4th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p:m., and read prayers.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers -
Northern Territory : Summary of Report of Preliminary Scientific Expedition.
First AnnualReport of the High Commissioner of the Commonwealth in the United Kingdom.
Naval Defence Act 1910 -
Regulations (Provisional) for the Naval Forces of the Commonwealth - Cancellation of Regulation 200, and substitution of new Regulation in lieu thereof. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 149.
Defence Act 1903-1910 - .
Regulations (Provisional) for the Military Forces of the Commonwealth - Cancellation of Regulations92 and 93, and substitution of new Regulations in lieu thereof. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 155.
Regulations (Provisional) for Universal Training- Cancellation of Regulation 16, and substitution of new Regulation in lieu thereof. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 150.
Financial and Allowance Regulations (Provisional) for the Military Forces of the Commonwealth -
Amendment of Regulation 82. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 151.
Amendment of Regulation 161. - Statutory Rules 191 1, No. 152.
Amendment of Regulation 152. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 153.
Amendment of Regulation. 176. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 154.
Shale Oils Bounties Act 1910 - Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 137.
Excise Act 1901 - Beet Sugar Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 156.
Spirits Act 1906- Amendment of Schedule (standard for industrial spirits). - Statutory Rules, 191 1, No. 160.
The Railway Gauges of Australia and their Unification - Supplementary Report by H. Deane, Consulting Railway Engineer. Dated 6th October,1911.
Public Service Act 1902 - Repeal of Regulations 114, 115, 116, and116a, and substitution of new Regulations in lieu thereof. - Statutory Rules,1911, No. 159.
Census and Statistics Act 1905 -
Trade, Shipping, Migration, and Finance of the Commonwealth of Australia for the months of -
September, 1910. - Bulletin No. 45.
October, 1910. - Bulletin No. 46.
November, 1910. - Bulletin No. 47.
December, 1910. - Bulletin No. 48.
January, 191 1. - Bulletin No.49.
February,1911. - Bulletin No. 50.
March,1911. - Bulletin No. 51.
April, 191 1. - Bulletin No. 52.
May, 1911. - Bulletin No. 53.
June,1911. - Bulletin No. 54.
July, 1911. - Bulletin No. 55.
Population and Vital Statistics of the Commonwealth for the quarters ended - 30th September,1910. -Bulletin No. 23. 31st December,1910. - Bulletin No. 24. 31st March, 1911. - Bulletin No. 26.
Population and Vital Statistics of the- Commonwealth for the year 1910. - Bulletin No. 25.
Production - Summary of Commonwealth Statistics for the years 1901 to 1909, - Bulletin No. 4.
Finance - Summary of Australian Statistics 1901 to1910. - Bulletin No. 4.
Social Statistics as to Education, Hospitals and Charities, and. Law and Crime, for the year1909. - Bulletin No.’ 3.
Official Year-Book of the Commonwealth of Australia : No. 4. -1901-1910.
Transport and Communication - Summary of Commonwealth Statistics for the years 1901-10. Bulletin No. 4.
Meteorology Act 1006- Amendment of Regulation No. 1. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 164.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether the following part of a paragraph in the Age of this morning was brought under his notice -
Strongly commented upon was the action of the Minister of Defence, who completely ignored the presence of the boys. They had travelled 30,000 miles since they left Australian shores, and a welcome from the head of the Department would have well fitted the occasion. But neither the Prime Minister nor the Minister of Defence, although they were in the buildings, acknowledged the return of the longabsent lads. The Prime Ministerhas not recovered, from his cold. but Senator Pearce’s discourtesy was unexplained. It was felt that Senator Pearce was carrying too far the friction which occurred between himself and Major Wynne in London over the official recognition of the cadets.
I desire to know if the honorable senator wilfully ignored the presence of the cadets, or whether any discourtesy was intended?
– I read the paragraph referred to by the honorable senator, and the only reply I desire to make is that I was neither asked nor invited to meet the cadets when they came to Parliament House, nor was I notified by anybody that they were coming here.
– The discourtesy was on the other side.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council if the Government have observed that the House of Assembly of Tasmania has approved unanimously of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Tasmanian Customs Leakage which recently reported to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral ; whether it is their intention to take any action during the session to give effect to the recommendations in full, or to any extent, and, if so, or if not so, whether an early opportunity will be afforded to the Senate to discuss the report?
– This matter is under consideration.
– Is it intended by the Government to follow the order of business which is set out on the noticepaper for to-day?
– It is a very unusual one, that is all.
– Referring to Mr. Oeane’s report on railway gauges which was laid on the table of the Senate this afternoon, I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs whether the paper will be printed and circulated amongst honorable senators prior to the consideration of the Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie Railway Construction Bill ?
– I think I can safely promise that copies of the report will be supplied to honorable senators before theBill comes on for consideration.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
– I desire to point out that the Minister has not given an answer to the first question.
– The honorable senator may aska question arising out of his reply.
– . I am sure that there has been an inadvertence on the part of somebody. To the first question -
How many petty officers and seamen were sent to England to be trained for work on the destroyers? the answer was that a certain number had been sent to bring out the destroyers.
– If I had been bound down to answer the question as it was put, I should have had to reply, “ None.”
– Say so, if that is the correct answer.
– It would not have been quite correct, because they were sent not merely to bring out the destroyers, but so that they might be in England a few weeks before the destroyers were to leave, and during that time might be given a certain amount of training.
– Arising out of the answer just given, I should like to ask the Minister whether sixty-four was the maximum number of officers and seamen sent to England to be trained at the expense of the Commonwealth ?
– On that occasion, yes.
asked the Vice-
President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
Motion (by Senator St. Ledger) agreed to -
That there be laid on the table of the Senate a return showing the amounts of the Treasury notes issued to the respective banks in the Commonwealth.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 6th October, vide page 1205):
Clause 4 -
A person shall not buy, or receive in exchange, or receive by way of pledge or otherwise, any decoration which has been conferred on any person being or having been a member of the King’s Naval or Military Forces or of the Defence Force for service performed in or out of Australia.
Penalty : Twenty pounds.
On which Senator Rae had moved by way of amendment -
That the words “ or receive by way of pledge or otherwise “ be left out.
– When the discussion on this clause was interrupted under the sessional orders at 4 o’clock on Friday last, I was pointing out that, whether in jest or in earnest, Senator Vardon had raised a constitutional point.
– Senator Gardiner raised the same point previously.
– As the point has been raised on both sides of the Chamber there may be something in it. I took the opportunity on Friday last to say that the point deserved consideration. Inow ask the Minister whether, in view of the discussion which has already taken place on this and the previous clause, he has made up his mind on the matter. The clause may be in conflict with an Imperial Statute, or a law of the States, and we may have no power to control the sale, or dealing with in any way, of thingsof this kind. Most of these medals and decorations are granted by the King by virtue of regulations under an Imperial Act of Parliament. I have already pointed out that where that is the case this matter is governed by the Imperial Act, and a Commonwealth Act could give no jurisdiction to deal with it. All these medals must be exempt, because the King’s law runs in the States.
– If we pass a law in this Commonwealth Parliament it will also be a King’s law.
– That is not the point. We cannot go beyond our own jurisdiction. If these medals are conferred by the King under regulations” framed under an Imperial Act we cannot control them. The Minister may contend that we have the control of our own Defence Force, and, so far as we have, the argument is worthy of consideration. But it must be remembered that an Imperial Act dealing with this matter may be a law of the States as well, and at once there will arise a conflict of jurisdiction. Suppose that an officer or soldier receives a medal or decoration for services rendered in the Imperial Forces, under a jurisdiction over which the Commonwealth neither has nor can have any control. Suppose that that person comes to a State of the Commonwealth, and wishes to dispose of his medal. Is the Minister of Defence satisfied that he can punish such soldier or officer for so doing, and can punish a person who purchases or receives the medal or decoration as pledge? If it be said that the point is “ finnicking,” I reply that the whole Bill comes within the. same category. But certainly the technical point must be met. Surely we should be scrupulous not to make our legislation ridiculous. The Minister may plead that he has a desire to put an end to a practice that is degrading. But that does not dispose of the constitutional point. We are entitled to inquire whether the Minister has taken the precaution to assure himself regarding it, so that any legislation passed by this Parliament may not be invalidated by the decision of some Court of law, or even by a petty magistrate. If he can say that it is within our power to pass the clause I shall be satisfied.
– I feel highly gratified by Senator St. Ledger’s assurance that he will be satisfied if I can state that in my opinion we have a constitutional right to pass this Bill.
– It will be something, at any rate.
– I am well aware that my opinion cannot carry great weight, because I cannot speak with legal authority. But the Law officers inform us that they are absolutely satisfied that we are acting within the Constitution in respect of this clause, and that we have the power to pass it into law. I would suggest to Senator Rae that he should not press his amendment. The Committee have already affirmed the principle that the pledging of any medal by any person is an offence. They have reduced the penalty to£5and I am quite agreeable to reduce the penalty in this case to the same amount. Surely if it is to be an offence for a person to pledge a medal it ought equally to be an offence to receive a medal in pledge. I may point out that the same principle is embodied in the Defence Act, where it is provided that it is an offence to pledge or receive in pledge certain military accoutrements.
– In that case the articles would not be the property of the individual.
– Neither are military medals and decorations the property of the individual. They remain always the property of the King.
– After a man has left the service ?
– Yes, and they are liable to forfeiture if the man misconducts himself.
– The Minister of Defence has reminded us that we have already passed clause 3, but he is aware that he experienced considerable difficulty before he. succeeded in getting it through. In regard to the clause now: before us, I point out that no limit is imposed as to the time when the service for which the medal was conferred was performed. A man may own a medal given to his grandfather for participating in the Battle of Waterloo. Such a medal would be worth a considerable amount of money. But under this clause he could not pledge it for 5s., because the pawnbroker who accepted it as a pledge would by so doing break the law. We are face to face with the fact that the alleged evils which this Bill is intended to prevent are merely imaginary. The measure does not aim at preventing any real evil. No one is crying out for legislation on this subject, as far as I can learn. There may be a few interested persons who desire to see the Bill passed, but they are very few, because in this country, fortunately, there are not very many who are interested in this kind of thing. I believe that the constitutional point is a good one, and that we have not the power to enforce these penalties. It was urged, in reference to the previous clause, that only those who were under the influence of drink would desire to dispose of their medals. If that be so, why not legislate to prevent persons with medals being served at hotel bars ? We should then soon find ourselves in a most absurd position.
– Hear, hear ! It would be an absurd position.
– And it is equally absurd for us to interfere with businesses which have been licensed by the State Governments, in a way that will inflict injustice upon a great number. The operation of this clause will render almost valueless the entire stock of medals upon which a section of the community has advanced money, or which it has purchased for disposal to collectors. We all know that just as there are numerous collectors of curios, so there are numerous collectors of medals. Why the Bill should make no distinction between medals which have been granted since Australia became inhabited by white men, and medals which were granted, perhaps, 200 years ago, and to which a very great value may attach today, I cannot understand. Why should we make it an offence for a person to traffic in medals which were bestowed upon their recipients perhaps 200 years ago? The Minister has stated that these naval and military decorations are not the private property of the individuals to whom they have been granted. But anybody who chooses to read carefully the statement which he made last week must be convinced that they are their private property. Unless they dispose of them voluntarily they cannot be taken from them, either for debt or otherwise. When the Minister states that because we have affirmed in clause 3 that a member of the Naval or Military Forces shall not pledge or sell one of these medals, therefore a person shall not buy or receive one, he is upon sound ground. But the wrong was committed in introducing such a Bill.
– The measure contains one good principle which ought to be ap; proved.
– I admit that the principle embodied in clause 5, which will prevent persons who are not lawfully entitled to naval or military medals, or other decorations, from wearing them, is a good one. But that provision stands upon an entirely different footing from clause 4. Had clauses 3 and 4 been omitted from the Bill no great exception could have been urged against it. But why should our time be occupied in considering trivial measures of this description when important legislation is awaiting our attention? I wish to place on record my opposition to the Bill, but beyond that I do not .propose to go.
– What is the use of moving an amendment if the honorable senator is not going to fight for it?
– I did not submit the amendment, and as far as fighting is concerned, I think 1 have reached the limit of my capacity in that direction. I have no desire to unduly prolong debate, and thus to waste valuable time. But I recognise that measures of this character are so unimportant that, unless strong exception were taken to them, the general feeling would be, “ Oh, let it pass. The Bill is sure to become a dead letter.” I dare say that that estimate of this Bill is as correct a one as it is possible to get. But if we allow clauses like that under discussion to pass through Committee without making the Minister aware that there, is a good deal to be said against them, the Senate will not appear to very great advantage when the Bill comes to be considered elsewhere. I venture to say that the measure will not have such an easy passage through the House of Representatives which contains seventy-four members, as it has had through the Senate which contains only thirty-six members. I intend’ to vote for the amendment, and
I shall also register my vote against’ the clause, irrespective of whether or not it is amended. I think that’ the Minister told us on Friday last that the veterans were interested in this Bill. Nobody has a greater respect lor the veterans than I have, but I feel con,vinced that this measure casts an unwarrantable imputation upon them.
– They asked for it.
– A section of them may have asked for it.
– The Veterans Association asked for it.
– What is the inference to be drawn from this measure?. It is that the veterans are so little to be trusted that we have to legislate to prevent them from pledging or otherwise raising money upon their decorations. We are told in effect that they have so little regard for their decorations that Parliament must step in and prevent them from disposing of them, and must also prevent other individuals from purchasing them. It seems to me that a section of the Military Forces, to whom the exhibition of these medals in. the shop-window or a curio hunter or of a pawnbroker, is distasteful, has been able to exert sufficient influence to get this measure drafted and brought forward by the Government.
– I have not been approached by any one of those individuals. Whether the honorable senator chooses to believe me or not, 1 have been approached only by the Veterans Association.
– I never entertain a doubt of the truthfulness of any statement which is made by the Minister, and I only wish that I was sufficiently in the confidence of the Government “to induce them to bring forward labour legislation as promptly as this Bill has been brought forward. I am very pleased to know that the Minister is so approachable. In its present form, the clause will perhaps prevent one or two sales a year from being effected by individual owners of medals, but what effect will it have upon those persons who are in possession of 100 or 1,000 medals? I understand that a new clause is to be introduced, with the object of modifying the provision under consideration, by providing that clause 4 shall not apply to dealers or bond fide collectors.
– Is a pawnbroker a bond fide collector?
– Under the Bill a pawnbroker will, before he can buy a medal, have to satisfy the Minister that he is a bond fide collector. To my mind, the proposed exemption from the operation of clause 4 will open the door to the favoured few, and any man who is in possession of a stock of medals will have to send them to other parts of the world where, perhaps, he can dispose of them at a small profit. Persons who are iona fide collectors, however, will be able to get the permission of the Minister, and to purchase medals cheaply, because then they will have no great value. When the measure has been debated at great length, perhaps for a week or two, and passed, a similar debate will probably take place elsewhere, and most likely it will come back to this Chamber. If honorable senators generally are satisfied that this legislation should pass, I am content with the endeavour I have made to make the position quite clear to every one. I have been influenced by an object-lesson which I once had from a great statesman who has passed away. I can remember Sir Henry Parkes conversing in the lobby one afternoon with a number of the younger members of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales about the legislation which had been passed, and telling them that never during a long career had he voted for a measure to restrict the liberties of the people. That is not a bad rule for honorable senators to follow. Suppose that this measure restricts the liberties of even a few persons. It behoves us not to pass legislation which will hamper business and restrict individual liberty. In New South Wales a free Parliament has legislated for nearly sixty years, and I do not believe that on its statute-book you will find legislation similar to this measure.
– That is no reason why you should oppose the Bill.
– It shows that there has been no great outcry for such legislation. I recognise, of course, that it is not necessary for this Parliament to wait until the State Parliaments have moved in a particular direction. If the clause were drafted in such a way that it would extend the rights, privileges, and liberties of the people, that would be a good reason why it should be passed.
– You do not mean to say that you would extend privileges to any one, do you?
– I might be prepared to extend a privilege to everybody. For instance, I would allow the decisions of every Parliament to lie submitted to the people by way of a referendum, and so give them the privilege of “outing” any legislation of this character, instead of that right being confined to a privileged few. I did hope, on Friday afternoon, when the hour of 4 o’clock was reached, that we had seen the last of this measure.
– It is now put in front of electoral reform.
– Possibly the Minister of Defence is anxious to give the other House sufficient time in which to fully consider a. clause of this kind, and, therefore, he desires to get this important measure forwarded there early in the session. If that be the case, I recognise that there may be some’ reason for me to hold my strong opinions in abeyance. The Bill might be allowed to pass if clauses 3 and 4 were struck out. I trust that every honorable senator will consider the clause before the Committee on its merits. I do not want any notice taken of anything I have said about it.
– Why are you saying it, then ?
– Because if I did not say something about the clause a faithful follower of the Government like Senator Givens, who never questions or cavils at their legislation, might not take the trouble to read the clause. What I am urging is not intended as an argument to convince honorable senators ; I wish to prolong the discussion in the hope that, wearying of my voice, honorable senators may be induced to read the clause, and deal with it on its merits. I promise any honorable senator who votes for the clause with his eyes open that I shall try to secure a medal from a pawnshop and have him decorated. I do not think that I could speak at further length without being accused of endeavouring to “ stone- wall “ the measure. I am glad to have had this opportunity of entering a protest against clause 4.
– We are asked by Senator Rae to omit the words “or receive by way of pledge or otherwise.” For reasons which I shall give when the occasion arises, I desire an opportunity to move the deletion of the words “or otherwise.” I want to know what position I shall be in if the present amendment is negatived. Could I move to leave out the words “ or otherwise “ ?
– Not if the amendment is negatived in its present form.
– I shall be glad, sir, if you will preserve my right to move the amendment.
– Under a standing order I shall divide the amendment of Senator Rae, and put in the first place the omission of the words “or receive by way of pledge.”
– I agree to that.
– 1 am rather astonished that the Minister does not accept thu eminently reasonable amendment. I voted for the second reading of the Bill because I recognised that it .contains a valuable principle, which ought to be enacted, and that is that no man ought to be. allowed to go round the country under false pretences by wearing decorations to which he is not entitled. But I fail to see why we should go so far as to prohibit a man, even in the most dire extremity, from raising a shilling to save, perhaps, the life of a starving child by the sale of a decoration which he has. We- freely allow a man to pledge his life for a particular reason, which is entirely unselfish; but under this measure a man is not to be allowed to pledge a paltry medal, which, perhaps, is not worth, intrinsically, 2-Jd. Unlike Senator Gardiner, I have no sympathy with pawnbrokers. I do not care how much they lose or suffer, because my experience is that they can take care of themselves without any assistance from me. I have a most profound conviction that we should not do anything which might render the lot of men harder than it would otherwise be. Take the case of a man who had never indulged in strong drink, or been extravagant, but who, through illness, had been reduced to the direst extremity. He might go home some night to find a family of little children in the uttermost want, and the only article on which he could raise a few shillings to relieve their urgent necessity might be a decoration, which, though not worth more than a paltry few farthings, was very dear to him. He might say to a friend, “ If you can trust me with half-a-sovereign or one pound, I will give you this medal, which I value more than I can say, as an assurance that I will return you the money afterwards.” Yet this Bill would not allow him to do that. These are the circumstances which incline me to vote against this clause altogether. I am not very much in favour of the amendment, because I recognise that if we allow a man to pledge one of these medals we may be leaving it open to him to ultimately part with it altogether. Circumstances may arise in the life of any man who possesses one of these decorations which may compel him to part with it, and this Parliament will be dealing very harshly with such a man if it passes a law to say that, if he does so; he must be regarded as a criminal. I heartily agree with the real principle of the Bill, which is to prevent persons going round the country under false pretences, wearing decorations to which they are not entitled, and posing as heroes when they are nothing of the kind. I respectfully suggest to the Minister that he should confine his efforts to the enactment of that principle, and should permit reasonable amendments in other provisions of the Bill.
. - An appeal has been made to me to withdraw the amendment. I recognise that if it be agreed to it will be necessary to recommit clause 3. But that is immaterial to me. 1 am not greatly concerned about the wording of the amendment, but I am concerned about protesting against the whole of this clause, and the whole subjectmatter of the Bill, except that referred to by Senator Givens. I admit that clause 5 embodies the only really good thing in the Bill, inasmuch as it would prevent any one sailing under false colours. But even in that direction this is a measure which is not of much account. We know that there is an organization that is represented throughout the Commonwealth, and all over the world, in fact, which is permitted to use military titles. I allude to the Salvation Army. I suppose that no political party would be game to tackle an organization of that kind, because of the number of votes it is able to command. The Salvation Army people use every military title from drummer boy to FieldMarshal, in a way that it was not contemplated military titles would be used. If we are going to forbid the disposal of military decorations, we should prevent the use of military titles except as permitted in connexion with our Military Forces. I regard the time spent on this measure as well spent, only because it is a sustained protest against the introduction of this kind of legislation at all. It is better that we should devote a session to the repeal of laws already on the statute-book, than to the passing of unnecessary new laws. I believe in extending the bounds of freedom, and not in restricting them by manufacturing criminals, as this Bill proposes to do. Three legal points have already been raised in connexion with this Bill. It is urged that it may be unconstitutional, as encroaching upon the rights of the State Parliaments, by interfering with the business of pawnbrokers licensed under State laws. Another point is that it may be an improper interference with the right of a British subject to do as he likes with decorations granted to him under the Imperial Statute. I forget, for the moment, what the other legal objection was.
– Let the honorable senator repeat the first and that will make three.
– It is unnecessary to multiply objections to a measure of this kind, the introduction of which is reducing the work of legislation to a farce. If the protest to which utterance has been given has the effect of making Ministers very chary of bringing forward this kind of stuff again in the National Parliament, it will have done good service. A way out of the difficulty would be to negative this clause and then recommit the Bill and deal with clause 3. We might pass a Bill of only one clause, so long as it embodies a sensible provision. I remind the Committee that last session we passed such a measure in the Naval Loan Repeal Act. We might cut this Bill down to a Bill of one clause to provide a penalty for the fraudulent appropriation of other men’s decorations. I do not know that there is any great need even for such a provision, because I am not aware of such a thing having occurred , more than once or twice in our whole, history. I repeat my protest against trivial legislation of this kind. I believe the time of this Parliament might be better occupied in considering measures concerning which there may be legitimate differences of opinion, which it would require time to thresh out. If this Bill is introduced merely as a stop-gap to fill up time, I say we would be better employed ‘enjoying the fresh air in the parliamentary gardens. I hope that we shall never again have so utterly useless and ridiculous a measure introduced to take up the time of this Parliament.
– - I confess that once or twice when 1 have intervened in this discussion I felt that I was taking part in a farce. If there is one man in this Chamber who, more than another, must know that we are taking part in a farce in dealing with this Bill it is the Minister of Defence.
– No, I. am only a spectator on this occasion.
– It was the honorable senator who pulled the strings which set the figures to work. He did so with a certain amount of enjoyment at first, but as the criticism of the Bill has proceeded, especially from his own side, his face has been gradually growing longer and longer. If there is anything more farcical than this measure, with the exception of clauses 1 and 5, it is that men who have any business, private or public, to give their attention to, should be wasting their time in exposing the farce in which the Minister of Defence is consciously or unconsciously the most conspicuous figure. I understand that when the first portion of the amendment is dealt with, it is the intention of Senator Chataway to move that the words “ or otherwise “ be left out, and I should like to know whether the Minister will assist the Committee to strike out those words? If they are not left out of this clause, it will be in conflict with the proposed new clause 7, which has been circulated by the Minister. In that clause it is proposed to allow certain persons to dispose of these decorations.
– They cannot do so, if we forbid the right of any one to purchase them.
– We shall have to assume that the Commonwealth has complete control over all medals and decorations conferred even under an Imperial Act.
– I doubt it.
– I hare expressed my doubt. I should not mind being on either side to argue the matter. We must, I suppose, take it as good law that the Commonwealth has absolute control of the King’s decorations in the Commonwealth. That is probably the view taken by the Commonwealth law authorities. Personally, I have my doubts. But proposed new clause 7 certainly involves a contradiction. It suggests that the Minister is going to allow medals to be purchased by collectors, whilst clause 4 contains the all-embracing words “or otherwise.” It is generally accepted by honorable senators that curio dealers and collectors should be allowed to exercise their tastes despite this measure. Nevertheless, the words “ or otherwise” will stand in their way. Although, therefore, I intend to vote against clause 4, I suggest to the Minister that even if it does go through, he should do something to remove the contradiction contained in the words to which I have drawn attention. It is a monstrous thing, to my mind, that a man who, at the risk of his life, has won a decoration should not be permitted to do what he likes with it. But even if that contention be not upheld, the legislation which prevents the sale or pledging of medals should be consistent with itself. To impose this restriction in the present early stage of development of our Defence Forces seems to me to be one of the most awful farces that has ever been proposed to Parliament. It is brought before us simply because some more or less mythical association of veterans demand it.
– Can the honorable senator suggest any class of people who should be more interested than the veterans, who have won the honours?
– I wish to say nothing disrespectful of age.
– It is not a question of age, but of not wishing to see honours disgraced or degraded.
– I quite understand that the Minister has introduced this Bill with the very best of intentions, but, as the great French writer, Montesquieu, has pointed out, it takes more than the wisdom of the wise to repair all the errors of the good.
– It is a pity that the honorable member does not follow out that precept.
– I always take pleasure in throwing a bait on to the surface of debate, knowing that some gudgeon will immediately rise and snap it. When that occurs, one always has the pleasure of pointing out that some honorable senator opposite is a conspicuous example to the contrary. This Bill illustrates the precept which I have cited. The good intentions of the Minister have resulted in one of those stupid, things which it behoves us to be warned against. Furthermore, the Bill itself is full of inconsistencies. Even at this stage, I ask the Minister again what he intends to do with the words “ or otherwise “ ? Does he propose to strike them out, or will he support an amendment to do so, or does he wish to leave them in?
– The Minister should realize by this time that if he would adopt the position taken up by Senator Givens, he would have no further difficulty with this measure. That position was an absolutely right one. What we want to do is to insure that persons who have no right to wear medals shall not parade them about the streets as if they were their own. That is all that we require, and to legislate to stop legitimate traffic in medals and decorations seems to me to be useless. Moreover, it is unjust. Senator Gardiner told us on Friday that he had seen in a shop in Sydney hundreds of medals. If this Bill becomes law, it will be a crime for the man who owns them to dispose of any of them.
– Except to collectors.
– I do not suppose that the Minister proposes to license pawnbrokers as buyers of medals. Many pawnbrokers who possess such articles have paid for them, and have a moral right to possess them. Henceforth, they will hold them under pains and penalties. I do not think that that is right. I have no particular love for people who carry on that kind of trade, but they have done so under the law. Surely, then, we have no right to pass a law which will inflict hardship upon them. I urge the Minister, in all seriousness, to take a common-sense attitude regarding the Bill.
– I do not think that the Bill can be made retrospective.
– That is a point with which I do not wish to deal now. The Bill says, that, after its passage, any one who sells a medal will be liable to penalties. If the Minister will agree fry the omission of clauses 3 and 4, and simply pass clause 5, which declares distinctly that any one parading medals as his own when they have been granted to another, shall be guilty of an offence, that will be quite sufficient. It will accomplish what we want, and all that I think it is right to do.
Question - That the words “ or receive by way of pledge” proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the words “ or otherwise “ be left out.
My amendment simply means that if a father has earned a medal on active service he shall be at liberty to say to his son, who is perhaps about to settle in a distant country, “ Take this medal and keep it always as an object-lesson to you.” Under the clause in its present form he could not do that, because he could not give away his medal, and his son could not receive it.
– Why not insert the words “ for profit “ ?
– I am quite willing to do that if it will meet with the Minister’s approval.
– I am prepared to accept the amendment which has been suggested by Senator E. J. Russell.
– Then I ask leave to withdraw my amendment, with a view to submitting another.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment(by Senator Chataway) proposed -
That after the word “otherwise” the words “for valuable consideration” be inserted.
– I take it that by this amendment Senator Chataway seeks to strengthen the Bill. Yet most of the speeches which have been delivered by the honorable senator have clearly shown that to attempt to strengthen a measure which is so inherently bad is merely so much waste effort. Senator Chataway has seen fit to withdraw his amendment to strike out the words “ or otherwise,” but he now proposes to insert several, otherwises. I do not understand such an amendment. It has been said that the veterans desire this Bill to be placed upon the statute-book ; and Senator de Largie, in the course of his observations, adduced the remarkable argument that the wishes of those who are immediately interested in the matter ought to be respected. According to the same logic the persons who are paying land tax at the present time are those to whom we should listen when they object to land taxation.
– There is no analogy between the two things.
– There is a perfect analogy between the arguments. Legislation should not be enacted in the interests of a section of the community, but in the interests of the whole people. If this legislation is brought forward for the purpose of respecting the wishes of a particular section it is based upon entirely false premises. If it can be proved that these persons have a legitimate grievance, undoubtedly we ought to remedy it. But merely because their susceptibilities have been wounded by an exhibition of military and naval medals in shop windows, the time of this National Parliament should not be occupied in discussing such an absurd measure. . The amendment will make the Bill appear more ridiculous than it already is. It seeks to paint the lily. Seeing that it will do something to injure the Bill I shall support it.
– I would point out to the Minister that the amendment will conflict with pro posed new clause 8 of the Bill, copies of which have been circulated. Under that clause are we going to allow a man to part with his medal outside of his lineal decendants for valuable consideration? The more we endeavour to make the provisions of the Bill harmonious the more impossible does the task become. While I appreciate the efforts of the Minister to give it an appearance of equity I intend to oppose it. I do not think that the wisdom of a Solomon could make it worthy of a deliberative assembly. I shall oppose even Senator Chataway’s effort tomake the measure harmonious.
.- I have listened to the discussion of this clause, and I think that the Bill is entirely unnecessary. I would like to ask the Minister how it is to be enforced even if it be placed upon the statute-book? These decorations can be worn in Northern Queensland and in the Northern Territory. Are we going to send an officer into these remote parts in search of a man simply because he has chosen to wear a medal which does not bolong to him? I again ask how it is proposed to enforce the measure should it become law?
– By every member of the police force in Australia.
– The police take very little notice of what legislation we enact here unless the occasion calls for it.
– The Bill may be used as a weapon of persecution in odd cases.
– I do not think that. But the time of the Senate is being uselessly occupied in discussing a Bill of this description, and I intend to vote against it.
– I desire to support the argument which has been advanced by Senator Rae. If we accept the amendment we shall have made one clause say that a person may do what another clause declares he may not do. If we wish to kill the measure let us accomplish our object by a straight-out vote. But do not let us introduce amendments which will have the effect of making the measure appear even more ridiculous than it is. The amendment which we are now asked to insert is in contravention of the provisions of a previous clause. It means that there may be circumstances under which a medal or military decoration may be transferred. Yet the previous clause provides for no circumstances under which such a transfer may take place. I use the word “ transfer,” because it covers the operation of giving and of receiving. The amendment, if adopted, will make the clause read -
A person shall not buy, or receive in exchange, or receive by way of pledge or otherwise for valuable consideration, any decoration, &c.
That means that, if there be no valuable consideration, exchange may take place. In other words, it may be parted with by way of gift. But clause 3 provides -
A person being or having been a member of the King’s Naval or Military Forces or of the Defence Force shall not sell, exchange, pledge, or otherwise dispose of, any decoration conferred upon him for service performed in or out of Australia.
He could not even give such a decoration away. When once a man has had a medal conferred upon him he must live and die with it.
– We will recommit the Bil].
– There is only one committal to which it is entitled. I wish, sir, that the Standing Orders were so framed that, when an absurd measure of this kind was placed before you, you could rule it out of order straight away.
– This measure is as full of trouble as a porcupine is full of quills and bristles. The Minister has taken very kindly a suggestion about “ valuable consideration.” But I would point out to him that that term does not always mean money, or the equivalent of money.
– It may mean a kiss.
– The honorable senator is not far off the mark. In law, marriage, for instance, is a valuable consideration, and so, too, is the relation between parents and children. I do not know if the Minister quite appreciates the effect of the phrase “ valuable consideration.” The average layman may think that it means money only, but it does not. I feel sure that if the Committee were composed of the best lawyers in the Commonwealth not one of them could say right off whether the Bill could be made retrospective. The use of the term “valuable consideration “ will not get over the difficulty. Proposed new clause 7 deals with the sale of medals, but one can make a disposition by will a valuable consideration where not a penny is concerned. If the clause is passed in its present form we may have a war on this matter between the Commonwealth and the States, and possibly the United Kingdom. I do not think that any deliberative assembly has ever before been treated to such a hotch-potch as this measure is.
– I do not know whether the carrying of this amendment may not make the Bill a little worse than it otherwise would be. I scarcely feel inclined to support an amendment which may have that effect. I prefer to take the risk of the amendment not improving the measure and voting for it. Any difference which it may make to the measure is a matter of indifference to me. Not only am I surprised at the Minister bringing forward this kind of legislation, but I am surprised at the persistency with which he adheres to the measure, notwithstanding the strong opposition which it has received from both sides of the Chamber. I thought that the last division would have been a sufficiently strong indication to the honorable senator that it was not advisable on his part to press this clause. I do not know exactly what will be the effect of the clause if the amendment is carried, as compared with the last clause which we passed. I am not quite sure, but I suppose that this Bill will be put in the forefront of our list of the great measures which we pass during the session. I expect that it will be published in big, black letters. Perhaps it would be well to publish the clauses in black letters too.
– Black letters would be very appropriate.
– I mean large, block letters, so that we might be in a position to point out how the Senate was called together to grapple with such an important measure as this is.
– Would you put a black border round the black letters?
– We might have a border made of the different medals which have been given. For instance, this clause might be specially marked out to be bordered with medals given in connexion with the Peninsular War, at the beginning of the nineteenth century. That would bring great credit not only to our party, but also to Senator Walker, who has consistently supported the Government. I shall not put myself out of order by suggesting that he is acting in this way in the hope of securing a smooth passage for his own Bill through the other House. One regret I have in discussing this measure is that it did not come from the other side. If it had been introduced by Senator Walker or Senator Millen, who has adduced good reasons for its rejection, I would have had a great deal more pleasure in opposing its passage than I have.
– I would remind the honorable senator that he is now discussing the measure as a whole, and not the question before the Committee.
– Not only has the amendment a very wide scope, sir, but in view of the great importance of the Bill, I think that a little latitude may well be allowed in discussing the amendment and the clause. If youwere to restrict a speaker to the actual question under consideration, it might be necessary for him to rise more frequently than he desires to do. I hope that I have pointed out clearly the essential wickedness of this measure in making offenders of persons who at present are not offenders in the eye of the law. When we have before us a clause which creates a new offence it is very easy indeed to overstep the strict rule of debate. But the whole principle of the measure is involved in clause 4. It is theonly provision which affects the liberties of persons other than medalholders. The previous clause deals with the holders of medals, but this clause deals with the rest of the community. It affects the right of a citizen to purchase, if need be, a medal, and it relates to medals, the original owners of which have been dead for years, perhaps for centuries. When the Minister drafted the Bill had he in his mind a desire to prevent a free exchange or disposal of such medals? If he had no such intention, what good purpose can be served by legislating in this direction? I do not believe that, if we could take a poll of the veterans tomorrow, they would desire this alteration in the present order of things. Even if they were claiming to have the gifts of their Sovereignexempt from the ordinary laws of commerce, can any good purpose be served by restricting the sale of medals, the original owners of which have been dead for years, perhaps for centuries? I do not believe that there is one honorable senator who desires to interfere with the sale of medals which were given in connexion with the Peninsular War. If the Minister desires to pass legislation of that kind, he might perhaps allow the clause to remain as it is. But if, on the other hand, he merely wishes to act in accordance with the expressed desire of the veterans now living, he might assent to an amendment. Surely he must realize now that a strong distinction can be drawn between medals given to troops for services rendered to the King, and medals given for wars which took place at any period, or for other purposes. Take the case of an individual who secured from his King a Victoria Cross for saving life; if he wanted to raise money, there might be a person who, knowing the high value which he placed on the medal, would deem it the best pledge which he could take for the loan of a large sum. There would probably not be many occasions on which these medals would be so’ pledged, but why should we attempt to restrict free and fair dealing in medals, the recipients of which have been dead for a considerable time ? I suppose there are not many men alive to-day who obtained medals for services rendered at the battle of Waterloo, and yet, under this Bill, people may be penalized for selling by public auction such medals, or medals of the Peninsular War, which may have come into their possession many years ago. The Leader of the Opposition has pointed out that people are not allowed under this Bill to dispose of these medals in any way whatever. A person might be arrested and brought before the magistrate for throwing one of these medals into Sydney harbor or into the Yarra.
– Such a person should be arrested for his own protection, because he could have no sense if he. wished to throw such a medal into the harbor.
– If a man, wearing one of these medals, threw himself into theharbor he would be liable under this Bill.
– The longer this matter is under discussion the greater the number of evils which are likely to follow from it is shown to be. Such legislation should not be passed in a reckless and flippant way, or without full discussion. It will not be my fault if there is not full discussion of every clause and every line of this Bill, so that the public may be informed of what is proposed. Some one in a remote country town may quite innocently put up for’ sale by auction a number of these medals, and should this Bill become law, Senator Pearce, or those instrumental in the passing of this legislation, may desire to know what steps the Attorney-General is going to take to bring such a man to justice. The whole machinery of the law may be brought into force, and though the person prosecuted may plead that he was not aware of the existence of such a law, he will be liable to the penalties provided for. I should like the further consideration of the Bill to be postponed until Senator Chataway’s amendment is printed, and we have an opportunity to consider what its effect will really be. I noticed the readiness with which the Minister accepted the amendment, as he generally accepts proposals from the other side.
– As a matter of fact, this amendment did not come from the other side, but from Senator E. J. Russell. -Senator GARDINER.- I admit that it was scarcely fair to make such a reflection upon the Minister. It is not justified by his previous conduct of affairs in the Senate; I withdraw it as one of those slips which I am always sorry for after I have made them. I should, however, very much like to know whether the Minister really desires to make it an offence under this Bill to sell or otherwise dispose of medals, the original recipients of which have been dead for centuries. Surely the honorable senai tor does not propose to destroy the present market value of medals issued hundreds of years ago? The Bill will affect quite a number of people I represent in the Senate, and if the Minister is not prepared to limit its operation to medals at present in the possession of the original recipients there will be ample justification for the time I have taken up in discussing it. Though I confess I do not know what the effect of Senator Chataway’s amendment will be, I am prepared to vote for it, and then to vote against the clause as amended.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) [4.35]. - The Minister of Defence was not present when I pointed out the effect of this amendment. The honorable senator can have no desire to agree to an amendment which will reduce the Bill to a nullity. If we adopt this amendment it will be necessary to recommit clause 3. Under that clause we prohibit the disposal of these medals in any way. The possessor may not even give them away, but under clause 4, if the amendment be adopted, and theMinister has notified his willingness to accept it, a person may receive one of these medals as a gift. That is distinctly in conflict with clause 3, and I ask the Minister whether he has considered that aspect of the case. Whatever view I may have of the Bill as a whole, I feel that I am under some obligation to see that the Senate does not pass a measure which is ridiculous on the face of it, and it would be ridiculous to affirm in one clause that a person shall not give away one of these medals, and then set out in the following clause that a person may receive one of them as a gift. How can I receive anything as a gift if every other person in the community is prohibited from giving it? If this amendment be accepted it will be necessary to introduce the words “ for valuable consideration,” in clause 3. I wish the Minister of Defence to understand that I am dissociating in my opinion of the Bill from the suggestion I now make with a view to its improvement. It is little to the credit of the Federal Par- liament that it should be asked to deal wilh legislation of this kind, and to manufacture paltry crimes on the mere transfer from one person to another of an article which, after all is said and done, may not be worth one shilling.
– - I hope that the Minister will not do what he has been advised to do by Senator Millen. It will be an advantage if the acceptance of the amendment will make the Bill inconsistent, because no one is likely to attempt .to enforce a measure if he is doubtful how the attempt will turn out. Another advantage will be that if the holder of a medal is permitted to give it, though not to sell it, the provisions of the Bill may be easily evaded by a private understanding.
– Senator Millen is asking the Minister to save himself from being ridiculous by recommitting the Bill if the amendment is accepted.
– In my opinion the Minister has made himself so ridiculous by introducing the Bill, that to agree to the amendment will not make matters any worse. But by giving people a chance of evading the measure we shall ease down the severity of it. Once it is provided that a person can give a medal away, there will be no reasonable possibility of ascertaining whether he has actually given it or sold it. As, however, I do not regard this as good legislation, I consider that anything that vitiates it is an advantage. This provision will entirely vitiate the Bill. The only way in which the object can be effected would be to make it absolutely illegal for any person to have in his possession medals which had not been conferred upon him, no matter whether he obtained them by purchase or by gift. But if a person is allowed to obtain medals by gift, it will be possible for him to obtain them under the pretence of gift. Consequently, the whole Bill will become a farce.
– I intend to fight every word of this Bill. The more one looks at it, the more ridiculous it becomes, notwithstanding all that has been done by Senator Millen and Senator Chataway to help the Minister, and by honorable members opposite to thwart him.
– I rise to order. Is Senator St. Ledger in order in inferring that honorable senators on this side of the chamber are endeavouring to thwart the Minister ?
– I do not think that anything that Senator St. Ledger has said was out of order.
– Point after point arises as we scrutinize the Bill more carefully. I wish to raise a new one. Is the Minister going to make this legislation retrospective? Is he prepared to say that those who have acquired medals honestly in the way of business are to be struck at? I am not sure how far we are entitled, under our Constitution, to make Commonwealth legislation retrospective. We have been continually warning the Minister that this Bill will bring him and the Government into the Law Courts, and this is a point upon which a good deal of argument might turn. There are persons who have accumulated stocks of medals for the purpose of trade. As the Bill now stands, the Commonwealth Government could lay its hands on every one of them. It is true that the Minister says that the Government would give to the possessors what they had paid for the medals, but we know that sometimes articles of this kind acquire a sentimental value far above their price in the market. There may be collectors in Melbourne and Sydney who have given enormous prices for medals in their possession. But when this Bill is passed, they will be exposed to the risk of having their property taken away from them, and of receiving only its intrinsic value for it. The Minister seems to be under the impression that he will be able to seize every medal in the Commonwealth corresponding to the description contained in the Bill. I cannot, however, see how a retrospective effect can be given to legislation of this kind. Can the Minister even stop the sale of medals purchased before the passage of the Bill? I doubt it. But penalties are imposed. The penalty provided under this clause is £20, and in that respect it is analogous to the penalty which was attached to a breach of clause 3. Senator Rae and Senator Gardiner have no doubt frequently heard that the receiver is worse than the thief. It is generally recognised that if we could get at the receivers of stolen goods we should, to a large extent, abolish the thieves. As a matter of fact, our criminal law provides for the imposition of a heavier penalty in the case of a receiver than is provided in the case of a thief. If we have to consider this question again, I intend to urge some pretty cogent reasons why the receiver of a naval or military decoration should be punished far more severely than the person who disposes of it. The Minister has declared that this Bill was introduced to uphold the honour attaching to the King’s medals, which, very often, represent big achievements. Upon some future occasion I may use the ridiculous position into which we have now got against the honorable gentleman. I need scarcely point out that any foreign Power may confer a medal or decoration upon a British subject, and within he Empire that subject may do just what he chooses with such medal or decoration. He may sell it, or exchange it, and neither the Minister nor the Commonwealth has any control over his action. But themoment he pledged or disposed of a decoration from his own Sovereign he would at once become subject to the penal provisions of this Bill. This is another illustration of how the Bill seeks to interfere with the liberty of the subject. I was very glad to hear Senator Gardiner dwell upon that aspect of the* matter. In conclusion, I merely desire to give the Minister notice that when the penalty comes to be considered I shall resist it to the very utmost of my powers.
– I rose some time ago to ask the Minister whether he had decided to make the Bill applicable to those medals the original possessors of which have been dead for some years. But I find that this clause applies only to naval and military decorations. Why should it not also apply to decorations which have been received for services rendered in the public life of this country? Let us suppose, for example, that a gentleman like Sir John Forrest fell upon evil days and wished to raise money upon the decorations which he has received from the King.
– This is rather harrowing !
– It is, though I would be the last to wish evil to my political opponents. Senator Sir Albert Gould has also received a decoration at the hands of His Majesty, and we all know that no man has rendered greater service to the Empire than has the Minister of Defence. At any time he may be the recipient of a mark of His Majesty’s favour, and if he were so honoured nobody would rejoice more than I would. It would be the best-deserved decoration that had ever been conferred on an Australian statesman, although I know that good service, well rendered to a great Empire, is a sufficient reward for the Minister. He is a comparatively young man, and we cannot tell what the future has in store for us. In such circumstances why should he not be subject to the same disabilities as are the holders of naval and military decorations under this Bill? Why are the stars and garters and other civil distinctions not brought within the scope of this clause? I think that it should be made so far-reaching that even the decorations conferred in high places should be brought within its purview. The holders of these distinctions should be prevented from hawking them round to the highest bidder or to the person who will advance most money upon them, in just the same way as the members of our Naval and Military Forces are prevented from disposing of their decorations. I say that men who have risked their lives in fighting the battles of the Empire are being held up to public ridicule, because the ill-advisers of the Minister have prevailed upon him to introduce a measure to prevent them from dealing with their medals in any way that they may deem fit. The only inference which we can draw from the amendment which has been foreshadowed by Senator Chataway is that the evil of trafficking in these medals has grown to such an extent that it is necessary for Parliament to declare that trafficking an offence. That is a libel on the men who won the medals. It is unfair to them to say that the evil of trafficking in medals is so great that it has become necessary to pass special legislation. I cannot understand why this clause was inserted, or why the Minister is so bent upon having the measure passed, when the only thing it can do will be to lead the public to believe that men think so little of the decorations they have received from the King that they are in the habit of selling them; or pledging them, or raising money on them by some means. If that has not grown to be a noticeable evil, and, to some extent, a scandal, there is no reason for legislation at all. Even though there may be a small traffic in medals, I would much prefer to see the time of Parliament occupied in finding suitable employment for every wearer of a medal. I would far rather see the Parliament engaged in discussing ways and means by which the Commonwealth Government could provide for those who, perhaps, are not suited to participate in the battle for a livelihood, and, if need be, making the possession of a medal a recommendation for employment. By sodoing our time would be spent much more effectively and usefully, and certainly in a manner which would reflect far more credit on the Senate. Why should it be made an offence for a man to sell a medal which is his rightful property?If a medal has been acquired by a man for services rendered to his King, and if by the law of England, and, I venture to say, by the law of Australia, it is in his rightful possession, it is not only absurd, but wicked, for the Government to ask us to enact that it shall be an offence for that man to sell or dispose of or pledge the medal. It will be remembered that a number of medals were issued in connexion with the South African War. Immediately after the war was concluded it was recognised by many persons that it was undertaken because the mineowners wanted to fill their mines with coolie labour. Suppose that the holder of a medal, who thought that he was fighting for the Empire, became disgusted at the discovery that the war merely resulted in giving power to the mine-owners to reduce the pay of white miners. Instead of wearing his South African medal with pleasure and pride, he may have got rid of it, feeling that it was a reminder that he had fought on the wrong side. The occurrence of that feeling may account for the iarge number of South African medals which are exhibited for sale at present, and if it does, why should it be made an offence for a man to get rid of a thing which he does not now value? No law will be effective which has not behind it the weight of the common sense of the community. If we feel that the people are not even interested in this measure, that is one of the best reasons we can have for refusing to allow it to pass. Of course, after the recent recess we are naturally anxious to get on with important legislation. I am not quite clear as to the effect of this amendment if adopted. I do not know whether it might not be advisable for the Minister to report progress to enable the amendment to be printed and circulated. If that course is taken we might be able to fit the amendment into the place where Senator Chataway intends to fit it in, and also to see how it affects the reading of the clause. Senator Millen has shown very clearly that the amendment, if carried, will necessitate the recommittal of clause 3, that is, unless the Minister wishes to have an absolute inconsistency in the measure, which I do not think he desires. Under the previous clause a nerson with a medal is not permitted to dispose of it by any means, but is required to retain possession of it. Under this clause, however, a person can receive a medal, provided that he gives no valuable consideration for it. What is there to prevent a person who wishes to break the law from declining to give a valuable consideration, but expressing his willingness to accept a medal as a gift. Instead of advancing 5s. or£500or £5,000 - I do not know the value of these medals-
– That may be the intrinsic value of the material of which a medal is composed. If, however, only a few medals are struck in connexion with an event, the value of one may run into thousands of pounds. A clause Which makes it an offence for a respectable c’tizen to transact a legitimate piece of business should not only be repugnant to honorable senators generally, but should be resisted by a free people.
– Medals are valuable, according to the number of them, and not according to their age.
– Senator St. Ledger may have in his possession a medal as old as the ideas which he generally puts before the Senate. Perhaps I ought to withdraw that remark without being asked to do so.
– I think that you have had a fair run.
– If the Minister had thought it worth his while to tell me whether he intended theBill to affect medals, the original owners of which have been dead for years, I would not be speaking now.
– The intention of the Minister is expressed by his acceptance of the amendment.
– I am not able, sir, to say what will be the effect of the amendment; and, before the Bill is made better or worse by its acceptance, I should like to know from the Minister whether there is any reason why this measure should be . made to apply to medals that are family heirlooms and have been in the possession of the same families for centuries.” There are some honorable senators present who may imagine that T am endeavouring to “ stone-wall “ this Bill.
– I do.
– I am in earnest in trying to induce honorable senators to read this clause, and see for themselves what an absurd piece of legislation is being proposed in making it an offence for a man to buy or advance money upon a medal which may have been in the possession of a family for centuries. If I am talking against time, it is because I see the uselessness of passing legislation which no one has asked for.
– I see the uselessness ot the talk.
– All arguments are useless if addressed to those in whom they can bear no fruit. It is a serious thing for a deliberative assembly like the Senate to create a new offence which, so far, is not regarded as an offence in any part of the Empire.
– It is made an offence by an Act of the Imperial Parliament.
– I challenge the honorable senator to produce any Act of the Imperial Parliament which creates an offence of this kind.
– I quoted it on Friday last. Rut, of course, that makes no difference to the honorable senator.
– The Minister quoted from the military regulations.
– I quoted from an Act of Parliament also.
– Senator Gardiner should withdraw his remark.
– I shall not withdraw it, because I feel that both the Minister and Senator Walker have misunderstood the quotation.. I challenge the Minister now to produce the Act to which he refers, and convince the Committee that there is any provision in any Act on the statute-book of Great Britain that can be in any way compared with the clause we are considering at the present moment. The Minister quoted a military regulation under which a medal might be taken away from the recipient for misconduct, and a provision under which it could not be taken for a debt ; but this clause deals, not with the individual to whom a medal is issued, but with any person in the Commonwealth who presumes to trade in any way with a medal issued at any time.
– I quoted section 156 of the Army Act ; sections 2 and 4 of the same Act; the Regimental Debts Act of 1893, section 2; the King’s Regulations 1759 ; and the Pay Warrant Act. I showed that they embodied, to all intents and purposes, the provisions of this Bill; but it does not matter to the honorable senator what they contain.
– I hope the. Minister will bear with me for a moment. He quoted a provision to show that these medals cannot be taken for debt; but we are not, in this clause, dealing with the man to whom the medal is issued.
– The honorable senator said just now that no Act of Parliament dealing with the matter could be quoted. His memory has suddenly revived.
– I think it would be better if, instead of using angry words, we tried to understand each other. We are discussing a clause which makes it an offence to buy, or receive in exchange, or by way of pledge, a medal granted by the King, and I repeat that neither the Minister nor Senator Walker can produce any Act of the British Parliament which makes that an offence. It is all very well for the Minister to suggest that the quotations that he made on Friday are applicable to this clause. They are not. I shall resume my seat at once if the honorable senator will stand up, and make a quotation now from any Imperial Act that has any bearing upon this clause. If he can do so, I shall be prepared to withdraw my opposition to the clause. I have no desire to mislead any one, and though I do not clearly remember all that the Minister quoted on Friday, I do remember that he quoted from military regulations to the effect that medals granted by the King might be taken from those to whom they are issued as an additional punishment for misconduct, but this clause makes it an offence for any citizen of the Commonwealth to purchase, or receive in exchange, or by way of pledge, one of these medals. The clause provides that -
A person shall not buy, or receive in exchange, or receive by way of pledge or otherwise, any decoration which has been conferred on any person being or having been a member of the King’s Naval or Military Forces or of the Defence Force for service performed in or out of Australia.
Having read the clause, I reiterate my challenge to the Minister and to Senator Walker to produce an Act which creates such an offence in any part of the British Empire. If they are not prepared to do so, it is clear that by their interjectionsthey have sought to suggest that my statements are not correct. We are all apt to boast of our unlimited freedom, but there will be a great limitation of our boasted liberty if this clause is passed. I have asked the Minister whether he wishes the clause to apply to medals, the original recipients of which have been dead for years.
– The honorable senator has repeated that statement in my hearing at least forty different times. 1 ask him to desist, and to discuss the amendment before the Committee.
– I think I must have repeated the statement about twice as often as you, sir, have stated, but I think you have overlooked the fact that each time 1 repeated it, I used it as the basis of a fresh argument. When I used the statement first, I directed attention to the fact that the Minister has purposely left out of this Bill any reference to the disposal of decorations given for services rendered in this Parliament. On another occasion, I used it, as you, sir, will probably recollect, to refer to medals that might be as old as Senator St Ledger’s arguments. The Minister has not deigned to answer the question I. put to him, and I must accept the ruling of the Chair, and look for some new ground on which to discuss the clause. There are ample grounds on which it may be discussed. If this amendment is carried the Minister will still be compelled to recommit, or else send the Bill to another place with inconsistencies upon the face of it. Had the Minister thought it worth while to answer the question that I put to him, I should not have spoken again : but, apparently, he is not inclined to treat me as he would treat other members of the Senate. I suppose I deserve it, though I do not know why I should incur the anger of the honorable senator.
– I do not know that Senator Gardiner has any just cause of complaint against me. He must admit that he has said a great deal which he could not reasonably expect to have answered, and which, indeed, he did not want to have answered. He would have been very much surprised if I, as the representative of the Government on this matter, had risen to reply to him. A good deal of blank ammunition has been fired this afternoon, but I now appeal to honorable senators to let the Bill pass through its remaining stages to-day.
– What is the good of it?
– The majority of the Committee think that it will serve a useful purpose, and I am of the same opinion. But, as I have said, we have given much more time to the Bill, and much more opposition has been bestowed upon it, than it merits. I have never urged that it is a very important matter, and certainly do not think that it is of such importance that a minority of the
Senate should endeavour to block its passage. I can quite understand that if this were a Bill of considerable importance, it might be worthy of such opposition. I make a personal appeal to honorable senators on this side of the Chamber, seeing that they have put up a fight which has been of longer duration than the subject was worth, to let the Bill go through. In regard to Senator Gardiner’s question, I may say that 1 think that if this measure becomes an Act, it will apply to all traffic in medals. It would be difficult to discriminate as to whether a medal was of such an age that it could be allowed to become the subject of traffic. After all, wehave to remember that medals and similar objects are only treasured by collectors of antiques and by museums. They are chiefly desired to be purchased by persons who collect for such institutions, or for private collection.
– This Bill makes it illegal for museums to buy medals.
– No, I have circulated an amendment which will make it legal for museums to purchase them. I again appeal to honorable senators to allow the Bill to go through. A very good fight has been put up against it, and everything that can be said in opposition has been urged. Indeed, a great many arguments that have nothing whatever to do with the subject have been advanced.
– I had intended to ask the Minister before he resumed his seat, whether I was to understand, from a motion which he made with his head when I was speaking previously, that he recognised the desirableness of alrering the previous clause so as to bring it into conformity with other portions of the Bill ?
– Otherwise it seems to me the Bill would be left in a very anomalous condition.
– The Minister has made an appeal to us in such a kindlv fashion that one would feel very loath indeed to continue the opposition to the measure before us. But while agreeing with his statement that the debate has been very much longer than the Bill is worth - of course, every oreof us who has opposed it recognises that we consider that it isworth nothing whatever - nevertheless, I cannot agree that the time has been entirely wasted. I wish to point out the reasons which have actuated me and other honorable senators who have opposed the Bill. My opposition has been grounded upon two considerations. First, I have opposed the Bill because it is entirely wrong and false in principle ; secondly, because a number of legitimate interests will be affected by it, even if it be passed in an amended form ; thirdly, because I consider that it is a slur and a reflection on the Senate of the Australian National Parliament that its time should be occupied in dealing with legislation of this character. We have been engaged in a discussion extending over a couple of sittings upon a piece of legislation which will be of no practical value to anybody.
– The honorable senator must admit that he himself has occupied a very considerable part of those two sittings.
– I quite admit that, and I say the justification for the time we have bestowed upon this measure is, that we consider it to be necessary to teach even our own. Ministry not to fool and belittle the Australian Parliament by introducing legislation of such a frivolous and objectionable character. That is our justification for our opposition to the measure. Most of those who have voted for it have been deaf to the arguments urged against it.
– They have heard the arguments until they have become tired of them.
– Some of those who voted for the measure did so “on the blind “ at the last sitting, when the arguments had not been unduly protracted. In answer to the Minister’s appeal that the minority have been fighting this question for a very long time, I point out that it is only minorities who have to fight. A majority can always carry what it wants in the long run. We ought not to be blamed because we are a minority; and we are not such a small minority, after all.
– A minority worthy of a greater cause.
– I quite agree that the time bestowed upon this question was worthy of a better cause.
– The remedy for that is in the Minister’s own hands.
– Just so. The Minister should withdraw this paltry legislation, and give us something worth while. There are other measures of great importance upon which we should like to bestow a little consideration.
-I call the honorable senator’s attention to the fact that he is not now dealing with the amendment before the Committee.
– With all respect to your ruling, Mr. Chairman, I point out that the Minister made an appeal to us to allow the remaining stages of the Bill to the
– I cannot help it if the Minister did make a personal appeal. I can only direct attention to what is before the Committee.
– I do not think that in a Democratic chamber, such as this is supposed to be, I ought to be pulled up for replying to what the Minister was allowed’ to say. However, I will not dwell upon the point if you, sir, rule that I am not in order.
– The honorable senator might claim his right as the leader of the section who are opposed to the Bill.
– I make no claim to special rights. I certainly hope, however, that the debate which has occurred will be sufficient to warn any Ministry - even a Labour Ministry - against introducing such tom-fool legislation again, if that remark be not out of order.
– The Minister of Defence has made a personal appeal on the ground that sufficient explanations have been offeredto make clear what the Bill means. Certainly those who have opposed the Bill have had a pretty good time. Why did the Minister address his appeal exclusively to honorable senators on his own side?’ This is not a party matter.
– Because it is useless to appeal to the honorable senator.
– The Minister is surely able to take care of himself. His appeal should have been made to honorable senators generally. He admits that we have helped him to make this Billmore workable.
– The Minister has succeeded in getting the Bill to its present stage largely through the help of the Opposition, because Senator Walker saved the situation on one occasion.
– Yes, Senator Walker has almost acted the part of a political traitor by supporting the Government. I again ask whether the Minister is satisfied that this Bill is retrospective, and whether, if he is not satisfied, he will accept an amendment to make the matter clear?
– I am.
– To which question does that remark apply? I wish to intimate that when the present amendment is disposed of, I intend to move another amendment to make it clear that the Bill is not to be retrospective. I shall move for the insertion of the words “ on and after the passing of this Act,” after the word “ consideration.” That will make the Bill more workable and more equitable. Notwithstanding the apparent inclination of some honorable senators to withdraw their opposition I must continue to light this Bill word by word.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … …11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
– Before Senator St. Ledger puts his threat into execution, I wish to quote a passage from Craies’ Statute Law, second edition, page 350 -
It being, then, the general rule of law that Statutes are not to operate retrospectively, we have now to consider under what circumstances this general rule has been departed from, and to examine the grounds, so far as they can be ascertained, for such departure.
Sometimes it is expressly enacted that an enactment shall be retrospective ; thus, by 23 and 24 Vic. c. 38, s.12, it is enacted that “ clause 32 of 22 and 23 Vict. c. 35, shall operate retrospectively.”
Hut if it is a necessary implication from the language employed that the Legislature intended a particular section to have a retrospective operation, the Courts will give it such an operation. “ Baron Parke,” said Lord Hatherley in Pardo v Bingham (1870), 4 Ch. App.735, 740, “ did not consider it an invariable rule that a Statute could not be retrospective unless so expressed in the very terms of the section which had to be construed, and said that the question in each case was whether the Legislature had sufficiently expressed that intention. In fact, we must look to the general scope and purview of the Statute, and at the remedy sought to be applied, and. consider what was the former state of the law, and what it was that the Legislature contemplated.”
There is no language in this clause which implies retrospective action. It is obvious that what we are aiming at is the stoppage of the traffic in these medals. When the Bill becomes an Act, persons who sell medals will be liable to a penalty. But it cannot be so construed that persons who have sold medals in the past will be so liable. Under these circumstances, I ask Senator St. Ledger not to move his amendment, which is clearly unnecessary.
– I suggest that we should strike out the words “or out of.” Without wishing to reiterate what I have previously said it seems to me absolutely ridiculous and presumptuous for us to punish persons for selling medals which they have received for services rendered in other parts of the world. No case whatever has been made out for applying the provisions of the measure to medals received for services rendered out of Australia. While it may be a perfectly correct thing for Parliament to enact laws to govern our own Defence Forces in the matter of the disposal of naval and military decorations, to attempt to rule the world is, to my mind, altogether too big an order. I therefore move -
That the words “ or out of “ be left out.
– I do not think that this is an amendment which the Government can possibly accept. There are many Australians resident in the Commonwealth who have earned medals outside of Australia. For example, some have earned the China medal, others have received the South African medal, and others, again, have secured the Egyptian medal. Then, too, there are many Crimean veterans in Australia. The omission of the words contained in the amendment would have the effect of nullifying the entire Bill.
– I had anticipated the reply of the Minister in regard to the retrospective effect of the clause. But at the same time it does not contain a single qualifying word.
– My amendment would qualify if.
– The honorable senator must recognise that at some future time our Defence Forces may have to go outside of Australia to serve with the Imperial Army or the Imperial Navy. In such circumstances, why should not any of. its members be decorated by the King? My reason for raising the question to which the Minister of Defence has replied is that there is not a single word in clauses 3 and 4 to show that they are not intended to be retrospective in their operation. Of course, I am quite aware that it is clearly laid down in law that unless an Act is declared to have a retrospective effect it cannot be held to be retrospective. For that reason I withdraw my opposition in regard to the point which I raised, although I intend to say something as to the penalty of £20.
– We are going to amend that.
– I ask Senator Rae to withdraw his amendment in order to enable me to submit » prior amendment.
– With the permission of the Committee, I withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move -
That after the word “ Forces,” Une 3, the words “ in the Commonwealth of Australia “ be inserted.
Under the clause in its present form we lay down what shall be done by a person who may have received a medal for the Soudan campaign, or for work done under the Imperial flag, in years gone by, almost before Australia was settled. I have here a very interesting volume which deals with the large number of decorations which were given long before the present generation of Australians was born. It is called the
Murray Catalogue, and is known all over the world. Colonel Murray collected a large number of decorations and other things, which, with other collections of medals, he catalogued. According to this catalogue a medal has a definite value just the same as has the 2d. stamp, which was used by the British authorities in Mauritius, before it was ceded to the French. This old Mauritius stamp, in a dilapidated form, is worth from £64. to £68 on the public market. I contend that this clause should nr.t be retrospective in its operation. That will not do any good to anybody, but it may do harm to a number of persons who have spent large sums in collecting various classes of medals. Leaving out of consideration the principle of the Bill, I admit that clause 4 has been improved very much by the amendment which has been made. But we ought not to interfere with medals, medallions, and crosses, which have been the property of “ a member of the King’s Naval or Military Forces-.” That expression goes back as far as one can go into English history. Why should we suddenly arrogate to ourselves the right to say that Jones, or Brown, or Robinson shall not be allowed to sell medals which were issued by Edward II. and Edward III., or by Henry V. in celebration of the battle of Agincourt, or to receive such medals in exchange or otherwise? The least we can do is to be a little modest in this matter; If the Minister will assure us that when he was in the Old Country, attending to Defence matters, he was asked by the Imperial Government to submit to the Senate a measure to stop the trafficking, not in Australian medals, but “ in Imperial medals, .he shall have my vote. But in the absence of such an assurance it should be made perfectly clear to the people of Australia that we are not trying to legislate in connexion with Imperial matters. I have not proposed my amendment out of a feeling of hostility to, or from a desire to “ stone-wall “ the passage of, the Bill. As its principle has been affirmed 1 desire to make the measure itself less ridiculous than it was when it was brought in.
– I cannot accept the amendment, which I hope the Committee will reject, because it would limit too severely the operation of the measure. If it is passed, the clause will apply only to persons who have been members of the King’s Military or Naval Forces in Australia. A man who has retired from the King’s Military Forces in England, and emigrated to Australia, will not come within the purview of the clause. On the other hand, if a man comes out to Australia from England, and serves here for a little time as an instructor, he will come under its operation. Of course, those who are against the provision will favour any limitation, but I do not think it is desirable to limit the clause in the direction proposed.
– Will a person who came from England prior to the passing of the measure bie permitted to sell a medal which he had obtained in that country years aso? ,
– That is the whole point.
Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) [6.2o”. - Even at the risk of being misunderstood, I rise to direct attention to the peculiar attitude of Senator Chataway. He has stated that if the Minister can assure him that the British authorities asked him to introduce this measure he will support it. What kind of a jellyfish man is that?
– Oh, no; the Minister cannot assure me, and that is the trouble.
– Apparently if the Minister could give such an assurance, it would alter the honorable senator’s thinking apparatus.
– No. If the Minister gives me high Imperial authority for this clause. I am prepared, for the sake of the Empire, to support it. The honorable senator is against the Empire, and,therefore, he does not concur. It is of no use for him to try to “ pull my leg.”
– It is a most remarkable attitude for an honorable senator to take up, that if any high Imperial authority testifies that this legislation is necessary,- then he, as a loyal son of the Empire, is willing to meet his views.
– Is this your method of making peace with the Minister?
– There was no occasion for the honorable senator to ask that question, because, as soon as the Minister intimated to me that he wanted no more discussion, I sat quiet.
– You took orders; you sat down.
– He is a good soldier who can obey orders at all times, but, notwithstanding the order I received, I could not resist the opportunity to direct the attention of the Committee to the remarkable attitude of Senator Chataway. I do not wish the Minister to divulge any secrets, but I take it that this is the whole outcome of the Imperial Conference.
– No; ask the Minister.
– There is no occasion for the secrets of the Imperial Conference fo be divulged, but, considering that this is the only legislation which has been tabled, I take it that it is the whole result of that Conference, and that the Empire can be saved if we can only prevent trafficking in medals. I do not think there is any occasion to ask the Minister whether this question was discussed at length at the Imperial Conference, lt matters not tq me what it thought. We have Senator St. Ledger standing up, and asking if this provision will be retrospective. Although it will not affect any sales which have taken place, it will certainly be retrospective in this sense, that a man who was in possession of a medal before it was enacted will be unable to sell it afterwards.
– You will admit that Senator St. Ledger did not ask that it should be made retrospective.
– No ; he objected to its retrospective operation, and the Minister at some length showed that it will not be retrospective unless that is definitely stated. If, in the future, a man brings a medal from England to Australia he willnot be able to sell it here, although it wasbestowed upon him fifty years previously.
– Do you seriously think that this legislation will be put into force?
– That is a good reason for not passing the measure. I take it that every line of a measure ought to be dealt with seriously, and it is not for me to assume that if this amendment be carried it will not be enforced.
– The law against strikes ought to be put in force; but that is not done, you know.
– I am in favour of every strike which makes for the betterment of the wage-earners. I am also against ali legislation which will punish a man for going on strike.
– The honorable senator must not pursue that line of argument. Strikes have nothing to do with the question before the Chair.
– I understand that Senator Chataway’s amendment is intended to make the clause apply only to medals given for services rendered in the Commonwealth. There is some sense in a proposal of that kind, but there is none in making the clause apply to medals that were received by the original recipients before this Commonwealth was occupied by a white man at all.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 8 p.m.
– I move -
That the report of the Royal Commission on Postal Services laid on the table on the 5th October, I 0 I O, be approved by the Senate.
This motion refers to a matter that has been very often mentioned, not only in this Chamber, but elsewhere. On many occasions before the report of the Commission on Postal Services was tabled, it was urgently asked for, but although it has now been upon the table of the Senate for twelve months, honorable senators opposite do not appear to be in any hurry to discuss it. I leave them to explain why that is so. As a member of the Royal Commission I feel it to be my duty to move that this report be approved by the Senate. lt is so voluminous that it will be admitted that it would be impossible to exhaust it in one discussion. I do not propose to go through the whole of the report to-night, but merely to touch upon the points which I think are of most interest to-day. Many of the recommendations of the Commission have been adopted by the present Government. As the necessity for some of the reforms proposed appeared during the investigations of the Commission, they were adopted even before the report was drafted. As a matter of fact, many of the recommendations of the Commission had already been acted upon.
– That has not been acknowledged.
– It is quite true that there has not been much acknowledgment of the work of the Commission. Their work and their report have undoubtedly had a beneficial effect on the Post and Telegraph Department. Quite a number of reforms have been instituted in the conduct of that Department since the investigation by the Commission began. As I played but a minor part in the preparation of the Commission’s report, I should like, in fairness to the late chairman of the Commission, who is no longer a member of the Federal Parliament, to say a word in praise of his services on the Commission, and of the report as it appears before us. The gentleman to whom i refer is unable now to speak on his own behalf in this Parliament, and though he was a member of the party opposed to that to which i belong, i think it is only right that I should say that the report is a great tribute to the ability of Mr. Wilks, because it is his work more than that of any other member of the Postal Commission. He and the secretary, Mr. Synan, put in a great deal of work.
– What about Mr. Webster?
- Mr. Webster also deserves credit for the work he did on the Commission. But he is still a member of another place, is still the “ unabridged “ Webster, and is therefore able to speak for himself, as he no doubt will, in due course. I am speaking now for those who are unable to speak for themselves in this Parliament, and I say that Mr. Wilks, as chairman of the Postal Commission, and Mr. Synan, as secretary of that Commission, deserve every credit for the very comprehensive report which has been laid before us. I should say that the career of the Commission was rather rocky. There were several occasions on which it appeared that its work would be brought to a .close, and several attempts were made to upset it. As a member of the Commission, I was determined that, so far as I was concerned, I would see the work through, but, for party purposes, I am disposed to think, several attempts were made to prevent the Commission going on with its inquiry into the many grievances of which we heard so much before it was appointed. There is no use blinking the fact that for a considerable time before the appointment of the Commission grievances of all sorts, suffered by various officers of the Department, were discussed in the Senate and in another place, and public complaints were made as to the unsatisfactory nature of the services rendered by the mail, telegraph, and telephone branches of the Department.
– They still exist.
– Many of them do, no doubt ; but I shall be able to give a list of many that have been removed.
– The honorable senator’s list is going to contain the complaints that have been removed?
– I propose to refer to the grievances that have been removed. It is quite impossible in such a department as the Post and Telegraph Department of the Commonwealth to have in practice the very latest developments in connexion with every branch of its work. As time goes on new and better methods of work are being continually discovered, and the time may never come when we shall have a Post and Telegraph Department completely uptodate in every possible respect. But this much I will say, that, even at its worst, the Post and Telegraph Department of the Commonwealth was a long way ahead ot many similar departments in other civilized countries of the world. During the investigations of the Commission we found, on making comparisons, that, speaking of the work of the Department all round, in very few of the services performed by it could any one country in the world claim to have a better system. I think it is only fair to say that, because there is a feeling prevalent that our Post and Telegraph Department is behind the times. That is not so. In the handling of mail matter and in the services rendered by the telegraph and telephone branches it will be found that the Commonwealth Department is as much up-to-date as are those of most of the countries of the world. Whilst I make that claim I do not by any means admit that the Department was all that it should be, or that it is yet all that we can make it. There are still many defects to be remedied, and much work to be done. Regarding the troubles of the Department, I may say that long before the Federal Government took it over, matters were in a bad way in many respects. The Commission had evidence to the effect that the telephone branch in particular was in an obsolete condition in most of the States. When the Commonwealth assumed responsibility for that branch of the service, there was occasion to spend a very large amount of money on its improvement. For some reason or other the various States had declined to spend money on telephones for some time previous to the inauguration of the Commonwealth. When the Commonwealth Government found that that state of affairs existed, an attempt should have been made to remedy it as soon as possible. But years were allowed to elapse before any proper inquiry was made. During that time, as has been said more than once, we were starving the Department. It was only natural to expect, therefore, that things would not improve. The reason was not far to find. Money was urgently required. It was the lack of funds for establishing new exchanges with metallic circuits and up-to-date switchboards, and carrying out various other improvements, that caused the Department to get into a very backward condition.
– Ah ! lack of funds again!
– It was lack of money that was the cause of all the mischief.
– That is the consideration that “makes calamity of so long life.”
– During the first six years of our Federal existence, the Commonwealth Treasurer seemed to be more anxious to find money to pay over to the States a larger sum per annum than they were entitled to receive under the Constitution, than to improve our own services. Consequently, the Departments were starved. Without thoroughly realizing how matters were allowed to drift through lack of funds, we can scarcely understand why it was that this Department got into such a backward condition. With the , £6,000,000 sterling that was handed over to the States, the Commonwealth could and should have promoted many new works that were required. Instead of doing that, however, we handed the money over without even laying down any condition in respect to payment for the transferred obsolete telephones. We did not even ask the States to recognise that this . £6,000,000 should be accepted in discharge of our obligations in respect of properties they had transferred to us. Nevertheless, during the last ten years, the cry has been constantly raised, “ When is the Federal Government going to pay for the transferred properties ? “
– The honorable senator will admit that the Opposition, under Sir George Reid, strongly urged that that extra payment to the States should be regarded as a portion of the amount due for the transferred properties.
– I am not aware that any such contention was raised. If so, I am afraid it was put forward in a very indefinite and unbusiness-like manner. The point is, however, that nothing was done. To-day, we find ourselves responsible for the transferred properties and the £6,000,000 paid in excess of the constitutional obligation is not acknowledged in any shape or form.
– We certainly owe money for transferred properties, for which we have paid nothing yet.
– What is the use of saying that, when the Commonwealth has paid , £6,000.000 to the States in excess of what it need have paid?
– We only gave back to the States what they had paid into the Treasury, and what we did not require for Commonwealth purposes.
– It’ is useless to quibble about the point. The money was very much required tor Commonwealth purposes, lt must, at all events, be admitted that .to-day we are wiser than we were at the beginning of our Federal existence. Otherwise, provision would have been made either to spend this excess amount on the Federal Departments, where money was urgently required to make the services efficient, or we should have stipulated that the money was handed over to the States in part payment for the transferred properties.
– That should have been done, but the. Labour party voted against it when it was proposed.
– I do not think the matter ever came to a vote. I have been a member of this Parliament throughout, and I do not remember such a proposition being made.
– i admit that it did not come before the Senate.
– As far as i know, it never came before the other House either.
– Oh, yes.
– However, we have now to consider the report that is before us. No matter what we might have done in the past, our mistakes will not get us out of our difficulties nor lessen our responsibilities in the future. Whether the present Government continues in office or whether the Opposition finds itself in the place of responsibility later on, there will certainly be an obligation to discharge in respect of the transferred properties, and also for new works in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department. Before I touch on the matter of finance to any further extent, let me point out that when the Postal Commission entered upon its inquiry, it was found that the management of the Department had been far from satisfactory. We discovered that there had been a considerable amount of friction, for a number of years, between the chief officers of the Department in the various States and the Central Office in Melbourne. The old anti-Federal feeling had not disappeared. The Deputy Postmasters-General in the several State? suddenly found themselves in a secondary position. They discovered that they had to act under an official head located in Melbourne, and that they could no longer act entirely on their own responsibility. They felt that their importance had been somewhat diminished, and were inclined rather to pursue their own course than to obey orders which came from the Central Administration. I know that in Western Australia this difficulty was as apparent as in any other State. It certainly existed in Victoria. Indeed, we found the Deputy PostmastersGeneral in several States, instead of acting on the instructions received from the Central Office, as they should have done, inclined to throw obstacles in the way of the successful execution of those orders. Consequently, we had a state of affairs which could not make for success. In proof of these statements, it is scarcely necessary for me to refer to the report of the Royal Commission; but perhaps it would be just as well that I should read a paragraph so that honorable senators may be able to follow the various points upon which i shall comment. Paragraph 10 of the report states -
Whilst the experience of the heads of the States Post and Telegraph Departments was necessary in the drafting of a scheme of Commonwealth control, it was unwise to depend upon that alone in view of its limitations. Your Commissioners consider that before the Post and Telegraph Bill was submitted to Parliament a Royal Commission should have been appointed to inquire into and report upon the management and financial position of the services, including valuation of properties and bookkeeping systems, and also upon the advisability of obtaining the assistance of an independent organizer of exceptional ability, with experience in controlling post and telegraph affairs on a large scale, to advise the Government as to the best method to adopt in amalgamating six different Departments into a homogeneous whole.
We found when we entered upon our work that, instead of the Commission having been appointed too early, it was actually brought into existence six or seven years too late. We came to the conclusion that had a Royal Commission been appointed to inquire into the transferred Departments, and had an audit been made of the value of the properties we were taking over, so that our position might have been reviewed before we legislated, we should have been able to pass a Post and Telegraph Act much more suitable to the requirements of the Commonwealth than was the Act which was placed upon the statutebook. Paragraph 12 of the Commission’s report says -
The evidence does not disclose that any effort had been made to ascertain whether the policy as formulated was properly interpreted bv the Deputy Postmasters-General. For a considerable period after Federation a good deal of friction, culminating in IQ07, existed between the heads of the States branches and the Central Executive. It was natural that the chief officer of each State, possessing State experience only, would endeavour to imprint on the Department the local system which he had assimilated, and which, probably for many years, he had controlled. Your Commissioners are of the opinion that, if the Central Executive had possessed itself of a better personal knowledge of the conditions affecting the Deputy PostmastersGeneral of the various States, the dissatisfaction which had existed between the Central Executive And the deputies would have been reduced to a negligible quantity.
Whilst I find fault with the men who were at the head of the Department in «ach State - that is to say with the Deputy Postmasters-General - the whole of the blame does not by any manner of means rest upon them. We found that there was a lack of sympathy in the Central Office, which did not do all that might have been expected to understand the various State officers, and to work in harmony with them. I dare say that if the whole subject had been gone into thoroughly a great deal of blame would have had to be apportioned to both sides. We have, however, got away from that state of affairs to-day. We now have established a better method of controlling the Department, and a larger measure of sympathy exists between the Central Office and the administrative officers in the States. One of the startling facts which we discovered in relation to the management of the Department was that the heads of the service were, in some cases, by no means well versed- in their business. That is rather an important statement to make, and one that should not be lightly made. But the investigation made by the Commission, and the evidence which was given, justifies us in coming to that conclusion. As a matter of fact, men who were at the top of the service, who held very important positions, and drew handsome salaries, had not so good an acquaintance with the work of the Department as had officers on the lower rungs of the ladder. We found some of these lower-paid officers much better acquainted not only with the work of the Commonwealth Department, but with postal facilities existing in other countries than were the heads of the Department in some States. This was especially noticeable in the case of an officer of the General Division in New South Wales - a gentleman who, when he had a holiday, spent it in investigating the methods which obtained in the British Post Office, and in the French Post Office. He came before the Commission and gave us a very large amount of useful information in regard to the improved working of the Department. But when we asked officers occupying the highest positions in the Department what they knew of the methods of postal management which obtained m foreign countries they had to reply that they knew nothing.
– Was the man who was able to supply the information dismissed?
– I do not think that that drastic course was adopted. If justice were done, the gentleman to whom I refer would not still be in the General Division.
– He is still there?
– Perhaps the very fact that he possesses special knowledge, will be a bar to his promotion. That was the state of affairs which existed, so far as some of the heads of the Department were concerned. But a notable exception is Mr. Hesketh, the electrical engineer, who has travelled largely in America and in the United Kingdom. He was an fait with . the workings of the Postal Department quite outside his own particular branch, and from him the Commission received a great deal of assistance in framing their report. The conclusion at which we arrived in this connexion was that facilities should be granted to officers occupying high positions in the Department to visit other countries with a view to acquiring a better knowledge of the conditions which obtain in the Postal Departments of those countries. Mr. Hesketh benefited a great deal as the result of his visits abroad. The Government certainly paid his expenses,, and a similar course should be adopted in the case of other officers. Nor would I confine these visits to the heads of Departments. Even the humblest officer in the General Division - provided that he shows the requisite capacity - should be afforded an opportunity to go abroad and bring back the knowledge which he may gather in the course of his travels.
– The money would be well expended.
– It would be. One of the chief features of the scheme propounded in the Commission’s report is a policy which, so far, has not received recognition either from the “Government or from the officials controlling the Department. The basis of that scheme is that a different method of managing our postal affairs should be adopted in the future. I am quite aware of the drawbacks inseparable from party government, and of their relation to a big Department like that ot the Post Office. In this connexion we ought not to forget that that Department has probably suffered more as the result of party government than has any other Department. When we recollect that since Federation was accomplished we have had no less than eleven Postmasters-General, it will be seen that anything in the form of a continuous policy has been almost impossible.
– How many UnderSecretaries have we had?
– Only two. But I would point out that the powers of the Under-Secretary are very limited indeed, even in matters of administration. The Commission recommends that, whilst we should not lessen Ministerial control of the Department, we should aim at having a continuous policy, and with this end in view it urges the creation of a Board of Management Instead of having a permanent head who in reality isfar from being what his title implies, owing to the political changes which occur from time to time-
– Paragraph 13 says that an incomplete conception of the Federal spirit existed among the Deputy PostmastersGeneral. What was the Commission’s view of the Federal spirit?
– I have already pointed out, that in the early days of Federation there was an absence of the Federal spirit which should have been exhibited if successful administration was to be secured. The Deputy PostmastersGeneral in the various States - at Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth, for example - did not work in with the Central Office, as they should have done. The friction thus occasioned was a factor which contributed a great deal to want of successful management.
– The Deputy PostmastersGeneral ought to have been removed from one State to another from time to time.
– I do not know that that would have effected an improvement, but those officers are not now in the Department. The Board of Management recommended by the Commission would consist of a general manager, who would be its chairman, a postal director, and an electrical director. That is to say, the three chief branches of the Department would each have a representative upon it. Perhaps, if I read the paragraph in the report bearing on this matter honorable senators will be better able to grasp the system. Paragraph 55 reads -
Your Commissioners consider that, in order to insure sound and economical administration, a basic change is essential, and recommend that a Board of Management, consisting of three directors, namely, a general manager (chairman), a postal director, and a telegraph and telephone director, be appointed to control the Department. From a careful consideration of the requirements of the Department, it is deemed advisable to allot the functions and duties of the respective directors as follows : -
The General Manager should be chairman of the Board of Management, and should be immediately responsible for finance and general administration.
The Postal Director should be responsible for the management and general supervision of the mail services.
The Telegraph and Telephone Director should be responsible for construction and maintenance.
The next paragraph elaborates the position and states -
Your Commissioners are strongly of the opinion, from the evidence given and from personal inspection of the various branches of the Department, that the Board of Management recommended would effect great savings within a short period, in addition to the large savings which should result from the removal of staff matters from the control of the Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner.
That is an important departure from the existing method -
Evidence was given to the effect that the position of the Chairman of the Board of Management would be worth a salary of at least £2,000 per annum. Your Commissioners are not prepared to recommend the amount of salary necessary, but consider that, in order to secure suitable members for the board of. management, it is imperative that attractive salaries be provided, as the service requires the highest standard of administrative ability procurable.
– I do not think that £2,000 a year is a penny too much.
– I do not think it is, if we can find the right man for the position. The fact that there weretwo Labour representatives on the Commission, and that they did not wish to lessen thai amount, is a refutation of the chargewhich we frequently hear that Labour men are anxious to reduce all to a dead level of equality. Paragraph 57 of the report reads -
Under a Board of Management as recommended, the position of the Ministerial head would be that of the connecting link between the Parliament and the Department. The Minister would retain complete control of matters of policy as laid down by Parliament. Such Board of Management should equip Parliament through he Postmaster-General with reliable advice on the financial condition of the services, which would serve as a guide to Parliament and the Postmaster-General, and enable them to avoid alterations of a drastic character without the fullest consideration of all their bearings on vital issues.
Unfortunately, that method has not been pursued in the past because vital alterations have been made without any consideration being given to what would be their effect on the services which the Department is asked to perform -
The Board of Management should furnish the Parliament with an annual report covering the past year’s transactions, including a balance-sheet disclosing the financial position of the several branches of the Department. Your Commissioners contend that without such guidance Parliament is unable to appreciate the necessities of . this enormous and ever-expanding Department.
So far as an annual report on the finances of the Department is concerned we have never had a complete one presented. It is true that a statement has been made concerning the financial position of the Post Office, but it has been of very little assistance in illustrating the real position.
– The honorable senator means a balance-sheet ?
– Yes, I mean a complete balance-sheet. The Commission found that no data were available which would indicate the true financial position of the Department. The various accountants were completely in the dark. When we asked them why they had not information to offer they, merely replied that they had been following the old method which obtained prior to the advent of Federation.
– We could never get a complete balance-sheet in regard to the Postal Department from the States prior to Federation.
– Unfortunately, each State was equally lax in this respect.
– Could not the officers give the Commission an approximate idea of the financial position?
– Several statements were made, but as no reliance could be placed on them the Commission had to ignore them.
– Within a million or’ two they knew nothing about the position.
– It was more than that, I think. I have already mentioned that the telephone branch in particular was in a bad state when the Department was transferred to the Commonwealth.
That state of affairs was allowed to continue for years until the public protested very loudly. The Postal Commission found that this particular branch had been starved, for the want of funds. In every State new metallic circuits and switchboards,which cost considerable sums, had been asked for by the heads, but they were told that no funds were avail-, able, and for that reason the services got from bad to worse. To make things still worse, instead of trying to secure all. the revenue which we could possibly have collected, we burnt the candle at both ends, so to speak. We not only reduced the vote to the Department for new works, but we also crippled our finances by reducing the telephone rates. This we are informed, by the heads of the Department, was done in defiance of advice tendered by responsible officials whose duty it was to advise the Minister of the day.
– Does that include penny postage to the United Kingdom?
– No; the telephone rates were reduced prior to the estatelishment of penny postage, and though penny postage was introduced by the Government of which I am a supporter, I think it was as great a blunder as was the reduction of the telephone rates. I am not here to cover up the sins of this Government when they do a thing of that kind, any more than are my political opponents.
– You are absolutely wrong.
– lt is all very well for such a remark to come from Sena-: tor Rae and those who were foolish enough to vote for penny postage before we could afford it.
– We can afford it easily enough.
– No. The fact that we cannot get sufficient money voted for new works and mail facilities in the back blocks, where they are much required,is very good evidence that we cannot afford penny postage. Australia adopted penny postage long before it was able to afford it. There is no country in which’ mail matter is carried such long distances, officials are paid so well, and letters are carried at such small rates, as in Australia,
– The postage is quite enough. Let us get taxation from the rich’ and we will pay that and more besides.
– What is the cost of penny postage?
– It is too early to say, I think.
– Do you remember the estimate which was given?
– , £400,000 a year.
– And that you say we cannot afford?
– No. .
– What will be the cost of the railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie ?
– That is another matter, which will be dealt with when we are considering the financing of that railway. Financially, 1 think that it will do Australia a great deal of good.It will make remunerative many of the long mail services which are now being conducted at a loss. I desire now to refer to the accounts’ system which the Postal Commission found in vogue. Take, for instance, the telephone branch. I have already mentioned that in 1907 the Postmaster-General reduced the telephone rates in opposition to advice tendered to him by the heads of his Department. The Postal Commission found that there was a considerable loss on the telephone branch. We discovered that people were very anxious to get telephone connexions, and that a very large number of subscribers resulted. There was an outcry about persons not being able to get connected, and so on. But when it was revealed that on every telephone which was erected there was a loss of at least 20s. or 25s. a year, we realized that the greater the number of subscribers secured the larger was the loss. The need for an increased amount was very obvious, I think, from the beginning. The increased revenue obtained has put the finances in a somewhat better position than they were in previously. If Mr. Thomas acted somewhat hastily in regard to penny postage he is entitled to somecredit for having put the finances somewhat straight, so far as the telephone rates are concerned. The Postal Commission recommended that the accounts should be put on a different basis. We advised that an accountant should be appointed to provide a better method of bookkeeping, and that a complete balance-sheet should be issued annually showing exactly the position of each branch, so that we might ascertain which was profitable and which was unprofitable. With this information in our possession we should be able to proceed much better, from time to time, with regard to alterations. In the past we were in the dark, and brought about reductions which, had the true financial position been known,
I do not think that Parliament would have been so foolish as to permit. The improvements which were effected after the Postal Commission was appointed, and the necessity for which was revealed during the inquiry, are enumerated on page 8.
– Have not some of these improvements involved new expenditure?
– Undoubtedly, and I think that we can very well afford it, too.
– According to your argument these improvements should be condemned.
– Because we cannot afford these things.
– The honorable senator is treating the matter in a rather humorous vein, although it is a painful sort of humour.
– I understood that you were arguing that we could not afford these things.
– Among the improvements which have been made, and the service concessions which have been granted, are the following : -
These are the principal improvements which were brought about before the report had been printed, so far as the management and the services of the Department are concerned. Another important recommendation made by the Postal Commission was the appointment of a Staff- Committee to perform .the work which is now performed by the Public Service Commissioner. Our recommendation, which appears at the bottom of page 22, reads as follows -
Some officers representing associations within the Service considered that the Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner safeguards their interests, and maintained that independent Commissioners would be directed by strictly commercial principles, and that the officers’ status would be reduced.
Your Commissioners consider that those members of the staff who do their work thoroughly need not fear unjust treatment, as a competent Board of Management would dispense with promotion by seniority, and advancement would depend upon merit. In obtaining the requisite data to enable the Board of Management to act judicially, it would have the assistance of competent State Staff Committees, composed of officials possessing both technical knowledge and experience of postal affairs, which would insure equitable treatment to the members of the Service. It is obvious that the existing practice of basing promotion on seniority and merit combined does not result in obtaining the most efficient service. The adoption of the system proposed would be an incentive to the staff to aspire to a higher standard of efficiency. The only way to obtain a properly efficient and progressive Department is by recognition of merit and capacity for development. Recommendations on all vital matters presented by the associations during the course of the inquiry will be made and will be set out under “ Organization.”
The Staff Committee in each State would be composed of three officials.
– At the Central Office in each State, I suppose.
– Not necessarily. The Staff Committee in each State would be composed of three men in the Department, who know the value of the work which officers perform, and have a good knowledge of postal work in its various aspects. We felt that the control of the Department should be in the hands of men who know thoroughly its work. We had proof that it was a wrong principle to put at the head of the Department, to control promotions, or make appointments, a man who had not a complete knowledge of the technique and the value of the work to be done. We, therefore, recommended that so far as this Department is concerned the position of Public Service Commissioner should be abolished, and that in each State a Staff’ Committee should take his place in making appointments or promotions in the service.
– If that rule were applied to the other Departments it would mean dispensing with the Public Service Commissioner.
– It will, of course, be for Parliament to say whether his office is to be abolished or not, and I agree that there would not be the same necessity for such an officer if we were to take the control of the officers of the Post and Telegraph Department out of his hands and put it into the hands of a Staff Committee. The Commission recommends that the Staff Committee should do this work, and common sense will suggest that they should be in a better position than any man outside the Department, who does not understand the work to be done, to say which officers should be appointed to do different kinds of work.
– Would the members of the Staff Committee retain their present positions, or would their whole time be taken up with the work proposed to be given to them ?
– Even if their whole time were taken up with this work, and that can only be discovered by actual experience, it should be no reason for refusing to adopt a more satisfactory system than that in operation at the present time.
– Can the honorable senator inform the Senate how many employes there are in the Post and Telegraph Department ?
– There are at least 13,000.
– Too many for any one man to boss.
– As Senator W. Russell suggests, it is almost impossible for any one man to control so many officers engaged in different kinds of work. I do not wish to detract in any way from Mr. McLachlan’s ability. I quite recognise that he is a very able man, and has done very valuable work. He has had many obstacles to overcome, and has had a very hard row tr> hoe, but I still contend that the head and manager of a Department should be responsible for appointments and promotions in’ that Department, and is in a better position to judge the capacity and value of the services of those under him than any one outside the Department can possibly be. It is because we felt that the proposal we have made is essential to the good working of the Post and Telegraph Department that we made this recommendation.
– Should we not have one Department doing the work in one way and another in a different way if that proposal were adopted?
– No, the Board Of Management would have a considerable say in the work of the Staff Committee.
– That is dealing only with the Post and Telegraph Department. I was referring also to other Departments of the Public Service.
– Senator McGregor is aware that the report I am discussing deals only with the Post and Telegraph Department, and we need not al the present time trouble ourselves with other Departments. Since this report was tabled the Public Service Commissioner has published a memorandum upon it to which 1 should like to give some little attention. He criticises the report very severely, and questions many of the statements made in it. I think that it is only fair that a gentleman Occupying his position should be given some attention, as anything he may have to say touching a subject of this kind should be worthy of consideration. At the beginning of his report he says that the arguments in favour of a new order of things are neither convincing nor conclusive. I quite recognise that no matter what reasons we might give for the appointment of a Board <>f Management or a Staff Committee, if either the one or the other involved the abolition of his position we could hardly claim that they should convince him that we were fight in our recommendations. It would be like trying to convince a man sentenced to death that the sentence passed upon him was a just and proper one. I shall not, therefore, attempt to justify the recommendations of the Postal Commission to the Public Service Commissioner, hut I intend to prove that our recommendations would be for the good of the Department and the good of the Commonwealth, and that should be our first and last consideration. The grievances of the officers of the Department are not, I think, quite so pressing to-day as they were prior to the investigations of the Commission. Many of the recommendations of the Commission have been put into practice or partially adopted, and as a result it will be admitted that the officers are in a much better position than they were. I find Mr. McLachlan complains that he was not given ample opportunity to put his side of the case to the Commission. I think that is rather an unfair statement for the Public Service Commissioner to make, because he was kept in touch with the investigations of the Commission from the beginning. He was supplied with a copy of the evidence, and he was, with one exception, the very last witness to be examined. In the various States his inspectors were given ample opportunity to make the most complete statements. They were kept well posted with the evidence given by representatives of associations of officials in the Department. We endeavoured to afford them every opportunity to learn the nature of the evidence that was being tendered, so that they might be in a position to answer it. In the circumstances, 1 say that when twelve months after the report was tabled Mr. McLachlan complains that he was not given a proper opportunity to put his case his statement is rather an unfair one to make.
– The Commission never curtailed his opportunities, did they?
– There was no curtailment of his opportunities. We asked him for a complete statement of his case. He submitted a typewritten statement covering, I think, about thirty pages, and on that he was examined at considerable length.
– Would the proposed Board of Management be non-political ?
– Certainly. It would have to do only with the administration, and not with the policy of the Department. Mr. McLachlan disputes the statements made to the Commission as to the salaries paid to sorters, letter-carriers, and such officers in New Zealand. He complains that we accepted evidence on the subject that was not reliable. I have here the classification list printed by the authority of the New Zealand Government, and I find that, according to the list for 1908-9, sorters and letter-carriers in the Dominion were then paid the very salaries which Mr. McLachlan disputes as being incorrect in the evidence tendered to the Commission. We were informed that they were paid as high as £200 a year. I have a list before me including quite a number of lettercarriers and sorters paid at from £180 to £200 per annum. The classification list for the following year, published by the New Zealand Government, includes even a larger number of these officers paid up to the rate of .£200 a year. It is therefore proved by New Zealand official publications that the evidence as to the rates of pay of these officers in New Zealand tendered by the representatives of associations in our Post and Telegraph Department was quite correct. Mr. McLachlan seems to think that the members of the Commission recognised no responsibility in making their recommendations. He suggests that they were very generous, and all that sort of thing, and that the representatives of associations asked for something quite unreasonable. However, we find that the recommendations we made have been accepted to a considerable extent by the Public Service Commissioner himself. It will be admitted that many of the recommendations to which he has objected must have been justified, or he would not have put them into practice, as he says in his memorandum he has done. I should like now to direct attention to the salaries paid to some officers at the time the Commission began their inquiry, and to compare them with the salaries the same class of officers are receiving to-day, and with the recommendations on the subject made by the Commission. If we take, for instance, officers of the Fifth Class of the Clerical Division, we shall find that they were formerly paid £40 a year to start with, and the salary advanced by regular increments up to ,£180. The Commission recommended that the salaries for these officers should run from ,£60 a year with annual increments until they reached ,£200. In the General Division the rates for mail officers were from £180 to £228. The Commission recommended ‘that they should be from £210 to £240, and they are now receiving from £198 with annual increments until they reach a maximum of £228. The despatch officers were formerly paid at from £174 a year up to a maximum of £180. The Commission recommended that the salary of these officers should be £200 a year, and we now find that the Government have increased the salary in their case to £180 a year. Junior sorters formerly started at £144 a year and went up to £156. Senior sorters started at £162 and went up with the usual increments to £168. They are now receiving from .£144 to £168. The recommendation of the Commission was that they should, start at ,£150 and should go on until they received £190, which is a little higher than they are now receiving.’ Letter-carriers formerly started at .£60 a year, and went on until they reached a salary of £150 a year, but it took them twenty years to reach that maximum salary. Now they start at £72 a year and reach a salary of £150 in twelve years, so that they reach the maximum very much more rapidly than they did before. Mail drivers and postal assistants receive the same salary. Linemen were formerly paid £114 per annum, rising by increments, until they received ,£150, but they took twenty years to reach the maximum. Now the salary paid commences at £126, rising until the amount of £150 is reached. The Royal Commission recommended that the salary should start at £120, and rise to £156. Senior linemen formerly received £144, and the maximum was £156. They are now being paid £144 at the commencement, rising to £156. Line foremen formerly received £162 at the beginning, rising by increments to .£168. The Royal Commission recommended that the salary at the commencement should be ,£168, ns.ing t0 £J92- They are now receiving £168 at the commencement, rising to £180. Line inspectors formerly commenced at £174, rising to £348. The Royal Commission recommended that the minimum should be £200 and the maximum. £350! The Government has increased the salary to £192 at the commencement, rising to a maximum of £348. Mechanics - that is, fitters employed in the Telephone and Telegraph branches - formerly commenced as boys at the very small salary of £26 per annum, rising to £1 10. “The Royal Commission recommended that they start at £60, rising to £t6o, but the Public Service Commissioner has gone even better than we proposed to do. These mechanics now start at £72 a year, but the maximum is not so high as’ that recommended by the Royal Commission, being only £180. Foremen mechanics formerly commenced at £162 and the maximum was £180. The Royal Commission recommended £200 as a minimum, and £250 as a maximum.-. The salary paid by the Government has been increased to £192 as a minimum, and £240 as. a maximum. Supervisors of telephones formerly commenced, at £132, rising to £150. Now they receive £144 as a minimum, and £156 as a maximum. But these officers have been placed in two grades according to the nature and . value of the work. In the higher grade the maximum is £168. The Royal Commission recommended’ that they should start at £162, and that the maximum should be £180.
– I beg to call attention to the state of the Senate. [Quorum formed.]
– I have a few more figures to quote. I recognise that the quotation of figures is tedious, but I consider that these details are important. Telephone monitors formerly started at £114, rising to £i$o. Now they start at j£i26, rising to ^150. The Royal Commission recommended that they should start at .£120, rising to £i$6. Telegraph messengers formerly commenced with a minimum of £26, rising to a maximum of £51- The Government have increased the rates to a minimum of .£39, and a maximum of .£60. I find that these increases, according to a calculation made by the Public Service Commissioner, amount to an increase per annum in the General Division of ,£90,000, and in the Clerical Division of .£50,000, or a total of .£140,000 per annum. On page 20 of the Public Service Commissioner’s memorandum there is a comparative statement showing how necessary were the increases of salaries provided for the officers. It also proves that the stand the officers made in relation to increases of salary was justified by the increases which the Public Service Commissioner himself has brought into existence. I find from these figures that so far from the Royal Commission having been extravagant, and having made recommendations without due consideration, the amounts that we recommended were, according to this statement, not so great as were those which the Public Service Commissioner himself recommended. According to this information the cost of the recommendations proposed by the Royal Commission would only be ,£37,650 per annum, as against increases of ^7.830 recommended by the Public Service Commissioner. I mention this statement to show that the Royal Commission did not, without due consideration, make any recommendations for increases of salary, nor did it do so without having sufficient proof that increases were thoroughly justified. I think I have now quoted enough to show that the recommendations put forward by the Royal Commission are justified both in relation to grievances and salaries. They are also justified as far as concerns the working conditions of the Department. But there are still many of our recommendations yet to be put into practice, and I hope that the further increases they involve will be made as early as pos sible. I claim to have proved that & new system of management is required in the Department, and that the kind of control that has hitherto existed will not suffice in the future. We require drastic alterations to be made. The report of the Royal Commission provides a better system of working the Department than has prevailed in the past. If this system were brought into practice we should have a greater degree of efficiency in the service, both in connexion with our mails and with the telegraph and telephone systems. The Government of the day, or the officials at the head of the Department, may wish to ignore this report. But to do so will not get them out of their difficulties. They will have to take steps to reform the Department. The alterations recommended by the Commission may be carried out in a piece-meal fashion, or the authorities may adopt this report of ours holus-bolus, and so revolutionize the system ; but of one thing I am assured- that, sooner or later, as time goes on, it ‘will be proven that this report contains recommendations affecting the good working of the Department which will have to be adopted whether the officials manifest opposition to them or not. Having now spoken at greater length than I had intended - there are many things in the report I have not touched on, but I hope to deal with them when I reply at the close of the debate - I conclude by saying that’ I have great pleasure in moving that the Senate approve of the Commission’s report.
Debate (on motion by Senator Findley) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 9.20 p.m..
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 October 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1911/19111012_senate_4_61/>.