2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to call the attention of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, to the following letter, which I have received from a constituent : -
I am posting you envelope enclosed. It was a letter sent to me from a brother-in-law in London telling me of my father’s death, and asking me to appoint an attorney, as I had to be represented by one in Jersey re dividing the property. The letter was opened in Melbourne or Sydney, and returned to my brother in London. As all lighthouses are either under the Marine Board or Harbor Trust there was very little trouble in sending the letter on to one pf the Boards, seeing the letter was urgent. I notice, in one of our papers where the Federal Post Office people are very smart, as a letter addressed more as a puzzle they had no trouble in finding the owner. I would propose that every post office was supplied with a map of the Commonwealth, or appoint some old sailor to sort the letters for them.
The letter is addressed to Althorpe Island Lighthouse, Australia, and is marked, “Post town not known in New South Wales,” and “Post town not known in Victoria.” I desire to ask the Minister if he will ask his colleague to cause the sorters in the General Post Offices at Sydney and Melbourne to pass an examination in the geography of Australia, and to supply a map of Australia to the General Post Offices in those cities, so that the- sorters may know that there is such’ a place as Althorpe Island .in Australia ?
– I shall have the matter referred to by the honorable senator brought under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral .
– I sent to the Department of Home Affairs for the information. It had not arrived before the meet:ing. of the Senate this morning, but if it comes, as I hope during the day, I shall announce it.
– Probably it could be got more readily from the Crown Solicitor.
– I was referred from his Department to the other.
Is it a fact, as stated by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, that the Council of Defence has not met since the present Government came into office?
In the absence of such meetings, by whose, authority do individual members of the said Council issue instructions to State Commandants, signing such instructions “ By order “ ?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
There has been, one meeting of the Council of Defence, since the present Government came into office, which was held yesterday.
FIRST PARLIAMENT: Mr. TOM ROBERTS’ PICTURE.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
– Arising out of that answer, I desire to ask the Minister of Defence if he can inform the Senate why a preference has been given to Mr. Roberts over Mr. Nuttall?
– I cannot answer the question. I know no more about the matter than is contained in the answers. But if the honorable senator will give notice of a question I shall get the information he desires.
– Arising out of the question of Senator Matheson, I desire to ask Senator Playford whether a copv of the picture will be placed ‘in the Parliament House of each State ?
– I do not . think that that question arises out of the answer, which was that four copies of the picture had been ordered for certain places.
– The honorable senator can move that further copies of the picture be purchased for the places he refers to.
– Arising out of the answer. I desire to ask the . Minister of Defence if he can tell the Senate whether the copies of the picture which have cost £23 each are framed or unframed, the cost of the frame, and the cost of the picture without a frame?
– I have no pretensions to any knowledge of high art, but in the Queen’s Hall the honorable and learned senator will see a copy of this picture, I think in a frame.
-Col. NEILD. - Arising out of the last Question, I desire to ask the Minister of Defence if he is aware that copies of the picture can be obtained from subscribers at about half-price ?
– I am not aware. I am not in the market.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer,uponnotice -
If ‘the daily allowance will be paid to, members of Parliamerit who are members of the Tariff
Commission when that Commission sits in other States than Victoria when Parliament is not sitting?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The daily allowance will, when Parliament is not sitting, be paid to members of Parliament who are members of the Tariff Commission when that Commission sits in a place in which the member does not reside. The principle to be observed is that when a member is put to expense which he would not be put to, were he not a member of the Commission, the allowance will be paid.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, ufon notice– -
Is it the intention of the Government to amend the Post and Telegraph Act so as to enable Hansard to be posted at newspaper rate, and sold to the public at 4s. per Session, postage paid ?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The question of amending the Post and Telegraph Act is under consideration, and in connexion therewith the provision of a lower rate of postage for Hansard will be dealt with.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Has his attention been called to an article appearing in the Herald of 23rd August, in which it is stated that lessons are being given to the scholars of the Geelong school calculated to instil into their youngmindstheprinciples of Socialism?
– Theanswer to the honorable senator’s first question is as follows: -
I do not suppose that my honorable friend expects me to give an answer to the second and third questions.
-I should like the questions to be answered.
– I really cannot answer them.
-Very, recently thehonorable senator answered questions which were far more absurd.
– The honorable senator must not say that any questions I answered were absurd.
Bill read a third time.
– In conformity with the notice I gave to the Senate on Wednesday last, I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– For a purpose?
– The notice given was to allow of a discussion of the classification scheme.
– On this motion I propose to say a few words on the classification scheme and its amendment, as laid before Parliament. I do not regard this as the best method of dealing with the scheme of the Public Service Commissioner. We are placed in a rather awkward position in that we are handcuffed, so to speak.
– I rise to a point of order. I desire to know, sir, whether, on this motion, it is competent to discuss a subject respecting which a notice of motion appears on the business-paper. I refer to the following notice of motion in the name of Senator Neild -
That the amended reclassification scheme of the Public Service Commissioner be now taken into consideration of the Committee of the whole House.
I submit, sir, that if it is competent on this motion to discuss matters of which notice has been given, the notice-paper will become utterly useless, as we could anticipate a discussion on any subject.
– I think that the Senate ought to take into consideration, as I do, the fact that the Ministry publicly announced that they would bring this matter under discussion to-day on the motion, “ That the Senate do now adjourn,” and we had that intimation before the notice on the business-paper was given by Senator Neild. That, I think, makes a great deal of difference. It seems to me that according to the spirit of the Standing Orders, it is Senator Neild, if anybody, who is in fault, and not the Government. I would call attention to the rulings of last session, which have been printed.
– Before you do that, sir, will you allow me to say that while it is quite true that the Ministerial intimation was given on Wednesday, there is nothing on the business-paper to indicate that?
– That is so, but the Ministry handed to me a notice of motion that, contingent on the motion, “That the Senate do now adjourn “ being moved, they would call attention to this matter. I said that such a course was absolutely unnecessary, and therefore they did not put the motion on the business-paper. I made that statement before anything was heard of the notice of motion in the name of Senator Neild.
– I could know nothing about that, and with greatrespect to you, sir, I take exception to your action in alleging that I have been guilty of default.
– I have not alleged that the honorable senator has been guilty of anything. I would call the attention of honorable senators to this ruling of last session, under the heading “ Anticipating Discussion “ -
Even on the first reading of the Appropriation Bill, a senator is debarred from discussing any matters on the notice-paper.
That is very similar to the present case -
This ruling is strictly in accordance with standing order 405, but a rigid adherence to this standing order might lead to undesirable results. A senator, in order to prevent discussion of a subject, might give notice of motion concerning such subject, and after all never move the motion. Discretion must be exercised in the enforcement of the rule.
That is what I said last session, and I hold the same opinion still. I am not going to prevent honorable senators from discussing this question of the Public Service classification, although, perhaps, if I were to interpret the standingorder strictly according to the letter, and not the meaning, I might do so.
– I wish to explain that I asked the question merely for the purpose of obtaining information as to the proper interpretation of our Standing Orders. I have no wish to prevent discussion, and indeed, intend to take part in it. I understand that you have given a ruling on this particular case, and that you are not laying down a general principle?
– That is so.
– I draw attention to the fact that we cannot pass any motion on the subject of the Public Service classification in the circumstances in which we are placed. That seems to me to be very inadvisable. Practically, we have no power by this method of bringing the matter before the Senate to deal effectively with the scheme. I totally dissent from the view that that is a proper position in which to put us. I think we ought to be able to pass any motion with regard to the Public Service
– That can be done by substantive motion, at any time.
-Col. Neild. - I ask your ruling as to whether the speech which my honorable friend is making will practically have the effect of removing from the notice-paper the motion which I have placed there, and to which, indirectly, the honorable senator is referring?
– That is rather a difficult question to answer. The Standing Orders provide that the same matter shall not be discussed twice during the same session. It is provided in the Standing Orders that on the motion “ That the Senate do now adjourn,.” no irrelevant matter shall be introduced. I think that is a good rule, which ought to have been adhered to. But the Senate thought otherwise, and passed a resolution permitting irrelevant questions to be raised on the motion “That the Senate do now adjourn.” Consequently, we have this difficulty confronting us. In accordance with that resolution, a senator ,can discuss irrelevant questions; and will that discussion debar the same questions from feeing discussed again in pursuance of notice of motion? I do not think so. I do not think it ought to do so. I am bound to say that there is no standing order about the matter, and, therefore, I am merely giving my opinion. But the discussion of a question on the motion for the adjournment might merely consist of a very few remarks by one honorable senator, and that ought n6t to prevent the same matter being debated again on a notice of motion.
– The question that has been raised is extremely important. Apart from the actual point that was first raised, but rather on i he broader point that arises out of the question put by my honorable friend Senator Neild, I should like to know whether, in your judg ment, and in the opinion of the Senate, the method now being pursued is a desirable way of dealing with a big question such asthe classification of the Public Service?
– That is not thepoint. It is not a point of order either.
– I ratherthought that that was the point raised bv my honorable friend Senator Neild, becausewhat he wishes to know is whether the ef feet of this debate on the motion for theadjournment of the Senate, will be to wipehis motion off the notice-paper.
– That is a point of order; but whether this is ja desirable method to pursue is not a point of order.
– I do not mean to raise the larger question of theconvenience or facility of the method being, pursued, but what I wish to point out isthat it appears to me that the result of adopting this course is practically to burk discussion in detail on another motion or* the paper.
– I have already given a ruling on that point.
– I am not making these remarks with a view to question in any way what has fallen from you, but with a view to direct attention to the inconvenience of this method.
– That may be ali right, but that is not a point of order.
– The motion “ That the Senate do now adjourn “ means, that, if it is carried, no other business can be taken.
– I think that this is. an inconvenient method, because our hands are tied. We are prevented from passing any motion. I think that this is a futile way of dealing with the question. There are one or two points in the classification scheme upon which I think the Senate should not merely have a desultory discussion, but should pass a motion.
– Would not such action really be opposed to the spirit of the Public Service Act ?
– I shall deal wilh that point. It is said that we have practically handed over the entire control of the Public Service to the Commissioner;, that we have made him an autocrat ; that we have not merely prevented Ministers in Parliament from dealing with officers of the service, but have even parted with the right to review the actions of the Commissioner. Those who make that statement cannot have read the Public Service Act, or they would never make such a mistake. If honorable senators will turn to the Act they wilt find that the Commissioner is an officer created by Parliament, and has to report to the Executive, which is responsible to Parliament. Why do his reports come before Parliament? To ornament the table? To be looked at, and not even to be read? The position is ridiculous. I am .surprised that honorable senators who are sent here in the interest of the public should say that this officer, whom Parliament has created, is to be looked at with awe, that we are not to speak about him, and not to pass motions about his work. Those who hold that view must be trying to reverse the position, and to put the Commissioner before Parliament. Under section 8 of the Public Service Act Parliament has defined the duties of the Commissioner. He is not referred to as if he were superior to Parliament. It is provided that the inspectors shall report to the Commissioner; and in sub-section 2 it is provided that after considering such reports, the Commissioner may propose to the Governor-General in “Council - that is, to the Executive, which is responsible to Parliament -
Any particular disposition of officers and offices and the division or class subdivision of class or grade of every officer and re-arrangement or improved method of carrying out any work which appears to the Commissioner necessary or expedient for the more economic efficient or convenient working of any department, and such proposal sh.all be considered and dealt with’ by the Governor-General.
If we have given over all our powers to this officer, why need he report to the GovernorGeneral at all ? What is the use of his report? What is the object of laying it on the table, as provided by a later section? lt is conclusively clear that this officer is under the control of Parliament, and that the whole of his decisions are subject to review by the Governor-General in Council. Sub-section 3 of sub-section 8 says that -
If the Governor-General does not approve of any proposal it shall be the duty of the Commissioner to reconsider such proposal, clearly showing that the Governor-General in Council has power to review all the decisions of the Commissioner. I think that the exaggerated position given to the Commissioner is due to some of the weak Ministers we have had in office. I have heard of Ministers having to work their clerks overtime, or having to go through a lot of formality to get additional clerks to save their officers from working overtime. The Minister who allows that condition of affairs to happen is not fit for his office. The section goes on to say that -
Such fresh proposal shall be considered and dealt with by the Governor-General.
– Not by Parliament until the Governor-General has dealt with it.
– Is there anything that Parliament has not a .right to discuss ?
– It is not merely a question of discussion; it is a question of direction if necessary.
– And Parliament can direct the Government.
– We can only direct the Executive if they have done wrong.
– We can direct them even if they have done right. Indeed, the honorable senator says that on occasions not only can Parliament direct the Executive, but that a section of Parliament can do so.
– The matter is not ripe for discussion, in my opinion.
– I direct attention to the last paragraph of section 3 of section 8, which says -
Where the Governor-General does not approve of any proposal a statement of the reasons for not approving and for requiring a fresh proposal shall be laid before the Parliament.
That is to say, where there is a conflict of opinion between the Government and the Commissioner, and the Government hag called upon the Commissioner for a fresh proposal, the reasons for so doing shall be laid before Parliament - from Senator Dobson’s point of view, I suppose, to be respectfully worshipped, but from my point of view in order that Parliament may, if it thinks fit, have an opportunity, as it has the right, to express its opinion on the action of the Government.
– The Executive has not expressed its opinion yet as provided by the Act.
-Col. Neild. - Because the Executive neglects its duty Parliament is to fall into the same rut !
– Executives have approved by silence.
– Whether the Executive has done its duty or not, I take it that this Senate is not going to hand over its power because of a weak Government.
– Three Governments have affirmed that they did approve of the scheme.
– By their silence that may be so.
– And by their affirmation.
– I do not think that any Government has approved of the scheme by affirmation, except, perhaps, the present Government. I believe that previous Governments had no opportunity to deal with the matter.
– The Watson Government did.
– I think the honorable senator is not correct in saying that they approved. It was their intention to bring the subject before Parliament.
– We were only considering the subject when we were jerked out of office.
– Section 8 goes on to provide what is to happen in regard to officers, but there is nothing which indicates in the slightest degree that the Senate is not free to embody its opinion in resolutions, and that those resolutions are to have no effect on the Commissioner. I think that this officer, who is the creation of Parliament, must regard any action taken by Parliament in these matters. My point of view is emphasized by section 11, which says -
The Commissioner shall furnish to the Minister for presentation to the Parliament at least once in each year a report on the condition and efficiency of the public service and of the proceedings of the Commissioner and all Inspectors - not merely a report on efficiency, for the information of members, but of the Commissioner’s action in regard to the service - and in such report there shall be set forth any changes and measures necessary for improving the method of the working of the Public Service.- The Com’missioner shall in such report draw attention to any breach or evasion of this Act which may come under his notice.
That clearly shows, I contend, that the Senate may deal with the recommendations of the Commissioner, and that we should not give up, as I think we are doing to a certain extent by the method adopted, our power to criticise and express an opinion. As to the report, I wish to say that in my opinion the Commissioner has had a very difficult task of great magnitude. It would be something wonderful if an individual officer were able to reconcile six different services and systems of treatment without causing much dissatisfaction ; and we must admit that the report of the Commissioner is very valuable, and redounds greatly to his credit. But we must not shut our eyes to the fact that in some particulars, at any rate, the effect- although I do not doubt the Commissioner’s desire to give fair play - has been to inflict injustice on some of the officers of the lower-paid grades and sections of the service. I can quite understand that, as the Commissioner and his inspectors continually come in contact with those in the higher grades of the service, they are more likely to lean to the latte^s point of view than to the point of view of those lower in the grades in regard to salary and position. We must, therefore, make allowance if we find a tendency throughout the scheme to give the heads of departments, or those in contact with the heads of departments, more generous treatment than is dealt out to the public servants in the lower grades. One other feature also strikes me. The Public Service Commissioner- and, perhaps, naturally so from his environment - has fallen into the erroneous idea that men who do manual labour are not deserving of the same consideration as are men who do clerical work. Whether in the matter of allowances, of salary, or of treatment generally, the officer in the general division receives an inferior salary and treatment.
– Inferior increments, inferior overtime allowances, and inferior holidays.
– And have less opportunity for advancement.
– One of the greatest drawbacks is that theofficers in the general division have, as Senator McGregor says, less opportunity for advancement; and that fact should influence the Commissioner to compensate them with more generous treatment in other respects. For instance, in the clerical division there is no grading below a salary of £160 per annum. If a man enters the clerical division as a probationer, there is nothing to prevent him, with the good will of the head of the Department and the inspector, from rising to a salary of £160 without waiting for his seniors to die; and on attaining that salary he begins to work up through the various grades. That seems to me to be a perfectly fair proposal. It is quite reasonable that, providing a man is efficient and industrious, he should’ have a guarantee that he shall proceed1, increment by increment, until he reaches that salary. I am not advocating what are called automatic increases, but contending that there should be a reasonable prospect of a man attaining a salary of at least .£160.
– Irrespective of the value of the work done ?
– I know that is an argument used in this connexion ; but should the argument not apply also to the clerical division ? Are there no officers in the clerical division doing work not so valuable as that done by other officers in the same division? All I ask is that honorable senators shall apply to the general division the same arguments as they use to justify the absence of grades in the clerical division. What I invite honorable senators to defend is the differential treatment. I know that I shall probably be told by the Government that the Commissioner has been so instructed by Parliament, and that he has no option but to grade officers in the general division. In fact, the Commissioner himself, probably anticipating that this point would be raised, says on the first page of lias report : -
The arrangement of the general division into grades, also provided for by section 80 (a), has been completed, and the limits of salaries fixed by regulation are contained in schedule III. hereto.
One of the objections to the grade system, as applied to the lower officers of the general division, and particularly to the lettercarriers, is that, in addition, the salaries of the grades have been fixed, and, further, the number of letter-carriers who can get into the grades is limited. There are one-third of the men in grade 2, one-third in grade 1, and a hybrid grade, composed of assistant letter-carriers, containing the remaining third.
– I suppose they carry the bags for the other fellows ?
– Although these men have to act on their own responsibility, they are called assistant letter-carriers.
– The duties and hours are the same, and this is simply a method of paying small salaries.
– There is no doubt about that. Section 80 of the Public Service Act provides -
The Governor-General may make, alter or repeal regulations for the carrying out of any of the provisions of this Act, and in particular for all or any of the following purposes, namely : -
For arranging the professional division into classes and the general division into grades, and for determining the limits of salaries and wages to be paid to persons in such classes or grades in the different departments or in any specified department. 1^ suppose the defence will be that the Commissioner takes this as an instruction to grade the officers of the general division. But the power on the part of the Commissioner to make regulations is purely optional, and if he does make regulations, they should conform to the general principles laid down in subsequent sections. It may be said that this section is an indication that at the time the Act was passed it was the wish of Parliament that the general division should be graded, but the Public Service Commissioner, in grading the general division, and the lettercarriers particularly, has gone a step further. It will be noticed that in the paragraph of the report I have read, he does not quote section 80 as a justification for limiting the salaries or number of the officers in each grade; indeed, it would be impossible to do so. The Commissioner justifies his action by regulations which he himself has made, and my contention is that the Public Service Commissioner, by utilizing to the full the permissive power given to him under section So, has drafted regulations which practically enable him to extend the wish of Parliament in a direction never intended. If such, however, were the intention of Parliament at that time, I think that, in view of the results, Parliament should intimate to the Commissioner that the system he has adopted with regard to the letter-carriers must be abolished. In regard to the general division, which includes the letter-carriers, we have affirmed the principle of a minimum wage of ;£no per annum for those who reach the age of twenty-one, and have been three years in the service. While we have fixed a minimum wage, the Public Service Commissioner has fixed a maximum wage, and the latter for the letter-carriers is ^138 per annum. I draw honorable senators’ attention to the fact that, short of the office of Deputy PostmasterGeneral, in each of the States there is no maximum fixed in the clerical division. In that division the way of promotion is open, and promotion carries with it substantial increases of salary. As I have already pointed out, there is no grading in the clerical division until a salary of ;£i6o is reached, whereas in the general division not only are salaries limited - in the case of the letter-carriers to ^138 - but before these latter can obtain that salary they have to face a rigid system of grading which makes promotion almost impossible, unless they live to a very great age. What is the reason? The only reason that can be given is that these men are not following a clerical occupation.
– Is the question not really whether the men are being paid a fair wage for the work?
– Should that question not also be asked in regard to the clerical division ?
– I quite agree with the honorable senator.
– A fair rate of wage should, in my opinion, be paid, although my idea of a fair wage might differ from that entertained by Senator Mulcahy. These letter-carriers should have, fair treatment and encouragement. First of all, we should safeguard the principle of the minimum wage, below which no. man should be admitted to the service. If a man is not worth the minimum salary, he ought not to be given employment in a Department ; but once a man is admitted, he should have reasonable prospect, providing he is energetic, vigilant, and sober, of reaching, at any rate, the limit of ^160 per annum, as provided for in the clerical division. Up to that point, advances of salary should be given, not automatically, but as rewards for length of service, combined with sobriety and efficiency. That is my idea of fair treatment, which, I take it, any honorable senator would extend to his own employed ‘ A private employer would fix a salary to start with, below which he would ask no man to work; and then the way would be open to reward and promotion, depending entirely upon efficiency and industry. My opinion is - and I have heard ether honorable senators often say the same - that in the Public Service we “should apply the principle adopted by private employers ; that is the only way in which to get an efficient service. The work of a lettercarrier is laborious, and, especially in the summer time, when he has to walk at all hours in the towns and cities, his- position is. not an enviable one. A letter-carrier has a responsible position, arid has to bring to bear a considerable amount of intelligence in the discharge of his work. Any dereliction of duty, especially in sobriety, may lead toloss of employment at any time, and we require for the position men who are good citizens and industrious workmen. I .says, therefore, that we should treat these men in a more generous fashion than, we have done in the past. I trust that’ therepresentatives of the Government in theSenate will take a note of the variouspoints referred to in the debate, and will bring the suggestions made under the notice of the Public Service Commissioner. I ask that, so far as section 80 of the Public Service Act is concerned, the three grades, fixed in the general division be abolished, and the maximum salary raised, so that it may be possible for a man following the occupation of a letter-carrier in the Common wealth to expect to receive £5 per week after long service. A great outcry was raised when we proposed a minimum wage of £2 2s. per week, but no honorable senator who opposed that provision ever held the view that a man should not be able to secure that salary after he had been a certain time in the service. I think that honorable senators will readily admit that there should be for all workers in the Commonwealth, whether inside or outside of the Public Service, a prospect that, by diligence and sobriety, they might hope to receive a salary of £5 per week. After studying the operation of the grading system proposed, I believe it to be practically impossible for many letter-carriers in the Public Service to rise even to the maximum provided. In the past, when a man in receipt of the maximum salary of his class has died, some other public servant has beenmoved up into his place, and given the same salary, but, under the classification scheme - and this is where the assistant grade comes in - instead of moving anofficer up to take the place and the salary of the man who has .died, a probationer is put into the assistant grade.
– It defeats the minimum wage.
– That is so, because until the probationer has been qualified by three years’ service, and by reaching the age of twenty-one years, he cannot get even £2 2s. per week. If a system of grading means anything at all, it should mean that when an officer in receipt of the maximum salary of a gradehappens to die, the officer next qualified is moved up into his -position, and is given the same salary. The system adopted by 4he Public Service Commissioner does not permit of that. Again, where a limited number of officers are allowed in a certain grade, it should logically follow that there should not be less than a certain number of officers in that grade. But that does not follow in the classification scheme. It seems to me that the more satisfactory way would be to treat the general division as the Public Service Commissioner has treated the lower branches of the clerical division. We should fix a minimum salary, and a decent maximum, salary, which will encourage men to become efficient, and we should then let gradation depend on efficiency and industry, and allow the judges of that to be the permanent head and the heads of the different branches of a .department. There is another question which particularly affects my own State, that of allowances. I am glad to see that the Public Service Commissioner, in his amended report, has . to some extend remedied the injustice inflicted by his first arrangement. In Western Australia, and particularly in the more remote and inaccessible parts of the State, as honorable senators are aware, the cost of living is much higher than it is in the eastern States. The first allowances for extra, cost of living provided in the classification scheme were altogether inadequate. They were less in many cases than the allowances previously given by the Federal Government, and much less than those allowed by the State Government in Western Australia. In the case of Broome, where a cable company employs a number of officials, they received higher salaries and much higher allowances than the public servants in the same place. The Public Service Commissioner, recognising these facts, has raised the allowances given to officers in the more inaccessible portions of the States. But I point out that the cost of living, even in the larger towns in Western Australia, is much higher than it is in Melbourne or Sydney. I am entitled to say that an officer performing duty in Western Australia should get the same salary - that is, a salary having the same purchasing power - as ‘an officer performing similar; duties in Melbourne or Sydney. The Commissioner should therefore have taken Melbourne or Sydney as a basis on which to arrange a scheme of allowances for places in the Commonwealth where the cost of living is higher. At present an officer getting a transfer from Sydney or Melbourne to Perth is obliged to accept the transfer at a reduction of salary, because, while he gets nominally the same salary, .its purchasing power in Perth will not be so great.
– We might get over that difficulty by a climate allowance.
– I am not complaining that the Public Service Commissioner has not provided for a climate allowance, but that he has not adopted a proper scheme. Honorable senators will be aware that in the various States allowances are made according to the cost of living in different places, and I argue that what the Commissioner has done for the States he should have done for the Commonwealth as a whole, and, taking one or two cities as a basis, have arranged a scheme of allowances for officers in every part of the continent. Another matter to which attention should, I think, be called, is that in Kalgoorlie and on the goldfields generally, an artisan desiring to join the Public Service is compelled practically to break the Arbitration Court award’s in order to secure employment. In places where there are no Arbitration Court awards, an artisan may have to break the laws of his union by taking less than the minimum rate; ‘of wages fixed for his district if he wishes to get into the Public’-Service. In two States of the Commonwealth there are Arbitration Courts, and in Victoria there is a Wages Board, and the Commissioner, in fixing the rates of wages for artisans, should have taken into consideration the rates fixed1 by Arbitration Courts andi Wages Boards where such tribunals exist.
– For the’ like class of work.
– Yes. These are the chief points I wished to bring forward, but I add, in conclusion, that if I had been given the opportunity I should have submitted a motion in regard to them, and I regret that the course adopted for the discussion of the classification scheme has prevented my doing so.
– In. common with other honorable senators, I am forced to recognise the extremely inconvenient method which the Government have, adopted of bringing this matter before the Senate.
-Col. Neild. - Inconvenient and unusual.
– In unusual circumstances.
– I do not desire to refer to the circumstances in which the matter was first mentioned in the Senate, beyond stating that the whole of the trouble may fairly be charged against the Government. Had they adopted the ordinary precaution of placing a notice on the business ‘paper,, as they should have done, and as they do in the ordinary course, there would have been no trouble, and every honorable senator would have had an opportunity to express his opinion. In consequence of the course adopted, we are reduced to this position : that, whilst we can state our opinions and feelings in the matter, we can do nothing more, and if it should happen that, when the time arrives for adjourning this debate, there are still some honorable senators who wish to speak, it appears to me that they will be practically prevented from doing so.
– We can revive the question again.
– It could be revived again on a motion for adjournment, but we should then be in the same position as we are now.
– That is so; we could then do nothing, and it appears to me that there is a strong possibility, if this debate closes to-day, without every honorable senator who desires to do so having spoken, that some technical difficulty may lie in the way of reviving the matter.
– I can assure the honorable senator that the Government will place no obstacle in the way of any honorable senator bringing his views on the question before the Senate.
– I am not saying that they will, but I am saying that they have not provided the ordinary business facilities for doing so.
– Honorable senators have the same facility for discussing the question on this motion as they would ‘have on any other.
– Honorable senators have said on more than one occasion, “ What have we to do with the Standing Orders?” but I do not forget that Mr. President is still in the Chair, and that the Standings Orders are still in force. I can see difficulties, which may not strike Ministers, in the way of reviving a discussion on the question. . No honorable senator will say that the course adopted by the Government was the best to take, or the course which should have been taken. The point has been raised of the competency of Parliament to discuss this report of the Public Service Commissioner. It is a new doctrine to me.
– It is only a Dobsonian doctrine.
– I never contended that. Senator McGregor does not understand my position.
– Personally I prefer to take Senator Dobson’s views from the honorable and learned senator himself, and not to have them filtered through or inter,preted by honorable senators on the otherside.
– By impertinent interjections continually made.
– The right of Parliament to discuss this and any other question is and must remain unchallenged. A public meeting outside has the right to discuss anything, from the action of the law courts downwards, and surely our right todiscuss any matter must be as complete asthat, of an ordinary public meeting? Further, I think that the Public Service Act distinctly contemplates that Parliament may desire to discuss this question. Certainly, there is no prohibition in the Actagainst it, and if there were, it could have no effect. Having affirmed the unchallengeable right of Parliament, we’ may stillreasonably ask ourselves what limits weshall place on the discussion, and what is to be the object of it.
– How we can makeit effective.
– Exactly. What I take to be the purpose of discussion nereis exactly what would be the purpose of discussion by a public meeting, and that is the expression of our opinions. We are here, not for the purpose of coercing or overriding the Public Service Commissioner, but to point out by criticism, of his scheme where he may unhappily have erred, and to offer suggestions. We cannot say that we will force the Public Service Commissioner to do what he thinks is wrong, but I venture to believe not only from the high position he occupies, but from a knowledge of the.gentleman him- , self, that any suggestions made, and any criticisms directed against his scheme by honorable senators will be taken into hisserious consideration. That is all I think that Parliament asks. The Public Service
Commissioner is, like all other .human beings, liable to err. That he cannot all at once provide a scheme, giving absolute theoretical justice to everybody, is proved by the fact that his amended scheme differs somewhat from his original scheme. That is an admission in the most practical form that not only once, but continually, there will have to be a revision of the work accomplished in this direction.
– The Act provides for such revision.
– One can easily see that, in our Public Service, considering its numbers, and the enormous area over which it is distributed, anomalies will be continually presented. I take it that the highest work the Commissioner can do is to direct his efforts towards removing anomalies, or anything which has the suggestion of unfairness or injustice. When Senator Pearce was speaking, I interjected that two previous Governments had accepted the scheme. I find that I was not strictly correct, because Mr. Watson, when Prime Minister, is reported in Hansard to have said -
I cannot promise that the Government will not accept this scheme, however, because, so far as we are concerned, it has been accepted.
I was correct so far as one Government was concerned, but I was not correct in saying that the succeeding Government had also accepted the scheme. It is quite clear that on general principles it had been accepted by the Watson’ Government. I desire to refer to one section of the Public Service. I recognise, as clearly as any one can do, the impropriety of bringing before the Senate individual cases. I indorse the wisdom .of the sentiment expressed by Senator Keating yesterday, when, in reply to a question as to the rights of public servants to make representations, he said that every case would have to be considered on its merits. Whilst I think that it would be extremely undesirable, as it is illegal, for public servants to seek political influence, still it is quite obvious that if they do suffer under ‘a wrong, it would be a monstrous injustice to prevent them from taking some steps to bring it before Parliament.
– The regulations provide the steps to be taken.
– Let us assume, for the moment, that there is some absolute wrong which the regulations afford no means of remedying. Is it to ‘be said that public servants are not to have open to them that court of appeal which is open to every citizen, and that is the Parliament? I do not wish to be held to be encouraging the too frequent circularizing of honorable senators which has been going on. It would be a dangerous thing if we did anything to encourage that, because, from representations from big sections of the Public Ser-. vice on main principles, we should find ourselves in the position of being importuned by individuals on imaginary grievances. I think it is not only open to us, but it is our duty to consider any serious objections or disabilities which are felt to exist by large sections of the Public Service, and which are brought before us in a proper and regular manner. I wish to refer to the position of one section of the Public Service in my State. I would remind honorable senators that when the Departments were transferred, the Constitution secured to the officers the maintenance of all their existing and accruing rights. The actual wording of section 84 is as follows : -
Any such officer who is retained in the service of the Commonwealth shall preserve all his existing and accruing rights.
That provision is binding upon the Parliament, and it expressed its willingness to observe the law, when in section 60 of the Public Service Act it affirmed that all existing and accruing rights should be respected by the Commonwealth, and maintained in full force and effect just as if the officers had remained under the States Governments. Starting from that point, I wish to draw attention to the position of the Customs officers in Sydney. By the accident of circumstances, these men have been deprived of the rights which would have accrued ‘ to them, and which did exist’ at the time of their transfer. Under the Public Service Act of 1895, New South Wales, for the first time, instituted a Public Service Board. The officers in the Customs Department were graded, and in it, in common with all other departments, considerable reductions were made, New South Wales having struck a time of depression, and being in the throes of a spasm of economy. A direction was given in section 9 of the Act that the Board - shall at intervals of not more than five years grade the officers employed in all departments of the public service to whom this Act applies.
If honorable senators will remember that the Act was passed in 1895, and that a regrading had to take place every five years, they will see that the regrading of the Customs officers had to take place under that Act just prior to the transfer of the Department to the Commonwealth. Whilst the actual work of regrading these officers took place in October prior to the creation of the Commonwealth, the regrading was only to take effect from the 1st January, the date of their transfer. The result was that, although these men were actually regraded under State control, the regrading was not given effect to, and they were transferred to the Commonwealth on their old grading. It was on the basis of that old grading that the Commissioner apparently proceeded to classify and grade the men under our Public Service Act. That they suffered heavily is disclosed by the fact that the officers in other departments remaining under State control, and classified at the same time, received substantial increases, aggregating £8,000 odd. It is reasonable to suppose that if the officers in the other State departments on their regrading received increments amounting to that sum, the officers in the Customs Department, if they had been regraded under State law, would have received a proportionate increase. As a matter of fact, they lost the entire benefit of their regrading, and, to show that I am not merely expressing my own opinion, I shall proceed’ to quote a passage from the Commissioner’s report for 1.904, where he refers to the unfortunate position of the New South Wales officers in these terms : -
As the Customs and Excise Department came over to the Commonwealth on 1st January, 1901, the Board was not in a position to regrade that portion of the service, so that the officers of the Department were transferred without being reclassified, but as the Post and Telegraph Department was not taken over until March, the Board undertook its reclassification of that Department in February so as to have it completed prior to the date of transfer. As a result of this classification the salaries of a large number of officers were increased, amounting in the aggregate to 6 5,000 per annum … so that the officers of the Post and Telegraph Department of the mother State were transferred with all their rights legally adjusted.
The Commissioner says that, owing to the fact that the Customs Department was transferred two or three* months earlier than the Post and Telegraph Department, the officers in the former lost rights which were secured to and received by the officers in the latter.
– Did the officers make that a ground of appeal under the Public Service Act?
– In individual cases it was done. The mere fact that the Commissioner has specially referred to the anomaly which exists is, I think, clear proof that there is an injustice under which the Customs officers are resting. It is not a matter of opinion, but a matter of fact. This raises the question, Why did not the Commissioner make some provision to meet the position? His answer to representations which have been made is, I think, perfectly right “from a purely legal standpoint, and it is that he cannot deal with any matters arising anterior to his appointment. There appears to me to be a legal difficulty in the way. The Commissioner took office on a certain date under the Public Service Act. He found certain officers in each Department, and he had to discharge his duties according to the terms of that Act. It was to be assumed that the officers would be transferred in a position of something like equality, but owing to a mere accident, an inequality has arisen, and apparently no power is given by the Act to the Commissioner to remove the anomaly. The relief must come entirely from Parliament.
– The Commissioner could do it indirectly.
– That would at once open the door to charges of favouritism, and it would be straining the Act in a most dangerous way. The most casual comparison of the salaries of corresponding .officers in New South Wales and Victoria will disclose remarkable anomalies. I do not propose to weary honorable senators by quoting the salaries paid to the corresponding officers in the two States, but I merely make this affirmation that as a result of the transfer in the way I have indicated an officer in New South Wales doing work corresponding to that of an officer in Victoria is paid a lower salary, merely, so far as I can gather, because he passed under the Commonwealth control in a lower grade than he ought to have occupied’. That is the only specific matter to which I* desire to direct the attention of the Government. I venture to think that honorable senators will support my contention that the case contains a clear element of injustice, none the less because it is unintentional, and the result of an accident. I have no doubt that- the officers have a legal redress under section 84 of the Constitution Act, but I do not think that the Government or the Commissioner ought to refrain from extending a measure of justice until it is sought in the law courts. I ask the Government to confer with the Commissioner and see if it is not possible to remove the anomaly of which I have complained1, and to mete out to these men not only the legal rights secured to them by the Commonwealth Constitution, but that full measure of justice which the Public Service Act contemplated.
– I also wish to congratulate the Commissioner on the complete manner in which he did ‘his work. It is not my intention to make a long speech, because the ground has been traversed pretty freely by other speakers. I am very pleased to be able on this occasion to fall into line with Senator Pearce. I am against the regrading system, because I think we should try as far as possible to’ give every man who enters the Public Service the incentive that if he, by the exercise of intelligence and industry, shows that he possesses qualities which fit him for a higher position, the entire field will be open to him. I think I am speaking for the commercial classes generally when I say that that isthe system which they adopt, and I do not see any reason why it should not be adopted in the Commonwealth service. The matter calls for attention, because there seems to be a distinction drawn between those who are serving as letter-carriers and those who are doing clerical work. The . Government should be what I might term a generous employer. I do not say that it should be extravagant, but it should certainly treat its officers generously. I contend that under the schedule placed before us, the postmen, at all events, are not treated in the liberal spirit that the Commonwealth can afford to display. Take New South Wales. I believe that the maximum salary in that State before Federation was .£150. Under the Public Service classification it has been reduced by £12 per annum. A salary of £138 a year means £2 13s. 4d. per week’. I think that every New South Wales representative will confirm my statement that the cost of living in that State since Fade- ration has increased by at least 20 per cent. I shall not enter into the question of the causes of this increase, but the value of the sovereign as a purchasing medium is, I say, less by 20 per cent, than it was before Federation. So that actually, instead of the postmen getting £2 13s. 4d. per week, they are virtually receiving £2 3s. 4d. We may regard postmen as doing work which is above the quality of that done by ordinary manual labour. Of course, I am not speaking of skilled labour. First of all they have to be men in whom the public have entire confidence. They are subject to laws which are much more severe than those which apply to men who are not Government servants. If a postman commits a serious fault he is not treated as any other person would be. He is liable to serve I do not know how many years’ imprisonment for a fault which, if committed by a person in other circumstances of life, would be punished perhaps by a month’s imprisonment or a fine. No doubt that is proper, because the public must have absolute assurance that their communications will be sacred, and will be safely delivered. A serious responsibility attaches to postmen. They must be good citizens in the best sense of the term. The hours they work are long. They start at six in the morning, and work till six at night. Although they have perhaps a few hours off duty during, the day, they are not able to put those hours to any practical use. These conditions should not be lost sight of in fixing the remuneration of the men. I really think that £150 a year, or even ^£3 per week, would not be too much to pay to them, considering the nature of the services they render. Of course, like other people, if they are careful men, they wish to put by little savings in order that they may have something to fall back upon when their services are dispensed with. I know it has been stated that to pay a salary of £150 a year or £3 per week to all those who have been a certain number of years in the service would involve an increase in expenditure of £30,000 a year. I have not gone into the figures carefully, but I really cannot understand how so much as .£30,000 would be required. Perhaps the Minister will explain that to the Senate. When we consider the extreme richness of this country - which is really a land of Goshen, according to the statements of the Treasurer in his Budget speech - we are justified in believing that a career of great prosperity awaits it, and that the Commonwealth Parliament is warranted in, adopting generous conditions of labour for all its servants who faithfully do their duty to the public.
– In common with other honorable senators, I regret that nothing definite can come out of this discussion. We can only criticise the classification scheme of the Public Service Commissioner, and it lies with him, I suppose, as to whether our suggestions are carried into effect or not. The Commissioner has been complimented on all hands upon the magnitude of his task. No doubt it has been a big one, but whether he has accomplished it successfully, as a number of senators seem to think, is to me a matter of very great doubt. He appears to have failed in the most singular fashion to grasp the spirit of the Act with regard to the remuneration of officers. Parliament fixed ^110 as a minimum. It never intended that sum to be the maximum. If the Commissioner had given due attention to the spirit in which that provision was passed, he would have come to the conclusion that, as the minimum was fixed at ^110, the maximum should also be on a generous scale. That is how I interpret the feelings with which Parliament was imbued when the Act was passed. Instead of doing so, however, the Commissioner - moved, I do not know by whom, or whether he was moved by anybody - says in his report that he has been careful of the finances - careful not to burden the Commonwealth with too expensive a service. I beg to submit that that is a matter with which the Commissioner had nothing whatever to do. It is for Parliament to say whether the Public Service costs too much or too little. He has failed to catch the spirit of the Act. Consequently we find the service seething with dissatisfaction.
– Will it ever be satisfied ?
– Will the honorable senator ever be satisfied? Is there contentment for any man under the sun? I even hear members of Parliament grumbling at their salaries, and many of them have not the courage to say what they think publicly. If the honorable senator thinks that he is paid too much, he might give me a portion of his salary. I should be very glad to get it. Instead of the transferred departments of the Public Service being as a whole better off than before Federation, we find that, with the exception of those affected by the minimum wage provision, it is in a worse condition. It was not the intention of Parliament that that should be the case.
– Does the honorable senator make that as a general statement ?
– I do, so far as it refers to the lower grades of the service. I do not wish to allude to the increases given to men in the higher ranks. Many of them have received handsome increases, which, if compared with the amounts granted to men in the lower branches of the service, would, I am sure, astonish the Senate. But we are here more to discuss the general terms of the classification, than to examine fit in detail. I find that theCommissioner recommends, with regard to the general division in the Post and Telegraph Department, that the highest salary should be ^138 per annum. In New South Wales, previous to Federation, the highest salary in the same grade was £150. ^ In Queensland it was ,£140; in Western Australia, ,£140; in South Australia ,£150, and in Victoria ^150. So that the Commonwealth maximum is below the maximum of every one of the States previous to Federation. This is a question upon which the Senate should express a decided opinion. If there are no other means of ascertaining the opinion of Parliament, I intend-, unless some alteration is made, to move for the removal of the Commissioner from his position. That is probably the only way in which we can extract a clear and definite statement from Parliament as to what it thinks. I do not wish to take that step, but if it is necessary it must undoubtedly be done. Our intention with regard to salaries was that those paid for the Commonwealth Public Service should be on a scale, not necessarily higher than that of the salaries paid by the States, but sufficient to enable efficient, active, trustworthy men to live in comfort. For that reason we have provided that a young single men of twenty-one shall be paid ;£no per annum. Most of us, I am sure, contemplated that such a young man would get married, and have a family, and thus increase his responsibilities. We expected that he would perform useful service in two capacities; first as a private citizen, and then as a public official. I think our intention was that such a man should be provided, within reasonable limits, with such a remuneration as would be sufficient to enable him to discharge those duties with credit to hmself. and profit to the community. I submit that in the scheme we are now considering, that has not been done. Not only has the maximum been fixed too low, but by the grading system, it is almost impossible for any man, except after a very long period of service, to reach the maximum. The numbers in each of the grades are definitely fixed at one-third in grade 2, and two-thirds in grade 1 . No matter how long a man’s service may be, or how efficient, he cannot get into grade 2 until there is less than onethird of the entire number of employes in that grade.
– And perhaps not then.
– And perhaps not then. This is laying down an arbitrary rule of the most vicious character. Instead of providing an incentive for the men to be attentive and diligent, it will have exactly the opposite effect If men know that their best years, when they are most active, and probably most useful, are to be wasted in positions at low salaries, it will take from the service all enthusiasm and energy. I am inclined to believe, with Senator Gray, that Australia is on the eve of a period of comparative prosperity, and the result may be that candidates for the Public Service will be much more limited in numbers than hitherto.
– There will always be enough.
– That is no reason why public servants ‘should not be decently treated. There is another grievance in connexion with officers who, under” the State laws, were in the clerical division. A number of these men in New South Wales and Queensland passed the ordinary Public Service examination, and, although they a’re now doing work which, previous to the classification, was regarded as clerical, that work has been classified as belonging to the general division ; and while the Commissioner has retained to the men their clerical status, he gives them only general division increases. That is a distinct breach of faith.
-Col. Neild. - It is a breach of the Constitution.
– It is contrary to the provisions of the Constitution, and Parliament ought not to permit this to be done. These young men qualified for the examination and passed, and they entered the service with a clear avenue of promotion and increases open to them.
-Col. Neild. - They are now graded with the stable helps.
– The stable helps may be just as good as many of those officers.
-Col. Neild. - I dare say, but the stable helps have not passed the examination.
– These men entered into a distinct contract, and while they have kept their part, the Commonwealth has failed to keep its part. I do not think the Federal Parliament will give its approval to actions of this kind. The Constitution expressly reserves these men their rights, which, by the classification scheme, have been destroyed, and the men practically relegated to the general division.
-Col. Neild. - Absolutely.
– Nominally these men remain members of the clerical division, though actually, so far as promotion and increase of salary are concerned, they are in the general division. A number of them have intimated to me that unless Parliament can give them redress they will be compelled to appeal to the High Court. I agree with Senator Millen that the Parliament of the Commonwealth ought not to compel the public servants to appeal to a Court in order to obtain justice. That is a degradation to the Commonwealth and to Parliament, and I trust that the Government will restore these men to their proper position.
– By whom could that be done?
– It ought to be done by the Government, and, failing the Government, Parliament must do it.
– We have taken the control of the Public Service out of the hands of the Government and given’ it to the Commissioner.
– Nothing of the kind. Senator Givens seems to think that because we have passed a Public Service Act, and appointed a Commissioner, we have shed ourselves of all authority in regard to the Public. Sendee. I do not hold any such opinion. I take it that every act of the Public Service Commissioner is open to the criticism of Parliament, and that if Parliament does not approve of that official’s acts, it may remove him, or get him removed.
– That is the only remedy.
– Unless the anomalies are removed the Public Service Commissioner must be removed - that is the only alternative.
– “ Off with his head !”
– We do not want to remove ‘the Commissioner’s physical head, though we may be called upon to deprive him of his official head, if he does not administer the Public Service Act in harmony with the spirit in which it was passed. I admit freely that the Commissioner had a very difficult task before him. But if anything of the kind I have described were done by a private company we should have every labour member in the Chamber condemning it as sweating. We do not use such strong or lurid language as probably we might if the Commissioner were not a public servant; but we have an authority over him which we do not possess over a private employer. With regard to a private firm, we can only bark, whereas in the present case we can bite. If the Public Service Commissioner does not carry out his duty in a proper spirit, we may get another Public Service Commissioner.
– Is the man not trying to carry out his duty in the best possible way?
– I believe he is trying to do so.
– Then why talk of nothing else but removing him?
– The misfortune is that the Commissioner tried to do a certain thing and failed- J. do not see why we should pay a high salary to a man who deliberately ignores the spirit in which the Public Service Act was passed.
– He has not done so.
– I submit that the Commissioner has done so. Not only has he reduced the maximum, and deprived a certain number of men of the status to which they are legally entitled, but. he is compelling men in various post-offices to work hours that would not be tolerated for a moment in any private employment. Do honorable senators think that the Arbitration Court in any of the States would permit an employer to “ string on “ his men from five o’clock in the morning until ten o’clock at night in order to work’ an eight hours’ day? Does any honorable senator think that a humane method of dealing with men? Does even Senator Dobson think so?
– I do not suppose anybody does think so. I do not suppose it is a fact.
– Senator Dobson is an employer of labour, and I ask him how one of his clerks would like it if he were told to come at five o’clock in themorning and hold himself in readiness towork for the honorable senator at any hour the latter might choose until ten o’clock at. night ?
– It is quite likely that such a man would have a better billet than a man working seven hours a day continuously.
– What kind of a. billet has a man who must drag through all those hours? Before I entered Parliament I had some association with the Wharf Labourers’ Union, although not a member,, in connexion with some disputes with the employers. Those men were required to be in attendance on the wharf for a certain number of hours per day, but Were paid only for the hours- they actually worked. I maintained then, as I maintain now, asa good unionist, that if an employer insists on his men being in attendance duringparticular hours of the day, he ought te* pay them for those hours just as much ashe pays for the hours when they are working.
– If the men do not like it, let them go away.
– That is not like the honorable senator. The remark is most callous ; indeed, I was going to say that, it is even brutal.
– It is a free country.
– How can a maru who has been twenty years a lettercarrier
– I was speaking of wharf labourers.
– The same principle applies.
– Certainly a mar* may leave and seek employment elsewhere ;. but are we to treat men unfairly simply because we have them caged up, so to speak - simply because they cannot better themselves, and are absolutely dependent ontheir present employment ? Is that Senator Walker’s code of morality ?
– A wharf labourer is not paid by the year, but by the hour.
– I was citing a case where men were obliged to be in attendance between certain hours, but were paid only for the hours during which they worked.
– Was not that most exceptional ?
– It might have been, but it was a fact in this case. I claimed then, and I claim now, that any employer who says to his man, “ You shall be here at 5 o’clock in the morning, and I shall expect you to be in readiness to work till 10 o’clock at night,” should be ready to pay that man from 5 o’clock in the morning until 10 o’clock at night. That is only equity. If Senator Dobson were asked to attend in Court for a client, and the case were postponed, would1 the honorable and learned senator not charge for that attendance? I am sure he would.
– The honorable and learned senator would say that that was different. _ Senator STEWART.- It would be a distinction without a difference. We want an effective service. It has been truly remarked that the men employed in the Post and Telegraph Department, and indeed in all branches of the Public Service perform very useful and responsible work, and they ought to be well treated. Instead of having, as we have now, a Public Service bubbling over with dissatisfaction, we should try as far as possible to make our public servants happy and comfortable, as in that way only can we get the very best possible service out of them. I trust that” the Public Service Commissioner will take to heart some of the criticisms that have been passed on the classification scheme here. We can all give him credit for the very best intentions. He wants to cut down expenditure, but” I say that is no business of his. We are the people who control the expenditure. We are the people who say whether too much or too little money is being spent. He has nothing whatever to do with that. I submit that he should base his administration of the Public Service Act, so far as salaries are concerned, on the minimum wage. That is the keynote of the whole thing - a living wage of ;£no a year for a single man, 21 years of age. We expect the ordinary man, when he reaches that age, to marry and have a family.
– Give him a premium to do so.
– I think he de serves a premium. I do not know whether Senator Mulcahy is an advocate of immigration, but if we are willing, by paying their passages, to encourage people to come from the other <5nd of the world to Australia, should we hot give some encouragement to the people we have here already? We might as well spend the money in one way as in another, and I think it would be very much better to spend it in the way I suggest than in the other way to which I have referred. If Senator Dobson Wouk really take a broad statesmanlike view of this question, he would see how much there is to be gained by treating our public servants generously. I think that at least they ought to be treated humanely. I trust that the Public Service Commissioner will make the ;£no minimum wage the keynote of his administration of the Act. There are a great many other matters to which I should like to have referred, but I shall not further occupy the limited time now at our disposal. When the Estimates come on, I hope to go very much more minutely into these matters than I have been able to do to-day.
-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - I am not going to enter into a discussion of the report of the Public Service Commissioner, for fear that if I did so I might have points of order raised against me in the course of a few days, when I _ shall ask the Senate, on motion, to affirm certain principles connected with the classification of the Public Service. I am referring now to an evident and glaring omission in our Standing Orders. We have a standing order that apparently limits the anticipation of motions on the notice-paper. Apparently it does and apparently it does not, if we are to accept a ruling of the President, which I do not for arn instant contest. The President indicated this morning that there was the strict letter of a standing order and its spirit, and he gave a ruling in accordance with the latter. I am not questioning or reflecting in any way on that ruling, as the President quite understands. In view of his attitude, I did not join in the discussion on the point of order this morning. But I say that while we have apparently a standing order with reference to the anticipation of motions, we have not what is customary in some Parliaments, and what I have been accustomed to for about twenty-five years - a standing order that limits anticipation of debates. To put it briefly, the Standing Orders to which I have been accustomed would prohibit the discussion on a motion for adjournment of any matter on the business-paper. Of course, we are talking at large to-day, and this is a discussion which is not restricted to the classification scheme. It is unrestricted, and I propose to talk about a lot of things.
This is a field-day,, and I am out for a canter. I propose to talk about certain interesting pictures, for instance, and a number of other things. I am now speaking of this question of anticipating discussions, as well as motions. In, the House of Commons, one cannot anticipate a discussion any more than he can anticipate a motion. In New South Wales, it is commonly ruled by Speakers that if it is sought to discuss a question-
– Is the honorable senator in order?
-Col. NEILD.- I am in order in talking about anything on the motion before the Senate.
– That was not the intention when the motion was put from the Chair.
– There is no motion, but the one that the House do now adjourn.
– It was moved for a particular purpose.
-Cor. NEILD. - It was not submitted from the Chair in that way, in accordance with a suggestion made by me, because I foresaw a difficulty.
– I do not think we should talk about the Standing Orders during this discussion.
– If, as I believe he is, Senator Dobson is a member of the Standing Orders Committee, the honorable and learned senator overlooks what he had a hand in framing. In any case, the President is keen enough to pull me up if I am out of order. I say that this is a general discussion. It has been very commonly ruled in the New South. Wales Parliament that the adjournment of the House cannot be moved to discuss a motion which can- be equally or, possibly with greater convenience, discussed on, say, the Estimates, that are then on the table of the House. I mention that as an illustration of the practice to which I have been accustomed. I think that the Standing Orders Committee might very properly consider the question of the anticipation of a debate, as provision has apparently been made in respect of the anticipation of motions. Here again arises a difficulty. A Bill introduced yesterday, is set down for its second reading on a certain date. That Bill in one of its parts, I find, deals with the self-same matter in respect of which I have had a motion on the paper for some weeks. It will be an interesting and pos sibly an intricate matter of discussion asto whether I can go on with my motion now that a Bill has been introduced which deals with the same question. I hope that the Standing Orders Committee will take some of these matters into consideration. What I have been saying about the Standing Orders of the New South Wales Parliament applies with equal force and as appropriately to the Standing Orders and practice of the House of Commons. We have, of course, eliminated all mention of the House of Commons from our Standing Orders, but though we cannot adopt their methods as a guide directly, we may perhaps learn a little wisdom from them. It is on account of this uncertainty as to the anticipation of discussion, ‘or as to speaking twice on the same subject that I feel I am unable to go into the question of the Public Service classification to-day.
– Then let other honorable senators do so. Why should the honorable senator block them?
– I am not blocking them. I am’ merely indicating the reason why I am not speaking on the subject to-day. But I give the Senate an absolute pledge that either on my motion already on the business-paper, or by some other’ direct motion-, I shall raise certain questions for the consideration of the Senate. I will indicate now what one of those questions will be. I shall seek to ascertain the opinion of the Senate with reference to the removal, without fault, failure, or defect, on the part of the officers concerned, of certain officers from one class to another by which removal they have suffered disabilities and disadvantages which they did not experience in the position they occupied in the service when the Departments were taken over. On that point I shall ask the Senate to express an opinion as to the maintenance of the rights under the Constitution of certain officers from whom it is proposed by the classification scheme, to take rights which the Constitution guarantees. I make this announcement in advance so that honorable senators may know that when I do not go into these matters to-day, it is for a specific reason. I quite agree with honorable senators who ‘say that we may discuss any rational matter relating to the Public Service of the Commonwealth. I take it that when we appointed the Public Service Commissioner, we passed over to him all dealing with individual cases, and unless there were a case of so extremely gross a character that there was no other means of healing the wound than by bringing the matter before this Chamber, I imagine that there is not one honorable senator who would desire for a moment to bring forward individual cases. There is, however, a great deal of difference between making this Chamber a place for grievance mongering, and making it a place for the discussion of large questions of constitutional right and equity in dealing with the employes of the Commonwealth. Though I do not go into details to-day, I wish it to be clearly understood that I reserve my freedom of action on a definite motion, and not on an indefinite motion - or rather on no motion at all, because I regard this discussion as being on no motion, and as merely a beating of the air. As I shall, therefore, on some future occasion, ask the Senate to affirm some definite propositions with reference to the classification,1 scheme, I shall not discuss it to-day, because if I did so I might be pulled up by-and-by under a standing order that seems to be capable of bearing two meanings. The Minister gave us some, interesting information about paying ^92 for four pictures that are openly offered in the Chamber for £3 3s. a piece. That is an evidence of extravagance, not on the part of the present Government, because I do not suppose they did it, but on the part of the many evanescent Administrations which the Commonwealth has been blessed with during the last few months. Which of them it was that did this thing I do not know ; but I do not think it ought to have been done. The picture is not worth the money. The subscribers do not think it is worth the money, because after they have paid their money, they offer the picture back at a reduction. Senator Matheson offers openly for ’ £3 3s. something which cost him very much more.
– One was sold for £2, 3s. in Perth.
– I know the case of an honorable senator who, having to write a cheque for £20 in fulfilment of an agreement, forwarded the cheque with an offer that the syndicate should take the copy off his hands at £15, but there were no takers.
– Does the honorable senator think that a copy is worth 15s. ?
– I would not pay for a frame for a copy, because it does not represent what took place. It is not historical. It is a fancy sketch of some gentlemen, who, observed from a little distance, look like a number of persons trooping out of a smuggler’s cave. When I saw the thing in the Queen’s Hall I never dreamt that it was anything more than a fancy sketch of a newly discovered mystery in the way of lime-stone caverns. When I got a little closer, I was quite surprised to find that it was supposed to represent something at which I was present, and which was very different. I am not questioning the art of the picture.
– The honorable senator is not allowing room for the artistic imagination.
– I admit that the whole thing is artful. I beg to intimate to the Ministry that, if no one else does, I shall want to know who is to pay the cost of the advertisement for the syndicate, involved in the shipping of the picture front England to Australia, and taking it round the States. That is what it comes to, to speak plainly. A picture of that kind, the property of so august an owner as the high personage who accepted it, and has now lent it, cannot be travelled round in a packing case by itself. Two or three persons will be in charge of the picture, and it cannot be exhibited without a good deal of expense. We are told that it has been brought out here as an exhibit. For what purpose? Not to exhibit what took place, but to exhibit what a syndicate has for sale.
– The likenesses are good.
.- If it comes to a question of likenesses, one can get a fine view of a portion of the top of the heads of some persons, and, right in the foreground, an excellent view of some ether persons who were not present. A!> that is given in. Nature is not represented, but I believe high art is. I wish to know who is going to pay the freight, insurance, and salaries of the persons in charge, and take all the responsibility of this work of art. Is it to be done at the expense of the Commonwealth? I understand that it is. It is rather too bad, if the Commonwealth is to be converted into a respectable advertising medium for a syndicate. I shall certainly take some step, unless Senator Matheson intends to follow up the matter. I do not wish to discuss the picture so much as the extravagance of buying such an exceedingly useless production and hanging it in rooms where it is calculated to give persons the nightmare.- I object to the extravagance of paying £20 each for pictures which, as Senator Matheson says, are in the market for £3 3s. I also object to the evident intention of expending public money in a huge travelling advertisement for a syndicate’s prints. I have taken up these three rational points, and spoken rather broadly, because I do not wish to go into too many details. I do not know that there is anything else I need, talk about to-day. J have never spoken here before on a motion of this character, and if I have introduced one or two topics I was quite free to do so, and perhaps it may save time on another occasion. I hope that a very early opportunity will be afforded to the Senate to express an opinion fro or con, with reference to certain principles involved in the’ classification of the Public Service. I have not. the slightest intention of submitting the case of an individual officer. I know of no such case. An individual case can better be fought out through the methods provided by the regulations, but the larger questions of constitutional right, of equitable right, and of general policy, are matters which no one for an instant can say ought not to be debated in a House of Parliament. Surely it cannot be maintained for one instant that when we placed in the hands of a very capable, courteous, and wellmeaning gentleman - the Commissioner - very high and responsible duties, we parted with our duty as well as our right of maintaining as far as possible the principles of constitutionality and equity in dealing with the great bod’y of the Public Service. I venture to submit that highly placed as members of any Ministry or Executive Council may be, they are not superior to Parliament. Ministers are made or unmade because of its action ; Ministers and Executive Councillors are its agents. It is not possible for us to personally supervise the details of Ministerial office. It is absolutely necessary that there should be Ministers to administer, and these gentlemen, however highly placed, and entitled though they are to our utmost regard, are still the agents of Parliament just as we are the agents of the electors. It is a question of the delegation of authority throughout. The whole of the people cannot sit in Parliament. In the old days the whole of the people used to sit in the Witenagamote, and as the rule became inconvenient Parliament was instituted. In like manner, as the power and size of Parliament increased, Ministers came into vogue to carry out the details, to be its agents, -and not its superiors. I am sure that no one here will think that I seek to belittle the position of Ministers. On the contrary, it is a very high honour for any man to be the. agent of a great body of the people. It is a very high honour for a Minister to be the agent of Parliament, but he is not its superior. I do not accept the proposition that because the Executive Council did not do a thing we ought to do nothing. That might be a very strong reason why we should act. If the Executive Council neglect their duty that is no excuse for us to neglect our duty. Where large questions of public policy and equity, and above all where the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, are concerned, the Senate, as well as the other House, has an inalienable right to step in and act.
– I am very pleased that at last the Senate has been afforded an opportunity to criticise the classification scheme. At one stage of the proceedings I thought it was going to be denied to us. Parliament is an institution which must of necessity keep its ears open for complaints, and ventilate them when it is necessary. It is quite a mistake to think that the whole control of the Public Service has been handed over to the Commissioner. He has to be invested with certain powers to administer the Public Service, but the final court of appeal must always be the Parliament. It would be a very great mistake on our part to refuse to ventilate what we think are grievances .after every other means had been taken to get them redressed. Boards of appeal were instituted to hear the complaints of public officers. The right of appeal has, been exercised, and if any grievances remain unredressed it is a right and proper thing for either House of the Parliament to express an opinion thereon. Surely no one can cavil at an action of that kind. I cannot understand ‘ the attitude that has been taken up by certain honorable senators in reference to grievances which we know to exist in the Public Service. I do not think any one desires to go out of the way to say a harsh word about the Commissioner. It is generally recognised that he has done his best to put the Public Service on a satisfactory footing. But I do not think that any man possesses all the knowledge and ability requisite to do a work of that kind properly. I believe that the Commissioner is the last man who would claim that he alone knew everything. I believe that he courts criticism on his scheme, and is anxious to learn the opinion of honorable senators, so that he may alter that which needs amending, and in that spirit, I wish to offer a few remarks. I cannot understand how Senator Dobson can assume such a strong attitude as he has taken up with reference to this matter. When the Public Service Bill was being discussed, there was no senator who was so hostile to the appointment of a Commissioner as he was. He moved an amendment to strike out the provision for the appointment. He roundly condemned any such appointment, and used Language that was harsher than that of any one else who spoke on tha subject. I also was opposed to the appointment of a Commissioner, and nothing that has since happened has altered my opinion. But evidently Senator Dobson has changed his view. Let me recall to the memory of the Senate what Senator Dobson said with regard to the control of the Public Service by a Commissioner in 1901. He said -
Senator Neild drew the attention of the Senate to what happened some years ago in the State” which he represents, where the Public Service Act to which he referred was passed. The report of the Committee of which Senator Neild was chairman, shows that the Public Service Board of New South Wales committed some gross cases of hardship, cruelty, and injustice- I find that every word Senator Neild had told the Senate the other evening is more than justified by the unanimous findings of the Committee…..
In accordance with the hint that something like ^200,000 or ^300,000 had to be saved with regard to the civil service the board went to work, and as the report of the Committee shows, committed some gross injustices. They got rid of men who had been 20, 30, and 40 years in the service just before they were entitled to pensions. Some cases of this kind were so manifestly unfair that Parliament afterwards undid the work which the Commissioners had done.
Things have been done under the classification scheme that cannot be permitted to go on without protest, and if we can show good reasons for undoing them, why should we not do so? But according to Senator Dobson, it appears to be impossible for the Commonwealth Commissioner to make any blunders such as have been committed by other Commissioners. Here is another case which the honorable and learned senator pointed out during the same debate -
I commenced to look into this matter carefully two or three weeks ago, and since then two or threetimes a week 1 have seen paragraphs in the journals which lead me to suppose that there is more dissatisfaction existing now in the Civil Serviceof Victoria than exists in any other State of Australia, where I believe we have not the same amount of wire pulling. . What do I find ? I find! that the teachers of Victoria in the State schools are all dissatisfied with their classification.
If the State school teachers of Victoria were dissatisfied with the work of the gentlemen who had the preparation of the classification scheme in this State, and that scheme could be criticised in the State Parliament, surely we have a far better rightto criticise a scheme in which Federal officers are interested. Further on, in the same speech, talking about the dissatisfaction that prevailed, Senator Dobson said -
I made some inquiries in connexion with the Railway Department, and I am told that scandals have arisen there.
The honorable senator said that these things, had occurred in consequence of the appointment of Commissioners to manage the service, and he condemned them on account of the gross abuses that had been committed in connexion with classification* schemes drawn up by other Commissioners.. But to-day Senator Dobson looks upon it as a horrible idea that Senator Stewart should suggest that the office of Public Service Commissioner ought to be abolished. Why this sudden change - this Jump-Jim-Crowism- to which, however,, we know that he is so subject? Let the honorable senator look over the speechfrom which I have quoted. Then he will understand what I have said about him.
– Suppose I do not want to understand?
– That would be in accordance with the honorable senator’s; general attitude. His inconsistencies areso many that when they are suddenly brought under his notice he feels ashamed of himself.
– I wish to be loyal tothe “ decision of Parliament, and not to> bring in political influence.
– I wish to seejustice done. So far as concerns political influence, I venture to say on verv goodauthority that no member of the Senate has used political influence more than the honorable senator has done.
– That is absolutely incorrect in every way.
– There is a rumour going around to that effect, and he should be the last to complain. I have never waited on the Commissioner to use political influence of any kind. Can Senator Dobson say the same?
– I absolutely deny the assertion. There is not a shred of truth in it.
– The treatment that has been meted out to the lettercarriers by the Commissioner has been mentioned by several honorable senators. I would point out that in the opinion of the State Parliament, as expressed by the Premier of Victoria, those officers have been unfairly dealt with under the present scheme. We must remember that the people of Victoria, not of the Commonwealth generally, have to pay the salaries of these officers under the book-keeping arrangements. When the officers were transfered to the Commonwealth, they were assured that nothing would be done to de-‘ crease the salary of any one of them. Indeed, it is asserted that it is a breach of the Constitution to attempt to do so. If the Constitution is to be altered, let it be done by Act of Parliament in the proper manner; but so long as the section preserving to transferred officers all their rights stands, no matter what our opinions may be as to its desirableness, we should honestly abide by it. I desire to call the attention of the Senate to the opinions expressed by some of our leading men while the Public Service Bill was under consideration. It will be seen that they never dreamt for a moment that anything was likely to be done whereby the public servants of Victoria would be robbed of the rights which they brought over under the Federal Constitution. I know there is an opinion that lettercarriers should not receive such’ a salary as £150 a year. Some think that that is an exorbitant wage to pay for such work. But if we consider the responsible position which letter-carriers occupy, no reasonable person will think that £150 as a maximum is one penny too much. First of -all, I will read the opinion expressed by Sir William Lyne when the Public Service Bill was before the House of Representatives. He said -
I wish to emphasize the point that in clauses 51 and 52 of this Bill, and in section 84 of the Commonwealth Constitution Act, there is a provision to make it quite certain that no trouble shall arise with regard to transferred officers, and that all the rights that accrue to these officers who are taken over from the States will be respected. It will show to the public servants that we are not unmindful, of their rights, and of the way we are directed by the Commonwealth Act to deal with them.
Apparently we have been unmindful of their rights, or we should not have allowed the present scheme to come into operation without making a protest. But Sir William Lyne is not the only member of the then Government who is now in office who spoke in the same manner. In order to strengthen the argument that it is unconstitutional in a classification scheme of this kind-, to reduce salaries, I shall read what the present Prime Minister said when he was Attorney-General, and the Public Service Bill was under consideration in the House of Representatives : -
It will alter the grading to some extent. Supposing there be a man in the fourth class, and the Commissioner were to say he is only doing fifth class work, that officer is entitled to his salary, increment and accruing rights, while the Commissioner might say that his office is fifth class and not fourth class.
Later on in the same debate the present Prime Minister said -
Oh, they bring their salaries with them. Their salaries cannot be reduced, but they may be increased - a very fortunate thing for them. If their duties are graded higher they will be paid better ; if graded lower they will not be reduced.
That I should say is explicit enough, and those words pretty well indicate the general opinion of members of thé Federal Parliament at that time, namely, that the transferred officers brought their rights with them. The Constitution Is so clear on the point that d do not see room for two opinions ; yet we find that the salaries of letter-carriers in Victoria have been reduced from £150 to the present maximum of £138. That is a clear breach of the Constitution, which the Senate Cannot allow to pass without protest. It may be urged that the object of the grading is to make for uniformity in the salaries of lettercarriers throughout the Commonwealth; and 1 can quite see the difficulty that might be raised by acting on my suggestion. At the same time, it would Be far better to risk a difficulty of the kind than to commit a breach of the Constitution, and do an injury to the Public Service. The Government ought to give this matter mature consideration, . and endeavour to remove the anomaly. I quite recognise that if these larger salaries are paid, dissatisfaction may be created; but whether that be so or not, it is our duty to see justice done. I have very little to add to what has already been said with regard to district allowances. In Western Australia the cost of living is much higher as compared with the cost in the eastern States, and, unless something is done in the way of allowances, in order to make up the difference, the classification will not result in real uniformity. It is generally recognised that the cost of living is at least 25 per cent, higher in Western Australia than in the eastern States; and, in my opinion, that is rather underestimating the difference. I know of many instances where the cost of living in Western Australia is 50 per cent, higher than in any other parts of the Commonwealth.
– In the gold-fields, but not in Perth.
– Even in Perth, the cost of living is at least 25 per cent, higher than in Melbourne or Sydney. I can assure Senator Walker, who, I know, is anxious to see justice done, that if he compares prices in Perth or Fremantle with prices in Sydney and Melbourne,” he will see that what I say is perfectly correct. I hope, therefore, that district allowances will not be confined to the gold-fields, but will be granted in some degree, to the lettercarriers, and other members of the service throughout Western Australia. As Senator Pearce has pointed out, there ought to be a scheme prepared for allowances throughout the Commonwealth, and’ not merely for 1 one State. I should like to draw attention to a matter connected with the Customs Department. I have been informed that, owing to a regulation, it is impossible for a Customs officer employed on outside duties, to obtain promotion to any of the inside positions. If there is such a regulation, it is the duty of “the Government to see that it does not operate in such a way as to deprive officers of promotion. I have already mentioned this matter to the Minister representing the Minister of-Trade and Customs, and I shall be pleased if the closest attention is given to it, with a view to obviating any unfairness. I know that other honorable senators desire to speak this afternoon, and I have abbreviated my remarks in the hope that the Government will redress the grievances mentioned, in such a way as to remove any ground of complaint.
– Most honorable senators who have spoken do not seem to clearly understand the rights of the Senate in this matter, though they contend that it is I who misunderstand the position. I never denied for one moment that Parliament has a right to discuss the matter. All I contended, when I raised the point of order two or three days ago, was that the question is not yet ripe for consideration by us. But what are we doing to-day ? We are relieving the Governor-General in Council, which means the Executive, from a veryresponsible duty which the Public Service Act imposes on them, and which they ought to perform. Nothing can be clearer than that the Governor-General, or the Executive, may make objections to the grading and classification of the Commissioner, and that the objections thus raised have to be laid before Parliament, in order that they may be dealt with. It is very easy to see why two Governments have received classification schemes, and. saying nothing about the matter, have merely allowed them to come before Parliament.
– The two Governments did say something ; both promised to allow the whole scheme to be discussed.
– That merely accentuates my point. The two Governments did not comply with the obligation imposed by the Act, but in a very sympathetic and nice manner, said thev would appoint a day on which the scheme might be discussed by Parliament. It is no wonder that the Executive shirk their duty, seeing that the requests of the lettercarriers, if granted, would mean an additional expenditure of .£30,000 per annum. The Commissioner points out, as I gather from the’ speech of the Minister of Home Affairs, that if the salaries of these men are increased in the aggregate by £30,000 per annum, it will mean an expenditure of about £100,000 to similarly regrade the service throughout the Commonwealth. In their anxiety to discuss this matter, honorable senators are relieving the Executive of their responsibility to deal with the scheme and place before us the modifications and exceptions which they consider ought to be made. It would then be the duty of Parliament to deal with the scheme, in the usual manner, by an address to the Governor-General. I take it that the proper course is to send an address to His Excellency, pointing out that the Parliament approves of the scheme with certain exceptions, which they desire shall be brought under the notice of the
Commissioner. That is the course pointed out* by the Act, and it is that course which honorable senators are helping the Executive to shirk. Senators de Largie and McGregor are so exceedingly anxious to exaggerate any point against me that they unintentionally misrepresent me again and again ; and I should thank those gentlemen if they would cease to do so. I desire to be friends with the honorable senators if I can.
– Is it not a good deal Senator Dobson’s own fault?
– I am not dealing with Senator O’Keefe, but particularly with Senator de Largie, who, in his speech just delivered, so exaggerated everything I ha.ve said on this matter that, unintentionally, I believe, he grossly misrepresented me.
– I quoted the honorable senator’s very words.
– I recollect that I objected to the appointment of a Commissioner, because, in my opinion, it is the duty of the Government to control and manage their own servants, a duty which could be properly carried out if the’ Executive got rid of political influence. It is rather degrading to Parliament to say that we cannot get a single Government free from political influence, and capable of managing the Public Service. Those are the opinions I expressed when the Bill was before us, but Parliament was against me, and the Act was passed. Can I not loyally accept an Act which has been passed by Parliament without being told that I am changing my mind ? Cannot Senator de Largie distinguish between loyalty to an Act of Parliament and opposition to that Act before it became law ? All the remarks which Senator de Largie made on that point are beside the question, and, so far as they deal with my conduct, they are gross misrepresentations. I desire to be loyal, as I must be, to the policy which Parliament, by a large majority, has accepted. I do not think there can be two opinions about our discussing this matter before it is ripe. We are unwise to think we are well treated when the Government name a day for the discussion of the classification scheme, seeing that it is the duty of the Executive to discuss it in Cabinet, and give us the result of their deliberations. Had the Executive desired to be loyal to the Public Service Act they would have gone through the classification scheme most carefully, or would have appointed the Secretary to the Minister of Home Affairs, or some one else whom they could trust, to do so. They might then have taken into consideration the whole of the appeals, considered the grounds on which they were made, how many were discarded, how many were allowed, and the reason for the action taken, and they Could then have reported to both Houses of Parliament as to what objections, if any, could be taken to the scheme. I suggest, not that Parliament cannot discuss the scheme - that, of course, would be absurd, as we all know that we can discuss it - but that it is not now ripe for discussion. I am glad to think that honorable senators have done somewhat better than honorable members in another place in dealing with the question. They have considered that they should not deal with individual cases, but should discuss principles. I quite agree that in dealing with the classification scheme for a service of about 12,000 persons, principles only should be discussed by Parliament. But I find’ that, whilst the first three speakers on the question in another place repudiated any intention to refer to individual cases, each of them wound up by bringing forward an individual case. One honorable gentleman brought forward two or three such cases, and said he had a dozen more with which he would not trouble the House. That, to my mind, is but a repetition of the evil which the Public Service Act was passed to remedy. I state unhesitatingly that the first great principle of that Act is to get rid of political influence, as far as possible, by the appointment of a Public Service Commissioner, and I have reiterated again and again that no matter what we do in that direction, Parliament does not, and ought not, to give up control. But we should use that control in the way pointed out by the Act, and we are not using it in that way. 1 direct the attention of honorable senators to what the Commissioner has to say, at page 44 of his report, on the subject of political influence -
As mentioned previously in this report, the appointment, promotion, and dismissal of members of the Public Service rests, in the absence of restrictive legislation to the contrary, in the hands of Ministers of the Crown. The past history of the States is not lacking in evidence of the unsatisfactory manner in which this power was at times applied. To possess the requisite political influence was in no small number of cases sufficient, not only to gain an appointment, but also to insure rapid advancement in the Public Service. Under such a system influence was the primary factor; merit merely a subsidiary adjunct.
It is only with the growth of popular control over State affairs that such a system becomes effectually checked ; and the majority of the States Public Service legislation of recent years has been directed to that end, by prescribing a definite system of admission to the services, and of advancement therein. In no other piece of legislation has that principle been placed in the foreground more prominently than in the Commonwealth Public Service Act - the expressed intention of Parliament being that ability and merit should be the indispensable and only conditions of appointment and promotion, and that, as a corollary, political or other influence should be relegated to the limbo of the past.
As Commissioner, I cannot but regard the effectuation of the will of Parliament in this respect as the most solemn obligation of my office. As stated subsequently in connexion with my remarks on the “ Recognition of Public Service Associations and Societies,” I shall always be prepared to receive suggestions from any source in regard to matters affecting the service as a whole, and such suggestions will at all times receive careful consideration ; but as the office of Commissioner is for the most part a judicial one -
There is much virtue in the word “ judicial “- the impropriety of any attempted interference in the interest of any individual officer admits of no question.
Lest my remarks in this connexion may be misinterpreted, it behoves me to state that, as regards myself, no attempt has been made by those in political positions to interfere with the free and unfettered exercise of the powers invested in me by the Legislature. At the same time, evidence is not wanting that some officers have, in contravention of the regulations forbidding such a course, appealed to outside persons for aid in advancing their individual interests-‘ Regulation 43, interdicting such a course, and affording every officer a constitutional and proper means of bringing under my personal attention any ground of complaint, is as follows : - “ Officers are prohibited from seeking the influence or interest of any person in order to obtain promotion, removal, or other advantage. Any officer who considers that his claims for promotion or consideration have been overlooked may write a statement of his claims to the Chief ‘Officer, who shall forward, without delay, such statement, with any remarks he has to make thereon, to the permanent head, who shall transmit it to the Commissioner for consideration.”
I believe that regulation. 43 is being very grossly violated. I believe that some members of Parliament are acquiesceing in that violation by listening to the complaints of individual officers instead of referring them to the Act which Parliament has passed, and telling them to bring their cases before the proper authority, when they will come before Parliament in due time. There is no such thing as an officer having a claim being aggrieved or being unjustly treated without the knowledge of Parliament, because, if we permit the proper administration of the Act, as a last resort, every such case will come before Parliament.
.- Oh !
– Have I not been saying so all along?
– The honorable and learned senator has all day been denying the right of Parliament to do any more than acquiesce in the scheme. I have so understood him, at all events.
– Have I not said that when the Executive made their report on the classification scheme, the proper way would be to move an address to the Governor-General, saying that we acquiesce in the scheme with certain exceptions and modifications, and in such an address we could deal with hundreds of grievances.
– The GovernorGeneral does not need our acquiescence.
– He does, if Parliament is to have the last say in the matter.
– But it is not.
– I say that it is, to some extent. It may not be our acquiescence, but we have a perfect right to say that we object, and we can ask the Governor-General’ in our address to bring, our objections; under the notice of the Public Service Commissioner.
– It is better that they should be brought forward now, so that the Commissioner may have an opportunity of hearing both sides.
– Of course, my honorable and learned friend, in his desire that the Government should back out of all responsibility, will say that it is better.
– The Government, that was supported bv the honorable and learned senator, promised this, and we are fulfilling the promise.
– The Government I supported has disappeared, and another Government is now in office, the membersof which desire to avoid every duty that might invest them with any responsibility, or might put some backbone into them.
– The honorable and learned senator does not understand the Act, or he would not talk so wildly.
– I think I do understand the Act. I shall refer honorable senators to the Public Service
Commissioner’s comments on a section of the Act on which, I think, we agreed unanimously.
Apart from the extreme impropriety of attempting to secure outside influence, officers cannot be too early warned of the great danger attending such a course of action. Not only does such conduct at once discount the bond fides of the claims of an officer resorting to such a practice, but by so acting such officer renders himself liable to the punishment prescribed by section 46 of the Act, not the least serious of which is dismissal. All the rights of officers are amply safeguarded by the Act which, by establishing Boards of Appeal, provides abundant means for the impartial investigation and redress of legitimate grievances.
If honorable senators “will read section 46 they will find that the punishment which can be meted out to officers seeking political influence in support of their cases is exceptionally severe. I am not at all certain that members of Parliament do right to receive the documents which have been -sent to them on behalf of the lettercarriers. I got one this morning, marked “ urgent.” I opened it very quickly,, thinking it might have something to do with the business of the Senate, and so it had. But these, gentlemen are violating the provisions of the Act, and every one of them is in my opinion liable to punishment.
– if they sent a circular to the honorable senator it must have been by way of a joke.
– When forcible arguments are being used, it is the practice of some of my honorable friends, to simply turn them into a joke. Do my honorable friends believe that it is a huge joke to make a regulation having the force of law, and then to permit hundreds of men to break the law?
– The honorable senatomisunderstands me. I say that it was a joke to send him a circular.
– I do not misunderstand the honorable senator, who is trying to make a joke at my expense out of a very serious matter. I regard the wellbeing and just treatment of the civil servants as one of the most important! things which could engage our attention, but so long as political influence is exerted on their behalf it will not make for justice. I hear honorable senators talk about treating the public servants generously. I do not understand the expression. We should rather treat them fairly, as compared with each other, with men occupying similar positions outside, in accordance with the state of our finances, and in accordance with the Constitution, which has embedded in it certain rights possessed by the civil servants.
– Does the honorable and learned senator consider it a breach of the regulations that a number of civil servants should appoint an elected representative to approach members of Parliament to lay before them, not individual grievances, but matters of general principle ?
– I think it is. Nothing could be plainer than the regulations which forbid any public servant to seek outside interference.
– For himself.
– My honorable friend wishes me to admit that the Act permits a civil servant to represent the grievances of a number of his fellow-officers through a member of Parliament. By-and-by the honorable senator will probably assert that the public officers are charged with the duty of seeing honorable senators to put their cases before them. I see of nothing of the kind in the Act. What is suggested is merely again opening the door to political influence, and that is a very great mistake. I have noticed, that honorable members i’n another place, in bringing forward grievances, have objected to the form of appeal board provided, on the ground that it is not fair. I think that it is a very fair board. We passed the Public Service Act, and twelve months afterwards, because certain men say they are dissatisfied, honorable members in another place contend that the Act is all wrong.
– I do not think that the honorable and learned senator is justified in saying such things.
– The appeal board consists of three officers, one of whom is the inspector, who may have had a good deal to do in advising the Commissioner as to the grading of the men. He could not be eliminated from the board, because every detail in the comparison between officers of the same branch of the service is most important. As a set-off against the inspector, there is a public servant elected by his fellow -officers to represent their COlective and individual interests. Then we have the chief officer of the Department, in which the public servant who claims that he is aggrieved is employed. We know that a Customs officer will speak up for men in his Department as against men in the Post and Telegraph Department, and vice versa; and it appears to me that any unconscious bias supposed to be in this appeal board is rather in favour of the officer making an appeal than against him.
– Did the written document which the honorable senator received this morning contain a reference to anv individual claim?
– Then what is the honorable senator talking about?
– It did not contain a reference to an individual claim, but to a claim which affects some 1,500 men, more or less, and although it commences ‘“Sir,” it is not signed. The very form of communication adopted shows, on the face of it, that these men are aware that they are contravening the regulations.
– I do not think any one but the honorable and learned senator would hold that such a circular is a contravention, of the regulations.
-I absolutely differ from Senator Keating. I do not know how any one who reads the regulation could say anything else.I do not know whether the change in my honorable and learned friend’s position has slightly turned his large head.
-Col. Neild. - Or some one else’s little one.
– It seems to me that he has taken an extraordinary point. I quite admit that there are some very intricate constitutional points affecting the meting out of justice to our public servants. Senator Millen very clearly established the contention that injustice appears to have been done in one instance, but how we are to get over the difficulty, I do not know.
-Col. Neild. - Will Senator Dobson say that it was an impropriety to bring forward an injustice of that character, seeing, that the honorable and learned senator admits that it is an injustice?
– As I have already pointed out, there is a proper way in which to bring forward these matters. If civil servants think that it is a short cut to’ go to members of Parliament with their grievances, all I can say is that the law forbids them to do so, and it is of no use for us to make laws and regulations which are to have the force of laws if they are to be broken. I say we should carry out the law. The injustice suggested in connexion with the grading of letter-carriers appears to have some foundation, but the Public
Service Commissioner has given two or three answers in which I think that to some extent he meets the objections raised. There are arguments on both sides. I desire to point out that the celebrated section 19 of an Act passed in the State of Victoria, three or four days before Federation was achieved, is a very mischievous section, and may cause the very greatest embarrassment. We can only mete out exact justice to every one of our 12,000 public servants by altering the Constitution and some State Acts. I hope, however, that we shall give the fullest measure of justice we possibly can. In another place I heard honorable members speak of some wrong having been done, but the action taken was in accord with the spirit of the Act. Suppose that a telegraph operator has been working at the instrument for ten or fifteen years, and is getting old and stale, possibly through the wear and tear of the work, and that younger men have come in with better hearing and smarter fingers, who can send as many messages in three hours as the older man could send in four or five hours. It may be that they are placed above the older man simply because they are better officers. What is to be done in these circumstances ? I understand that men who are getting stale at operating can be advanced, though not at once, to other situations. But if you intend to carry out the bed-rock principle of the Public Service Act, if you intend to recognise ability and efficiency rather than seniority, there must be hardships. It is always a hardship to an old servant to have a younger man placed over his head, but that is what we shall all have to put up with at some time or other. The Commissioner has a most difficult duty to discharge. Senator Stewart says that he may move that the Commissioner be removed from office, simply because, in his opinion, a few mistakes have been made. But I think that every one of us ought to back up that officer. We ought to help him to do away with any discovered anomalies when the proper time comes, and to do fuller justice than he has done. We ought to do ample justice and fairness to all civil servants in every possible way ; but we cannot afford to be generous. This question of the Public Service may become a gigantic one. ‘I have here an article from The Times, which will show the importance of this question when a large number of men have to be dealt with. When you have to grade 1,500 letter-carriers in one branch alone, you cannot grade men who are doing exactly the same sort of work in the same way as you can grade clerks into junior clerks, junior and senior letter-writers, junior accountants, and junior and1 senior copyists. In the clerical division there are scores of grades, which cannot possibly exist in the general division. Therefore, you cannot have the same number of grades in each division. Commenting on the debates on the Estimates for the Post Office at home, The Times refers to Lord Stanley’s statement in these words -
He observed that if all the claims now put forth by these gentlemen were conceded the additional cost to the taxpayer would be no less than ^2,500,000 per annum. Nor would this concession put an end to the agitation, for the advanced section of the Post Office employes have frankly declared it to be their opinion that the whole of the profits made by the Post Office should be paid over to them.
The profits amount to about £4,000,000, and the employes have already suggested a scheme whereby £2,500,000. would be handed over at once, and if their other scheme were acceded to the whole of the profits would be handed over. The article goes on to say -
Lord Stanley now announces concessions which will cost the taxpayers at once ^224,000, and ultimately ^372,000.
So that they’ are giving away £372,000, as against the- £2,500,000 demanded by the employes. Tin Times goes on to say -
There is, however, a much larger and more formidable question involved than that of mere increase of wages.
Senator Stewart said the Commissioner had nothing to do with the amount to be spent, as that was a question of policy. In grading the officers and allotting the salaries he has a very great deal to do with finance, and we should think him a very incompetent officer if he did not keep finance before him at every stroke of the pen and thought of the brain. The Times proceeds to say -
It is a question which, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer observed, goes to the very root of our political system, and threatens the independence of Parliament itself. That question arises out of the methods employed By the organized Post-Office servants. There are 183,000 of them, and there are 670 members of the House of Commons, which gives an average of 270 PostOffice servants to each seat.
There you see again the absolute necessity of getting rid of political influence, and adhering to the law as strictly as possible. Ministers are neglecting their duty in encouraging members of Parliament to abrogate that principle.
– Does the honorable: senator intend to convey that the members, of the Senate are wrongly influenced by public servants?
– No. I was contending that we should not be interviewed or written to by public servants. But as my honorable friend has asked mea question, let me give an answer. If” a public servant meets an honorable senator in the street or in his office, very naturally he puts every point in his own favour,, and omits to state any point against himself. He does not bother about the position of any other person in the PublicService. After listening to the man for five or fifteen minutes, the senatorwould come away - I know I should - unconsciously biased in favour of the friendwho had been, button-holing him. It is that kind of button-holing and influence which the Act and the regulations forbid. Is it not apparent that when a public officercomes forward with his individual case,, he wishes to talk about himself and’ getpromotion? Whatever his record may be,, he will only tell you what is good of himself. It was very amusing to me to hear some honorable members in another placeask for a free and fair discussion so that the facts could be fully stated. The idea of a free and fair discussion in a House of Parliament bringing out the facts in regardto 12,000 public servants !
– Why lecture us about what happened in the other House?
– I am not lecturing; my honorable friend, but pointing out how easy it is for members of Parliament, when, appealed to by their constituents, or by other men who want a favour at their hands, to imagine that they are small GodsAlmighty - that they possess all kinds of power. Honorable senators have no right to talk to the public servants if they wish to uphold the law.
– A man who could beinfluenced by a statement like that is notfit to occupy a seat in the Senate.
– My honorablefriend has forgotten that all this has been gone into before, and that both Houses of the Parliament almost unanimously said, “ ‘We are not to be trusted with the management of the Public Service.” If the honorable senator objects to that let him object, not to what I say, but to the action of the two Houses. He took part in the debates, and if I were to turn up the records probably I should find that he approved of the appointment of the Commissioner.
– I do not know that I -did.
– I can quite understand members of Parliament nowadays trying to get all the power and perquisites they can.
– Is it in order, sir, for the honorable and learned senator to say that members of Parliament try to get all the perquisites they can?
– I withdraw the expression, sir. I was only alluding to the fact that in to-day’s newspaper there is the report of a speech in which a man is said to want more salary, and that a notice of motion has been given in another place that he should get more salary. Members of Parliament who desire to increase their importance, and to obtain more power than they have, forget that the Public Service Act, for the good of the country, took away some of their powers. When they try to regain those powers, they stultify themselves and Parliament. Is it not patent that they are disloyal to their own Act? Senator Styles is thinking of the good old days when members of Parliament were run after by public servants, and when that was allowed.
– I am thinking of the good old days when a man said what were the facts when he addressed the House.
– If my honorable friend will show me where I have not stated facts, I shall be very happy to correct them. I was struck by the statement that the maximum grade for the country carriers was larger in all the States than it appears to be by the classification. The difference is not very large - £138 against £140 and £150. It is perhaps open to question whether the maximum allowed by the Commissioner is not a little too low. I do not say that it is or that it is not. But that is one of those things which we by an address to the Governor-General, could ask the Commissioner to reconsider. I do not think that honorable senators quite understood, or even understand now, what is the right meaning of the provisions relating to the boards of appeal. After we had devoted weeks to the consideration of the Bill, boards of appeal were provided for.
– The provision was discussed on the second reading of the Bill.
– It was ‘ sought to almost take away the control of Parliament, but I have said over and over again that we refused to give up absolute control, and provided for boards of appeal. If it is thought that they are not fair boards, they could be constituted differently by substituting for the inspector a trained magistrate. On the other hand, the whole of this classification scheme is a most delicate piece of business. I am inclined to think that on each appeal board, we need a man who has helped to build up the scheme and knows perfectly well that if one brick is altered, the whole structure may tumble down, or injustice may be rendered. The farce of talking about individual cases, or listening to them, or even of talking about cases represented by scores or hundreds, is that when you deal with those cases, you do not know what other alterations you may have to make. No one who has not studied this business for months and years, as the Commissioner and his inspectors have done, could possibly say what the effect of certain alterations would be. All that I ask honorable senators to do is to carry out the Act, to have ‘ as little political influence as we can. and not to think we are doing any good bv allowing public servants to appeal from the boards, who are well advised, to members of Parliament, who are ignorant of the circumstances.
– I am very pleased to learn that even Senator Dobson finds some justification for objecting to this amended classification. The very fact that it was amended shows “ that notice must have been taken of comments made somewhere, and the necessity for amending the scheme been made clear.
– It was amended in accordance with the appeals.
– I should be very sorry for the honorable and learned senator to imagine for one minute that I would endeavour to misrepresent him. I was only judging his attitude towards the public servants, and towards everybody else who has to earn his living, - with the exception of himself, by his past expressions and actions when dealing with’ that section of the community. He has said a good deal about the influence which is brought to bear upon members of Parliament. Has any individual member of the Public Service attempted to influence- Senator Dobson? Will the honorable senator answer that question? Has any member of the service interviewed him with respect to a particular case? If not, why should he assume that officers have interviewed other members of Parliament? No public servant has come to me with any particular grievance. But if officers have tried every legitimate means of redress, I do not see that there is any other course open to them but to come to a member of Parliament. Those who object to the citation of any particular instance would be the very first when a general complaint was made, to say, “ Can you give us one instance where an injustice has been done ?” Unless one knows of an instance, it is impossible ‘to give one. It is the duty of any honorable senator who takes an interest in the affairs of the country to find out all he can; and if crotchetty representatives, like Senator Dobson, demand individual instances, we ought to be prepared to give them. But I did not rise to object to Senator Dobson’ s opinions. All of us have a right to our own views, and it is only by’ an interchange of opinion that we can arrive at a sound conclusion, and give an indication either to a public officer or to the Government as to what we think ought to be the proper method of administration. Although to a certain extent I agree with Senator Pearce that we are somewhat hobbled in connexion with this question, yet I think that the debate will have a beneficial effect ultimately. I should be the last to make a threat. I do not believe in threatening. But there are means at the disposal of Parliament for redressing grievances,’ not only in connexion with the Public Service, but with the public generally. I wish to point out one or two instances, apart from anything that has been put before me by any section of the Public Service, but resulting from inquiries made by myself and others as to the effect of the classification. The first point is that boys enter the service as telegraph messengers. According to the Public Service Act, at the age of eighteen, if no suitable employment can be found for them in any other positions, they have to leave the service. That is all right so far as the Act is concerned. But when- a boy enters the service as a messenger, and is diligent enough to prepare himself to pass any Public Service examination to fit him for another position, it seems to me that he has some right to a little preference. But, according to the treatment meted out by the Commissioner and his officers, when such a boy reaches the age of eighteen he is told, “ If you want to join the Public Service, you must be treated as one of the general public, make application, and pass the same examination.” I do not think that is fair. The Department, having had several years of that lad’s services, and he having had several years’ experience, it would only be fair, and in the interest of the service, that the boy should have some consideration as distinct from persons outside the service altogether. There is another grievance against the administration of the Act. When it was under consideration in both Houses of this Parliament, it was made clearly evident that when a woman in the Public Service was doing exactly the same work as a man, Parliament desired that she should receive the same remuneration. I declare emphatically that the Public Service Commissioner, his inspectors, and all those in authority, are prejudiced against the opinion of Parliament, and are not carrying out that intention. If Senator Dobson, or any one else, wishes to have instances, let him come to me, and I will point them out. I ‘ do not desire to occupy time in selecting individual cases which show the necessity for criticism, but I ask honorable senators to think over the matter, and if they are impressed with the point, I will give them instances if they cannot find them for themselves. Of course it may be said that if this policy is carried out, it will result ultimately in women not being employed at all. But those women who are already in the service should, according to the intention of Parliament, whether more are employed or not, receive equal treatment. If we employ men under the conditions that this Parliament set forth in the Public Service Act, the men, instead of working side by side with women in the departments, will probably be in a position ..to get married, and work side by side with the women in another sphere. I should like the members of the Government to take notice of this point in regard to the female portion- of the service, apart from anything that may be done in connexion with the introduction of more women into the departments. It has been stated by the Public Service Commissioner that officers doing the same work, or occupying the same positions in different
States, are to receive the same remuneration and be treated in the same manner. This is not being done. I wish to know why the inspectors under the Act are all treatedalike in respect of salaries, whilst other officers are not? I do not say that the salaries of the inspectors are too high. I believe in paying those who are servants of the State ample salaries in accordance with the duties they perform. I do not think that the inspectors are paid too much. It is quite right that they should be treated alike. But is the same thing done in connexion with other departments? I think not. In the Customs Department in Sydney there is one examiner for the State who is getting about £360 a year. There are two examinersin Melbourne getting£485 a year, and there is one in Adelaide getting , £335 a year. Is that treating people who are doing the same work in the same manner ? It may be said that the duties performed in Adelaide are not the same as those performed in Sydney, which is a larger city. But look at the disparity between the salaries paid in Melbourne and in Sydney, where the duties are similar and consider that there is only one officer in Sydney, whilst there are two doing the same work in Melbourne. I want to know the reason why, and hope that the Minister in charge will be able to give some information. I hope that the Commissioner will look into the point, and see whether matters cannot be adjusted on a more equitable basis. Although the whole scheme may bristle with points calling for criticism, 1 am only attempting to deal with those that appeal to me most urgently. I have every sympathy for the Commissioner. I believe thathe is honestly doing his very best to make the service a credit to the Commonwealth. It is the duty of Parliament to assist him, and the only way in which we can do so is by pointing out anomalies and endeavouring toshow where, in our opinion, changes for the better can be made. That is all that I. intend,, and I am sure that it is all that a number of other honorable senators intend. My next point is in connexionwith the general division. A number of honorable senators have referred to this matter”, and all I desire to do is to ask why any man - or woman - should be debarred from rising from the general division to any position in the service. I have not the least doubt that the Commissioner and his inspectors, and, probably, any member of the Execu tive Council in this Senate, would say that officers of the general division may rise to the highest positions if they qualify themselves. It must be remembered, however, that this promotion can only be obtained by entering into competition with candidates from outside; and I do not consider that is fair. Officers in the service should receive some consideration, if they exhibit abilitv and knowledge which suit them for any position to which they aspire. An instance, showing the unjust working of this regulation, has been brought under ray notice in Victoria. In the past in that State it was the custom iri the Postal Department to promote members of the general division to the position of supervisor or assistant supervisor in that division ; but under the classification scheme, those positions have been placed in the clerical division, and thus men in the general division are shut out entirely. If a man from the general division were appointed it would mean promotion to a salary of£240 or £250ayear;butunderthe classification scheme, instead of appointing a man of experience, and accustomed to the work, a member of the clerical division may be appointed at a salary of£300 or£350 per year. I ask the Minister to take this matter into consideration, and see whether the injustice cannot be removed. I think I have stated some facts and arguments which are worth some little consideration, and I hope the advice of the Executive to the Public Service Commissioner will result in benefit to the Public Service, and to the people generally. There is nothing that would give greater satisfaction in Australia than a contented Public Service, working harmoniously in the interests of the whole community.
– I listened with great pleasure to what Senator McGregor had to say, but there was one point in regard to which he is under a misapprehension. There is a means by which members of the general division of the Public Service can be transferred tothe clerical division. Section 41 of the Public Service Act provides -
The Governor-General may, on the recommendation of the Commissioner, after obtaining a report from the Permanent Head - (d) with the consent of any officer, transfer or promote him from any one division to any other division, and, in the case of transfer or promotion from the general to the clerical division after such examination as may be prescribed.
I am glad that there is this provision in the Act, because, if we are to have a Public Service in which there is a proper esprit de corps, every officer should have the opportunity to rise to the highest position for which his abilities fit him. I am with those who think that £3 per week is not too much to pay letter-carriers of long experience, and, therefore, the maximum ot’ £138 does not appeal to me as sufficient. As to promotion, it is always desirable to have an understudy capable of taking the place of the superior officer in case cif necessity. I am glad that the Public Service Commissioner recognises that point. In his report he says : -
Considerable friction has been caused in the past in temporarily filling vacancies by the practice of allowing a junior officer to take up the work pending the making of a permanent appointment. As some time may elapse before itis possible to make a permanent appointment, the temporary occupant of the position is afforded an opportunity of learning the work, and thus making himself more efficient than his seniors, who have not been allowed an equal opportunity. In temporarily filling a vacant position, the practice should be followed, as far as possible, of selecting the officer who is senior amongst those who may have claims for the position, and this practice should not be departed from, except for very good reasons.
It is quite evident that the Commissioner is very anxious to have the Public Service as attractive as it can be made, consistent with efficiency. I do not think that the Commissioner will act with any hidebound strictness, but, as circumstances arise, he will devise means of promoting deserving men from one division to another. There is another paragraph in the Commissioner’s report, which appears to be most reasonable -
The point to be kept in view is that Because an officer, through force of circumstances, has been appointed to a particular position, his future outlook is not to be permanently blocked. To a certain stage it is intended that the prospects of officers shall, as far as possible, be made equal - consistent with good conduct and ability. It is probable that in the early periods of the Commonwealth service, and until sufficient time has elapsed for the new conditions to have .due effect, departures from the principles contained herein mav be found advisable. Cases of such a nature will probably arise, and will necessitate special action, but, as far as possible, any action taken will be on the lines indicated, and with a view til rendering circumstances favorable for their general adoption.
Senator Stewart made allusion to wharf labourers being expected to attend on the wharfs from early in the morning until late at night, and expressed the opinion that they ought to be paid for that time. But wharf labourers, unlike public servants, are paid by the hour, and they can please themselves whether or not they remain in attendance. I take it that the shipping authorities simply mean that certain wharf labourers are expected to be there in case their labour is required ; though Senator Stewart seemed to think that I was hard or harsh in suggesting that it was unreasonable for these men to expect to be paid for the time they wait. However, that is a matter that does not affect the Public Service. Many a nian who passes an examination in the first instance, when he enters the service, might not be able, years afterwards, to meet the _ same educational test ; and where an officer has been transferred from a State to the Commonwealth, and has already passed an examination, I think he ought to be permitted to rise without being called upon again to undergo the ordeal. With regard to district allowances, Senator de Largie spoke as if the cost of living in Western Australia is at least 25 per cent, higher than in other parts of the Commonwealth. The honorable senator may be correct; but, in an institution over which I have a certain control, we find that the clerks who receive an allowance of 121 per cent, while in Western Australia, rather grudge returning to duty1 in the east. These men, at all events, seem to think that 121 per cent, just about represents the difference in the cost of living as between Sydney and Melbourne, and Perth1 and Fremantle. I admit that in some places in. Western Australia, an allowance of 20. per cent, would not be too much. Senator McGregor asked Senator Dobson if he had been approached by any persons and asked to use his influence in regard to the public servants. If Senator Dobson has not been approached, I certainly have) been - not by a civil servant himself, but by his father. I shall read an extract from the reply which I sent, in order? to show the ground which I took, and which I believe every other honorable senator would take under similar circumstances. I wrote -
In reply, I have to say that it is a distinct understanding that members -of ‘the ‘Commonwealth Parliament are to refrain from using any so-called “ back-door “ influence to get promotion or appointments for their friends in connexion with the Commonwealth Civil Service. All appointments rest with the Public Service Commissioner. Under these circumstances, your son should write an official letter to the head of his Department,, asking that he may be put in a position to become an applicant for the position he seeks. I believe that will mean some examination. You can easily understand that my life would be simply made miserable if it were understood that -I ..was to constitute myself a means of trying to get promotion or appointments for persons in the Civil Service.
An allusion was made to the Postal Department in the United Kingdom, and to the enormous number of officials there employed. It was pointed out how many of officials there were in the English Post Office to each member of the Imperial Parliament ; and I have calculated that the 1,500 Post Office employes in the Commonwealth Department represent thirteen to each of the in members of the Federal Parliament. I do not believe that the general body of the Post Office employes have any wish to break the regulations, but, as has been observed by Senator Neild, where there is some general principle on which they desire to raise an objection, surely they might be allowed to address the head of the Department in order to have the anomaly removed.
– They have done so, and they have even submitted counsel’s opinion without effect.
– Our desire is to do what is just to all our public servants, and I hope that there will be a thorough understanding that each officer will have an opportunity of rising on his individual merit.
– I do not wish to detain the House, but this is a matter on which honorable senators ought to express an opinion. At the outset, I recognise, with other honorable senators, that an extremely difficult task was presented to the Commissioner ; but, having said so much, we also recognise that injustices have resulted from- this great scheme. Whether those injustices could have been avoided is altogether another question. For myself, I am rather inclined to think that many were unavoidable, though, on the other hand, there are cases in which I think that, with greater care and attention, anomalies might have been obviated. I wish particularly to enter my protest on behalf of the officers employed in the lower grade of the postal service, and I base that protest on the remarks made by Senator Dobson. That honorable senator gave us clearly to understand that officers in both grades of the services must nob only be citizens of the highest quality, but must be owned body and ‘soul by the Public Service - that they must have no individual rights. It would appear that there is nothing for a public servant but to remain a public servant for twenty-four hours of every day. Such conditions appear tome to be rather cast-iron in their characterBut in such conditions, the first consideration ought to be to give these men at least, recompense for the work we call upon them to perform. The reduction from the salary of £150, in the case of the letter-carriers, to the £138 maximum, is one that can scarcely be justified. We have not heard an argument by which such an extraordinary proposal can be defended. Then, again, not only has the maximum been reduced by so large a sum, but prior to the compilation of this classification scheme there were opportunities of promotion open to the letter-carriers, by which, in isolated instances, certain members of that branch of the service could rise to a grade in which thev might at least receive a respectable salary for their services. But under the grading system adopted in the classification scheme, it appears quite clear that these opportunities are now closed to the lettercarriers. I apprehend that, being debarred to the lower grade of letter-carriers, these positions are to be offered to officers in other branches of the service who are much better paid to start with, and who have altogether superior opportunities of advancing in the service from “time to time. The particular instances to which so much reference has been made need not be quoted, but I may signify the positions to which I refer. For instance, the members of the general division of the service have hitherto had an opportunity of rising from letter-carrier, mail-officer, and so forth, to the positions of assistant supervisor and supervisor. But by the classification scheme these two offices have been entirely cut off from the general division. Consequently, men now in the general division of the service, and those who may yet enter it, may remain at the maximum of that division, whatever it may be, without any opportunity whatever of getting one step higher in the service. I am with honorable senators who have already stated that they .believe in equal opportunities and equal facilities to advance being given to all members of the service. Under whatever scheme it may be brought about, it is a disgrace that certain favored positions in the service should be reserved for a special few. We ought to encourage efficiency, good conduct, and everything that is highest and noblest in those engaged in our service. There is certainly no better way of doing that than by offering to those who display zeal, ability, and honesty of purpose the reward of the highest positions in the service. Why should we build up a sort of Civil Service caste, create a ring of officers, and say that they and theirs shall retain the right to certain positions until the end of the day of grace, whilst others, who are equally plodding, must go along from day to day without any possible hope of getting higher iri the service? I wish to say, in connexion with the appeal boards, that a certain course of action in respect of men who have committed offences has been very wisely provided for. In making provision for a board by which persons offending mav be examined, and their conduct inquired into, the Act is to be lauded. But when we come to deal with the composition of the board pf appeal, I am not so sanguine about the utility of the provision made. However advisable it may be to have an inspector on an. appeal board - and I believe it is advisable - we have to recognise the fact that when an inspector appears on the board with the representative of the man appealing the chief officer of the branch being chair-, man of the board, will be much more closely connected with the work of the inspector than with the work of the individual appealing. Consequently, I believe that a number of appeals that might be made would receive very scant consideration at the hands of an appeal board, from the very fact that the men who have to sit and adjudicate upon them are the men whose action’ is really the cause of those appeals being made. How can we expect public servants who feel themselves aggrieved to be satisfied with the decisions of a court of this character? My own opinion is. that whatever may be the form of appeal board .decided on it should represent both sides equally, and, instead of having a high officer of the service as chairman, it would be infinitely more judicious ito have some mann who would be able to give a decision unbiased by any previous connexion with the question on which the appeal is made, and I should personally prefer that the chairman of each appeal board should be a. Supreme Court Judge. I hopehat t the discussion which has taken place will at least convince the Governmenthat, i in the opinion of certain honorable senators, the classification scheme is by no means as satisfactory as we hope it will be made in the future. I trust that such amendments will be introduced as will redress first of all those wrongs which appear so evident in the treatment of the letter-carriers, and that, above all things, there will be removed from the scheme any such thing as the- grading- of officers whose salaries are less than £150 a year.
– “A great deal has been s>aid about the position of the letter-carriers under the classification scheme. In going through the scheme, I made a number of notes of matters which I thought ought to be brought under the notice of honorable senators, but many of the principal points with which I proposed to deal have already been referred to by previous speakers. I shall consequently have very little to say. Briefly, 1 thoroughly indorse all that was said by Senator Pearce in reference to the lettercarriers. I do not ask for generosity in the treatment of the letter-carriers or any other class of employes in the service. One honorable senator has said that the Federal Government should treat the Public Service generously, but I incline to the belief that we shall be on the safe side if we treat them fairly and. justly, and do not trouble our heads about generosity. If we extend to them the fair play and justice which aTe- extended by private employers to their employes, we shall do all that can be expected of us, and all that we are expected to do by the majority of theemployes in the service of the Federal Government. One or two points connected with the case of the lettercarriers have not yet been touched on. These are points which have been discussed bv letter-carriers’ associations throughout Australia, and which affect these public Officers as a body. They feel somewhat sore about their treatment, and I think we are well within our rights in submitting our views on their case to the Public Service Commissioner. I may say something as to the immense amount of work which has been done by the Commissioner. I feel satisfied that he has done his very best according to the evidence before him to be fair and impartial. At the same time, we should be giving up our rights altogether were we to admit that we cannot discuss this classification scheme. As regards the poor chance of promotion for letter-carriers, a striking instance is afforded by the fact that during the last thirteen years there have been only fiftythree promotions in Victoria, fourteen promotions in New South Wades, and not one promotion in the other four States. The letter-carriers of the Commonwealth number 1,500, comprising practically a fourth of the men in the general division. The promotions for the whole of Australia during the last thirteen years have averaged six per year. That fact shows that out of a large body of 1,500 men only six will have a chance of promotion under the present system. Of course, as Senator Pearce pointed out, if some men’ lived to about 200 years of age, they might have a chance of being promoted, but unless they did, very few would get a promotion under this scheme. The remedy for this state of things is, I think, to abolish the grading system and to substitute a system of small annual increments for this branch, starting at, say, £100 and finishing at £156. After a letter-carrier or sorter had drawn a salary of £100 for one year, thenceforward he should receive automatically an annual increment of, say, £3, until he reached the maximum salary of £156. Surely it will not be denied that any officer who is considered worthy to hold the responsible position of letter-carrier is entitled to that salary. Although it may seem to some persons an easy kind of employment, still the position demands honesty and integrity in its holder. We know very well that although letter-carriers are not graded very highly, still they have vast interests in their hands. We ought to do everything we can in reason to insure honesty and integrity in the performance of this work. If we hold that opinion, then I maintain it is not too much ‘for a man to expect that, starting at £100 at twenty-one years of age, he shall, in seventeen years more, reach £1 56. That is not a very munificent salary o for a man who has served the Commonwealth for from twenty to twenty-five years.
– Why; not start the man at the minimum salary of £110?
– He need not necessarily start at the minimum wage of £110. A public officer is required to be twentyone years of age, and to have served for three years before he is entitled to get the minimum wage. It may be that a public officer, after serving for three or five years, is still only twenty years of age; and in that case he would not draw the minimum wage. But where a man has served for many years, it is right that he should com mence with £110, and proceed by annual increment of £3 until he reached - £156. When we look at what was done in the States prior to the compilation of this immense scheme, we find that in no State except New South Wales did the grading system exist. In Western Australia, Queensland, and Victoria letter-carriers could reach a maximum by a system of annual increment. The maximum was £150 in South Australia, £140 in Western Australia and Queensland, and I think £132 or £138 in Victoria, subsequently raised to £150. Some incentive should be offered to a letter-carrier to be efficient and honest and to build up a good record. Of course, it goes without saying that if my plan were adopted, the annual increment would only be granted when the official had obtained a good report from his superior officer. In Tasmania a number of public officers- consider that they have not been fairly dealt with, owing to the fact that they have been removed from the clerical to the general division. For some years prior to Federation they worked in the clerical division and drew certain salaries, but under this classification scheme they are placed in. the general division, and thereby debarred from the increments which are available to the officers in the clerical division. They will not now have the same chance of promotion as they would otherwise have had. I bring this matter under the notice of the Minister at the table, so that he may be able to ascertain what reason the Commissioner had for taking this step. I know that a number of the officers consider themselves very badly used by the transfer, and the consequent denial of the chance of promotion which their merits had earned for them. I desire to ask the Minister if it is correct that the majority of the telegraphists on the principal circuits in Mel- bourne have by the classification been raised in salary, and that the contrary is the case in Tasmania, with most of the telegraphists of long service who are engaged 0:1 the principal circuits.
– It was not on account of their being on particular circuits, but on account of their relative efficiency.
– That raises another question, and that is the method of testing their relative efficiency. Is it a fact that not a member of the appeal board for telegraphists in Tasmania had ever touched a key? If that is the case, as I am told it is, I should consider that the board was not fairly constituted. As a layman, I should think that in order to be a good judge of a telegraphist’s capacity a man ought to possess technical knowledge of the work. The opinion of the board would have been considerably more valuable if it had comprised a person with the necessary technical knowledge.
– It included the Deputy Postmaster-General, the Inspector for the State, and the representative of the clerical division, whoever he was.
– I am-credibly informed that not one of those three persons had any knowledge of telegraphy, or had ever touched a key.
– The officers had an opportunity to vote for a competent man.
– It is true that they, in conjunction with other officers, had to vote for a member of the board; but of course they were outvoted. They maintain that the board which tested their capacity knew absolutely nothing about it.
– I suppose that the board would decide upon evidence. An ordinary court might know nothing about telegraphy, but might have to decide upon it according to evidence.
– An examination was held in June, at the instance of the Commissioner, in Hobart. Those telegraphists who were receiving £120 a year and1 under could submit themselves for examination for the purpose of showing that they were eligible to receive more than that salary. I state that there is no provision in the Public Service Act which permits such an examination to be held. ‘ I want to know under what authority the Commissioner and his inspectors ordered it. At all examinations candidates are more or less nervous, I am informed ; but usually nervousness does not obscure a man’s knowledge or hinder him from answering questions. But it is different altogether with a man’s capacity as a telegraphist. It is asserted that the result of the examination depends entirely upon the candidate’s nerves. The highest medical authorities agree that good telegraph operating depends largely upon the nerves, and that a nervous man cannot do himself justice. I may mention a case in point. A telegraph officer was transferred from the Railway Department to the Public Service in Tasmania some time ago. He worked the lines in the chief office satisfactorily, and had a clear record. He failed in the examination, simply through nervousness. Experienced men agree that an examination is no test of a telegraphist’s ability. An inferior operator who was cool-headed might do better than a more skilful operator who was nervous. In the case of clerks and others, who form a large proportion of the service, the Commissioner is satisfied with the yearly efficiency reports from the departmental heads. Telegraphists allege that this form of testing eligibility for promotion is unfair in their case.
– The Commissioner must award the increases upon efficiency, and he has power to obtain such information as he may deem necessary to determine the relative efficiency of officers.
– It is questionable whether he has not stretched his power in this case. It is Worth while, to call attention to an instance given in a letter in a paper published by the postal service in Australia, called The Transmitter. It says -
Re tests held in June to enable telegraphists in the fourth sub-division of the fifth class to rise to the higher divisions of that class, I would point out the injustice which will be done to some of the fourth sub-division officers if the manner of testing is not altered. No doubt some of those who failed, did so, like myself, through nervousness. To test a nervous telegraphist as he was tested in June is really unfair. In some cases men failed “ purely “ through nervousness, and the test was not altogether a test of ability. For instance, at the time of receiving I was so nervous that for nearly three minutes I could not write one word, though I could take it quite easily. To show that it was pure nervousness, I may say that two days previously I took over 1,600 letters in ten minutes without missing a single letter. The same thing occurred during the sending test, though not to such an extent; I was quite shaky. Could not the Commissioner see his way clear to do something at once for those who failed through being nervous, say, by referring it to the postmaster who was in charge by asking relieving postmasters and inspectors what abilities we possess.
– Does not the honorable senator know that there is no man who has not some excuse for his failure?
– That is not a fair way to put it. In the case of other officers, the test is a report from the head of the Department as to an officer’s general efficiency and good conduct. In this case the test is largely a matter of the nerves of the candidate at the examination. It is asserted that in a number of cases great injustice has been done through this method being insisted on. Of course the officers put their contruction on the Act. No doubt they strain it as far as they can in their own interests. But it is right that the attention of the Commissioner should be drawn to their objection.
– It is so very easy for a man who has failed to make that excuse.
– I am willing to take a liberal discount off these statements, but it is only reasonable that when we are discussing the classification scheme such matters should be mentioned.
– It is a pity wc have not the opportunity to go further, and pass a motion. What is the use of beating the air?
– Why bark when we cannot bite?
– Sometimes a bark is very effective, and the remarks of honorable senators may assist the Government in inducing the Commissioner to remedy anomalies.
– That could only be done by the Governor-General returning the report to the Commissioner.
– I am strongly of opinion that the Senate has the right to discuss the classification scheme, and, in doing so, is acting in accordance with the spirit of the Public Service Act. I refuse to agree to the dictum of Senator Dobson, that members should be absolutely debarred from bringing grievances before this Chamber if they are satisfied that the grievances are real. If Senator Dobson were present, I should call his attention to the words of the Minister of Home Affairs, in whose Department this matter lies, only a few days ago, in another place. That Minister invited the criticism, not only of members of another place, but also of honorable senators; and for1 what reason? Presumably that the Ministry may be given some idea how it is desired this classification scheme should be dealt with. The Minister of Home Affairs, in the course of his remarks, said that he only mentioned the various matters to show that it was impossible in another place to discuss the question on the facts of the case without hearing both sides. The honorable gentleman went on to say that the Government had had submitted to them the scheme from the point of view of one side, and that it was intended to call on the Commissioner for a report on the other side; and that, when the Government were in possession of the facts, they would endeavour to do justice, not only to the taxpayers, but to the Public Service of the Commonwealth. It seems to me that those concluding words constitute the best of all reasons for bringing this classification scheme before the Senate, I . re-echo the regrets uttered by a largnumber of honorable senators that we are not able to back up our opinions in a somewhat more emphatic manner than is possible with our present method of dealing with the question.
– I believe we are debating a motion that the Senate do now adjourn, and I shall confine my remarks to it. Inasmuch as I recognise that the discussion on the classification scheme is wholly futile, I intend to say nothing on the question. I am not now speaking in any depreciatory way of the very excellent speeches we have listened to, but only indicating what I believe to be the resultless character of the debate. I desire to know to what date it is proposed to adjourn. If the Minister in charge can assure me that there is business for next week I shall be very glad to attend, and, if necessary, sit four days. We are being called together, and are likely to be called together, week after week, in order to do work which could be accomplished in a day and a half or two days; and this causes great inconvenience to all honorable senators who live outside Melbourne. If there is not work for next week, I urge the Minister to agree to adjourn to the week following, rather than that we should present the spectacle df a number of honorable ‘senators attempting not to do work, but to fill up time by talking. I hope the Minister will pay some attention to the desire, not only of myself, but of other honorable senators, to get on with the work which the Senate has been called together to perform.
– I hope that the leader of the House will not consent to an adjournment for a week.
– I do not want an adjournment if there is work ito do.
– I am pleased that in this matter Senator Clemons is of the same opinion as myself. Up to the present the record of the Senate for work is exceedingly poor. There have been comparatively few Bills initiated in this Chamber, though there is absolutely no reason why there should not be as many introduced here as in another place, excepting, of course, Money Bills. We have hitherto met for a day or a day and a half and then adjourned for a week, and that has gone on week after week. In my opinion, there is ample work for next week. There is that most important measure, the Copyright Bill, and, moreover, a number of honorable senators desire to express their opinion on the classification scheme. I do not agree with Senator Clemons that the discussion on that scheme is futile. When the Public Service Bill was before us I contended that, while we did away with political influence, we did not interfere in the slightest degree with parliamentary control, We have a perfect right to criticise this scheme, and carry any resolution we like, and the Commissioner will be bound to take notice of that resolution on general principles.
– We cannot carry a resolution under this motion.
– No, we cannot.
– Then, as I say, this debate is resultless.
– I hope the Senate will meet next week and do some work. Up to the present we have done very little.
-Col. Neild - And next week we shall do less.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.We have ample business, including a continuation of this debate
-Col. Neild. - How can we next week continue a discussion on a motion that the Senate do now adjourn?
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.The discussion may be re-introduced in a similar way, or in some other form. The classification scheme deals with the control of from 10,000 to 13,000 individuals, and the more discussion we have on a subject so important, the better.
– It has been suggested by Senator Clemons that the Senate should adjourn over next week.
– If we have no Avork to do.
– I totally disagree with the suggestion. Honorable senators will remember that last session every time an unusual adjournment was proposed, I protested. I went so far as to call for a division on such! occasions, and I intend to do the same this session as a protest against the way in which the Government supply the Senate with business.
– The honorable senator had no reason to protest against the last Government on that account.
– If the honorable and learned senator will refer to Hansard he will find that I had, on many occasions.
– They adjourned the Senate several times.
– Might I ask Senator Givens if he advocates . bringing honorable senators here when there is no work for them; to do?
– I do not advocate anything of the kind, but I say that so long as there is work on the business-paper for the Senate to do we should not adjourn until it is completed. If we agree to these lengthy adjournments the result will be that business will subsequently be hurried through in a slip-shod fashion. We have very important business at present on the paper to deal with. There is, for instance, the Copyright Bill.
– Does the honorable senator think that will last over next week?
– It is a very important Bill,, and it should occupy our attention for a sitting or two if it is not to be passed in a slip-shod fashion. I think the Government are to blame that there is not more business on the paper than there is. There is a plethora of work in another place where honorable members have more work before them than they can grapple with. Why was not the Commerce Bill introduced in the Senate?
– Or the Secret Commissions Bill?
– Those are contentious measures, and a full discussion of them in the Senate might possibly have minimized discussion upon them iri another place.
-Col. Neild. - We could fill up time with a vote of censure, or something light and airy of that sort.
– Senator Neild is no doubt an adept at that sort of thing. If he had his way the honorable senator would prefer to run the whole Senate himself. I am certain it will be a considerable time before he will be allowed to do so, but with his bumptious style, the honorable senator would overshadow the Senate if he were permitted. I shall take the strongest measures to prevent the adjournment of the Senate over next week. A motion to adjourn the Senate to an unusual date can- not be moved until the motion at present before the Senate is withdrawn.
– Does not the honorable senator recognise that if he and his friends say; that the Senate shall not adjourn, the Government will not propose to adjourn ?
– I have not recognised anything of the kind. I am putting forward merely my individual views.
– Will not the honorable senator even allow th” Government to say whether they have business for the Senate ?
– I do not need them to tell me that when I look at the businesspaper. Why should I ask any one to tell me something which I can see as plainly as the nose on the honorable and learned senator’s face. I protest against any unusual adjournment, and I shall use the forms of the Senate to prevent it. If any unusual adjournment is moved. I shall call for a division on it.
– In speaking to honorable senators- earlier in the. day, I found, that a number desired that we should not meet next week, whilst a number also desired that we should. Those who desired that we should not meet pointed to the fact that there is very little business on the notice-paper.
– That is not our fault.
– I am merely stating the fact. I admitted that there is not very much business on the notice-paper, and that we might] possibly adjourn for a week. It is impossible for me to give the assurance that Senator Clemons desires, and say that we have enough business on the paper to keep us fully employed, because that entirely depends on the inclination which honorable senators display to speak. We have a little business on the paper, and though I was doubtful whether there was sufficient to occupy us next week, I said I would be willing to take the sense of the Senate on the matter.
– The honorable senator means < to say that if we talk, enough there will be sufficient business?
– I cannot say how many honorable senators will desire to Speak, or how long thev will speak, and I am therefore unable to say whether the., business on the notice-paper is sufficient to occupy the whole of the time next week. I do not infer that honorable senators will speak merely for the sake of speaking, or will not .speak intelligently and to the point, But it is impossible for me or for any other living being to say whether the business now on the notice-paper is sufficient is keep us employed all next week. There is another Supply Bill in connexion with public works to come up, and there -might be some other Bills received by the Senate. I . said I was willing to adjourn over next week.
– Was it not because the honorable senator felt certain that we should lose nothing by adjourning ?
– That is quite right.
– Then I think we should adjourn. .
– I am willing to adjourn, but as I believe a majority of honorable senators object to an adjournment over next week it would be futile to propose to do so.
-The honorable senator could not move the motion.
– I think I should find a way to manage it. If the motion” now before the Senate were negatived it could be done, but, in the circumstances, as there is a majority of honorable senators opposed to an adjournment over next week, I shall not propose such an adjournment.
– I shall not occupy the Senate for very long at this hour. If there is an insufficiency of business on the notice-paper, and the Minister has admitted that there is, who is responsible for that ? I think the Government are responsible.
– And who are going to be punished ?
– The Government have a right, if they find they_ are interfered with by any persons, to adopt the means at their disposal to overcome ‘those obstacles. They can take up one of the planks of the leader of a very prominent party, which was to amend the Standing .Orders, so as to prevent too much talk. If the Standing Orders were amended in that direction we should have more work to do in the Senate than we have. The Senate has not been treated by the Government fairly, commencing from the time when they took the Vice-President of the Executive, Council from this Chamber. They would appear to think that the Senate is a kind of poor relation, and I object to that- attitude on their, part. I shall not continue the debate further, except to say that I very much regret that the matter of the classification of the. Public Service has been dealt with under cover of a motion which will not permit the Senate to place its opinion on record or to state any amendments it desires. I fear that all the discussion which has taken place to-day is likely to be repeated at an early date, under cover of some distinctive motion
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). I wish to offer a protest against Senator Playford’s statement that there is not enough business to be done next week.
SenatorPlayford. - I said I could hot say whether there was or not.
– He has called attention to the public works Supply Bill, which must come up shortly. On the noticepaper I see an order of the day for the second reading of the Copyright Bill, arid also an order of the day relating to tobacco monopoly, which ought to be dealt with with the greatest possible despatch. There is every probability of the classification scheme coming up for consideration on a substantive motion. Under these circumstances it is absurd to say that there is not ample business to occupy the Senate next week.
Question - That the Senate do now adjournput. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in.the negative.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That Order of the Day No.,2 “ Tobacco Monopoly “ be an order of the day for Thursday next.
– The honorable senator in charge of a notice of motion or order of the day has always the right to ask the Senate to re- arrange the business.
– At this stage ?
– Yes, when it is called on.
– Have we not proceeded with any business for the day yet?
– None but formal business.
-May I point out to you, sir, thatwhen the adjournment of the Senate was moved by Senator Keating we were proceeding to business of which notice had been given, and you said you were straining the. standing order to enable this to be done, because the Government had given notice on Wednesday that they would take the discussion on the Public Service classification to-day.
– I do not understand what that has to do with this matter. The order of the day in charge of Senator Pearce was called on ; he moved in the ordinary course of practice that it be put down for Thursday, and that was carried.
– The point is that we have already proceeded to the business of the day.
The Clerk laid upon the table the following paper: -
Return to an Order of the . Senate of 17th August, 1905. - Australian Pearling Fleets.: Num- ber of Indentured Coloured Labourers returned their homes in 1904-.
Ordered to be printed.
Senate adjourned at 4.16 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 August 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1905/19050825_senate_2_26/>.