other House to say whether this cannot be altered. This is, the regulation referred to -
In preparing accounts for salaries, wages, and allowances, one month’s pay at an annual rate is to be calculated at one-twelfth part of such annual rate. Salary for a portion of a month is to be computed by multiplying the amount of the salary for the month by the number of days comprised in the period for which payment is to be made, and dividing by the number of days in the month. Wages for a portion of a week are to be computed by multiplying the amount of the wages for the week by the number of days comprised in the period for which payment is to be made, and dividing by six.
We have this result : That a man receives a far higher rate of pay for Sunday work in the month of February than in the month of March. Why should we not raise the issue -that a working year should be 313 days instead of 365 days, that a working week should be six days instead of seven days, that the number of hours to constitute a day’s labour should, in no instance, exceed eight, and that overtime should be calculated accordingly? That is the position which I should have taken up if I had been able to. reach my motion relating to Sunday labour to-day. I have a pile of correspondence relating to these matters. Senator Drake might well advise the Commissioner that if he desires to obtain regulations that will work out practically in the various States, he should call to his aid some men from the various branches of the service who will render him most valuable service for a slight remuneration. It has to be borne in mind that by section 84 of the Constitution Act all rights and privileges, both existing and accruing, were preserved to transferred officers. Many rights and privileges which existed in Queensland are violated by these regulations. Conditions of emolument, which have existed there for a quarter of a century, have been taken away, and payment is mode on an entirely new basis, diminishing the salaries of transferred officers very considerably. I move -
That the amendment be amended b3r inserting after the word “ divisions,” line 6, the following words - “For the purposes of this regulation the working 3’ear shall not exceed 313 days, and the working week shall not exceed 48 hours.”
I regret that we cannot deal with these questions seriatim, because it could easily be proved that the regulations are not in conformity with the spirit and letter of the Public Service Act.
– I am prepared to accept the addition to my motion.
– Is fixing the number of hours a question of overtime 1
– It is an instruction to the Commissioner.
– The amendment of Senator Pearce reads -
And the Senate desire that the regulations regarding overtime should be amended to provide accordingly.
– Then it has to be determined when overtime commences.
– Is it only intended for that purpose 1
– I do not see how that can be effected by the method which is taken of ascertaining the rate of pay per diem. I know something of the matter referred to by the honorable senator. I must admit that I was very much surprised when I learned that the method of ascertaining Sunday pay was by dividing the yearly sum by 365, and ordinary pay by dividing the same amount by 313, giving the curious result that the rate of pay on Sunday was somewhat less than that on any other day. It struck me as being very peculiar, and I have drawn attention to it already. It is a matter to which the attention of the Commissioner might very properly be directed, but this is not the proper way to do it. Surely the object of Senator Pearce can be achieved by getting from the Commissioner a report giving his reasons for framing the regulations as they are, explaining the way in which they work, and stating the expense which would be involved in making the necessary alterations.
– If this matter is deferred until we can get a report from the Commissioner, will not the time in which we can amend the regulations have elapsed ?
– There is no time fixed.
– Then clearly the time cannot elapse. If the honorable senator is referring to the period of time in which the regulations have to lie on the table it has elapsed long ago. Of course, a regulation can be challenged at any time. An opinion can be obtained from the Senate or the other House as to the desirability of amending a regulation. For instance, on the motion of Senator McGregor, we passed a resolution in favour of a certain regulation being amended, and it could be done again. This proposal, however, is not for the amendment of a regulation, but is a general direction to the Commissioner. Senator Pearce admits that if it is passed the Commissioner will have to make a report on the subject, although he is not asked to do so. Surely it might be done in a much easier way. I am sure that if any honorable senator asked whether the Government would be willing to’ obtain this information from the Commissioner, and lay it on the table, the answer to his question would be “ yes.”
– We wish the Commissioner to know our mind on the matter.
– Honorable senators will not get the Commissioner to know the mind of the Senate by taking a division in a thin Committee. It is very much better, I think, that some honorable senators should ask for the information to be supplied, and I undertake to say that when it is asked for it will be furnished.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral agree that a number of officers should be brought from the different States to assist the Commissioner to put the regulations in order?
– That is another matter.
– I do not know what course of action on the part of those who desire to see the regulations improved would have pleased the PostmasterGeneral. No proposition that we can make meets with his approval.
– Get the information first is what I should say.
SenatorSTEWART. - My purpose was not to get the information from the Commissioner, but to give him some information as to the mind of the Senate. I know all the agruments which he could raise, and I am not satisfied with them.
– Does not the honorable senator think that other honorable senators might like to have the reasons of the Commissioner in order to enable them to form an opinion ?
– I have no objection to other honorable senators getting his reasons, but we desire to do something definite. The regulations were framed subject to the approval of Parliament. I was under the impression that we had the power to alter the regulations, and I brought forward a motion for that purpose. Those of us who believe in altering the regulations have abandoned the ground which we originally took up in order to meet the view of the Government, but it appears that nothing we can do agrees with the view of Senator Drake. As the time at our disposal to-day was so short, I decided to abandon the alteration of all the regulations except those relating to overtime and Sunday work, which I deemed to be the most important. It is extremely desirable that we should know the mind of the Senate with regard to overtime and Sunday work. In Great Britain they pay time and a half for overtime, and double time for Sunday work. If that is done in Great Britain, where the conditions of labour are notoriously very much worse than in Australia, surely it is a very strong reason why it ought to be done here? Instead of following the example of almost every employer in a civilized country and paying workmen more for Sunday labour than for daily labour, the Commonwealth Government actually pays less. That is a most serious reflection on somebody. I do not know who that somebody is. I only know that the PostmasterGeneral is responsible to Parliament for that state of things. I shall not go to the Commissioner, because I have nothing to do with him. I know that postal officers have time after time brought this matter under his notice, and have not been able to obtain any satisfaction. It was not until every other means had been exhausted that I was asked to take action in the Senate. Yet Senator Drake tells me that he never heard of the matter before. There must be something absolutely rotten in his office. It appears to me that his under-strappers look upon him more as an ornamental figurehead than as an active vital power in the office. It is a most serious reflection upon him that he does not know that these things are happening in his Department. He actually comes forward here without a blush on his countenance, and confesses that the Government is sweating its employes to an extent not known in any other country, and that he is unware of it ; and he is full of consideration for this precious Commissioner who is dragging the fair fame of the Commonwealth in the mire. I am very sorry to have to speak of the honorable and learned senator in this fashion, but his own attitude from the very moment this amendment was brought before the Chamber compels me to do it.We are in this position. Senator Pearce has brought forward an amendment which, if carried, will express the will of the Senate with regard to overtime and Sunday work. Evidently the Postmaster-General does not wish it to be pressed to a division. I hope it will go to a division, and that honorable senators will express their opinion upon what I term this disgraceful conduct on the part of somebody in the postal service. I do not who has done it, but I know that the PostmasterGeneral is responsible.
– For what ?
– For paying the employes of the Department less for Sunday work than for work on other days of the week.
– How can the PostmasterGeneral be responsible for that ? The Public Service Act is in operation.
– What on earth is the Postmaster-General there for? Have I not already told him that representations have been made time and againto the Commissioner, and the permanent heads of the service in the several States? Evidently not a whisper of this has reached the PostmasterGeneral.
– I believe that the honorable senator himself has told me all about it.
– The Minister’s underlings have evidently surrounded him with a wall of silence. If the officers of the’ Department cannot reach the PostmasterGeneral by ordinary and natural avenues, there is no other course than to come here ; and I have spoken here on their behalf. I hope that a vote will be taken on the question.
– We ought to have honorable senators here first.
– We are here. We are not responsible for those who are absent. If we pass an amendment today, and those who are absent object to it, they can bring up the subject again and reverse our decision if they choose. But those of us who are here are prepared to do the business of the country ; and this talk about the Committee not being sufficiently large has no weight with me. The PostmasterGeneral himself must see that there is a serious charge to be made against his Department with regard to Sunday work. I hope he will take the earliest opportunity of remedying the grievances of his officers. I have pointed out that in the case of the telegraph men, they are not paid for more than a day’s work no matter how many hours they are on duty. I know of cases where men have worked twelve hours on the Sundays, and received only seven and a half hours’ pay.
– For twelve hours’ continuous work?
-From nine o’clock in the morning till nine at night continuously. As Senator Glassey very properly pointed out, the work of a telegraph operator is of a most exacting and exhausting character. It plays havoc with the nerves of some of the operators. These things are going on in the Department, and the Minister knows nothing at all about it. Now that he has been informed I hope that he will take steps to remedy these wrongs. As to overtime, why should men be asked to work twelve, fourteen, and fifteen hours a day for a very small extra allowance, and why should there be a difference between overtime rates paid in the clerical branch of the service and those paid in the general division ? If there is to be any difference it ought to be in favour of the general division, because, as is well known, there are very few officers of the general division whose salaries rise above £200 a year ; whereas some officers in the clerical division are paid £1,000 a year and over. I trust that the mind of the Senate is made up, and that Senator Pearce’s amendment will be carried.
– I do not wish to get rid of any portion of the responsibility which properly falls upon my shoulders, but the honorable senator must see that he is very wide of the mark in holding me responsible for the working of the Public Service regulations. We passed the Public Service Act for the express purpose of regulating the working of the Departments under the control of the Public Service Commissioner, by whom the regulations have been framed. In these matters of overtimeand pay for Sunday work, my Department is bound by the regulations made under the Public Service Act. I cannot alter them one way or the other. The honorable senator must know that perfectly well. Before Federation these matters were regulated in several of the States by the Public Service Acts of the States where those Acts were in existence, and since the Commonwealth Act has been passed, and the regulations framed, the Public Service Commissioner has been endeavouring to bring all the States into line in this respect. But it is not to be expected that there should not be some inequalities. Sometimes it is difficult to find out the amount which ought to be paid for Sunday and overtime work. The new regulations were bound to cause divergencies from the practices that existed in the States before Federation. Sometimes the alterations are in the direction of extra liberality, sometimes in the direction of paying somewhat less. These alterations necessarily occasion some amount of discontent. I am perfectly sure that the Commissioner is desirous and willing to do all he can to render full justice between the employes and the Government. I do not hold him responsible because in the working out of the regulations there may be some inequalities. Comparisons are bound to be made between different States in regard to the payment of overtime, and sometimes ithappens that an apparent inequality is caused, because the amount of overtime to be paid was perhaps previously fixed in one State and not in another. I made a proposal which, I think, almost satisfied Senator Pearce - that if any honorable senator would ask for information, I should be prepared to obtain it from the Public Service Commissioner and lay it upon the table, so that the Senate might be in a position to consider whether it is necessary to pass a proposal of this kind. I say now, without asking any honorable senator to go through the form of asking for the information, that if progress be reported, I will consult with my colleague, the Minister for Home Affairs, and endeavour to get from the Public Service Commissioner a full statement with regard to overtime and Sunday work, and also as to the other question of lunch time. We have come to a decision with regard to lunch time, and I will ask the Commissionertogive usareport upon that subject also. We shall then be in a position to come to a fair decision, having the views of the Commissioner before us. .
– Will the PostmasterGeneral give us an undertaking that we shall have an opportunity of bringing up the subject again at an early date?
– There will be the opportunity that occurs on Fridays. No private members’ business has in any way been blocked in the Senate. In fact I have endeavoured to facilitate private members’ business even to the extent of allowing it to be discussed upon Government days. There will be no obstacle thrown in the way, and I will undertake to get the information from the Commissioner.
– On the understanding from the Government that they will give us an opportunity of dealing with the subject, and will throw no obstacles in the way of my amendment being brought forward again, I beg leave to withdraw it.
Amendment of the amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
The PRESIDENT reported the receipt of following message : -
Mr. President : Message No. 10.
The House of Representatives returns to the Senate the Bill intituled “ A Bill for an Act to provide for a Bonus to Growers of Sugar Cane and Beet,” and acquaints the Senate that the House of Representatives has made the amendment requested by the Senate, with the modification set out in the accompanying schedule.
F. W. Holder, Speaker.
House of Representatives,
Melbourne, 24th July, 1903.
Resignation of the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– Before making any motion upon the message which has just been announced, I wish to make a statement to the Senate. It is a statement which Imake with the most profound regret. It is that the Right Honorable Mr. Kingston, the Minister for Trade and Customs, has to-day resigned his position in the Ministry, and that his resignation has been accepted. The cause of the resignation, which has been a difference of opinion as to the provisions of the proposed Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, we have sought, with the most anxious and earnest care, to settle. It was found to be impossible to arrive at a settlement, and the result was that yesterday the Prime Minister received the following letter from Mr. Kingston : - 23rd July, 1903.
My dear Prime Minister.
I cannot consent to be any party to this Bill in a form which will not make it clear that it applies to seamen, so as to permit the making of operativea wards as to all ships engaged in our coastal trade.
I have, therefore, the honour to enclose my resignation, with an assurance of my sincere regrets that necessity compels the severance of our relations.
P.S. - I purposely refrain from reference to any other point of difference.
The Right Honorable the Prime Minister.
Accompanying that was a letter intimating Mr.Kingston’s formal resignation of his office. On the same day the Prime Minister wrote to Mr. Kingston in these terms : - 23rd July, 1903.
Before making any more formal answer to the note which accompanies your tender of your resignation (which, pending your reply to this, I do not propose to make public), I wish you to reconsider a step which I consider would be highly injurious to the public interests. You owe it to yourself, to your colleagues, to me, if I may say so, and, most of all, to the public, to accept this advice.
The measure in which you feel so anxiously concerned gives you nearly all thatyou have asked. Any measure of the kind is a momentous advance in industrial legislation, and I know of no parallel to it in the laws of any Federation. In the form which the Cabinet is prepared to indorse, it is far-reaching, and will do more for the settlement of industrial strife than any measure of the kind in existence. On this, our first Federal essay in such a field, I ask you earnestly to be satisfied with so much. There are those among your colleagues who have conceded much in accepting the Bill, even without the extension of awards made under it to the crews, not parties to a dispute, of shipping not Australian, whether British or foreign. The views and opinions of those colleagues should be considered as well as your own.
I do not expect a reply this evening. I should be better pleased if you would consider this note between now and to-morrow.
Surely it is right that I should ask, and that you should give further consideration to this matter, remembering not only your past loyalty to your colleagues, but also the loyalty they, in their turn, have rendered you, and the cordial relations which have so uniformly marked our official and personal intercourse.
Mr. . Kingston did take time to consider, and, as a result, he wrote to Sir Edmund Barton to-day as follows : - 24th July, 1903.
Many thanks foryour kind note, and I have, as you desired, slept over it ; but I cannot retire from the position I have taken. I recognise the loss which it means to me. I prize my office. I love my work. My colleagues are my personal friends. My leader does not require to be told what are my feelings towards him - how strong my personal attachment, nor how deep my political regard and loyalty. Whatever my many faults, want of loyalty finds no place amongst them. I value very highly loyalty to a great cause. This cause of industrial conciliation has long been dearest to my heart. It has ever been recognised as most needing legislation - especially in the Federal area - for the prevention of disasters, such as the maritime strike. Shorn of all application to seamen or cheap crews - not Australian - which invade our coastal trade any Federal Conciliation Bill would be a mockery for which it would be idle to expect earnest support, and with which I cannot be associated, apart from the circumstances under which the seamen have foregone their claims to special navigation legislation this session.
I have spared ho pains to meet my colleagues. I have done all that I can do without loss of selfrespect, and I can do no more.
With kindest regards,
To that the Prime Minister replied : - 24th July,1903.
My dear Kingston,
I have your note of this morning, and as my appeal to you has not succeeded, I must reluctantly consent to your action in severing your official connexion with the Ministry.
I warmly acknowledge your cordial expressions of regard for your other colleagues as well as myself, and I cannot conceal the sorrow which your retirement causes me.
The terms of your letter necessitate my adding a few remarks. I do not share any apprehension of a maritime strike. As I have informed you,I am convinced that there is no likelihood during, at any rate, the next twelve months of anyreduction in the rates of wages paid to our seamen. I have publicly stated our intention to introduce a comprehensive measure for the passage of which within that period ample time would thus be afforded. I mean a Navigation and ShippingBill, containing a provision for the payment of our ruling rates to ohe men engaged on all vessels even from abroad taking part in our coastal trade. This could constitutionally, and without doing violence to any international law or usage, form part of such a measure as one of the terms on which we grant the privileges of our coastal trade. As you are aware, the opinion of the Cabinet is that the provision you desire to make in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill would be open to objection on both constitutional and international grounds if placed in a measure having such distinctly different purposes, and would be likely to defeat itself. The insertion of the provision in the Navigation Bill is therefore, in om1 judgment, the course best calculated to secure to our seamen the protection which we, like yourself, desire to give them. We have, however, declined to deal” piecemeal ‘ with the objects of our Navigation and Shipping Bill, and His Excellency in his speech on opening Parliament intimated that Ministers were not sanguine of being able to deal with that measure this session.
With kind regards,
That closes the correspondence ; but I think it is due to the Senate that I should state, in as few words as possible, the cause of the difference of opinion between my honorable friend Mr. Kingston and his colleagues. The Conciliation and Arbitration Bill hasbeen in preparation and under discussion in Cabinet for some time. Mr. Kingston wished that an award made by a court constituted under the Bill should include what is known as an award making a common rule in a trade - that is to say, making a rule in a trade which would bind persons who were not parties to the cause. That is a provision common to all arbitration laws, and one which we were willing to embody, and which will be embodied in the Bill. But Mr. Kingston was desirous that this common rule should apply, not only to our own shipping - to Australian shipping trading in our own ports - but also- to all British and foreign shipping engaged in the coasting trade. It was part of the Government policy that this end should ultimately be attained ; but considering the form and scope of the Bill, we felt that it was impossible in it to carry out that object effectively. The awards of a Conciliation and Arbitration Court could only be binding upon foreign ships if those awards were in accordance with some special trade law which provided that foreign, trade should take place around our coasts only on certain conditions ; and it was impossible to insert such conditions in a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. But the Government undertook, as stated in the correspondence by the Prime Minister, that provisions of the nature desired by Mr. Kingston would be embodied in the Navigation and Shipping Bill to be introduced next session, when we could comprehensively deal with the whole question of foreign trade in Australian waters. The Government felt that it would be impossible to deal with such a question in a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, whereas our colleague, Mr. Kingston, held the strong opinion that the measure ought to provide that awards should apply at once to foreign ships. I need hardly say that the action of our colleague, springing as it does from the highest motives, is regarded by the Government with the greatest possible respect. We also feel that we, on our part, are entitled to equal credit and respect for our adherence to what we consider to be a matter of principle. Unfortunately, the difference could not be met in any other way than that which my right honorable friend Mr. Kingston has thought it necessary to take. I can only say now that the severance of Mr. Kingston’s connexion with * the Government is regarded by his colleagues as not only a personal loss, but a loss to the community. After we have gone together through so much stress and strain from the beginnings of Federation - after Mr. Kingston’s loyalty and his splendid services - the Government feel deep regret that the parting should come over a matter of this kind. I may say that there is no other cause of difference, and that our late right honorable colleague leaves the Ministry with the most profound and sincere respect and friendship on both sides. The Government will, of course, go on with the introduction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, according to their own views, and I need not say that in every respect except that on which the difference has arisen, the Bill embodies the views of our late colleague.
– It is only right-
– I do not think there should be a debate.
– I ask the indulgence of the Senate.
– But will that indulgence apply to every honorable senator ?’ I only want to know what leave the Senate is to be asked to grant? According to May, tenth edition, page 302 -
No member may speak except when there is a question before the House, or the member is about to conclude with a motion or amendment.
I shall not quote the exact words which follow, but May proceeds to lay it down that when no question is before the House the following exceptions are admitted : - Inter aiia, personal explanations, and statements made by Ministers of the Crown announcing their retention of office, or the dissolution of Parliament ; and that when there is no such question before the House, a debate on such a statement is irregular. That is the practice of the House of Commons ; and, under our Standing Order No. 1, that practice prevails when our standing orders are silent. If we desire to .have a regular debate, I think the proper way would be to move the -suspension of the standing orders.
– Might I say that I think it is the universal usage in Parliaments, when a statement of this kind is made, to allow the leader of the House and some representative of the other side to speak.
– I have read the practice as laid down in May; but I have no desire whatever to stop debate.
– I hope there will be no necessity to put any question, but that the Senate will allow the usual course to be followed.
– I have said what the rule is ; but if the Senate is unanimous that the rule ought not to be obeyed I can have no objection.
– I ask that leave be given to Senators Symon and McGregor to speak upon the question.
– I will put it to the Senate, that leave be given to Senators Symon and McGregor to speak.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear.
– That being the unanimous desire of the Senate, those honorable senators may speak to the question.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - I felt that probably it would not be regarded as any departure from the ordinary procedure if I rose to say a few words in conformity with a practice which has been adopted in the House of Representatives only this afternoon, when after statements by my right honorable friend the Prime Minister, and the right honorable member Mr. Kingston, Sir William McMillan, representing the other side in that House, made a short statement.
– And Mr. McDonald also.
– I was not aware of that. But, Mr. President, I need hardly assure you and the Senate that I do not rise for the purpose of initiating a debate. I rise for the purpose of saying that the grave statement - I think I may refer to it as a grave statement from the stand-point of the country itself - made by the VicePresident of the Executive Council, has taken honorable senators by surprise. T desire also to say that it was no more than justice, and no more than the full courtesy which we expect from the Government, that the intimation should have been conveyed to this Senate, and that it should have been accompanied by what I cannot help characterizing as the full, fair, and candid statement made by the VicePresident of the Executive Council. The example is one which might be followed in the future with, great advantage to the public interest and to the procedure and dignity of the Senate. Of course, it would be altogether out of place if I were even to advert in the slightest degree to the points of difference between the Ministry and their retired member, Mr. Kingston, which have been referred to by Senator O’Connor. It is not for me it is not for any of us, to express an opinion upon the merits of these matters. I will only say that, though standing, as I do, on the Opposition side in this Chamber, I thoroughly believe, and concur in the statement which my honorable and learned friend Senator O’Connor, has made, that the difference - and I am sure it is an unhappy difference from the Ministerial stand-point - between the parties, has been the result of conscientious feeling on either side. I cannot help saying that, because we know the right honorable member who has retired, and, in spite of all controversies, we recognise that he has been a rare fighter in the past for his own opinions, and for the principles in which he believes, and which he desires to see carried into effect. I know myself what he is in controversy and in combat; but, in spite of all differences, I must say that I know of no man more devoted to the discharge of his public duties, according to his light, than the right honorable member. It is only just that I should say that. It would be unkind if I did not say also - and, at the same time, I do not say it in any spirit but that of sympathy - that I realize the great loss the Ministry have sustained, and that, whatever differences there may be, there can be no doubt that a strong force has not merely gone out of the Government of the Commonwealth, but out of the more immediate and prominent public life of the country. I say that without any hesitation. I shall make no comment upon the difficulties of the Ministry, nor upon questions of policy. Nor shall I speak of the ultimate fate of either of the parties to this difference. That lies in the womb of the future. But I should not be discharging my duty if, as a public man, I did not express the sentiments which I have been enabled, by the indulgence of the Senate, to utter upon this occasion.
– On my own behalf, and on behalf of the party with which I am associated, I must say thatit is with great regret we have heard the announcement made here to-day. I am sure that those who have known the late Minister for Trade and Customs for a number of years are very well aware that principle is with that right honorable gentleman the first thing in life. His action now affords further evidence of the sacrifices he has been prepared to make for those principles in which he strongly believes. It would be very wrong on our part if we were to attempt this afternoon to criticise the differences of opinion between that gentleman and his late colleagues. I hope his advocacy of his principles will bring him the reward that is due to every man for honesty of purpose. Whether honorable senators agree with the right honorable member, Mr. Kingston, or not, they cannot fail to admire the position he has taken up from his own point of view. I think we may give expression to our regret at his resignation, and we must admit that, to some extent at least, it will weaken the hold which the Ministry have upon Parliament. I hope that the future may bring forth better things, both for the Ministry and the country.
In Committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ message).
Clause 2 -
There shall be paid oat of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, to every grower of sugar-cane or beet within the Commonwealth, in the production of which sugar-cane or beet white labour only has been employed after the twenty-eighth day of February One thousand nine hundred and three, abounty, at the rates provided by this Act, on all such sugar-cane or beetdelivered for manufacture after the commencement of this Act and before the first day of January One thousand nine hundred and seven.
Senate’sRequest. - Aftertheword “three,” line 8, insert “or for a period of twelve months immediately preceding the delivery thereoffor manufacture. “
House of Representatives’ Modification. - At end of clause add : “ Provided that nothing in this section shall authorize thepayment of any bounty for any sugar-cane or beet in respect of which any planting has been done by other than white labour after the twenty-eight day of February One thousand nine hundred and three.”
– I move -
That the Committee agree to the modification made by the House of Representatives to the request of the Senate.
The modification now inserted in the Bill is the modification which I moved, but which honorable senators did not thenfeel themselves able to accept. Under the circumstances, as the other House has found itself able to go so far to meet the desires of the Senate as to accept their request with this modification, the effect of which has already been explained, I hope there will be no difficulty in the Committee now carrying out what last night appeared to be the wish of the majority ; that is to say, that if the Bill came back from the other House with the request modified, as I suggested, honorable senators would then be disposed to accept it. If my motion is carried, it will have the effect of bringing to an end this difference between the two Houses, and the Bill will be passed.
– I think it well to say that I am very pleased to find that the House of Representatives has agreed to the request in the modified form in which I submitted it to the Senate yesterday afternoon. I think it is to be regretted that honorable senators did not see their way to accept the motion I moved yesterday, instead of compelling this round-about course to be followed. I hope that the modification now suggested will be accepted, and that the difference which has existed between the two Houses will come to an end. I hope also that growers of. sugar-cane in my own State will derive considerable benefit from the operation of this measure, and will be able to secure the bounty proposed to be given to them at an early date.
– In contradistinction to my honorable friend, Senator Glassey, I am very glad that we pursued the course which we did pursue yesterday evening. We have settled one point, and we now know that we can amend a Bill, and also make a request in connexion with the same Bill. It is something to know that the House of Representatives has assented to that reading of the Constitution. I therefore say that we have asserted our position and have gained something. I think it is our duty under the circumstances, to accept the proposed modification.
– We were told last evening that in taking the action we did, we would cause considerable delay and run considerable risk in connexion with the Bill. The delay which has taken place ineach Chamber appears to me to have lasted for about ten minutes.
– There was a risk.
– There was no risk, as the honorable and learned senator knows. The Government had to pass this Bill because they were acting illegally in paying rebates away under an irregular regulation, as Senator Matheson has described it. They could not afford to hang up the Bill, and if the same fight had been put up in the other House as we put up here in support of the original proposition, without a doubt it would have been carried. For some reason or another there was no fight putup in the House of Representatives, and, in consequence, I think that the white Australia movement has been toaslight extent retarded. However, as half a loaf is better than no bread, and as we have, I think, upheld the rights, privileges, and immunities of the Senate, taking everything into consideration, the matter has ended as well as might have been expected.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Senator DRAKE laid upon the table
Further correspondence relating to the agreement between the Commonwealth and the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company.
Senate adjourned at 3.33 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 July 1903, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1903/19030724_senate_1_14/>.