4th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether his attention has been called to a paragraph which appears in to-day’s newspapers, and which affirms that the Defence Department has definitely chosen a temporary site for the Naval College? If the statement be true, has the. Minister given consideration to the representations which were made to him by the Premier and representatives of Tasmania in respect of the selection of a temporary site for. the College, in that State ?
– My attention has been directed to the paragraph in question, which is not quite accurate in statingthat a decision his actually been arrivedat. The position is that, as the various eligible sites suggested have been put beforeme, I. have referred them to Captain Chambers for report. His reports are still under the consideration of the Government. CaptainChambers will leave to-night to report on a suggested temporary site at Jer visBay, and in response to the. representations which have been” made by the Premier of Tasmania, . by the honorable senator, and by other representatives of that State, hewill proceed to Tasmania nextweekto report on suggested sites at Hobart and Launceston. No decision will be arrived1 at until all these siteshave been inspected.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Defence whether he hasnoticed the following statement which was published in the Melbourne newspapers, yesterday- -
In the Legislative Assembly to-day the Premier (Mr. Verran) told Mr.Smeaton that in the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral,theGovernment could only compulsorily take such land from South Australia for the purposes of the transcontinental railway as was necessary for the construction of the line and its appurtenances. -. Even then the Governmentwould have to pay for all land taken . either from private individuals ortheState.
Does theMinisterthinkthat theterm “ grant “ which isusedin sub-clause2 . of clause 3 .. of .. the Kalgporlie to . . Port Augusta Railway Bill,: whichreads-
The construction of the. railway shall not- be. commenced until the States of Western Australia and South Australia respectivelyhave granted, or agreed -to grant to the satisfaction of the Minister such portions of the Crownlands of the State as are, in the. opinion of the Minister, necessary for the purposes of the construction, maintenance, and working of the railway - authorizes him to pay. compensation for any Crown lands which may be resumed ? :
– I have readthe paragraph in question, but as. a previous paragraph published in the Melbourne press in reference to this matter wasfound to be so entirely misleading, the Government do not propose to base their conclusions upon the statement which is published to-day. They prefer to wait until the intentions of the South Australian Go-. vernment are definitely stated in reply to a ‘letter which’ the Prime’ Minister recently forwarded tothePremierof that State.; It is unfortunate that a letter from the
Premierof South Australia to the Prime Minister should have gone astray, because in a telegram which the latter received from the former, Mr. Verran assured the Prime Minister that he had already replied to his last communication. That reply is not to hand. The Prime Minister has now asked the Premier of South Australia to repeat his reply. The other question put to me by Senator Millen is a legal question which I can scarcely be expected to answer.
– Surely the Minister knows the policy of the Government?
– The policy of the Government is that the land shall be granted to the Commonwealth free of charge.
– Order ! Does the honorable senator wish to ask a question?
– I desire to ask whether under the existing arrangements old-age pensions are payable at every post-office, or only at a select number of post-offices? In the case to which my attention has been drawn an old lady who is in receipt of a pension, and who resides at. Marion,. in South Australia, cannot receive payment there, and is obliged to walk about three miles to the Brighton post-office. Will the Minister communicate with the Treasurer with a view to ascertaining whether the present conveniences can be increased if such hardship does exist?
– I will bring the matter under the notice of the Treasurer. I think that all possible conveniences ought to beprovided in the case of old people.
asked the Minister of Defence,upon notice -
If he will lay on the table of the Senate all correspondence and papers connected with the putting together of the Warrego and the construction of the cruiser and torpedo-boat destroyers?
– The papers will be laid on the Library table.
asked the VicePresident of ‘the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
Motion (by Senator Henderson) agreed to-
That the report front the Printing Committee, presented, to the Senate on, the 6th . December, 1911, be adopted.
Messages received from the Hpuse-of Re- presentatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate in the following Bills : -
Purchase Telephone Lines Acquisition Bill.
Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Bill.
Seamen’s Compensation Bill.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia-
Minister of Defence) [2.43]. - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The measure provides that persons under twenty-one years of age may, with the consent of their parents or guardians, enlist for prescribed periods. Those periods will probably be, in the case of cadets in the Naval College twelve years - as in the Military College - and in the caseof boys on the training ship seven years or longer. After that, there may be re-engagements for from five to seven years. Regulations are now being framed on these lines in connexion with the Naval College and training.
– No. Those periods, speaking from memory, are five, seven, and twelve years. Under our previous regulations enlistment was for three years. But then, of course, we had only a very small service. Now that we are going in for a more up-to-date service, we want to follow more on the lines of the Imperial Navy, and the shortest period of service which we have found compatible with efficiency is five years. The boys will be taken into the training ship to be trained for the personnel of the ships. The age at which they will be taken in has not yet been definitely laid down. Regulations on the subject are being drawn up, and probably the age will be from fourteen to sixteen years. The boys will remain on the ship for about eighteen months or two years.
– That is on a harbor ship ?
– Yes. Obviously, * we do not wish to go to the trouble and expense of training boys only to find that at the end of eighteen months or two years they want to leave us and enter other employment. We wish a boy when he conies to us to definitely make up his mind - and his parents, too - that for at least seven years he will remain in the Navy. Therefore, we want a provision that, with the consent of his parent or guardian, a boy shall enter into a legal contract to remain for that period. Then in regard to the cadets - those who are to be the future officers - we wish to inaugurate a system by which all our officers shall go through the Naval College; so that a boy will make up his mind that he is going to take to the Navy as a profession. We propose that the Naval College shall be established on the same lines as the Military College - that is to say, the absence of wealth will not be a bar, because we shall pay the expenses of each boy. There will be no cost to the parents. There will simply be an examination, and merit and ability will be taken into consideration in regard to admission to the College. We have laid it down that when a boy comes in as a cadet he must enter into a contract, with the consent of his parents; to serve for twelve years, because in his case, as in that of the Military College, we shall give a very valuable education. Every boy will be taught science in its higher branches, and the engineering branches will be made a strong factor, so that a boy who has gone through the course, and obtained an education there at the expense of the Commonwealth, will be fit for almost any kind of civil engineering in other walks of life. We think it is only right that a boy who is to receive that training should enter into a contract to let the Commonwealth have the benefit of his services.
– Besides, he will have the invaluable training and discipline.
– In what position will the boys be who do not go through the Naval College?
– The rank and file will have to work up step by step, but the boys who go through the Naval College will be, first, midshipmen, and then sublieutenants. The difference in the .training is necessitated by the fact that a boy who goes into a modern warship as a sublieutenant has to be, in fact, an engineer. He has to deal with complicated machinery, and, therefore, he must have a scientific training. Each boy will have to go through a course at the College - probably a six-years’ course - before he is put into a ship.
– In what position will the boys be who spend two years on a ship?
– They will serve for a year as boys, and then rate successively as ordinary seamen, . able seamen, petty officers, and so on. If, while they are going through the minor ranks, they can qualify, that is, acquire the knowledge which the other boys get at the Naval College, commissions will, of course, be open to them.
– There will be no official bar.
– No; but so highly technical are warships to-day, being practically masses of floating machinery, that it is very improbable that a boy who is acting as a seaman will be able to acquire the knowledge to fit him for the position of sub lieutenant.
– Can these boys qualify for transfer to the Naval College?
– If they are not over the age, yes, but the age of entry to the Naval College will be limited, because we desire to turn a poy out for the position of sub- lieutenant at an early age. If he is too old when he gets the position he will be retired under the age limit before he has had the opportunity to get a step to thenext rank.
– Will they have any opportunity to get sea experience?
– Not for the first year or two, but in the’ last year or two they will be sent to sea in a cruiser attached to the College.
– What is the age limit ?
– That has not been fixed yet, but Captain Chambers, who is drawing up the regulations, considers that the best age for entry to the College will be from thirteen to fourteen years.
– In England it is lower.
– Yes, but Captain Chambers says that in Australia it will be wise to make the age a little higher than in England. He has not definitely made up his mind on the subject. The regulations are still under consideration. It is imperative to catch the boys young. However, that is not affected by this provision. If we are to keep them for twelve years we want to be in a position to make a binding contract with them, and this Bill gives us authority to do so. The other part of the Bill refers to a very important matter. Clause 3 deals with the question of command which will arise when our ships form part of the squadron composed of Imperial and Dominion ships. As honorable senators know, in future the Fleets of the Empire will consist, unless, of course, an alteration takes place, of the United Kingdom Fleet, the Canadian Fleet, and the Australian Fleet. Each will be, to all intents and purposes, a separate Fleet under separate administration and control. But at the recent Conference in England an agreement was arrived at that, as these Fleets will each be represented on the Pacific Station and the China Station, and may, in time of war, have to operate together in the Pacific or in other waters, it is advisable in times of peace that opportunities should be given to them to come , together for joint manoeuvres and training. With that object in view it was agreed that action should be taken by the three Governments concerned to make mutual arrangements by which, in the event of the ships of the Fleets coming together by the orders of their
Governments the joint Fleet should be under the command of the senior officer. If that happens to be an Australian or a United Kingdom or a Canadian officer, he will be in command of the combined Fleet. Clause 3 gives power to settle that question of command so far as our Fleet is concerned.It is rather a coincidence, and I hope a pleasant augury, that I saw in the Age of to-day the following cablegram : -
London, 6th September.
Mr. T. J. Macnamara, Financial Secretary to the Admiralty, yesterday introduced in the House of Commons a Bill which declares the effect of Naval Discipline Acts when applied to the Legislatures of the self-governing Dominions to the naval forces raised by the latter.
At the Imperial Conference an agreement was arrived at, and the following clauses dealing with that question will be found in a paper which was laid on the table of the Senate: -
It is desirable, in the interests of efficiency and co-operation, that arrangements should be made from time to time between the British Admiralty and the Dominions for the ships of the Dominions to take part in fleet exercises or for any other joint training considered necessary under the Senior Naval Officer. While so employed, the ships will be under the command of that officer, who would not, however, interfere in the internal economy of ships of another service further than absolutely necess ary-
In time of war, when the naval service of a Dominion, or any part thereof, has been put at the disposal of the Imperial . Government by the Dominion authorities, the ships will form an integralpart of the British fleet, and; will remain under the control of’ the British Admiralty during the continuance of the war.
The Dominions having applied to their naval forces the King’s Regulations, and Admiralty Instructions and the Naval Discipline Act, the British Admiralty and Dominion Governments will communicate to each other any changes which they propose to make in those Regulations or that Act.
In our Naval Defence Act of last year we applied tbe Naval Discipline Act to our Forces. Previously, of course, we had rigorously scanned that Act, provision by provision, to see its effect, and satisfied ourselves that it contained nothing which could not be safely applied to our Forces. The clauses which I have read mean that the Admiralty have entered into an agreement with us that before they amend the Naval Discipline Act in any particular, or the regulations made thereunder, they will submit for our consideration the proposed amendments of the Act, or the proposed regulations. Therefore, we shall be consulted in the first instance, and know what we are asked to accept. The object, of course,istohavea a uniform system with uniform regulations throughout the whole of the three Fleets, which may at any time have to operate together in time of peace or war. On one occasion our two torpedo destroyers were placed for a week under the- orders of Admiral King Hall, commanding the station here, and carried through certain training operations. He expressed great pleasure at the work which the boats did, and the commander of them also expressed to me his feeling that great benefit was derived by them from the joint training. The torpedo destroyers are intended to operate with larger vessels. When they , vere able to carry out the training which, on the one hand, the squadron would not have been able to carry out without their assistance and vice versa, we had a practical illustration of the benefit of combined training. In 191 2-13 the Australian Unit will be on the Australian Station, and the British Squadron will be withdrawn. But it is anticipated that from time to time British ships from the China or some of the other stations, will periodically visit Australia. When these ships do come to Australia, where our Fleet will be the superior Fleet, under this arrangement they will be under the control of our officers, if theyare. placed with our Fleet for training.
SenatorMillen. - Will, not that depend upon seniority?
– Our Fleet, being the predominant Fleet, it follows that our officerwillbe the senior officer.
SenatorMillen. - Not necessarily.
SenatorPEARCE. - If a single ship comeshere it will not be under the command of an Admiral, whereas, it is almost certain that. a fleet of the strength of our unit will have an Admiral for its commanding officer.
– The senior officer, whoever he may happen to be, will take command ?
– Yes. As our Fleet will be stationary it will happen in nearly every case that our officer will be the senior officer on the station.
– Is that in time of peace?
– In time of peace or war. It may be proposed to have a combined training of all the British ships in Pacific waters. The Canadian, the China, and Australian shipsmight rendezvous at some point in the Pacific for combined, training; and. whichever Admiral hap pened to beseniorinrank, irrespective of the Fleet to which ‘he belonged ‘would take command of the whole for the par-: poses of training. Before that can be done, however,. the Government, by. its Executiveact, and by a proclamation’,’ must first have placed and ordered the Australian shipsto go under the command of that officer.
-Is it not possible that if a British officer took command he’ might get ‘conflicting instructions from Australia and the Old- Country ?
– No; if a British ship was merely visiting Australia, and wasnot placed by the British Government at our disposal, or under our orders, she would simply have to pay the usual courtesies which a British ship now has to pay to the Admiral on the station. If a British shipnot belonging to the Fleet on the Australian Station enters Sydney Harbor, the Admiral in charge of the squadron will nodoubt make a courtesy call upon the Commander of the ship, but will not take any further cognisance of its presence. Exactly the same course would be followed if a . ship belonging to the British Fleetcame to Australia when our Fleet was here. But if the British Government sent a ship here, and at the same time placed it under our orders, it would be while here under our control. If a British Fleet came herewith an officer in charge senior in rank tothe officer in charge of our Fleet, he would have no power to take command of our ships until the Commonwealth Government placed them under his control.So that local autonomy is provided for in every contingency. We are proposing a similar provision withregard to the estab-. lishment of courts martial which may benecessary under the circumstances to which I have been referring. We might, for instance, send one of our ships to New Zealand to co-operate there with vessels of the China Squadron, and place itunder the orders of the British Naval Commander. At present, as the law stands, if one of our senior officers on board that vessel -committed a crime for which he would render himself liable to court martial, no court martial could be constituted to try him, because there would not be sufficient officers on the ship to constitute a Court. Under this. Billit is proposed that in such circumstancesofficers of the; British ships may be called -upon to constitute the court martial. Similarly, if aBritish officer on a ship in our waters committed an offence there would not be sufficient officers of the necessary rank on the vessel to constitute a court martial by which he could be tried, and under the provision now being made our officers of sufficient rank could sit on the court martial. It has to be remembered that a court martial to in,vestigate an offence by an officer must be constituted of officers senior in rank to the officer charged with the offence.
– What would happen if the senior officer committed an offence.
– That would be a question for the Government. This matter is dealt with in clause 11 of the Naval Agreement, which reads as follows -
When a court martial has to be ordered by a Dominion and a sufficient number of officers are riot available in the Dominion service at the time, the British Admiralty, if requested, will m.-ike the necessary arrangements to enable a Court to be formed. Provision will be made by order of His Majesty in Council and by the Dominion Government respectively to define 4he conditions under which officers of the different services are to sit on joint courts martial.
When we were dealing with this question the Admiralty submitted to Mr. Fisher and myself, as the Australian delegates in connexion with this matter, a Bill which it was proposed to introduce in the House of Commons, in which, in order to give effect to this proposal, there is conferred upon the Governor-General in Council in Australia the powers of the King and the Admiralty. That .Bill has been introduced in the House of Commons, as we have seen from the cable I have quoted. If this Bill be carried, and if the Imperial measure is also carried, we shall be placed in exactly the same relation to the British Admiralty as they will be to us. I desire here to pay a tribute to Senator Symon, who, I am sorry, is not present in the Chamber at this moment. When ,the Imperial Bill, to which I have referred, was submitted to us in London, we found that it was of a rather technical character. I knew that Senator Symon had always <been a strong advocate of an Australian Navy. Away” back in 1903, when the Labour party practically stood alone on this question, Senator Symon was one of the men who stood by us in our desire for the creation of an Australian Navy. He fortunately happened to be in London when we were attending the Imperial Conference, and, with Mr. Fisher’s consent, ;] consulted him as to the legal form of the’ Bill submitted t.o us.’ He was able to ^suggest .one’ or two amendments . which ‘.he considered would more fully safeguard our position. We were very thankful to him for placing his legal services at our disposal, and enabling us to have the benefit of his advice. I take this opportunity of publicly thanking the honorable senator for ‘the advice he gave at the time. We felt that we could accept it’ with confidence, knowing that he had always been a strong advocate of the creation of an Australian Navy. I have now dealt with: the whole of the matters contained in this Bill, and I trust the Senate will pass it without delay. It seems to me that the issues are clear-cut, and there is no doubt that the provisions of the Bill will give effect to the principles of the Naval Agreement. On our return from England, the agreement was at once submitted to the Law officers of the Commonwealth, and they were asked to prepare a Bill which would bring our Naval- Defence Act into conformity with the terms of that agreement. This Bill is the result of their consideration ; and I now ask the Senate to give the Government the necessary legislative power fo act under our law in conformity with the agreement entered into by the Australian representatives at the Imperial Conference in the belief that they were expressing the will of the people of Australia.
– Although the subject of naval defence is opened up by this Bill, and is necessarily a very tempting one, I do not propose to yield to the temptation further than to make a very few observations upon two of the proposals in this Bill. With regard to one of them, the more important to which the Minister has referred, I welcome it as evidence of the fact that once again the various sections of the British people are showing their capacity for solving a problem which apparently no othersection of the human race has so far been able to solve successfully. I refer to the problem which arises from the desire for local control working side by- side with Imperial unity. This has been ohe of the difficulties always confronting us when we have considered the creation of a local navy. I do not mean to say that the arrangement now proposed represents the lastword which can be said on the subject ; but it does seem to me that, so far as we have gone; the difficulty is being met very satisfactorily by the arrangement arrived at at the Imperial ‘ Conference, the- working’ details s of which “this Bil’l.is; intended to give effect to. I say this, because the proposal still leaves the Australian people the control of their local affairs, and at the same time provides a working hypothesis by which our section of the Navy may be worked satisfactorily with the main branch of the Naval Force. For this reason, I welcome this Bill. I ask the Minister when he replies to the debate to deal with another point. We all recognise the necessity of placing the standards of our service on an equality with those of the Imperial Navy, as otherwise an interchange of officers and men would be impossible. It is admitted that our standards must be as high, and our tests as severe, as are those of the British Adniirally. I understand the Minister to say that the term of apprenticeship proposed for our Fleet is shorter than that of the Imperial service. I wish to ask the Minister whether he is satisfied that there is no danger that that may be regarded by the Admiralty as submitting our officers to a less severe training and examination than those which Imperial officers will have to undergo. It will be admitted, I think, that if there is any danger of the kind steps should be taken as early as possible to remedy the defect. On more than one occasion, the Minister of Defence has himself stressed the point that we must have our officers trained as well as are those of the Imperial service. The. question I put to him specifically is whether this can be secured under the proposals made, so as to prevent the possibility of any question being raised at Home that our officers will be called upon to serve a shorter period of training, and will itmay be, possess less practical experience.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [3.10].-I should like to add a word or two to what has been said. This is a matter in which a great many of us have taken a very considerable interest, and in connexion with which we have had to endure a certain amount of misconstruction on the part of many of the. public. It has been suggested that in establishing a fleet unit ofour own in addition to units established by other of the over-sea Dominions and the Imperial Fleet, we are doing so at the expense of discipline and effectiveness. There has been another objection raised on. the ground that it would be better to ‘have one Imperial ‘ Naval Force for the protection of the whole of the British Empire. I join with Senator Mil len in congratulating, not only the Minister of Defence, but all who have had to deal with this great subject, upon the ingenuity of the means proposed by which the different Fleet units may be worked together under one Imperial control. There can be no question that, if the Navy is to be effective in time of trouble, the Fleets must be worked together as a unified force, and there must be no such thing as divided control. In order that the people of the country may realize the value of a Navy, it is necessary that they should have the power of control such as is proposed to be exercised by the Government under ordinary circumstances. It should also be recognised that the establishment of a Navy in our own waters is calculated to inspire our people with a feeling of patriotism which could not be engendered in other circumstances, or by the adoption of another course such as a contribution to the upkeep of the Imperial Navy, without any measure of local control or management. I know that when the first Naval Agreement was entered into many years ago, one of the stipulations made by the State. Governments was that the Australian Squadron should not be taken out of Australian waters without the direct consent of the State Governments. We know, however, that efficiency must depend in naval matters on the power of concentration in the event of war. I think that the people of Australia should realize to the fullest that the establishment of our Navy is not only a marked evidence of the National spirit of the country, but also of the feeling of unity with’ the Imperial Service. However much some persons may have been in favour of a contribution to the Imperial Navy, that could never have been as effective and valuable as a means of Imperial defence as the system which has now been adopted. Senator Pearce is to be congratulated upon holding the position of Minister of Defence during such an important period in the naval history of this country. It is an opportunity given to very few men to be enabled to assist in consolidating and creating what is really an Imperial Defence, based upon such a system that other over-sea Dominions that have not yet determined to establish a naval unit may be in a position to see how, bythe adoption of the same course, they may more effectively assist Great Britain than they have hitherto done. We know that our cousins in New Zealand have agreed to pay for a great ship to form part of the Imperial Navy. The value of that gift is not so great as the impetus that will be given to the cause of Imperial defence by the course now adopted. For some years past, relying upon the alliance with the Japanese nation, the Imperial Navy has been materially reduced in strength in these waters. I am not speaking merely of Australian, waters, but of the Pacific generally. We have been led to believe that it was necessary, through existing political circumstances, and the possibility - which I hope will never be realized - of serious European complications, to concentrate the Navy in Home waters. Therefore, we have, to a great extent, been compelled to rely upon that alliance for the protection of this country. Under certain circumstances that might be unsatisfactory. But we shall, under the new system, have ships of a first-class character in our waters. We shall have not merely a unit, but a complete squadron - that is to say, a Naval Force of such a character that it will be most effective in. the event of a necessity for its employment in war. We all understand that one of the great principles of defence is not only that a country should be ready to protect its rights and interests, but that it should at the same time be able to make such a show of its power as will prevent the possibility of complications arising. Without going’ into these questions at length, I may point out that we have been made to realize lately the great power which Great Britain exercises in international affairs. That power is due to her strong navy, and her means of defence and offence. We, as a portion of the Empire, realize that we are now doing our share of that great work, which should devolve upon all members of the Empire. The question raised by Sena’tor Millen as to the efficiency of the training to be given to cadets must come under the serious consideration of the Defence Department and of the Minister. I assume that the expert advice that will always be available, and can be obtained at any time by the Minister, will enable him to make certain that the amount of training it is intended to give to the cadets will.be sufficient to qualify them to take their position alongside those who have been trained in the Imperial Navy, so that there will be no fear on the grounds of efficiency at times when command is placed in the hands of Australian officers. .
– That will be all right.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - 1 dare say the honorable senator thinks so. I feel that this is a most important question, and one that must be dealt with on absolutely the best lines, iri order to create an effective body of seamen and officers. One matter that may call for explanation from the Minister relates to the result of courts martial. There is a proviso in this Bill to the effect that a sentence of death passed by any court martial on any member of the Naval Force shall not be carried into effect until it has been confirmed by the GovernorGeneral. One can realize that that is a proper provision under ordinary circumstances. But in the event- of war breaking out, and it being necessary to pass sentence of death by a court martial, it would be quite impossible for every case of the kind to be reviewed by the GovernorGeneral - that is to say, by the Executive - before it was carried into effect. I presume that this provision is meant to apply rather to times of peace than to times of war. We know that justice has to be administered, probably rather roughly at times, during warfare. It is often necessary to take strong measures. In the event of it being found necessary to condemn a man to death in time of war, such a sentence should not have to be referred to the Government of the day. I do not desire, however, to say more about that now, except to commend to the best consideration of the Minister the point that there may be a necessity for introducing other legislation at a future time. I congratulate the Minister upon the introduction of the Bill. I congratulate him upon the success so far achieved since our entry into what was, a little time ago, re*garded as almost unknown waters. I hope the result may be not only to strengthen the forces of Australia, but to strengthen the efficiency and power of the Imperial Navy - the Navy of that great nation of which we all are, as we ought to be, proud to be members.
– I listened with close attention to the speech of the Minister of Defence in explaining this Bill. .1 should like him to tell us in reply whether he considers the time to. be spent by cadets in the Naval College to be sufficient. I hope that under no circumstances will men be turned out in connexion, with our Navy unless, they are properly trained and fit to take their place alongside the men of any navy in the world. If the Minister is prepared to tell us that he and his advisers are satisfied with the period that it is intended that these men shall be under training before they become officers and take command, I cannot dispute his statement. But those in control of the British Navy have had many years of experience, and it is significant that they have not seen their way to shorten the time of training. It is an acknowledged fact that the seamen, petty officers, and officers of the British Navy are, as a rule, superior to men of equivalent rank in any navy of the world.
– How does the honorable senator know ? ,
– It is an acknowledged fact. Testimony to that effect is borne by persons in other services.
– We think that.
– I have heard naval officers in other services than the British say so. I have heard the same from officers in the mercantile marine. I am anxious that our officers and men shall be as efficient as are British man-of-war’s-men to-day. I saw the statement some time ago that it takes at least seven years to turn out a properly equipped man-of-war’s-man. That being the case, I ask the Minister to satisfy my doubts. I hope that he will be in a position to assure us that the term allowed will be sufficient to turn out thoroughly equipped officers and men.
-24]. - I congratulate Senator Pearce on his good fortune in occupying the position of Minister of Defence when this great project of an Australian Navy is reaching completion. I understand, although, of course, nothing definite has yet been fixed, that the training of officers for the Navy is to occupy a period of something like six years, including the time spent in the training cruiser fleet. That, as some honorable senators may be aware, is longer than the present period in England. There the period of training for a cadet is two years at Osborne, two yearsat Dartmouth, and six months in a training cruiser, which is supposed to complete the actual training. But, of course, a naval officer’s training, for -the very reason that has been indicated by Senator Millen and by the . Minister, goes on perpetually. As he is concerned with a very complicated machine - as modern warships are - his training hardly ever comes to an end. Every day there are new improvements - enlargements of battle-ships, new inventions in connexion with munitions of war, and so forth.
– Does the honorable senator say that the period provided for in this Bill is longer than the period in England ?
– The Minister’s suggestion is six years in the Naval College
– I understood him to say that the period was shorter.
– Yes, for the men, but not for the officers. The period is six years before a young officer is rated as midshipman.
– Before he is rated as sub-lieutenant.
– During that period, of course, there are examinations to test efficiency. Nowadays there is very much specialization in the Navy, and an officer undertakes special duty in a particular branch. The selection of officers for, particular branches of the service ‘ in England is now left entirely to the Admiralty authorities. Whenever a boy goes , as a cadet to Osborne, his parents have to sign an undertaking that they will consent to his being entered for any branch of the naval service to which his aptitude, training, and inclination lead the Admiralty to think he is best fitted. That is because of the high degree of specialization now required. One class of officers specializes in torpedo work, another in submarines, another in gunnery. A high degree of technical training is required for each branch of the service. I was exceedingly pleased to hear that it is the policy of the Government to have, in case of’ ordinary seamen, an agreement by which, after a period of eighteen months, or whatever period of training may be considered necessary, he shall be obliged to serve in the Navy for a period of seven years. I think it would be disastrous to our Navy from the point of view of the efficiency of the personnel, if we had not some such provision as that. In fact, if any complaint is to be made it is that the period is too short. That, however, is a matter that can always be altered. Experience will teach us what is necessary for efficiency. I again congratulate the Minister! It is something to be proud of that we are now in the position of having the nucleus of a navy - in fact almost ‘ an efficient service - within sight in our Australian waters.
-Colonel CAMERON (Tasmania) [3.28]. - I should like to join in expressing my satisfaction that this movement for the establishment of an Australian Navy has been brought to the satisfactory point that has been reached. Without touching upon technical details, which are practically outside the consideration of any member of the Senate. I should like to dwell upon the broad principle, which has been at stake in connexion with the defence of Australia. The defence of this country has been thrown to a very large extent upon the shoulders of the people, who should bear the burden. That has been the basic principle underlying- the whole movement of Australian nationality. The second point that I desire to emphasize is that, if the Bill means anything, it means that the future standard of efficiency of our Navy cannot be anything less than that of the Royal “Navy itself ; also that provision has been made for the services of our Navy wherever its services may be required. I am extremely gratified that the Bill provides for the bringing about of so satisfactory a result.
– There is one point that I should like the Minister to make quite clear to us. I understand that, whoever may happen to be in command of our own Navy, will have secret instructions from the Government. But this Bill provides that, whenever our Navy may be acting with any portion of the Imperial Navy, the senior officer present shall take command. That being so, if the senior officer ‘be an officer of the Imperial Navy, will he not have secret instructions from the British authorities, and if those instructions should clash with the instructions given by the Commonwealth Government, which will prevail ? Is it not possible that our Navy may be placed under the control, for example, of the officer in charge of the China Fleet, and that he will actually ignore the secret instructions issued Dy the Commonwealth Government ? In other words, is it not possible that, under this Bill, we may hand over our own Navy to the charge of a British officer without the Commonwealth Government being consulted in any shape or form?
– In regard to the point which has been raised concerning the length of service, I merely wish to say that the regulations bearing upon it have not yet been framed. I have merely quoted the terms which have been suggested by members of the Naval Board, who are now engaged in drafting regulations. I said that there would probably be two terms - seven years and five years. Those who sign on for seven years will get a slightly higher rate of pay than those who sign on for only five years. But since I moved the second reading of the Bill, I have been informed by an Admiral of the British Navy who happens to be visiting our shores - a brother of Admiral Henderson, the distinguished Admiral who furnished us with a very valuable report - that there are 5,000 men in the British Navy to-day who are under a five years’ engagement, and that the tendency of recent years has been to shorten the term of engagement. So that, if our regulations provide for two terms, our practice will accord with that which obtains in the British Navy to-day. When I spoke of a period of six years for training, I had in mind the whole period which will be covered from the time that a lad enters the Naval College. Portion of that time will, of course, be spent on a training cruiser. I would also point out that the danger which had been foreshadowed by Senator E. J. Russell cannot possibly arise. No British officer can take command of our ships unless they are placed under his control by the Commonwealth Government, and the Commonwealth Government will not give him any instructions different from those which were given to him as a British officer.
– Are there any circumstances under which a British officer may automatically assume control of our vessels ?
– No. If a vessel of our Fleet unit happened to enter a foreign port with a vessel of the British’ Navy, it would be the duty of the senior officer, if he happened to be an Australian, to call upon the representative of the foreign Government; but if he happened to be a Britisher, it would be his duty to make the call. Each ship would be quite. independent of the other. I have to thank the Senate for its cordial reception of the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
After section forty-four of the principal Act, the following sections are inserted : - “ Provided that a sentence of death passed by any court-martial- on any member of the Commonwealth Naval Forces shall be not carried into effect until it has been confirmed by the Governor-General.” ….
– To my mind, the Minister may well accept a slight amendment in this proviso. It appears to me that no such extremely rigorous punishment as that of death should be inflicted as the result of a court martial, unless the Parliament of the Commonwealth has first confirmed the capital sentence.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - How can we discuss a matter of that sort?
– I do not desire to prevent the Governor-General from exercising the prerogative of mercy ; but, in a professedly Democratic community like Australia, we ought to recognise that the tendency amongst Naval and Military Forces is to pay less regard to human life than is paid to it by the average citizen.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Would the honorable senator have every sentence of death reviewed by Parliament?
– Whenever the sentence of death has been recorded by a court martial composed partly of officers of the Commonwealth Navy and partly of officers of the Imperial Navy, .1 think that course should be adopted. It is quite within the region of possibility that capital punishment may be abolished by this Parliament.
– I hope that it will be.
– Should that result be brought about, it does not seem fair that any officer of our Navy should be at the mercy of a decision which may have been arrived at by a court martial composed partly of officers of the Imperial Navy. It may be urged that the Governor-General has to give his consent to the capital penalty being carried out, and that, whether or not that consent is forthcoming, will depend upon the advice of his Ministers. But I understand that the prerogative of mercy can be exercised by the Governor-General quite independently of the advice of his Ministers. I think that Parliament should have a final voice in this matter.
– I think I can show Senator Rae that the position to which he has referred is already adequately provided for. In the first place, no sentence of death can be carried into effect without the consent of the GovernorGeneral, and under the Acts Interpretation Act, the “ Governor-General “ means the Government of the day. If this Parliament were to enact a law abolishing capital punishment, then the Governor-General in Council could not confirm any sentence of death which might be recorded. There is no need to amend this clause. All that has to be done by Parliament is to pass a measure abolishing the punishment of death under any Federal law, and then the GovernorGeneral cannot confirm a sentence of death passed upon a person. Up to the present Parliament has not passed such a law.
– Will you favorably consider that aspect of the matter?
– We are not called upon to consider that question now.
– I thank the Minister of Defence for his courteous explanation of the position, but I had no intention of attempting to abolish capital punishment by an amendment in this clause. I recognise that every such question must be dealt with on its merits. But when an honorable senator asked by interjection whether we could bring such a case before Parliament, I replied that more than once when Parliament has deemed that an injustice, was being done, it has practically compelled a matter to be reconsidered. I do not share the feeling which is so frequently expressed in the press, and by members of Parliament, too, that politicians should have no voice in the determination of these questions. They should be the last court of appeal if there is a belief that anything wrong is being done, or is going to be done, by any branch of the Public Service, whether it be the Naval or the Military, or any other. 1 believe that in the very rare instances where such a thing was likely to be done, Parliament would, with due decorum, give to any case the most calm, fair, and non-party consideration. It should have, the last say, quite irrespective of whether we abolish capital punishment or not. It was not my intention, I repeat, to try to abolish capital punishment by a side wind. Seeing that a general court martial will consist partly of persons not responsible to us, or our Ministry, Parliament ought to have the last say as to whether a death sentence shall ‘ be carried out or not. In order to test the feeling of the Committee, I move -
That after the word “confirmed,” line 6, the words “by the Parliament and” be inserted.
– I do not think that this amendment should be made. If a sentence of death ought to be reviewed in this case, it ought to be reviewed in all cases, otherwise it is tantamount to saying that a general court martial will do something which the other court martial will not do. . If the amendment is inserted, the effect will be that these cases, if ever they should occur, will be reviewed by Parliament, and other cases will not be reviewed. Under the Naval Discipline Act, practically only two classes of cases are punishable by death, namely, treason in the face of the enemy, and murder. Apart from those two cases, no offences are punished by death to-day under the Admiralty.
– I have no sympathy with the person guilty of treason.
– I know that the honorable senator has no sympathy with traitors from the expressions which he used the other day in respect to another class of offenders. He then expressed a willingness to punish them without reference to Parliament, or anybody else.
– I would shoot a traitor at sight.
– Furthermore, a Naval court martial consists of five officers, and no sentence of death can be passed except with the consent of four of them. Every sentence will have to be referred to the Australian Government before it can be tarried out. There is every reasonable safeguard that justice will be done, and I ask Senator Rae not to press his amendment.
– When I made an interjection in regard to capital punishment, Senator Rae, in his usual forcible and courteous way, reminded me that it was entirely irrelevant. But from his own remarks when he was talking about capital punishment it seemed necessary to remind him that there are capital offences over which this Parliament has no jurisdiction. There are capital offences over which it has jurisdic tion; but the honorable senator was speaking, as far as I heard him,’ with regard to capital offences generally. I agree with the Minister that we have -very properly constituted some capital offences under Federal jurisdiction, but that does not affect the question of capital offences outside our jurisdiction. I am inclined to think that the Minister is quite right in what he says, *and that mine was not altogether a senseless interjection, as Senator Rae has said, because he did not limit his remarks.
– It was a very savage and discourteous one.
– The fact that the honorable senator did not limit his remarks prompted me to make the interjection which I did. I hope that he will not be so impetuous in future. I think that sometimes this Parliament is not sufficiently sensitive of the different jurisdiction even on this very important point.
– I do not know whether, if the Minister had not spoken, I would have supported my leader in this matter. Of the two cases in which the death sentence can be inflicted, I think that the offence of treason is altogether too vague and indefinite. We ought not to lightly allow any citizen to pay the last penalty without making the fullest investigation into the case. This is, I think, a matter which might possibly be better left to the Parliament than to the Executive. Ministers are so closely engaged in reading and signing papers that they really have not time to go into the evidence in these cases. In these circumstances, they are more inclined, I think, to take the view of the court martial than to dip into the evidence. Parliament is qualified to conduct an inquiry by reason of the diverse views which are held by its members. An alert Opposition, for instance, might bring out some points which would be favorable to a condemned person which otherwise would not be elicited by an overworked Ministry.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - No Executive Council ever allows a sentence of death to be carried out without giving the matter the most painstaking and careful consideration, sometimes day after day.
– In New South Wales there have been some pretty savage executions, of which we ought to be well ashamed.
– I agree with the view which has been expressed by Senator Gould. I think that we can safely assume that the members of every previous Government gave careful consideration to every case which came under their notice. But I believe that we have arrived at an age when this barbarous method of punishment is altogether out of touch with the community. I recognise with the Minister, however, that this is not the measure in which to deal with the question of its abolition. To my mind, one of the offences which the Minister mentioned does not justify the infliction of this awful penalty. Many things may constitute treason.
– Treason, under the Naval Discipline Act, refers to treason in the face, of the enemy, and not a refusal to take off one’s hat when “ God save the King “ is played.
– To my mind, it is one of those things which we ought to handle with particular care. A hundred things may happen in the face of the enemy which may look like treason. A humane soldier might let somebody off instead of doing what he ought to do, and that is butchering him at once ; and the person let off may secure an advantage by the humane act of the other man. The duty of a sentry is to shoot immediately a man who does not answer his challenge. Suppose that, out of humane consideration, a sentry refrains from so acting, and a person is let off, it may be concluded by those iri charge that he has really given a position away. All that may look like treason.
– That would not be treason, but only silliness.
– The verdict against the sentry might be that he had given up a position, and it would look like treason in the face of the enemy.
– Nelson was guilty of treason when he put the glass to his blind eye.
- Senator Guthrie has reminded me of a most remarkable case where an officer refused to obey his commanding officer through putting the glass to his blind eye.
– Under the Naval Discipline Act, that would not be treason, because it has to be proved that the man acted from cowardice. Nelson did not act from cowardice, but in a spirit of bravery and courage.
– I can see that if I proceed on these lines I shall open up a long debate. 1 merely rose to justify any position which my leader, Senator Rae, may have taken up in this matter.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Motion (by Senator Mcgregor) proposed - .
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
– I rise to protest against the continual suspension of the Standing Orders. I recognise that the Senate, as the Second Chamber of the Federal Parliament, is the House in which there should be the most careful supervision of all legislation brought forward. It is impossible for honorable senators to have a proper understanding of the effect of all the legislation proposed under a system by which the Standing Orders are so frequently suspended. They should not be suspended at any time without grave and serious reasons. I do not say that I would never vote for the suspension of the Standing Orders, but this is the second or third occasion within the last day or two on which I have heard a similar motion submitted. As one who desires to maintain the position of the Senate as the revising Chamber of this Parliament, I say tha.t honorable senators should be given the fullest opportunity to consider every measure submitted, and I enter my protest against these continual suspensions of the Standing Orders.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
MINISTERS laid on the table the following papers : -
Lands Acquisition Act 1906 -
Newnes, New South Wales, Post-office r Notification of the acquisition of land for site.
Correspondence relating to the gold reserve.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
– I am not going to join Senator Gardiner in a wholesale protest against a procedure which becomes necessary as we approach the end of every session. But I wish to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether, in moving this motion, it is his intention to give full effect to it.
– Then I believe I shall be suggesting what is in the honorable senator’s mind when I say that he will be content with making his speech in moving the second reading of the Bill, and will then give members of the Senate generally an opportunity to consider the measure by proposing to resume the debate tomorrow.
– Or later on tonight if that should be necessary.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That thisBill be now read a second time.
I desire to clear away a little misunderstanding that may have arisen with respect to. the course of action intended to be taken by the Government. Honorable senators are aware that when we are approaching the close of a session it has always been the practice to put contingent notices of motion on the paper for the suspension of the Standing Orders. I have acted only in accordance with that practice. These contingent notices of motion can be brought into operation on the receipt of messages from another place, and the adoption of this course in this instance affords me the earliest opportunity to move the second reading of this Bill. When I have done so, it will be open to the Leader of the Opposition, or any other member of the Senate, to move the adjournment of the debate. I said that the debate might be resumed at a later hour of the day because I do not desire that before 10 o’clock this evening we should find ourselves in the position of having no other business to go on with.
SenatorMillen. - Is the honorable senator holding out an inducement to us to talk upon other matters until 10 o’clock to-night ? I believe we might do so if that were desired.
– I am holding out no such inducement. The Minister of Defence has another Bill to submit. There is the motion for the printing of the Budget papers to be discussed, and private members’ business may also be taken. But if it is the wish of the majority of honorable senators, I am quite prepared to agree to the debate on the second reading of this Bill being resumed to-morrow. That was my intention all along. But I wish to prevent any mischance in the circumstances to which I have referred. I might have postponed the second reading of this Bill until after Senator Pearce had submitted his business. I refrained from doing that because I wished to give honorable senators an opportunity of fully studying the Bill which is now under consideration. This is one of the measures which the Government consider themselves under an obligation to introduce and carry.
– With the Savings Bank provisions?
– With everything connected with it.
– That is not on the Labour platform.
– We consider that we are under an obligation to carry the whole Bill. The constitutional power of the Commonwealth Parliament in connexion with banking’ includes the establishment of. Savings Banks, and. everyother kind of banking. I may say that so far as the platform of the Labour party is concerned one of the most important of its planks is the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank.
– A State Bank is the expression used in the platform.
– Whatever it states, it means the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank.
– The platform of the Labour party, from top to bottom, never mentioned Savings Banks.
– The Government have only power to do Commonwealth business.
– That is all we propose to do.
– But the Government are stealing in the Savings Bank.
– Stealing the Savings Bank ? I do not think that such a term should be applied by any honorable senator to the action of the Commonwealth Government.
– Suppose we say that the Government are trying to do so?
– No ; nor are we trying to do so. There is no intention on the part of the Government, or of the supporters of this Bill, to do any injustice to any man, woman, or child in the Commonwealth. But, as I have said, it is our duty to introduce this Bill.
– If it is wanted.
– The proposal would not have been on our platform if it had not been considered to be necessary. It has to be remembered that the Labour party came into existence in this country at a time when its financial affairs were disorganized to a very serious extent by the failure of one after another of the banking institutions of the country.
– Now the Government propose to disorganize financial affairs still more.
– No ; we propose to put a regulator upon the machine that will prevent it from being disorganized again.
– The Government can do that by Statute, without establishing a bank of their own.
– We are doing it in our own way, because we consider that to be the best way. It may be considered by a great number of people that it does not fall far short of presumption for those who have not Iia 3 much experience in financial matters reintroduce legislation of this ; description. Up to the present time, however, it must be admitted that the results of the financial policy of the Labour party, both in the Commonwealth and in the States, bear favorable comparison with the results of any other section of the community. Everything that we have done up to the present time in financial matters has met with the approval of the people of Australia, not only in connexion with taxation systems, but also in other respects.
– What about the Associated Banks to-day?
– I may inform Senator St. Ledger that there is nothing in this Bill’ to prevent the Commonwealth Bank entering into that association. Notwithstanding what the Associated Banks may say, it is satisfactory to know that even to-day a telegram has come from London stating that, in the financial supplement of the Times approval is given to the proposal to establish this bank. It is stated by that authority that the Bank Bill of the Government of the Commonwealth is a conservative, sober-minded measure. There is, therefore, nothing to be alarmed about.
– The Labour party indorsed by the Times!
– Yes, indorsed, by the Times! I am sure that even Senator St. Ledger, with all his presumption and all his dexterity, could not hope for a better authority than the .financial supplement of the Times. I should like him, on that account, to consider very carefully both his interjections and his subsequent remarks. It may be considered by some people to be* presumption for a Bill of this kind to-be introduced by a Labour Go- .vernment. They may say, “ What dp miners, labourers, mechanics,” and other persons of that sort know about finance?” Well, we are going to make a very good try to prove to the public that our knowledge is quite sufficient to guide us in the successful management even of a great concern of this description.
– Of course, the Government have a man who can do anything in the world. Mr. O’Malley is the father of this Bill.
– As the honorable senator is so ready in recognising the parentage of the measure, I trust that he will be equally ready to recognise its merits. I do not suppose that any one will expect a very lucid explanation of this Bill from a humble individual like myself. . I am not supposed, to have had very great banking experience. But I can imagine a great many things, and imagination . with some people - as in the case of Senator St. Ledger and myself - makes up for experience and education.
– If tempered with intelligence.
– I can assure the honorable senator that I will endeavour to exercise all my intelligence in the explanation that I shall make. By the exercise of my imagination, I can go a long way back in the history of banking. I can realize its commencement. Banking to-day is a very different thing from what it was in its origin. The very term “ banking “ does not, in its original signification, embrace the financial affairs of a Government like ours. The original idea was that people wanted to put their money in a safe place. I can imagine times when the weaker, the more timid, and the less aggressive members of a community would hand over their valuables to a chief, or to the more powerful in their tribe to be taken care of. That, I suppose, was the real origin of banking. The idea was to place valuables in safe keeping. . But the time came when the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few created the idea that use should be made of the valuables so stored.It was a secondary move on the part of those intrusted with this wealth to lend it out to persons, not for the purpose of returning interest to depositors, but to make profit for themselves. Then, as civilization grew, those owning the wealth that was thus deposited for safe keeping in the hands of responsible and reliable individuals, came to the conclusion that they also ought to get some benefit out of the investment of their valuables. Consequently, interest came to be paid to what are now known as depositors. It has now been considered advisable to establish a bank common to all the people of the community, in which all the people can safely deposit their surplus wealth, and receive, not a very small portion of the earnings of that wealth, but the full benefit. Consider the enormous sums that have been distributed within the last couple of hundred years amongst the shareholders of banking institutions.
– The depositors will receive what is due to them in Commonwealth notes, I suppose?
– The honorable senator need not be anxious about Commonwealth notes, because they are recognised anywherein Australians being just as good as gold. I can assure the honorable senator, also, that the Common wealth Bank is going to be placed in no more favorable a position than any of the other banking institutions in Australia in regard to Commonwealth notes. The bank will have in. its possession no note for which it has not given a sovereign. The honorable senator knows that, or ought to know it.
– That knowledge will be of no use to me unless I can get 2 os. for my note.
– I suppose the honorable senator would like to get twentyfive? I, however, hope that the day will never come when Commonwealth notes will be either at a premium or at a discount. I hope that they will always be at par. I have already referred to a bank as an institution for taking care of the surplus wealth of the people. I have incidentally referred to the time when the possessors of this surplus wealth received consideration from those who were taking care of it. I have mentioned, in reply to an interjection, that the Labour party has for twenty years had on its programme a proposal for the establishment of a State Bank. At the time when this plank in our platform was adopted, the Commonwealth was not in existence. Then we could only think of State Banks. Now we are proposing to establish a Commonwealth Bank. I have reminded Senator Fraser that if there were anything in the world that emphasized that idea in the minds of themembers of the Labour party, it was what occurred iri 1893, when all these banks went smash one after another.
– They did not. The Vice-President of the Executive Council is quite wrong.
– Well, the great majority of them went smash.
– I can name a great many which did not go smash, and which had no reason to do so.
– None of them stood the test without the assistance, or promised assistance, of the State in which they existed. If New South Wales had not gone to the assistance of the Bank of New South Wales, if Queensland had not gone to the assistance of the Queensland National Bank, and if other States had not promised similar assistance to various institutions, the disaster would have been greater than it was. I merely wish to show that if, prior to that date, there had been any doubt in the minds of members of the Labour party, that financial crash supplied the necessary evidence as to the wisdom of the policy which they have advocated ever since, and which they are now endeavouring to bring into operation. Senators Fraser, St. Ledger, and Chataway, who seem to be so excited-
– I am not at all excited. The Vice-President of the Executive Council is quite wrong. But I look with a good deal of contempt upon what he is saying.
– The honorable senator always does that, because we differ so greatly in our ideas. At the same time, I do not think that he ought to use the word “contempt,” because he really does not mean it. He looks with disapproval upon what I say.
– I withdraw the word “contempt.” I say that I look with pity upon the statement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
– I hope I shall be permitted to make points in regard to the banking institutions of Australia, and the necessity which exists for the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank. If honorable senators will refer to a return which was laid on the table of the Senate not long ago - I think at the request either of Senator Walker or Senator Chataway - they will find that it sets out the liabilities and assets of the different banking institutions of Australia, as well as the dividends which have been paid, and the reserves which have been built up by those institutions. Honorable senators have only to look at that return, iand to take five-year periods, between 1880 and 1890, to note that, during those periods, these banks greatly increased the amounts which they held in fixed deposits, and . deposits without interest. But, during the next five-year period, these deposits materially decreased, and a very large amount of capital disappeared entirely. From another return I can show that, during the same period, twenty-two prominent citizens. of Victoria became insolvent, their liabilities amounting to nearly , £3,250,000, and their asset’s representing only£28,000. A large amount of the so-called capital which then; existed in the commercial and financial affairs of. the country, was of a spurious . nature, and that. system- was encouraged by the rotten, system which obtained . previously.
– The capital never existed.
– That is what 1 am saying. I wish also to show that this £3,250,000, which was confiscated by pror minent citizens in Australia, who are now strong opponents of the Labour party, was taken from the poor. It represented the investments of the poor in building societies and other financial institutions. It was gathered together by these prominent citizens, with all the, hands that they could stretch out, and it Was absolutely confiscated. Very few of them have gone to the destitute asylum, or are asking for oldage pensions. A sufficient portion of that money stuck to them to enable them to live in affluence to-day.
– Rubbish !
– I am very pleased that Senator Fraser’s name does not appear on that list.
-i was a very strong opponent of many things which were done at that time.
– These were the times which influenced the thoughtful members of the Labour party. If honorable senators choose to trace the period from 1895, when the crisis terminated, till1910, they will find that the capital, deposits, investments &c, in the banks have greatly increased, because the Labour party has grown and has created greater confidence in them. This may be regarded as a boast, but it is a boast which I anl going to make on every possible opportunity.
– It is a very justifiable one.
– Of course it is. Honorable senators will also find, by reference to the return to which I have alluded, that even from 1880 to 1890, and from 1895 to the present day, a large proportion of the surplus wealth of the. general population of Australia was deposited in these banks, for which the depositors never received a single penny. The whole of that benefit found its way. into the pockets of the shareholders through the management of the directors.
– The Vice-president of the Executive Council is referring to the deposits at call. Will the Commonwealth’ Bank allow interest upon those deposits?
– We will not have many deposits at call. The £57,000,000 deposited in the banks at call can be regarded bythe managers and directors as an almost reliable amount. It is fluctuating, but it is reliable, and they can invest 75 per cent. of it without incurring any risk.
– That is what they did, and that is what brought about the trouble. The Government will have the Times withdrawing its commendation of this Bill if the Vice-President of the Executive Council talks like that.
– I would point out to the Leader of the Opposition that these deposits at call represent an enormous sum - a sum which has increased from £25,000,000 to £57,000,000. Who receives the benefit of these deposits? Not the depositors, but the shareholders of these institutions.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - They are wicked people.
– I am not suggesting that they are. No honorable senator need imagine that I entertain any animus towards the directors, managers, or shareholders of banks. I have had some business with banking institutions, and I have always been treated fairly by them. I am not finding fault either with the shareholders, the managers, or the directors of our private banks. I am merely dealing with the system which prevails. I say that the enormous amount of wealth which is represented by deposits at call in these institutions confers a benefit only upon a few individuals. The great majority to whom it belongs receive no benefit more than that which the poor little savage received from the big savage to whom he gave the hind leg of a chicken to mind for him. That is exactly the. position. I leave it to Senator St. Ledger to illustrate it better if he can. But if that £57,000,000, or any proportion of it, were in the Commonwealth Bank, and the manager of that bank could make use of it in the interests of the institution, who would benefit? Obviously, the people of Australia would be benefited indirectly. Is not that a better condition of things? We say that if the Commonwealth Bank takes care of money for the owners of it, and can, in addition, make a profit, the remainder’ of the public will share in that profit. I wish, also, to point out that there is a great similarity between the’ institution which we propose to establish and even the Bankof England : itself.There is a very great similarity,as well as a difference.
– Especially a difference.
– Senator St. Ledger can look at the Bank of England only as it exists to-day, and as he cannot view the proposal to establish a Commonwealth Bank without prejudice, obviously he cannot be a reliable authority. In 1694, when the Bank of Engiand was established, it had a capital of £1,200,000.
– Private capital.
– The Commonwealth Bank will be established with a capital of £1,000,000.
– But it will be established with borrowed money. It will have to pay interest upon that money, whereas the Bank of England had not to do so.
– We propose to borrow this money from the public, and we are going to distribute the benefits which will accrue from the establishment of the Bank amongst the public. Some persons may say that a capital of £1,000,000 is not. sufficient. I have heard it said that to start a bank nowadays all that is required is a room, a table, a chair, and a hooked nose.
– You forget the prison cell.
– That does not matter. Sometimes I like to forget things. I do not want to remember all the unpleasantness in this world. When the Bank of England was established this money was contributed for the purpose of assisting the Government, which had guaranteed to contribute £100,000 from the Consolidated Revenue every year. That was a very substantial interest on the amount subscribed by the promoters. I feel sure that honorable senators donot wish me to trace the history of the bank up to the present time. It has had a varied history, and is a great institution to-day. There is nothing to prevent the Commonwealth Bank, if established on safe lines - and we have the authority of the Times that our’ bank is being established on safe lines - from becoming in the same period of time as great an institution as the Bank of England. It must be remembered that it is considerably over 200 years since the latter bank was established. Honorable senators must noi look at the small amount of capital with which our bank is going to be started. I consider that it will be quite sufficient, because the public will deposit their surplus wealth there, feeling quite certain that it is the safest institution in existence.
– They will go where they can get the best terms.
– Where they can get the safest terms.
– They will go where they can get the safest terms, and we always know where they can get the best terms. Apart from any profit and any benefit which may be conferred upon the public, it must be remembered that to a very great extent the Commonwealth Bank will influence the rate of interest which borrowers will have to pay to other institutions in the future. 1 am sure that Senator W. Russell, and other senators from South Australia, can bear testimony to the facts which I am going to put before the Senate. I think it was in 1894, or shortly afterwards, that we, in South Australia, advocated the establishment of a State Bank. At that time few persons were getting money out of any of the banks at less than 8 per cent., and authentic instances have been quoted where certain persons have had to pay as high as 12 per cent.
– Certain borrowers here pay 20 per cent. now.
– The honorable senator refers to the pawnbrokers. We are not going to our uncle, but to our godmother or godfather. We do not intend to do any foolish things. T am sure that Senator Fraser had no necessity to go to bis uncle when he was in London. Consequently, I do not know how he has acquired so much experience. He must have been either a pawnbroker or a customer to know as much as he does. But I suspect that he is only guessing, which I advise him to refrain from. At that time in South Australia there was even a greater agitation against the establishment of a little State Bank than there is against the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank to-day. The agriculturist - the poor producer about whom we hear so much - was told that every kind of disaster would follow in its wake from the financial point of view. Since its establishment, however, the rate of interest has come down, even in the big financial institutions, to as low as4½ and5½ per cent.
– And 4 per cent.
– That is for very large amounts, which, of course, do not trouble the small producer. From that time up to the present the producing por tion of the population has not gained by hundreds or thousands of pounds, but by hundreds of thousands of pounds, from the establishment of the State Bank, and those who have had any experience with regard to the institution can verify my statement.
-I got a notice from my bank.
– I am not going into those matters. I could give hundreds of illustrations as to how the State Bank has operated. If the Commonwealth Bank does not give direct benefits to the whole people it will so influence the interest, the transactions, and the conditions in financial institutions that the whole people will be bound to benefit. With these preliminary remarks I shall explain the provisions of the Bill. Part I., which includes clauses1 to 4, deals with preliminary matters, such as the commencement of the Act by proclamation, and the definitions, “the Bank,” and “the Governor.” Part II., which includes clauses 5 to 10, refers to the establishment of the Bank ; the powers and authorities which it is to possess, and everything appertaining to the establishment of a truly financial institution, with the capacity to operate in any direction that any other financial institution can do. Part III., which contains clauses 11 to 20, deals with the management, the appointment of the Governor and Deputy Governor, the functions of those two officials, the appointment of officers by the Governor, the seal, who is to use that seal, and how it is to be used. Part IV., which embraces clauses 21 to 34 contains general provisions in connexion with the depositors. Then we come to a very debatable part in which Senator St. Ledger seems to take much interest, and that is the establishment of a Savings Bank branch. What objection can there be taken to the establishment of a Savings Bank by the Commonwealth? Has it not in the Constitution a direction to enter into banking of any description?’
– It has the power but not a direction.
– Is not the power to be exercised?
– When the honorable senator was at the Federal Convention did he give the Commonwealth Parliament powers merely to lie dormant for ever? It is more than eleven years since he finally settled this question with his colleagues, and did he mean when he was giving powers to the Commonwealth that they were never to be brought into operation ?
– If they are not wanted they should not be.
– They are wanted, as I am going to show.
– That is .where we differ.
– We will agree to differ, as we have been doing for thirty years).
– Not so long as that.
– I thought that the honorable senator had been a Conservative for thirty years, while I have been a Labour man.
– I have been a Liberal, but you have been the other.
– The honorable senator admits that the Constitution gives the Parliament the power, but the time to exercise the power is not ripe. I do not hold that view.
– It is not proper to crush other institutions.
– No crushing is intended. The honorable senator might as well say that the Commonwealth Bank to do ordinary business is being established for the purpose of crushing other banking institutions. Nothing of the kind. If other banking institutions crush out its bank the Commonwealth will have to put up with that result, and if the Commonwealth Bank ultimately supersedes the other banks, the latter will have to put up with the result. It will still be carrying out the doctrine .which the senator has been preaching for so many years : the survival of the fittest.
– And the hardest hitter.
– Yes, that is exactly what will happen. The Savings Bank branch is not to be established by the Commonwealth for the purpose of crushing out the State Savings Banks. I recognise that State institutions in common with other financial institutions which have anything to do with the States, have carried out a very good work, and in some instances in a very good way. But that is no reason why an institution established by the Commonwealth should not bring benefits which cannot otherwise be obtained while we have different State institutions and private institutions running under Commissioners at the same time.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould.- - How will the Commonwealth Bank do that?
– There are dozens of places where it would be quite convenient for our Savings Bank to establish branches which the State Savings Banks have neglected to establish, and so enable the poorer people to make deposits of their savings. In the back-blocks, about which we hear so much, no provision of this kind has been made hitherto. It may be all very well for honorable senators to rise here and say, “ The State institutions will establish branches when they find it necessary.” They will do it as soon as an attempt in that direction is made by the Commonwealth. A bank of this description established by the Commonwealth in their interest can give greater conveniences to the great Savings Bank depositing public. South Australia is making a little noise at the present time, but the depositors in its Savings Bank have no Government guarantee with respect to their deposits if it should go wrong, or if the management should be defective, or if it should lead them astray. Any man may say, “ Oh, but the Government would be compelled to come to the assistance of the Savings Bank.”
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Would they not do so?
– I do not know.
– They borrow twothirds of the money.
– It is a fact that the Savings Bank in South Australia is not, in the sense that it has the Government at its back, a Government institution.
– You are not suggesting that it is not sound?
– No, but I am suggesting that it would be much sounder if the Commonwealth Government were at the back of the depositors, and no one can doubt that for a moment. Senator Fraser can laugh, but he knows as well as I do,- that with the Commonwealth Government at its back an institution has a far greater guarantee for the depositors than it otherwise has.
– It is not the question of a guarantee, but the question of management.
– The honorable senator must admit that the guarantee of the Commonwealth at the back of a financial institution is a greater security than would be the guarantee of one, or two, or three, or four, or five of the States. Consequently we shall be able to give a greater guarantee of security to depositors in the Savings Bank branch of the Commonwealth Bank than can be given by any other institution in the Commonwealth. I have next to refer to the power given in Part VI., of this Bill, clauses 54 to 61, enabling the Commonwealth Bank to issue debentures. This provides the way in which the Bank is to obtain its capital. Originally the Treasurer will be prepared to advance . £1,000,000 to the bank to set it going. The bank will then have power to issue debentures, and Part VI. of the Bill includes the provisions regulating the issue of debentures by the Bank. Honorable senators can have no objection to that. When these debentures are taken up the Bank will be able to pay the £1,000,000 back to the Treasurer, we shall find that, with this power, neither the Treasurer, the Bank, nor the public, will be at any disadvantage. The. last part of the Bill, including clauses 62 to 64 contains the necessary miscellaneous provisions.
-I understood the honorable senator to say that the Treasurer can advance to the Bank some portion of the capital required for banking business, but, as I read clause 10, of the Bill, all he can advance is the amount necessary to meet preliminary expenses.
– That is what 1 say, and the Treasurerwill be able to advance any amount up to£1,000,000.
– I do not see how he can’ do so under this Bill.
– We shall find out that he can do so. Provision is made to enable the Bank to repay the Treasurer from debentures, and ultimately the debentures can be redeemed from the profits made by the Bank, I have, of course, no desire to enter at this stage into the details of the clauses, but I have no doubt that, in Committee, honorable senators will make inquiries, and I shall be prepared to give them all the information I can. I hope that the Bill will have a safe passage through the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Millen) adjourned.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill deals with two matters which, though important, will not, I think, be found to be contentious. One part has reference to the training and drills for senior cadets. Under the existing Act the training provided for is four whole days’ drill, twelve half-day drills, and twenty-four night drills, and it is provided that day drills shall be of not less than six hours duration, half-day drills not less than three hours, and night drills not less than one and a-half hours. This was laid down by the Defence Act of 1909, and was not disturbed by the amending Act of 19 10. In July last this training, was put into actual operation.
– The Bill of 19 10, without altering the hours of drill, added to the number of days for training.
– No; not for the training of senior cadets. It left the period of training for them as it waslaid down in the Act of 1909. Since July last we have given the closest attention to the matter, and we have received letters from all over the Commonwealth complaining of cases of hardship, and suggesting that the drill is of too severe a character. From time to time I have instructed the Depart: ment to apply the provisions of the Act as leniently as possible in drafting regulations; We have endeavoured in every way to meet the objections raised to the rigorous nature of the drill and the conditions under which it is . carried out. But we have been forced to the conclusion that, in a very large number of cases, the time laid down for the drill is too long. This is especially the case in country districts where many lads have to walk as much as three miles to the place at which the parade is held. The drill is, of course, in the first year of a most uninteresting character. The lads have to go through squad drill, and there is little or nothing in it to appeal to their intelligence or to arouse in them a spirit of emulation. It is, therefore, rather monotonous for them. It is also very tiring to those who have not been accustomed to such training. To the trained man the drill is not tiring, as it becomes largely mechanical. But there can be no doubt that the training now required is very severe upon lads who may have had a long tramp, perhaps, after a long day’s work, and have to travel some distance home after drill.
– Does the honorable senator not think that it must be monotonous for one who does know the drill to be drilled alongside one who does not?
– I do not think so, because those who know the drill go through it, to a great extent, mechanically. Then, when we are dealing with lads who are attending school, it must not be forgotten that the modern educational system imposes a very severe task upon boys. They have to go through a difficult school curriculum. They are often loaded up with home lessons and we find that when a lad attending school, has to attend a night parade, though it only occupies an hour and a-half , it is some time before he reaches his home. It may be asked why we did not think of all this in 1909 ; but it is only after experience we find that many things require alteration. The training now provided for was proposed by a previous Government ; but we are not sheltering ourselves behind that, since I admit that if we had been in office at the time, we should probably have done the same thing. There was then no experience of the system- to guide us. We have since had experience of its working. I have given the matter close study and attention. I have personally investigated many complaints, and have had reports made by officers explaining what has taken place in reply to complaints made by members of Parliament and private individuals. We have, in the circumstances, been forced to the conclusion that the best thing to do is to recognise that we have asked too much of the Senior Cadets, and to- alter the course of training provided for now, rather than to allow growing discontent, based upon genuine cases of hardship, to be fostered, which might eventually prove inimical to the principle of universal training. We have been fortified in this decision by the expression of opinion of officers responsible for the training, and also-officers of the Military Board, who have assured me’ that’ we can safely make the reduction in the hours of drill provided for in this Bill -without impairing the efficiency of the Senior Cadets when they are turned over to the Citizen Forces. It is proposed now that this training shall consist of drill extending over sixty-four hours in each year,, but cadets will be at liberty to attend voluntary parades in addition if they please. With this amount of training for four years, they can be turned over to. the Citizen Forces at eighteen years of age> and should be better trained and disciplined than is what we call a recruit to-day. That is all we desired to accomplish by the Senior Cadets’ drill. It was intended to provide that a lad, on entering the Citizen Forces, should be the equal in discipline and training of a person who had gone through what is known as the recruit course. I am advised that this can be accomplished by sixtyfour hours drill per year. We have, therefore, taken power in this B;ll to reduce the duration of -parades for the Senior Cadets only. We do not deal in this Bill with the Citizen Forces at all. Their hours of drill will remain as they are to-day. We are, of course, wise after the event ; but it must be admitted that it was somewhat of an inconsistency to lay down the same period of training for a boy as for a man. It washardly treating the boy fairly. In the case of lads residing in the country dis.tricts, we are taking power, if necessary* to dispense with night drills altogether. Many of these lads could come ..into the parade-ground for a whole day drill with much greater convenience than they could come for two or three nights per- week,- or even at night-time at all. Many of them have to travel over bad roads, and in winter, in some, districts, it is a hardship that they should be compelled to attend, .drill at night. . This Bill will give the Minister power to proclaim that, in certain -districts, the drill may be done in half or whole day parades.
– Without interfering with the total hours- of drill ?
– That is so’; they will still have to do sixty-four hours drill in each year.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould.- - The reduction proposed by the Bill is from seventy-two hours to sixty-four hours ?
– That is so.- There are some, parts of Australia where, - during certain seasons of the )’ear, there is experienced great heat, or almost continuous rain. It has been pointed out that, in such cases* to compel lads to ‘drill for a whole day might involve’ considerable hardship, and might, perhaps, be inimical to their health! A clause will be found in the Bill providing that .where a parade has been arranged, if a cadet does not attend, and in the opinion of the officer in charge the weather has been inclement, he will be at liberty to mark the cadet off as having attended the parade.’
– The cadet will miss that time altogether?
– Would it not be better to proclaim a close season, as it were?
– This is no doubt a concession; but I do not think it will be dangerous. We have a number of area officers, and it will be to their interests, and the interests of those under them, to make their lads as efficient as possible. That will be specially the case in future, because we are initiating a series of competitions - each company in a battalion against each other company - to see which is the best in the battalion ; the best in each battalion against the best in other battalions to see which is the best company in a brigade; the best in each brigade against the best in each district ; and the best in each district against the best in other districts to ascertain the best company in the Commonwealth. If the drill is not carefully attended to, a company may fail to get into these competitions at all, and that must count against the officer in charge, and militate against his promotion. There will, therefore, be every inducement to area officers to try to make their companies as efficient as possible. The other principal clause of the Bill is intended to bring it into conformity with provisions dealing with the infliction of punishment upon those who endeavour to disobey the law regarding compulsory training. At the ‘present time, if a lad attending a parade disobeys legitimate orders, or does not behave himself, he can be taken before a magistrate and subjected to a penalty, and the penalty can be recovered. But if that lad does not come to parade - if he simply absents himself - we can proceed against him, and a penalty can be inflicted. The penalty, however, cannot be recovered until he reaches the age of eighteen years. The section containing that provision was inserted in the 1909 Act. It was an extraordinary one, and is practically rendering the Act in this respect nugatory. Recently, I asked the Inspector- General to pay some surprise visits to the training areas around Melbourne. He did so”, and furnished me with a report. He found that 40 per cent. of the cadets were absent without leave. When inquiries were made amongst the area officers as to the reason for the great number of absences without leave, invariably they gave as a reason that the lads have got to know that we cannot recover penalties against them until they reach the age of eighteen. Consequently, they are beginning to absent themselves in great numbers.
– What is the penalty?
– The penalty is imprisonment in a “prescribed place,” and the “ prescribed place “ is intended to be a barracks.
– So that they are all storing up a credit account of imprisonment.
– They are; but you cannot get a lad under eighteen years of age to look at the matter from that point of view. It is difficult enough to get a boy to think about present dangers, without expecting him to pay heed to what may happen to him four years ahead. The area officers tell us that the provision is worse than useless. In fact, it is almost an inducement to cadets to remain away from parade. The Act is very inconsistent in this respect. A boy who regularly attends his parades, but who disobeys an order, can be dealt with straight away. But a boy who stays away from drill altogether cannot be touched for four years. It really is a most inconsistent position. I, therefore, came to the conclusion that if this movement is to be successful, if we are to get these lads trained, we do not want to bring them into barracks for punishment four years hence. We want to give them their training now.
– Has the Minister any idea as to the total number throughout the Commonwealth who have absented themselves in this way ?
– I have not got the total returns, but I have figures with respectto the surprise visits of the InspectorGeneral. I think I am well within the mark in saying that, on that afternoon, there were over 30 per cent. of absentees at all the places he visited.
– I think the Minister said that the percentage went up to 40.
– In some cases it went up to 40. The average was somewhere about 30. In one case, there was only 7 per cent. of absentees, but that was the best instance of the lot. We do not want to take these lads into barracks. It is far better that we should be able to inflict punishment upon them now. We want to let the lads know that they must attend their drills, and that if they do not, the punishment will not be deferred for four years. It would be highly inadvisable to let them accumulate punishment, and then bring them into a barracks, where” they would be subjected to all the associations of barrack life, which I regard as harmful to lads of that age. There is one other provision to which I direct attention. One clause of this Bill relates to the interference of- employers with lads attending drill. This clause effects no alteration in principle, but merely in phraseology.- We are adopting the phraseology of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which is considered to’ be better and more far-reaching. The wording is better. While we were dealing with the Defence Act, we thought that we might as well make the wording of this provision conform with that of the Arbitration Act.
– I understand that the Minister of Defence desires to get this measure through to-day, and for that reason, I propose to make a few remarks upon it now. I shall deal first with the matter which the Minister touched upon towards the close of his speech, when he referred to the absentees, those . unwilling defenders of their country. The Minister very properly stated that the section now in operation was in the original Act of 1909. Without look ing at that section, it must be obvious from his statement that there was an oversight >n the drafting, with the result of making the section operate as was never intended. Therefore, there can be no debate as to the desirableness of making an amendment. It is, however, a matter of some regret to me to find that so large a percentage of our lads have taken advantage of a loophole of this kind.
– We were all young once.
– Is not the honorable senator delighted that the lads are so smart ?
– It is a species of smartness that, no doubt, appeals more to Senator Gardiner than to me.
– The honorable senator is fairly good at finding out loopholes.
– I take it that that compliment is meant in a jocular way. There is no one who can be so jocular as Senator Gardiner, when he likes, except his colleague, Senator Rae. This defect having been discovered, the Senate will, of course, help the Minister to remedy it, I turn to another matter mentioned by Senator Pearce, the question of the hours within which these lads should be trained. Of course, as he stated, we were moving in the dark when the original measure was passed. It is only by experience tha’t we can be guided as to the direction in which amendments should be made. Is there any reason to suppose -that the medical examination of these recruits is all that it ought to be. That is- a very important factor, for this reason: whilst a certain period of training might be considered sufficient for youths declared to be medically fit, it might be too stringent, and might impose too severe a strain on lads who were not so physically capable. I hope that the medical examination in this country is quite on a par with that in older countries-. The results of the medical examinations speak volumes for the physique and stamina of young Australia, because of the quite abnormal percentage of those declared fit - that is, as compared with similar examinations in Great Britain and Germany - but I have some fear that those examinations are rather lax. I sincerely hope that I am wrong. It is a matter to which the Minister should give some attention. He might make inquiries as to whether these lads are being passed through in a more or less perfunctory way, or whether they are really subjected to that searching medical examination which ought to be at the basis of compulsory enrolment. With regard to the one other matter which the Minister mentioned - that with regard to relaxing the regulations in districts where climatic conditions render it advisable - the honorable senator himself recognised the danger of the provision in the Bill. It seems to me to be stretching leniency to ari extreme, when you allow inclement weather to be taken into consideration to the extent, not of giving the cadet the option of postponing the time of training, but of exempting him altogether. I do not quite know how frequently these inclement days may give rise in the imagination of cadets to a. desire to absent themselves from drills. Seeing that according to the Minister’s own figures so large a proportion of them show a desire to absent themselves whenever they can’ find a reasonable excuse for doing so, I do not know to what extent they will be moved to find excuses for their absence if we allow inclement weather to be taken into consideration. It is easy to see that this concession may be used to cut down die period of training- - sixty-four hours a year - to such a point that a cadet would really be inefficient at the end of his term. I suggest the advisableness o of trying to devise a regulation which- would put a limit to this exemption. The regulation might provide that a cadet should be forgiven for absenting himself three or four times on account of the weather, if he made up for those absences on other occasions. Otherwise the deduction from his drills would be a very serious one, and might result in a boy not being the equal of his comrades in efficiency .of training. I think the Minister might -consider the desirableness of such a regulation as I have outlined. I certainly would put a limit to it. If, by reason of bad weather, a boy is not able to turn up to drill well and good. But if that goes on three or four times, and he is allowed to escape his drill, he will lose a certain portion of his value as a factor in the defence of this country. Senator Rae. - A boy who lived in a very wet district might lose half his training.
– If a boy persuades himself that the weather, on a particular occasion, is altogether unsuited for a free young Australian to go out and drill in, he can also persuade his area officer, who may be- living some few miles from the residence of the boy, and, therefore, cannot speak with’ authority on the presence or absence of passing storms at the time. The boy might use these opportunities in such a way as- to cut down his hours of training very considerably.
– And he would probably go fishing on those days.
– He certainly would if he were a member of the Rae family, lt does seem to me that the Minister is opening the door too wide here. I urge upon him that there should be some limit. If- it was found that a boy, by reason of inclement weather, was accumulating absences to an extent beyond a fourth of the time - that is thirteen hours out of the total period-^1 he ought to make it up on some days when the weather was more favorable. Unless the Minister does that, I fear that while he is stopping the 40 per cent, of absentees from’ one cause he will’ simply create 40 per cent, of absentees from another. The Minister was quite right in saying that there should be no suggestion of imprisoning a boy at the end of his cadetship. That would not make up for the lost training which he should have had. By the time he reaches the age when he can be passed into the ordinary forces he should have been thoroughly trained as a recruit. No imprisonment for neglect of that training would make up to the Commonwealth that which the boy had missed through absenting himself from his drills. For the rest we can only regard this Bill as one of many which we shall have to pass as experience discloses weaknesses in our defence legislation. From time to time we shall have to deal with measures of a similar character. Therefore, we can regardthis as one of a series of measures which experience will dictate, and which we can deal with without any party criticism at all. I am sure that the Senate will be only too pleased to assist in passing these very necessary amendments of the law.
.- I am rather pleased that this Bill has been introduced. At the same time I agree with Senator Millen that the wet weather provision is rather too lax. I think that if some by-law could be made rendering a youth responsible to put in periods of drill at some future date to make up for drills missed, that would be better than exempting him because of the wet, and giving him an opportunity of freeing himself from an obligation. The’ reduction of the period of night drill from one hour and a-half to an hour meets with my approval. We must remember that we are robbing our young men of a great deal of that leisure which is very valuable to them.
– They will be all the better for it.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– There is no matter of opinion about : it. It may be a boy’s opinion, but it is not his father’s.
– I do not know whether one and a-half hours of setting-up drill will make a boy more vigorous than one and a-half hours of football. But- it is no use shutting our eyes to the fact that,, under our compulsory military training system, we are robbing our youth of a great deal of their leisure, which they have hitherto utilized to advantage. I ask the Minister to give these lads an opportunity to become exempt from drill for the period, during which they would otherwise have to undergo it. They should not be obliged, to attend parade if they can prove, by means of an examination that they are already sufficiently well drilled. 1 recollect that, in 1885, a New South Wales contingent sailed from Sydney for the purpose of taking part in the Soudan campaign. The effect of its departure on the partially-paid companies in that State was to deprive each of those companies of ten or twelve regulars. lt became necessary, therefore, to fill up the ranks with recruits. But at the Easter encampment, which was held five weeks later, these recruits were not the awkward members of those companies. As a matter of fact, they were much more efficient than were many of the older hands. Consequently, I say that it is idle to compel youths and young men who have already attained proficiency in drill to attend parade year after year, especially when their places might well be taken by others who are now shut out, because only a limited number can be drilled under existing conditions. I hope that the Minister will bring this matter under the notice of those who are responsible for the training of our cadets. It must be recollected that we occupy a peculiar position in regard to the drilling of our Australian youth. We have 11 large number of quick-witted boys, and I fear that we are compelling them to undergo the same routine that is undergone by the youth of older countries, whose environment makes them less alert, and, consequently, slower to learn. In New South’ Wales for years past,-our public school system has, in the most effective way, performed the setting-up drill. As one walks along the streets of Sydney, he cannot fail to notice the difference between the smartness of ; the”, public school lads of to-day and that of those with whom I went to school.
-Colonel Cameron. - They must ‘be a very fine lot.
– I can assure the honorable senator that I feel very slow alongside of them. Anybody who is observant cannot fail to mark the improvement which has taken place in their physique and alertness - an improvement which is entirely due to the physical training which they now undergo. Seeing that there is a danger of the State authorities preventing manly exercises from being carried on - exercises which will make our youth more qualified to discharge the duties ot soldiers–
– What evidence has the honorable senator of that?
– There is a danger of a namby-pamby feeling springing up in the community and causing the discontinuance of such manly exercises as boxing.
– A .” wowser “ feeling.
– I do riot like that word, because it was applied to me throughout the last election campaign. It is a mistake for the Commonwealth to. train our young men to become stalwart defenders of our country, if another authority is in a position to forbid their indulgence in manly exercises I hope that the Minister will give serious attention to the suggestions which I have made, and that the total period of training for our youths will be shortened in the case of those who can demonstrate by examination that they have attained the necessary standard of proficiency.
. -I desire to add a few words to what has been said by Senator Gardiner. During the course of his speech, the Minister of Defence mentioned that it was intended to institute some form of competition between different companies. If that be so, it seems1 to me that the suggestion of Senator Gardiner might well be adopted, and that exemption certificates from drill might be issued to those who exhibit the greatest efficiency.:
– I understood that these competitions were . not individual competitions. ‘
– But the. two things are not antagonistic to each other. I think that .a reward should -be granted to the individual ‘for superior’ merit. ‘ I agree with Senator Gardiner that, to exempt from further drill youths who show the necessary efficiency, would be an incentive to them to excel in their -work. The Minister of Defence has admitted that the early part of their military’ training must be very monoltonous to lads.’’ I quite agree1 with “him. But it must ‘be exceedingly irritating to one who has attained the necessary proficiency,’ to be kept side by’ side with members of the awkward squad. I believe that our Defence system will have to be amended from time to time as experience discloses its defects. We must also look carefully into the causes of non-attendance at drill’s. It is not sufficient for us to punish those who’ fail to attend. We must find out why they are disinclined to attend, with a view to removing the cause of their disinclination. We all recognise the wisdom of the old adage that “ Prevention is better than cure.” There is another matter to which. I desire to direct attention. Upon two or three occasions, the press has chronicled the fact that ‘certain lads have refused to attend parades because they are .the sons pf unionists and were asked to drill with the sons of black-legs. I know that the law cannot differentiate between unionists and non-unionists, and I do not desire it to do so. But, in districts where industrial disputes have occurred, the idea has been inculcated that our cadets may at some future period be called upon to take up arms against unionists. That feeling- whether it be rightly founded or not - is, to a large extent, responsible for the bad odour attaching to our compulsory training system at its very inception. This is very unfortunate. I believe that while the ostensible reason for the enrolment of the youth of this country is a desire to defend it against a hostile foe-
– -Not the “ ostensible,” but the real reason.
– While the ostensible reason is to render them efficient to defend their country against possible foreign aggression, they are afraid that their services will be called into request for quite other purposes. I ask honorable senators to look at the question in no narrow partyor class spirit, but to realize that if this feeling is allowed to grow, it will militate, no matter what laws we may make, very seriously against the effectiveness of our compulsory military system; in fact, it may even lead to an absolute break down. While I do not anticipate that just now, I do say that already it is a canker at the root of the system which is leading a very large section of the people to offer a kind of passive resistance, which may at any time blossom out into a very active resistance, and so render the scheme absolutely ineffective, and cause its entire break down - unless that possibility is guarded against. I trust that honorable senators will not, in any prejudiced spirit, close their ears and remain deaf to this matter, but will realize that it is one which is going to be of very serious import to this country. If this tendency is not guarded against in time, it may do irreparable damage to a system which I hope to see made the most effective military system in . the world. To be that, it must be clear that it is based entirely on the citizenship idea of defending the country against outsiders, and is not in any way to be used for quite other purposes.
– For what other purpose could it be used?
– For strike breaking.
– For firing low and laying them out.
– I shall deal first with the reference which Senator Rae has just made. Whathas occurred to make anybody believe, or to be afraid, that the services of the Citizen Forces of Australia will be brought into operation in a case of industrial trouble?
– Against themselves ?
– Yes ; against themselves.
– Oh, everything !
– Absolutely nothing. We are not responsible for what has occurred in the past. During the ten years that the Commonwealth has controlled the Citizen Forces nothing has occurred to warrant such an assumption.
– Neither under Federal nor under State control.
– A statement has been made that, during the last two years, there has been more industrial trouble in Australia than at any other period of its history.
– That is not true.
– Where, in those two years, has a suggestion been made by any responsible person that the Citizen Forces should be brought into industrial disputes ?
– It was suggested at the time of the Broken Hill strike.
– How was the suggestion made?
– It was made. Mr. Wade sent up a lot of bludgeoners from Sydney, but the strike did not necessitate the employment of the Citizen Forces.
– Who sent bludgeoners up to Lithgow ?
- Senator Rae will remember that I was Minister of Defence at the time of the Broken Hill strike.
-Ah, that is different !
– I remember what took place. I know that no request was ever made for the Citizen Forces to be used; and if it had been made, I should have replied that there was absolutely no necessity for making the request, and, therefore, the military would not be sent. I do not suppose that in Australia there were half-a-dozen persons who ever thought that the military ought to be sent to Broken Hill.
– If you read Mr. Fisher’s statement at the time, you will see that he anticipated it.
– No. The Prime Minister was grossly misrepresented and slandered on that occasion.
– Why did he not make an explanation ?
– He did make an explanation, and it was suppressed.
– By the newspapers?
– By the press. A statement was put into his mouth which he never made.
– It was a cowardly thing to do.
– Where was this statement supposed to have been made?
– It was made in a newspaper interview.
– In England?
– No; it was made in Australia at the time of the Broken Hill strike.
– Would not a party which was capable of suppressing that kind of tiling act very differently from the Labour party if it was in power?
– First of all, Mr. Wade did not ask for any soldiers.
– This question, of course, has very little to do with the Bill j but, as it has been raised, I must say a few words, otherwise it might be assumed that there was no reply. There is a certain section of people who are making these statements; but I think that Senator Rae knows that they are opposed to universal training in any circumstances. One has only to read their publications to see that.
– But they are using that possibly as a lever.
– I know that they are spreading that idea. Knowing that people will not listen to them when they assert that there is no danger of foreign aggression, they try to bring in something to which they will listen, and so they hold up this bogy that the Citizen Forces are to be used for suppressing industrial discontent.
– They may be in the future.
– It is a false statement, and it has been used by these persons because they are against universal training for any purpose. Does not the honorable senator know that some persons argue that there is no danger of foreign aggression? They say that the Germans, the French, and the Japanese have no hostile intentions towards us, for they are our brothers. They recognise the brotherhood of man, and say that these nations have none but the best intentions towards Australia, and that it is only the capitalist who has any idea of invading our territory. All that kind of thing I have read in their publications. The persons who circulate this statement, which I believe they know to be false, are aware that there is not the slightest intention to use the Citizen Forces for other purposes.
– If there is no intention of ever doing it, what harm would there be in making that clear?
– The purposes for which our Citizen Forces are to be used are clear to the mind of every sensible person in Australia. With regard to the suggestion of Senators Rae and Gardiner as to the period of training, as far as that can be carried out, it is carried out. The least advanced men are often put into a squad by themselves, and given squad drill in order to bring them up to the standard of the others. At a camp, I have seen a certain number of men taken from a company because, by their behaviour on march, it had been made clear that they had not gone through the recruit course, and, during the period of the camp, they have been kept in a company doing recruit drill, while those who showed that they were further advanced, were taken through more extended training. As regards physical exercise, it will, I feel sure, comfort Senator Gardiner to know that in the competitions which we are introducing, the companies are not to be judged merely on military exercises. Rifle shooting is one thing for which so many points are to be given, and so, too, with military, and various forms of physical, exercises. The competitions will be carried out in different localities on a given day. So much money will be given for that purpose, and the committees will be instructed that, in addition to the military and other exercises which they are to arrange for, they must arrange for athletic sports. We have also told the area officers throughout Australia that if any drill-halls can be made available to the cadets who are attending the parades, as a sort of gymnasium and store for keeping their gloves and other accessories in, to do so. I may say that on a recent parliamentary visit to the Military College, “there was great disappointment at the absence of Senator Gardiner. I was told that a certain cadet had been anxiously looking forward to a meeting with him.
When I inquired the reason, to my astonishment, I was informed that he had conquered every other cadet in the College, and was looking for fresh scalps to add to his belt. I was ashamed that there was nobody in the parliamentary party who was prepared to step into Senator Gardiner’s place. I want to give the correct figures of the absentees at the surprise visit of the InspectorGeneral on the 1 8th November. Twelve companies were inspected, and the number absent without leave from the companies averaged 34.9 per cent.
– Was that in Melbourne ?
– In and around Melbourne. Of course, these lads had very little distance to go to get to their areas. Senator Millen has raised a question as to the medical examination. I am fain to confess that I am largely of opinion that the last medical examination was too lenient. Believing that, we have altered the regulation, and issued a general instruction to area medical officers that the next medical examination is to be of a more stringent character.
– That will mean more rejections.
– I think that the figures for next year will show a larger number of rejections, and properly so, too. No doubt many lads were taken in who ought not to have been passed.
– At that age, especially.
– Yes. With regard to the proposed exemption because of bad weather, I have been considering the clause, and I think that it may be tightened up. In Committee I shall propose, or accept, an amendment which will have that effect.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short Title and citation.)
– On this clause, I should like to refer to a matter which I gathered from some of the Minister’s remarks had been referred to in the debate on the second reading, namely, the liability of the Defence Forces to. be called out for the purpose of quelling civil disturbances. It ought to be made clear in a Bill of this kind that, under no circumstances, except perhaps in the case of actual rebellion, on the part of a section of the community, should the Defence Forces be called out for any purpose in that connexion. We saw how the soldiers were used by the British Government during the late railway strike to defeat the railway men.
– Have not the workers in Australia a protection which British workers do not possess - Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts?
– We cannot tell what circumstances may arise in Australia. We know how things stand at the present moment, but we have not the slightest idea of what will take place within ten or fifteen or twenty years. I am strongly opposed to any calling out of the military in connexion with industrial disputes, or anything of that kind. I think it is a thing which ought never to be done. Whatever disturbance of that kind may arise ought to be put down under the authority of the police. As I have said, we saw what happened in Great Britain during the recent railway strike. We know what happened in Great Britain during the recent railway strike. The Government of Great Britain were prepared to go even further than they did. They intended, if the strike continued, to call out the military, and compel them to act as railway porters, engine-drivers, guards, and in every other position connected with the railway service of the country.
– They were dealing with a standing army.
– Our Army is under the authority of the GovernorGeneral, which means under the Government of the day, just as the Army in Great Britain is.
– The Army here is the people themselves.
– That is all very fine and large. The Army here is under the control of the Government for the time being. The Governor-General, with the advice of the Government, can order our Army out at any time, to do anything.
– What was done with the Territorials at Hull?
– The Territorials are not in the same position as our Military Forces will be. The instinct of obedience is so strong in every soldier that all he thinks about is to obey orders.
– “ Fire low and lay them out.”
– Yes. Our soldiers are sworn to obey orders. I do not imagine for a moment that a Labour Government would call out the military in this connexion. But suppose that, by some unfortunate turn of the political wheel, the capitalists of Australia - represented by Senators Walker, Gould, Vardon and Millen - were to get into power again, and industrial disturbances became rife, what would happen? Would they not call out the military? Would they not call out the young bloods of Australia and tell them to fire low and lay out the strikers? Of course they would.
– Does the honorable senator think that they would do that?
– Of course I do. They are fit for anything. There is nothing too hot or too heavy for them,. I would not trust them.
– I rise to a point of order. As the honorable senator says the Opposition are fit for anything, we ought to be given an opportunity to show whether we are entitled to that reputation. I ask your ruling, sir, as to whether Senator Stewart is in order in discussing an amendment of the Defence Act which is not covered by the order of leave. This is a Bill to amend sections 127, 134, 135 and 142 of the Defence Act. It is for that and no other purpose. I would suggest, without pretending to read into the mind of the Minister of Defence, that he was very careful to obtain a restricted order of leave, bearing in mind a discussion which took place in this Chamber some little time ago on a motion moved by Senator Rae, which specifically raised the point which Senator Stewart is now attempting to discuss.
– It was not in a Bill.
– I have said that it was not. I ask your ruling, sir, on two grounds; first, that the discussion raised by Senator Stewart is beyond the order of leave, and next that, having previously debated this very matter during the present session, we cannot now debate it again. The motion which Senator Rae moved was as follows : -
That, in the opinion of the Senate, the Defence Act should be so amended as to clearly set forth that the object of creating a Citizen Defence Force based upon universal compulsory military training and service is for the purpose of defending the Commonwealth against possible foreign aggression, and, therefore, under no circumstances should any person so enrolled be compelled to bear arms against any fellow Australian citizen notwithstanding anything contained in the oath of allegiance or iri any other conditions of compulsory service.
That covers the very matter that Senator Stewart is attempting to debate.
– Where is that taken from?
– That motion was dealt with here in this session when Senator Stewart was enjoying himself on the other side of the world.
– Was it carried ?
– For the information of the honorable senator I may say that it was defeated by nineteen votes to four. .
– That is all the more reason why we should discuss it again.
– Yes, but the honorable senator was out of order. The points I raise are that this matter, having been previously discussed this session, cannot now be discussed again, and that the discussion is entirely outside the order of leave for the introduction of this Bill.
– On the point of order, I may be wrong, but I am under the impression that the rule against the discussion of the same matter twice in the same session applies only if both discussions arise in connexion with a motion, or if both arise in connexion with a Bill, but that where a motion dealing with a particular matter has been discussed, that does not prevent the same matter being dealt with later on in the same session in a Bill.
– If that were so, we could put a provision into this Bill contradicting the decision we have previously arrived at during this session.
– In my experience that was done in the State Parliament of New South Wales when Senator Millen was a member of it. With respect to the other point raised, 1 direct attention to the fact that the subject was debated by the Minister of Defence himself, and that he offered reasons against the matter being dealt with in the way suggested by Senator Stewart. Surely if it was in order for the Minister to refer to the matter, Senator Stewart may do so.
– It was not in order for the Minister to refer to it, but he was induced to do so by the honorable senator’s disorderly remarks on the point.
– The matter of the attendance or non-attendance of cadets at drill was the reason for my remarks, and the whole question as to whether the system will break down or be maintained may depend very largely on the settlement of this question.
– I submit for your consideration, sir, a very simple test of this matter. It is this : Could Senator Stewart on the clause before the Committee submit an amendment to give effect to the views he has expressed? It is obvious that he could not. The discussion is beyond the order of leave, and such an amendment would not be relevant to the clause, which simply deals with the title of the Bill.
– Applying the test suggested by the Minister, I submit that the arguments used by Senator Stewart must be ‘in order, because he has argued that the order of leave has not been sufficiently wide to enable such an amendment to be moved.
– I should be very loath to restrict discussion in any way, but it does seem to me that Senator Stewart’s remarks were outside the order of leave and scope of the Bill, which is a Bill to amend sections 127, 134, 135, and 142 of the Defence Act. The clause at present before the Committee deals with the short title and citation. As Senator Pearce has said, it would not be competent for Senator Stewart to move any amendment upon this clause to give effect to his ideas. I must rule in the circumstances that the honorable senator was travelling beyond the scope of the clause before the Committee.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section one hundred and twenty-seven of the Principal Act is amended -
by inserting, at the end of the section, new provisoes as follow : - power may be given to the prescribed officers to grant leave of absence from training required by this Act when the conditions of the weather, by reason of excessive rain or heat, would render attendance a hardship, and no equivalent attendance shall be required in lieu thereof.”
– In order to give effect to the desire expressed by Senators Gardiner and’ Millen to tighten up this provision, which, I think, should be done, I move -
That the word “ no,” line 10, be left out.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That the word “shall,” line it, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ as prescribed may.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 3 to 5, and title, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill passed through its remaining stages.
Debate resumed from 6th December (vide page 3770), on motion by Senator McGregor -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– To satisfy Senator Walker, who desired to move an amendment, I postponed the third reading of this Bill yesterday until to-day. I have since been informed by the Crown Law officers that the amendment which the honorable senator desired to move would alter the entire tenor of the Bill, and that it would, therefore, be unadvisable to accept it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 6th December (vide page 3775), on motion by Senator McGregor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– For very many reasons I do not propose to detain the Senate very long upon this Bill. Amongst the reasons which induce me to promise brevity in my remarks is the statement made by the VicePresident of the Executive Council the other clay, and which has been amply borne out by the attitude of those who extend to him such loyal support, that he paid absolutely no regard to the opinions of the Opposition.
– Oh. certainly we do.
– That was only a joke.
– No, it was not a joke, because, not only did the VicePresident of the Executive Council say that, but he has been acting upon what he said.
– -The remark applied only with regard to the particular measure as to which it was made. It did not apply to everything.
– This afternoon we have had the same statement with regard to another measure, as to which we were told that the Government supporters insisted upon the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill.
– Senator McGregor has great respect for the Leader of the Opposition. I know that.
– The last Bill but one was amended as the result of the Leader of the Opposition’s criticism.
– That measure, of course, was in charge of the Minister of Defence, and we may assume that he, as the result of his recent travels, has learnt that wisdom may come even from an opponent.
– The Seamen’s Compensation Bill was also amended as the result of a suggestion from the Opposition.
– It is perfectly true that, when blundering draftsmanship is pointed out, Ministers may be inclined to adopt remedies suggested by the Opposition ; but, speaking generally, we cannot fail to recognise that, because of their large majority in the Senate, they are much less careful to pay heed to criticism from the Opposition ranks than would be the case if parties were more evenly divided. The preponderance of their majority makes them careless. If I wanted further confirmation of that statement, I have only to look at the Ministerial benches at this moment. In view of our experience, which is not intermittent, but continuous, it is evident that there is but little inducement to discuss a measure of this kind.
– I rise to order. I wish to take your ruling as to whether, in purporting to be criticising the points of this Bill, the Leader of the Opposition is in order in lecturing the Senate as he is doing ?
– I have been listening to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition carefully, but I have not heard him say anything that would lead me to believe that he is out of order. He simply said he did not intend to speak at great length, because he thought that his criticism would practically have no effect.
– I thank you. sir, for .your ruling, and Senator Gardiner for the very kind service he is rendering me in helping to carry on the proceedings in conformity with the Standing Orders up to that moment when, you will declare the time convenient for suspending the sitting. This Bill comes to us with the approval of the party opposite, and experience teaches us that a measure to which they are pledged as a party stands no chance of amendment.
– There is nothing on the face of the Bill to show that it .has the Ministerial party’s approval.
– I take it that the Bill comes here first of all as a party measure. Although we are not allowed to refer to debates in the other House, none of us is so entirely ignorant as not to know what has transpired there. We know that it is not merely a Government measure, but a party project, submitted by the party of which the Government is the official head.
– The honorable senator ought to fortify that view bv quoting passages from speeches of members of the party.
– I. should like to do so, but if I did, the President would at once remind me that I was breaking one of our Standing Orders by quoting speeches made in another place during *** ie current session. I do not intend to touch upon the genera] question of arbitration. We have quite recently had one debate upon that subject, when the whole principle underlying our arbitration methods and dealing with industrial troubles was reviewed. Although I was then in a minority, I seized the opportunity of expressing the views which I strongly held, that arbitration had failed, and will continue to be a failure until there is an entire change of mental attitude on the part of the great body of industrial workers of Australia. I justified that view.
– Arbitration has not been a failure in Western Australia. The honorable senator is quite mistaken.
– I do not know a single member of the Senate who, according to Senator Henderson, has not been mistaken at some time or other. His final and crushing argument is always that his opponent is mistaken.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Before the sitting was suspended, I intimated my intention to be extremely brief in my observations upon this Bill, brief not only because of the reasons which I have already advanced, but because I do not believe that this measure will confer any advantage upon the public servants who are immediately concerned, or upon the general public, who to a considerable extent, though less directly, are also concerned. The Bill marks the nearest approach to Gilbertian legislation of which the Government have yet given us an example. Its advocates ask us to believe that Parliament is incompetent to determine the conditions surrounding the employment of our public servants, and, therefore, they propose that we shall invoke the aid of the Arbitration Court. But whilst we are asked to affirm that Parliament is incompetent to determine those conditions, they still leave it to our public servants to say whether or not the aid of die Court shall be invoked. Now, if Parliament be incompetent to deal with this question, surely there ought not to be any doubt as to whether the Court’s assistance should be sought - surely it ought not to be left to the public servants themselves to say whether the aid of the Court should be requisitioned or not.
– I thought that the policy of the honorable senator’s party was voluntary arbitration?
– I have already tcdd the Senate that I have no faith in arbitration, and shall not have until a better spirit is manifested by those who are asked to work under the’ awards of the Court.
– The honorable senator has no faith in parliamentary control either.
– I am dealing with a Bill, and with the arguments of those who desire us to accept it. We are asked to affirm that Parliament is incompetent to determine the rates of wages which shall be paid to our public servants.
– We declared that long ago by Act of Parliament.
– Then Senator Hen’derson is in agreement with me up to that point.
– I have never said that I was in agreement with the honorable senator.
– The advocates of the Bill claim that Parliament is illequipped to determine the rates of wages which shall be paid to our public servants. That being so, they invite the Arbitration Court to determine those rates. But they do not insist that it shall determine them - they make that matter an optional one with our public servants.
– The assumption’ is that if they do not go to the Court they are satisfied.
– That- would be the assumption if it were not for other conditions which are imposed. The advocates of the Bill say, “ We pin our faith to the Arbitration Court, and these matters shall be referred to it, as the most competent body “to determine them.” But not only are we asked to say that the Arbitra tion Court is the best body to determine them, and yet it shall not be necessary to invoke its aid, but we are invited to declare that, although Parliament is incompetent to decide what are fair wages to pay to our public servants, yet it shall retain the power to do the very thing which it is incompetent to do. Now, if Parliament be incompetent to :deal with this matter, we ought to say so plainly, and put it beyond its power to interfere. The Bill also in effect declares that the Public Service Commissioner is incompetent to decide not only what is a fair remuneration to the various grades of the service, but what is a fair remuneration to the individual members of it. Yet, curiously enough, it falls back upon that officer the moment the public servants decline to appeal to the Arbitration Court.
– Has the Public Service Commissioner the power to grant an increase of pay throughout the whole of our Public Service?
– The Court will not have that power. Either the Bill goes too far, or it does not go far enough. If Parliament be incompetent to deal with these matters it ought not to retain the final power of determining what the conditions in our Public Service shall be.
– Parliament must always retain that power.
– If the honorable senator believes that, he will sound the death-knell of thib Bill. If Parliament be incompetent to deal with these questions, I invite my honorable friend to be logical, and to “go the whole hog” by saying that it shall not retain the power of veto after the Arbitration Court has dealt with any claim. We know that the Public Service is seething with discontent, not merely in regard to the rates of wages which are paid, but in regard to a hundred other points. Is it to be supposed that the granting of the right of appeal to the Court upon one point will settle the whole trouble? Is it to be supposed that public servants, who are fretting under the belief that they are suffering injustice will cease their fretting the moment the right of appeal to the Arbitration Court is granted to them upon one matter?
– Some of them have been deprived of .£100 a year.
– I hope that Senator W. Russell is not supporting the Bill because of the grievances under which some of his constituents labour?
– I am supporting it because it is just.
– I know that there were certain employes in South Australia who, when they were transferred to the Commonwealth, enjoyed, certain rights under the Constitution. They feel aggrieved because those rights have not been preserved to them.
– They have been robbed.
– If the honorable senator, whose moderation of language we all recognise, prefers that I should use that term, I have no objection to doing so. If a certain number of public servants in South Australia feel that they have a claim under the Constitution, I say the correct course to follow is for the Government to submit a Bill to this Parliament with a view to redressing their grievances.
– This Bill will not give them any redress.
– Exactly. Because a few public servants have a specific claim on the Commonwealth on account of their accrued rights, surely it is not proposed to transfer the whole of our public servants to the Arbitration Court.
– I have another object in view.
– As the honorable senator discloses his objects, I shall be able to deal wilh them. But up to the present he has referred only to one. I am unable to see that this Bill will help the public servants to whom he refers.
– The honorable senator is quite right ; it will not help them.
– If Senator W. Russell believes that it will, he will be disappointed. Let me summarize my objections to the measure. In the first place, the Bill leaves it to our public servants to ignore the Arbitration Court if they choose ; and, in the second place, it allows Parliament to ignore any award which may be made by that Court. If that is not an approach to Gilbertian legislation, I do not know what is. Just apply these two statements to any other contention which may arise between sets of bodies or individuals.
– Would the honorable senator compel <l man to go to the Arbitration Court if he has no grievance ?
– Does Senator E. J. Russell mean to suggest that our public servants have no grievances?
– Many of them are well satisfied.
– Then this Bill offers them nothing. But the contention of its supporters is that a great many of our public servants have grievances. The Bill, however, does not insure that those grievances shall be referred to the Arbitration Court.
– It will be the fault of the public servants themselves if they are not.
– But if the Court is such a well-equipped body to deal with these matters, we ought not to allow the invoking of its aid to be optional with our public servants. But ‘if our public servants decline to go to the Arbitration Court, what is Parliament to do?
– Does the honorable senator wish Parliament to settle all these grievances?
– I say that ultimately Parliament must face the difficulty. This Bill merely postpones the trouble. Let us take our position clearly upon one side or other of the fence. Either let us say that this Parliament is competent to deal with the conditions of employment in our Public Service, or let us declare that it is not, and let us affirm that when the Arbitration Court has given an award this Parliament must obey it. It is merely trifling with our public servants to pretend, while we are still retaining parliamentary responsibility, that we are giving them the verdict of an untrammelled Court. If we analyze the measure, we shall find that all it does is to substitute the President of the Arbitration Court for the Public Service Commissioner. It may be urged that technically the President of the Court will be armed with enlarged powers compared with those which are vested in the Public Service Commissioner, inasmuch as the former may make an award providing for the payment of rates higher than those set out in an Act of Parliament itself.
– We do not substitute the President of the Arbitration Court for a private employer.
– No; but the private employer is not at liberty to turn round and say to the President of the Court, “I will not obey your award.” We give private employes an honest run for their money, but we are not giving that to our public servants.
-I shall help the honorable senator to make that decision final.
– If Senator E. J. Russell is prepared, before he knows what the decision is, to bind himself to it, does he not think that the Bill ought to be logical, and to provide that the decision shall be obeyed ? I was endeavouring to show that the effect of the Bill will, in practice, be found to be the mere substitution of the Judge of the Arbitration Court for the Public Service Commissioner.
– That will not be a bad thing either.
– My honorable friend is, I think, bearing in mind merely the personality of individuals. I shut that out of view altogether.
– Nothing of the kind.
– Then it comes to this, that you have in the case of one individual, now called the Public Service Commissioner, who, within the limits of an Act, does determine the rate of pay and the grading of the various sections of the Public Service-
– -Which Act gives him. too much power.
– Now what do the Government propose to do with the Arbitration Court? They do not propose to give the Court one bit more power than the Public Service Commissioner possesses today.. What they do say to the Court is - “ You can make whatever award you like, but if an award is outside the Act, if you have gone beyond your authority,. Parliament claims the right of review.” That means that the Judge will be merely making a recommendation to Parliament to be adoptedor rejected as it may think fit. The- Commissioner enjoys that right today. He has on more than one occasion sent down a recommendation.
– His rights are too great altogether.
– It is now proposed to give the same powers to another individual.
– The Commissioner exercises rights as well as enjoys them.
– Here is a contention from Senator W. Russell that the Public Service Commissioner enjoys too much power to-day. He believes that we have parted with too much power to an individual, and he expects to cure that evil by transferring that delegated power to a Judge.
– The Judge will hear both sides.
– Does the honorable senator know that inVictoria we have had awards vetoed, not by Parliament, but by a Minister, over and over again ?
– Apparently the electors of Victoria are satisfied with the procedure, if we may judge from the results of the last general election.
– Probably they are. I grant you that.
– Although I am not sufficiently familiar with the local procedure to enter into an argument with one so well versed in the matter as is my honorable friend, I assume that the citizens of Victoria are common-sense, intelligent individuals, and that they know what is going on as well as he does. They have, I assume, seen nothing particularly wrong in the practice, whatever it has been.
– That is why he is in this Parliament.
– Even intelligent people occasionally make a mistake or a lapse, and seeing how soon they recovered from that lapse, I am sure that the honorable senator and I can be equally gratified in the matter. I want to point out that under the Act the Public -Service Commissioner can make a recommendation to Parliament in any terms which he may think fit. If he thinks that he is prevented from granting an adequate wage by any section of the Act he has merely to send down a recommendation to. Parliament, which it can consider. That is all that the Judge can. do under this Bill. The Commissioner can, within the powers of the Act, grant wages which Parliament has approved-, and the Judge can do no more. The Commissioner can send down a report, while the Judge will make an award, which will come to us, and will be held in suspense,, as it were, until Parliament has expressed its approval or disapproval.
– Can the employ6s approach the Commissioner?
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council, in dealing with the present state of affairs, drew a most harrowing picture, and I have no doubt that he was moved by his personal’ experience to refer to the regularity and persistence with which a provision of the Act is broken, and that is the one which is supposed to prevent public servants from approaching members of Parliament. Every honorable senator knows that Senator McGregor was speaking with a very close regard for the truth when he stated that the section is frequently broken, both in the letter and in the spirit. But does he suppose that members of Parliament will be relieved of that importuning by the mere passage of this Bill ? Does he not see that it opens the door wider and wider to it? What is going to happen? Suppose, for instance, that the Judge sends down an award which is slightly in excess of something allowed by the law. Honorable senators an the other side will not be able to fight their way from the door of the chamber to the public thoroughfare without being accosted by a number of public servants, importuning them to vote in support of the award.
– Why call it importuning?
– Well, it is. If the honorable senator prefers “ lobbying,” he can substitute that word.
– Why should not a public servant have the right to appeal to his representative in Parliament?
– Because the law says that he shall not.
– The law is wrong.
– Here is another advocate of the right to break a law when it does not suit him.
– I did not help to make that law.
– Because the honorable senator did not help to make the law, he claims the right to break it.
– Is the law always right ?
– Suppose that, when the honorable senator leaves the chamber, some person says to him, “ Look here, there is, I believe, a law against stealing, but I did not help to make it. Hand over your watch to me.” The honorable senator would hand over his watch freely, and say, “ Perfectly right. That is the theory I preach.”
– There is no analogy.
– No, because somebody would be breaking a law at the expense of the honorable senator, and all that he claims is the right to break a law at the expense ‘of somebody else.
-You must not forget that when public servants in this State approached Parliament, and asked for the redress of their grievances, their votes were taken away.
– The honorable senator must recognise that there never has been in Australia any attempt by legislation, nor, I believe, has any public man ever expressed the slightest objection to any approach to Parliament by public officers collectively. There is a proper way to do that. What I am talking of, as the honorable senator must know, is the individual button-holing of honorable senators, the attempt to secure the influence of individual senators in the interests of the various sections of the Public Service.
– As theydidin connexion with the reduction of the. duty bn corsets.
– Senator Millen’; did not object when the manufacturers and importers were button-holing membersof Parliament.
– Here is Senator Needham, who always speaks with the great freedom which springs from ignorance of the subject, complaining of buttonholing. Let me tell him, as I have often told the Chamber before, that when the last Tariff was under consideration, I refused to be interviewed by anybody. That is an example which I commend to his careful consideration.
– Your followers did not imitate your good example.
– Probably they did not agree with it. The honorable senator was criticising me on the point, but they have not done so. Now, why has this Bill been brought forward ? It is clear that the public did not ask for it. There has been no request from any section of the public anywhere that we should shirk our duty, and delegate to somebody else the work and responsibility which has belonged to Parliament ever since it has had an existence. If the public did not ask for the Bill, did the Public Service?
– I invite the honorable senator to show any collective expression from the Public Service in favour of this proposal.
– The instrumentfitters conference passed a resolution in favour of the Bill the other day.
– The only approach to Parliament on the subject has been made on behalf of a large section of the Public Service, who protested against the Bill. I ask where it has been approached by the Public Service in favour of the Bill?
– The Federated Instrument- fitters of Australia decided, on Wednesday, to come under the measure.
– I have no knowledge of what takes place at the Trades Hall, but I have a knowledge of the records of the Senate.
– This association includes men from Western Australia, Tasmania, and Queensland.
– I cannot pretend to know, nor am I in a position to deny or to accept the honorable senator’s statement.
– You do not profess to know. Do you plead ignorance?
– Does the honorable senator suppose that I know everything that takes place in Australia?
– You will not accept a correction when you are wrong.
– What I said still stands good. No expression of opinion, from the Public Service, in favour of the Bill, has been placed before Parliament.
– I grant that.
– There has been a petition against the Bill from a very large section of the Public Service. In view of the fact that it was attacked in the other House, and that the party to which I belong has given a sufficient indication of its want of faith in the proposal, one might have assumed that the Public Service, with all the machinery ready for the purpose, and the activity which it has displayed on so many occasions, would, if it had wanted the Bill passed, have sent some intimation to Parliament, through the proper constitutional channel, that it was in favour of its enactment.
– We were pledged to this legislation when we were before the electors.
– Nothing of that kind has been done.
– Oh, yes.
– Let the honorable senator turn up the records of the Senate and show where there has been any representation of that kind made.
– It was made by the electors when the general election was being held.
– There is no evidence that at the general election any electors spoke about this legislation. The public has not asked for the Bill, nor has the Public Service
– I say, again, that the Public Service has asked for the Bill.
– One little organization has passed a resolution in its room. The only fact we can go on is that 4,000 public servants - a very big body - did make known their views in the proper constitutional manner by saying that they were against the measure.
– Say that they are divided on the proposal, and you will be correct.
– If a measure is passed, one does not say how many were for or against it, but one says that it was passed by a majority.
– I deny that there is a majority of the Public Service against the Bill.
– I say that 4,000 have petitioned Parliament against the Bill. Nobody can say that a majority of the Public Service are for or against it.
– I say that there is a majority for it.
– Of course, the honorable senator would say anything. I am thinking of a man who has a regard for his words.
– You will not assume that there is a majority against it because of that.
– I ami not assuming anything. I have not that happy faculty which the honorable senator has of assuming a thing if I do not believe it. I am trying to look into the facts, and the facts as they present themselves for parliamentary consideration are - and no one will deny my statement - that a large section of the Public Service have declared their opposition to this proposal j but as regards the other and larger section, no effort has been made by them, or on their behalf, to place before Parliament that they are in favour of the proposal. All I can do is to say that the only pronouncement from the Public Service at the present moment is hostile to the Bill.
– The question is : Is the proposal an equitable and a just one?
– I have already expressed my opinion that it is neither. I regard the Bill as not only doomed to failure, but as being, for many other reasons, objectionable. Why, I repeat, was it brought forward? I can only find one reason which accounts for its appearance, and that is that it has been brought in merely to save the face of the Government and their party.
SenatorNeedham. - Nothing of the sort.
– I know that for some years, when they sat in Opposition, the Labour party made most reckless promises to the Public Service.
– And they have carried out a number of them.
– They have carried so much that it wanted a Labour Government in office before there was a threat of a strike in the Public Service. We never heard that threat before; and in spite of all that the Government have professed to have done, and have done, the fact remains that discontent is moving on a larger scale and with deeper feeling in the Public Service than was ever the case before in the history of Australia.
– Do you mean to say that the more they get the more they want?
– No. What I do say is that all that the Labour party have given the Public Service falls so far short of what they promised when in opposition that they are bound to look for a more honest attempt to redeem the pledges by means of which votes were obtained very largely at the last election. The Government in their twilight hours see all these chickens coming home to roost. They see the public servants demanding that an honest attempt shall be made to redeem the promises made to them. Not long since, honorable senators on the other side promised the public servants that if they were returned to power, they would lead them out of the winter of their discontent into the bright summer of complete contentment. Where are they to-day? The Government are now having their promissory notes forced under their nose for redemption, and with the date of redemption clearly staring them in the face, they say, “ We cannot meet these bills; can we shirk them?” They are endeavouring now to avoid the redemption of their promises by handing the Public Service over to the Arbitration Court, while at the same time they carefully retain the right to veto any award of the Court that does not suit them. Senator de Largie has made an interjection or two which would suggest that he has been a consistent believer in the principle of the Arbitration Court for the settlement of grievances of public servants. If my memory does not serve me falsely, the honorable senator was associated with a Royal Commission that inquired into the grievances of a large section of the Public Service. May I ask him whether there was any expression of opinion from the public servants who came before him on that Commission, in favour of the reference of their grievances to the Arbitration Court?
– Yes; some of the witnesses spoke in favour of it
– Were they representative witnesses?
– Yes; only representative witnesses gave evidence before the Commission.
– Let me put it in another way.
– The first way did not satisfy the honorable senator, and he now wishes to put it in another way.
– I am satisfied that Senator de Largie will tell me the honest truth. His answer to the question I have put does not convey the whole truth. It would convey the impression that a number of representative witnesses from the Public Service asked for leave to apply to the Arbitration Court, whilst we know that the great bulk of the evidence given before the Commission was that on which the Commission founded their report.
– Did I say anything to the contrary?
– No; but Senator Needham suggested that the honorable senator did, and I have said that I am satisfied that the honorable senator will not for a moment deny the fact that the great bulk of the evidence given before the Postal Commission was evidence on which the Commission founded a report recommending an entirely different course of procedure.
– That is not the question the honorable senator asked me. He asked me whether there was any evidence given before the Commission in favour of an appeal to the Arbitration Court.
– That is so, and Senator de Largie gave me a literally truthful answer to the question which, I think,. conveyed a wrong impression. I return to the matter for this reason. The honorable senator has by interjections given me the idea that he intends to support this Bill, and I remind the Senate that it is only a few weeks since he moved a motion in this Chamber for the adoption by the Senate of the report of the Postal Commission, which he signed.
– This Bill is not inconsistent with that report.
– The honorable senator need not ask me whether I accuse him of inconsistency. It will be seen that it is unnecessary for me to do that, when I have finished. 1 point out that the Royal Commission that inquired into the grievances of the officials of the Post and Telegraph Department, the largest body of public servants we have, arrived at a decision that there was but one course which stood out pre-eminently as the best to adopt in the interests of the public and of the service. That course was not the course proposed by this Bill. To the extent to which the Senate indorses the proposal contained in this Bill, it will sign the deathknell of the proposal recommended by the Commission. I assume, without any reservation whatever, that Senator de Largie signed the report of the Postal Commission believing that, as the result of the exhaustive labours of the Commission, it recommended the best course in the interests of the public and of the service. But if he supports this Bill, he will be absolutely kicking his own report out of doors. He will be telling the public servants, whose hopes were brightened when they perused the report, that they have been fooled, and that it was never intended to give effect to it. I venture to say that one of the reasons for the introduction of this Bill is that the Government may be relieved of the necessity of giving effect to the report of the Royal Commission. They had to do one of two things, to adopt that report or to find some substitute for it. They had not the moral courage to say that they would absolutely reject the report, and they have consequently brought in here this spineless, ineffective, anaemic substitute. If this will supply a cover under which the Government and their supporters can shrink from the consequences of the reckless promises made when in Opposition, I have no doubt they will take full advantage of it. But if they think for a moment that the public servants will accept this Bill as an honest attempt to redeem the promises to which I have referred, they will find themselves woefully mistaken. The public servants watch too keenly what goes on in this Parliament. Although our honorable friends opposite made promises light-heartedly the public servants took them seriously, and they now ask for their redemption.
– Those promises have been largely redeemed. No party that hasever been in power in any part of Australia has done as much for the public servants as the Labour party in this Parliament.
– Senator Givens’ interjection causes me to repeat again that it was not until a Labour party came into power in the Commonwealth that we had any thought of a strike in the Public Service.
– There was talk of a strike among the telegraphists in Western Australia in the first year of Federation, and there was nearly a strike amongst them.
– That is so long ago that I really have no knowledge of the circumstances. I say that there was no serious talk of a strike in the Public Service until’ a Labour Government came into office in the Commonwealth. That was not’ due solely to the change of Government”, but to the fact that it was the Labour party which had offered so much, and the public servants naturally said, “ You have offered so much ; you are now in a position to redeem your pledges, why do you not do it.” That was a very natural inquiry on their part.
– Because preceding Governments had them gagged, and they dare not speak.
– Senator E. J. Russell will soon find - after the GovernorGeneral’s signature is attached to this Bill, and I assume that it will become law because the honorable senator’s party have said so - that no measure which we can pass through, this Parliament will make the public servants dumb if they .desire to protest that it does not meet their requirements. I say that the sole object and effect of this Bill, in my judgment, is to give the dominant party of to-day a little breathing space. They offered when in Opposition to set right all that was wrong in the Public Service, and to put it into such a perfect condition that there would not be a single member of it with a grievance. To-day the grievances of the-
Public Service are more numerous, of greater extent, and are voiced with more vehemence than ever before. I say that it is only natural that the public servants should express their disappointment very loudly when they discover the absolutely ineffective methods adopted to, remedy their grievances by the party that promised them redress.
– The Government are offering them the same remedy as that which is given to the outside public.
– Senator Givens tempts me to go back over the ground I have already traversed, but I am sure he will not consider it discourteous in me if 1 do not do so. I do not think for a moment that this Bill will settle the great difficulty with which we are confronted. We may postpone its settlement. We may be able to hold the Public Service at arm’s length until the Court is called upon, i? it is called upon, to adjudicate upon these matters. But if honorable senators opposite believe that a decision of the Arbitration Court will set right all that is wrong in the Public Service they are making a tremendous mistake. No provision of this kind would remedy the grievances of the public servants. What I believe we require is a. re-organization of the service from top to bottom. We require the adoption of the business methods which obtain in big enterprises outside, and which will enable the public to get a better return for their money without .unduly pressing upon any member of the Public Service from the lowest to the top rung of the ladder. That will not be brought about by_this Bill. If we had to consider merely a question of wages, although I should still have very little faith in it, there might be some justification for trying this last suggested expedient. Seeing that the service is troubled with grievances in one hundred-and-one forms, we cannot hope to bring about satisfaction iri it by this expedient for dealing with one out of the many grievances from which public servants suffer. Holding these views, there is but one course open to me in regard to this measure. I do not suppose that I shall address myself to its provisions at any length in Committee. I feel that the measure is ineffective, and that it will fail in its object. And I feel also that it is an attempt to induce this Parliament to shirk its responsibility. I am aware that Parliament cannot shirk its responsibility to the public servants. Although we may postpone it by this means for a few days, weeks, or months, sooner or later, like the ghost in the story, it will confront us at every turn unless we resolutely grapple with it. This measure does not grapple with it, but pushes it on one side. The time, however will come when we can no longer escape it, and must grapple with it.
– Senator Millen would lead honorable senators to believe that there is some inconsistency between the proposal in this Bill and the recommendations of the Postal Commission. I think I shall be able to show that there is no inconsistency between the two propositions, and that, as a matter of fact, they are on the same lines and are almost identical. Before I deal with that, let me point out to Senator Millen, and those who sit with him, that when the question of the management of the Public Service first came up for consideration in the Senate it was contended that the service should be placed -under the control of a Public Service Commissioner, from whose decisions there is no appeal. Labour senators opposed that proposition, and it was supported by honorable senators opposite.
– Why did the Labour senators oppose it ? Was it not because they held that Parliament should not shirk its responsibility?
– They opposed it for the good reason for which Senator Millen would have the Senate believe he is opposing this Bill - that is to say, on the ground that it enables Parliament to shirk its responsibilities. I was at that time, and have been ever since, consistent in my objection to the appointment of a Public Service Commissioner to control the service. My colleagues of the Labour party in the Senate, on that occasion, in common with myself, took up the attitude that, by putting the Public Service into the hands of one man we should be shirking the responsibility which the electors of Australia had put on us. We have been fully justified in the position we took up, because there has been nothing but discontent in the service ever since. There can be nothing else expected so long as such a huge service is placed under the control of one man. If we are to do justice to our public servants we must give them the same liberties and privileges as are enjoyed by the employes of private persons. For the settlement of disputes with regard to wages and conditions of employment outside the
Public Service we have substituted arbitration for the old method of the strike. Instead of permitting resort to the strike and other means availed of in the past we have said to employes and employers, “ Your differences must be argued logically and reasonably before a properly constituted tribunal.” We have told the private employer that the day has gone by when he was the sole arbitrator in the fixing of the wages of his employes. We have said “ There are two parties, and each of them must have an opportunity of laying his case before the tribunal.” A decision must then be given according to the evidence.
– Under the general arbitration law the employer is made to obey the award.
– That is the principle of compulsory arbitration for which the Labour party has contended.
– Why does not the party opposite apply that principle in this case?
– Senator Millen and his party have always opposed compulsory arbitration, and have contended for voluntary arbitration instead of it. This Bill embodies the principle of voluntary arbitration, but nevertheless we find Senator Millen opposing it. It is quite plain from the tricky tactics of the party opposite that no means of settling wages difficulties would meet with their approval. The Ministerial party recognises that these laws are merely experiments, and that it is only by trying them that we shall find out the best means of settling these difficult questions. We have never contended that this or that law would prove a final cure for all the evils” of the wage system. We know very well that no law yet passed will do so. But we have said that each successive proposal that has been made has embodied the best means discovered up to the present time, and that therefore we are prepared to put it into practice. As far as the Public Service is concerned, we recognise that no satisfaction is to be obtained from putting the whole interest of the service into the hands of one man, no matter how able he may be. I have never said a word against the Public Service Commissioner personally. I believe him to be the best man we could find in the Commonwealth for the work that has been imposed upon him. But if he were even twice as able as he is, the task is too great for him. Mr. McLachlan is, and has been ever since he was appointed, in the position of an employer. He has the whole control of wages and every other condition of employment in his hands. His decision is final in every instance. His employes have no means of appealing to any tribunal against him.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - He is the servant of Parliament.
– What has Parliament been doing all these years but objecting to interference with this man and his work ? Whenever public servants have voiced a grievance, we have been told, “ For Goodness’ sake do not bring these things here; let Mr. McLachlan deal with them.”
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - The Labour party now say, “ Let the arbitration Judge deal with them.”
– Yes. We believe in arbitration as a means of fixing wage conditions. That principle has been in our platform for many years. Now that we are in office we are living up to our principles, and surely there is nothing inconsistent in that. Senator Millen has referred to the Labour party as having made lavish promises that they have not been able to redeem. I deny that we have ever made any promise, except that we would do justice to the public servants. We are now endeavouring to redeem that promise. We are no more pledged to the civil servants as such than are our political opponents. I say again that there is nothing inconsistent between this Bill and the report of the Postal Commission which I signed. I must admit, however, that I am sorry that we were not more explicit in our references to this question. There is nothing inconsistent between the staff committee proposed to be established by the Commission and the voluntary means of laying the case before the Arbitration Court .proposed by this Bill.
– The honorable senator’s brother commissioner, Mr. Webster, does not agree with him on that point.
- Mr. Webster has said a great deal with which I do not agree.
– He can return the compliment.
– He is quite at liberty to do so. Mr. Webster has said things about members of the Public Service who were examined by the Royal Commission that I think were entirely wrong. He has reflected upon certain gentlemen whom I know very much better than he does. Their ability is well known to me. I know that he has made a very great mistake in some cases, and probably, if the errors were pointed out to him., he would withdraw the remarks which he has made. He is, however, quite competent to speak for himself, and at liberty to hold his own opinion. I contend that Parliament is not at all fitted to deal with wages questions. This Parliament cannot summon witnesses and listen to both sides. It cannot sit and determine an issue as an Arbitration Court ran. Yet we are told that Parliament should take the responsibility.
– Let it give up its responsibility, then.
– We are not giving up our responsibility, but we are passing it on to another tribunal. Finality, however, is retained by this Parliament, which will have the last say on every question with which it has power to deal. We are setting up a tribunal which will be properly constituted for examining witnesses and hearing both sides. Parliament is not fit to do work of that kind ; and, as a matter of fact, was not chosen to do it. We are elected to make laws, not to constitute ourselves an Arbitration Court. I think that this is the best and only possible solution of the whole question. The Labour party long ago adopted the principle of arbitration. We were elected to this Parliament to support that principle, which we put into practice at the first opportunity. There should, therefore, be nothing surprising in our support of this measure. Some Parliaments in the past have ignored the principles upon which they were supposed to be elected, but this Parliament is going to stand by the principles which it laid before the country. The principle of arbitration, having been a well-known plank of the Labour party for years, we are now endeavouring to put it into practice in connexion with the Public Service.
– I listened very attentively to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition in opposing the second reading of this Bill.
– He is not opposing the second reading.
– I can only judge that he is from his own statements.
– The honorable senator is a good judge this time.
- Senator Millen based his attack on the allegation that the party of which I have the honour to be a member made certain promises on the hustings to do certain things if returned to power. I have had considerable experience on the hustings; but, throughout the electoral campaign, I never heard any member of this party make any particular promises to the Public Service. I deny that they did so. The only promise we made was that if returned to power, we would endeavour to put our platform into operation. That is the reason why this Bill is now before Parliament. We on this side are attempting to redeem a pledge, and I welcome the attempt to do so. I will give one or two reasons why I think .the Bill ought to be supported. The public servants of Australia are to-day cursed by the system of confidential reports. A public servant may be pursuing the even tenor of his way, but, without his knowledge, reports are being piled up in the Public Service Commissioner’s office as to breaches of regulations, or alleged acts of misconduct, without the knowledge of the officer. All of a sudden, like a bolt from the blue, the Commissioner comes down upon him. What is his remedy ? All that he can do is to appeal from Caesar to Caesar, because the representative of the Commissioner in the State where the officer works is the principal member of the Appeal Board, and adjudicates on the very decision that he himself has given.
– Does this Bill do away with, that?
– I consider that it does ; because, under it, if the decision of the Commissioner is not satisfactory, the officer can appeal to a Judge of the High Court.
– As an individual?
– He can appeal as a member of his organization. The tendency in Australia to-day is for all people, whether they are public servants or not, to organize. During the past two years, we have been establishing records in the formation of organizations. These officers, through their organizations, would have a right to appeal to the Court, which will hear evidence on both sides, free from the dictation of any representative of the Commissioner. The Judge would be able to demand those secret files which very often the public servant does not get an opportunity to see when he is put upon his defence. I candidly admit, however, that there are some weak points in the Bill. Time will find out what they are. It is a piece of experimental legislation. But a fair trial ought to be given to it. It marks a step in the right direction. The Leader of the Opposition fastened his criticism upon clause 15 of the Bill, which gives this Parliament power to review any decision of the Court in the event of that decision contravening any law of the Commonwealth. I recollect that only a little while ago honorable senators opposite raised a great storm of indignation because the Government attempted to take power away from Parliament. Now, when it is proposed to retain to this Parliament some tittle of power, their protests are equally loud. On this occasion, therefore, as upon others, they are discharging their duties as Oppositionists. A great deal of emphasis has been laid upon the fact that civil servants importune members of Parliament. Personally, I think that “importune” is the wrong word to use. I say that every public servant should have the right at any time to approach his representative in the National or a State Parliament. At present he has riot the right to approach members of Parliament freely. He must do so under cover. Should it be known that he is doing so, he is liable to a penalty for a breach of the Public Service Act. But whilst our public servants do not enjoy the right to freely und unreservedly approach members of Parliament with their grievances, the Public Service Commissioner is at liberty to approach Parliament at any time. His reply to certain witnesses who gave evidence before the Postal Commission after their lips had been, closed, is conclusive testimony of this. At that time they dared not approach Parliament, even by circular, for fear of being charged with a breach of the regulations. I have been a member of this Parliament for four and a-half years, and during that period civil servants have met me and made representations to me. I have welcomed those representations because they came from citizens of Australia. As regards the 4,000 public servants who have petitioned Parliament not to pass this Bill. I say that they have merely exercised what was their undoubted light. But, because they are opposed to the Bill, it does not follow that the measure is wrong. Time and again when the Tariff was under consideration, miles of petitions were presented against certain of its provisions. But the Tariff, nevertheless, became law. It is for this Parliament to determine whether the Bill under consideration will inflict injustice upon any citizen of Aus- tralia. Personalty, I consider that it will give our public servants an opportunity to free themselves from any injustice under which they may be labouring to-day. In conclusion, I merely wish to add that the present Government have done more to relieve our civil servants of their grievances than has any other Government which has held office in Australia. But, notwithstanding that circumstance, I say that our Public Service is too vast a concern for any one man to control. Consequently, I desire to relieve the Public Service Commissioner of some of his powers without parting with any of our own. This Bill provides a better means of enabling civil servants to obtain justice than exists to-day.
– In directing attention to this Bill, I wish to assign one or two reasons why I intend to support it. Like other honorable senators, I had the privilege of hearing Senator Millen indulge in the mild heroics to which he has treated this Chamber. He endeavoured to convey the impression that his opposition to the measure is really the result of the absolute strangeness of the principles which are embodied in it. It is perfectly true that up to the present time there has never been a possibility of our public servants obtaining access to the Arbitration Court. But the necessity for giving them that access has always been apparent. Yet at no time previously have we attempted to give them the advantage which is enjoyed by every other man in the community. Now I say, without hesitation, that if there be one institution which is incapable of dealing with the grievances of our public servants, either from the stand-point of their conditions of employment or of the rates of wages which are paid to them, that institution is this Parliamnt. Its incompetence in this connexion is so apparent that, to my mind, it is beyond argument. If equity and fair play aire to be meted out to our public servants, obviously it must be through some tribunal which can with calmness and deliberation review every circumstance brought under its notice, and which can then pronounce its judgment. Can such a judgment be obtained upon the floor of this Chamber? I go further, and say, without any desire to depreciate the ability of the Public Service Commissioner, that he is incapable of comprehending either the conditions of employment, or the adequacy of remunera- tion, of our public servants. He may be highly competent to deal with the administration of particular branches of the service, indeed, he may be quite fit to deal with the administration of two or three Departments; but when we come to consider the magnitude of our Public Service, I refuse .to believe that there is a man in the Commonwealth who is capable of understanding and of dealing justly with its members, throughout all its ramifications. Therefore, the public servants should have every facility or right which is given to any other citizen. I am sure that 1 voice the feelings of a very large majority of the public servants when I say that they are all manly enough to recognise that that is all which they ought to seek ; and the Bill, if I understand it rightly, aims at nothing more. It says, “ You shall no longer be compelled to bear the stigma of secret reports,” as indicated by Senator Needham. That those reports are made, the Commissioner cannot deny. He knows that he does receive secret reports ; that they are made in such circumstances that the public servants concerned have no knowledge of the fact; and, therefore, are not in a. position to defend themselves. Surely the Public Service should not, any more than any other service, be a secret society, nor should any opportunities be taken to injure men and to prevent them, on many occasions, from obtaining promotion to positions to which they have a right to expect to rise, and also from receiving the whole of the emoluments which they ought at all times to receive, merely because a report had been presented, to the Commissioner, probably three years before, that they had done some things with which they had never been made acquainted. That sort of thing has been going on, and consequently public servants have been suffering. Taking the position assumed by Senator Millen, I do not think that even Parliament would be capable of doing justice to situations arising out of such administrative methods. The only justice which it could do would be to sack the Commissioner for having at any moment allowed himself to be made a creature of by receiving reports of that character. I feel sure that the Judge of the Arbitration Court will place a true value on such reports, as well as upon the conduct of the men who were responsible for the presentation of them. I believe that in the Arbitration Court the Public Service may hope for justice and equity, and that is all they should, I think, ever ask for. Whilst we must recognise that the servants of the Commonwealth have a perfect right to justice in every sense, we have also to realize that the interest of the public must be considered; and that being so, I hold that the Arbitration Court is the most likely medium by which the interest of the servants and of the public will be faithfully recognised. 1 fail to see how it could ever be recognised by a Commissioner. I am aware that certain recommendations have been made by, or through, a certain process, which may have, to some extent, ameliorated the conditions of the employe’s. But the tests which are being applied to show whether men are competent or not - tests which I cannot discuss on this occasion - will be given their true value when the case for the Public Service is placed before the Arbitration Court; and on the weight of that evidence, a great many of their grievances will, I feel sure, be remedied. The Leader of the Opposition endeavoured to make great capital out of the fact that, never under the Commonwealth has there been so much discontent in the ranks of the Public Service as there is at the present moment. I am not prepared to accept his statement as regards the discontent ; . but I am prepared to say that never before has there been a time in the history of the Commonwealth when the public servants felt themselves so free and untrammelled to voice their feelings as they do at the present moment, buoyed with the hope that there is a chance of getting immediate redress. It is because of that fact that we hear so much of the Public Service to-day. Probably, if the public servants of four or five years ago had said half so much publicly as they say to-day, very many of them would have been discharged. It is a very great pleasure to me to know that our employe’s feel so free and unfettered as to be able to ventilate their grievances in no uncertain terms. I believe that the proper course is to give to them all the facilities for getting redress which are given to any other service in the kingdom, and nothing more.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [9.35].- The last speaker devoted his attention largely to the question of individual grievances in the Public Service.
– Not largely.
.- I think so. The honorable senator also took the trouble to state that, over and over again, the Public Service Commissioner has used confidential or private communications to the detriment of individual members of the Public Service, without giving them an opportunity to defend themselves.
– I say so now, without fear of contradiction.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - And I distinctly contradict the statement. I do not believe that any man placed in a position of that kind would so far forget his duty as to penalize men for alleged offences without giving them an opportunity to say a word in their defence. The honorable senator has not quoted a single case to prove the contention which he attempted to set up.
– I shall prove it on some other occasion.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - If the honorable senator did prove the contention would it justify the passage of this Bill ? Does he realize that under its provision no Judge of the Arbitration Court will be able to deal with individual cases, and that his duty will be merely to determine the rates of wages for classes and for sections, not for individuals. The Judge may have the right to determine the conditions in which men shall labour, but he will have no power to take into consideration and deal with individual grievances. If there are individual grievances, such as the honorable senator has indicated, they should be dealt with in an entirely different way. How could a Judge take into consideration the fact that Mr. Brown had complained that certain private communications had been made to the Commissioner, and that, consequently, he was not granted his increase of £10 or £20 or transferred to another Department?
– As against that, how would the honorable senator and others deal with the same thing?
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - I am not here to say on this Bill how the matter ought to be determined. But I do say that if these grounds of complaint do exist they should be decided in an entirely different manner, and in circumstances which would allow them to be considered and dealt with properly and justly.
– You know that that is impossible in the Public Service.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - I know that, under this measure, it will be impossible.
– Oh, no.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - If public servants consider that, for their particular duties, they are unjustly treated, either because the rates of pay are insufficient, or because the hours of labour are too long, or because the conditions of labour are unsatisfactory, they can bring the matters before the notice of the Judge, but they cannot go beyond that. Where an Act of Parliament, such as our Public Service Act, has stated that there shall be certain rates of pay - a maximum and a minimum - for particular classes of public servants, and it is not proposed to repeal that Act, either directly or indirectly, is the Judge of the Arbitration Court going to say to Parliament “ You have dealt with this matter entirely by your Statute. Instead of the rate of pay for a particular class ranging from £150 to £250, it ought to range from£200 to
– Why not?
– Because the Statute which it is not attempted to get rid of prescribes the rate, and, moreover, because this Bill provides that any award which is not in accord with the lasvs or regulations of the Commonwealth shall be set aside at once.
– No, it will not be set aside.
– How is it possible to repeal an Act except by another Act?
– If an award is laid before Parliament and is agreed to it will take the place of any Act of Parliament.
– Clause 15 reads - (2.) The Court may, where it thinks it proper to do so, make an award which, in the opinion of the President of the Court, is not, or may not be, in accord with a law or regulation of the Commonwealth relating to the salaries, wages, rates of pay, or terms or conditions of service or employment of employees ; but in that case the President shall send to the Prime Minister, and to the Attorney-General, with the certified copy of the award, a statement of the laws or regulations of the Commonwealth with which, in his opinion, it is not, or may not be, in accord. (3.) The Prime Minister shall, within fourteen days after its receipt, if the Parliament is then sitting, or if not then within fourteen days after the next meeting of the Parliament, cause the award, and the statement (if any) of the President, to be laid before both Houses of the Parliament. (4.) If, before the award is laid before the Parliament, the Attorney-General advises the Prime Minister that in his opinion the award is not in accord with any law or regulation of the Commonwealth referred to in the opinion, the Prime Minister shall cause the opinion to be laid, together with the award, before both Houses of the Parliament. (5.) If, in the case of an award accompanied by such a statement of the President, or opinion of the Attorney-General, as is above referred to, either House of the Parliament, within thirty days after the award with the statement or opinion has been laid before both Houses, passes a resolution disapproving the award, the award shall not come into operation.
– Read sub-clause 6.
.- It reads-
Except as provided in the last preceding sub section, but subject to the Constitution, the award shall from the expiration of those thirty days or such later period as is specified in the award, have full force and effect notwithstanding the provisions of any law or regulation of the Commonwealth.
So that is what the honorable senator is building his case on. I notice that the expression “ but subject to the Constitution ‘ ‘ is used. The Constitution provides that Parliament shall speak by its Statutes. Under the Constitution, we can repeal our Acts only by the way in which we pass them. If we could do otherwise, what an absurd position should we not be. placed in! If that were possible, the Senate, by a resolution, and without going through the form of an Act of Parliament, might say, “ We will not have this Act any longer in force,” and the House of Representatives would be powerless. In the same way, the House of Representatives might pass a similar motion, and the Senate would be powerless. Do not honorable senators see the ridiculous position in which their arguments would place them? Where would be the safety of the community under such a proposal ? Are there members of the Senate who would take advantage of a provision of that character to destroy an Act of the Parliament arrived at by deliberation of both Houses?
– No; the honorable senator is making a mistake again.
– Of course I am, according to Senator McGregor. This thing is held up before the people of the country, and particularly before the public servants, who, I say, were cajoled by honorable senators opposite at the elections.
– The honorable senator is not putting the position properly.
– Suppose the Judge of the Arbitration Court reported to the Senate that he considered that a particular class of public servants, paid at the rate of between £300 and , £400, ought to be paid at the rate of between£400 and £500. Does the Vice-President of the Executive Council mean to tell me that a mere resolution of this Parliament in accordance with that recommendation could destroy the terms of an Act of this Parliament deliberately passed by both Houses?
– The honorable senator is putting the matter in the wrong way.
– Because I am not looking through Senator McGregor’s spectacles.
– No; the honorable senator is not dealing with the Bill as it is. A resolution of either House would annul a decision of the Arbitration Court, and it can only be brought into operation if both Houses of the Parliament refrain from moving any resolution to annul it. If the honorable senator will put the matter in that way, he will be correct.
.- Well, I will put it in that way, and I ask whether Senator McGregor knows of any Government that has ever held office in any British-speaking community that would be prepared to permit an award or report by a Court to override an Act of Parliament. I say that the Government that would be prepared to do that would be recreant to their trust. It is the duty of the Government to administer the law as passed by the Parliament ofthe country. I have already said that the Judge of the Arbitration Court will be unable to deal with individual cases. He must take the service in globo, and decide the wages to be paid for particular services, and the conditions under which they shall be rendered. If, in the administration of a Department, an injustice such as that suggested by Senator Henderson were perpetrated, quite another tribunal would have to deal with the matter.
– Can the honorable senator show me in this Bill anything that would prevent the Public Service Commissioner dealing with individual grievances ?
– Senator E. J. Russell has indicated the real position. The Public Service Commissioner has that power, but my point is that, under this Bill, the Judge of the Arbitration Court will not have that power. Individual grievances will still have to be dealt with by the Public Service Commissioner, not as Mr. McLachlan, but as the servant of this Parliament.
– The Judge will hear two sides, and the Public Service Commissioner only one.
– The Public Service Act makes provision for an inquiry into any grievance complained of by a public servant.
– There is only an appeal from Caesar to Caesar.
– The only difference in this case is that the testimony given at the inquiry would be on oath before the Arbitration Court. If honorable senators were to contend that the position of the public servants would be strengthened by the appointment of three Commissioners instead of one, I should not object to such a contention. I quite recognise the unsatisfactory nature of an appeal, as Senator Needham has said, from Caesar to Caesar. That could be avoided by having these inquiries conducted by three Commissioners. I remind honorable senators, however, that, notwithstanding all that may be said of the independence of the position of the Public Service Commissioner, he is still the servant of Parliament, and in a much more strict sense than the Judge of the Arbitration Court could or ought to be. Under this Bill, it is proposed to call upon the Judge of the Arbitration Court to make awards. I would ask honorable senators how awards of the Court have already been dealt with. They have been treated by many people with contempt when they have not been in accord with their own views.
– The honorable senator is quoting the exception to prove the rule.
– I am quoting what has frequently occurred. I need only refer to what happened recently in Sydney, when a certain section of employes in direct opposition, I admit, to the advice of their own executive, insisted upon a course of action entirely contrary to that which they had agreed to take. Suppose that the Judge of the Arbitration Court makes an award, strictly in accordance with the law, and sends his report to this Parliament, and suppose that, instead of grading officerswho had been in the service for five years at£150a year, he considered that the service they rendered was worth£175 a year, and the award would still keep them within the maximum of their class. Then, suppose that Parliament would not consent to the award. What would be the position? We should have invoked the Judge of the Arbitration Court to deal with the matter, and, because we did not agree with his decision, we should decline to give effect to it.
– Parliament would then have to take the responsibility.
– Parliament sends a matter to the Court, and, because the decision does not accord with the views of the Government, or the party behind them, they bring their political power to bear, and deal with the President of the Arbitration Court as if he were an ordinary servant of Parliament, instead of the representative of an independent tribunal. If the Judge of the Arbitration Court were to say that the payment to be made to officers of a particular class in the service should be less than they are at present receiving, Parliament probably would not accept that; but if we are going to send these cases to the Arbitration Court, we should be prepared to accept the decisions of the Court when they are within the provisions of the Statute. If we think that our public servants are not properly paid, or properly graded, we should alter their condition by Statute. When the Civil Service Act was introduced into the Parliament of New South Wales many years before the establishment of the Commonwealth, a Civil Service Board was appointed to deal with the grievances of public servants, because it was said, amongst other things, that members of Parliament were being constantly importuned in connexion with individual cases.
– The honorable senator should not use the word “ importuned.”
– If the honorable senator does not like the word, I shalluse any other having the same significance. I shall say “waited upon,” or “ deputationized. “ The question was asked, “ Why should; members of Parliament be constantly ap- plied to by public servants, and why should public servants be compelled to go to members of Parliament?”
– Why should not a public servant have the same right as any other elector to approach a. member of Parliament ?
– He has that right. But the question was asked, “ Why should public servants be compelled to go to members of Parliament to secure justice?” A Civil Service Board- was appointed under the Act to which I have referred, and it was intended that it should be free from political influence. It was considered that the adoption of that course would be in the best interests of the Public Service, members of Parliament, and the country. If we appoint a specialbody to deal with all these matters, why should it be necessary, or desirable, that a member of Parliament should be invoked, in order to bring the power of his political position to bear upon a Public Service Commissioner in dealing with the grievance of a particular public servant ?
– He need not do it; he is not asked to do it.
– Why is Senator Needham asked by a public servant to assist him in getting what he regards as legitimate promotion ? I know that it is not pleasant to contemplate such a contingency, but if the honorable senator, by any chance, failed tobe again returned, and Mr. Jones were returned in his stead, the public servant would go to Senator Jones, and not to Mr. Needham. This would not be because Jones was a man of greater weight in the community than his predecessor in the position of senator, but simply because one man would occupy a political position, and the other would not.
– That is not the motive at all.
– Then I do not know why any member of Parliament is approached. If Senator Needham were to drop out of Parliament for a few years, he would not find the public servants so anxious to wait upon him. Again, I say that Parliament should retain in its own hands the sole control of the Public Service, subject, of course, to such officers and boards as it may see fit to appoint. I think that the Government are making a mistake in taking this matter up. in the way they are doing. If griev ances exist there are more efficient ways of dealing with them, methods more consonant with the principles of government, than are contained in this Bill. Senator de Largie, although a member of the Postal Commission, has announced that he will support the Bill. Of course, every Labour man, every member of the Caucus, is going to vote for it.
– And the honorable senator’s Caucus will oppose it.
– We have no Caucus.
– The honorable senator’s party has just as much a Caucus as we have.
– They are very sorry that their Caucus is not “ as good as ours.
– We cannot hold our members as the Labour party do; that is certain.
– The honorable senator’s party meets often enough, but they cannot do much good.
– Perhaps not. Senator de Largie contended that this Bill is not inconsistent with the Royal Commission’s report. But there is not a word in that report as to this method of dealing with the problem. Senator de Largie, moreover, signed a minority report. Did he make a suggestion of this kind then?
– The minority report dealt only with one question.
.- Exactly ; but if the honorable senator believed that this was the best method of dealing with public servants’ grievances, why did he not mention it in the minority report ? Instead of that, with the true gallantry that has always distinguished him, he occupied that report with taking up the cudgels on behalf of female members of the Public Service. Honorable senators will find that, though this Bill involves a strange departure from the practice hitherto pursued by Parliament, it will not be so effective as a remedy as some profess to believe. It places the question ‘ in a really absurd position. If the contention is that, by resolution, the Court may as it seesfit override Statute law, unless this Parliament chooses to prevent it, it will be a most novel procedure.
– If the honorablesenator does not like this method, what does he propose to put in its place? Something must be done;
– What is it that the honorable senator wants?
-i want facilities to be given to the civil servants to get their grievances redressed by a proper method. What is the Opposition’s proposal?
– We on this side are not called upon to indicate a means. When my honorable friend, Senator Millen, occupies the position that Ministers do at present, it will be time for him to indicate on behalf of his Government what remedies they suggest. I am speaking simply on my own behalf. I have indicated that I shall be prepared to see three Commissioners appointed to control the Public Service. I am prepared to assist in bringing about such a reform, but I am not prepared to assist honorable senators opposite in entirely abrogating the rights of Parliament and handing them over to a Judge. I believe that such a method would be wholly unsatisfactory. I shall not trouble honorable senators very much in Committee concerning this Bill, nor will I do anything to obstruct the will of the majority. At some future time Parliament may have an opportunity of reviewing a good deal of the wildcat legislation that has been enacted by this Parliament. When that time comes, the country will be afforded an opportunity of breathing and being relieved from the oppression from which it is suffering in consequence of the adoption of all sorts of novel expedients to which the party now in power have not given the consideration that the public interest demanded.
– In supporting this Bill I feel inclined to be enthusiastic, not necessarily because it is perfect, but because it goes in the right direction.
– The honorable senator is a born pessimist; is he not?
– There is danger ahead of which the honorable senator need not remind me; but we need not. think of that at present. There are certain specific reasons why I favour this measure. We may divide the Public Service into three classes. First, there is the professional class, which we need not trouble about in considering a Bill of this description. Secondly, there is the clerical class. I have no hesitation in saying that I know of no clerical service in any part of the world that enjoysbetter conditions than does the clerical service under the
Commonwealth. These conditions have prevailed, not only under the present Ministry, but under previous Governments. Some members of the service may have grievances against the Commissioner, but they are generally of a temporary character, and not serious in their nature. No one need complain about them. But when we come to the third section, the General Division, I am compelled to say that, though I have always believed in having a Public Service Commissioner, and though I believe such an officer to be more necessary under this measure than he was before at any time, I do nevertheless feel certain, although I am not prepared to allege deliberate motives, that the Public Service Commissioner, as an individual, apart from his office, has absolutely failed even to grasp the ordinary principles that should be applied to the work of labourers and artisans.
– What would the honorable senator put in the place of the Commissioner ?
– The Commissioner has his faults, but I believe him to be an exceedingly capable officer. I want him to be retained. I wish to help him ; but, nevertheless, I venture to say that there is not a trade whose members are employed in the Public Service, in which, if it were not for the generosity of the trade unions, and for the stretching of their rules, there would not be trouble. That consideration applies to nearly every branch of the General Division.
– Who stretches the rules ?
– The trade unions do. If the Commissioner wants a painter, instead of engaging aman at the ordinary rate that prevails in his trade, the Commissioner makes him commence at £12 per year less, and gives him two annual increments. I admit that the man gets three weeks’ holiday in the year.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - He also has certainty and regularity of employment.
– I admit that artisans employed under the Public Service Commissioner are better off in that respect than outside employes. But, nevertheless, were it not that the unions have waived claims in the case of men entering the Public Service - were it not that they have not insisted on the observance of the rates which are paid for outside labour - it would be impossible for workmen to enter the Federal Service without leaving the unions to which they belong. I believe that all honorable senators are agreed on the principle that the National Government should be a model employer. I do not mean that it should throw away money needlessly, or conduct its affairs uneconomically. But it should be a model employer of labour. When it employs a tradesman he should not receive one single copper less than is paid to a similar workman outside the service. I consider that the Public Service Commissioner has failed to grasp that principle as far as the General Division is concerned.
– If the honorable senator wants to attack the Public Service Commissioner he should do it in the regular way by indicating him in Parliament.
– I am speaking from the point of view of one who has a great deal of sympathy with the Commissioner. I recognise the largeness of the task that he has had before him. I thoroughly understand the magnitude of his work. This Bill also will be principally used by the General Division. I do not believe for one moment that the Clerical Division will make use of it. They do not require it. Therefore, they will simply go on as they are doing at present, under the Public Service Commissioner. This Bill does not involve any interference with the present position so far as they are concerned.
– The General Division have not asked us to interfere in this manner.
– Had I known that honorable senators wanted to receive petitions on this subject I should have seen that they were supplied. I would have got several of the unions to send some petitions in to me.
– So that the honorable senator is a mouth-piece for unions ?
– I thought that honorable senators received enough circulars and documents without being troubled with more.
– It is a good thing to know that the honorable senator can engineer petitions.
– Senator Millen has made one of his usual clever speeches. It is impossible to hear him make a speech, whether one agrees or disagrees with him, without admiring the cleverness with which he puts his case. I greatly admire the honorable senator’s ability. I concede him what he is entitled to in that respect. He said that we never heard of strikes in the Public Service until the present Government came into office. All the talk of striking in the service, however, has been on account of conditions of labour fixed by those Governments which preceded the present Ministry, and not on account of conditions fixed by the Labour Government. Therefore, these threats to strike were a condemnation of preceding Governments. The present Government have attempted to remove grievances.
– Those who threatened to strike said “ No.”
– The present Government -have spent about a quarter of a .million extra on the Public Service. If that has not been effective it shows the impossibility of the Government or Parliament dealing with these cases, and the need of a body that is capable of dealing with the conditions of the service.
– It may mean something else - that some people are insatiable.
– It may ; but does the honorable senator mean., to tell me that he lacks the courage to say “ No more” when he believes that members of the Public Service are getting what we believe to be a fair thing? I believe that the great majority of the members of this Parliament have the courage to say “ Enough” when they believe that officers are being fairly treated. Senator Millen said that the Government had introduced this Bil] because they wanted time to breathe. In what way does the Bill secure to the Government additional time to breathe? The Government have to find the money to enable any award of the Court to be complied with if that award has the effect of increasing the wages payable to our public servants. But the honorable senator might have added that the present Government, instead of wanting time to breathe, have permitted the public servants of the Commonwealth to breathe as free men for the first time in the history of this country. What Government was it that issued regulations according freedom to the civil servants of Australia? Can any honorable senator point me to a single instance in which a public servant has abused that freedom? Yet it was predicted that all sorts of evils would flow from those regulations. I admit that there is discontent in the Public Service to-day, but that discontent is not greater than it was previously. The truth is, that it finds a more ready expression to-day because the “gag” has been removed. In the past our public servants were not satisfied with their conditions, but they dared not voice their dissatisfaction.
– If they had spoken, could any ill have befallen them?
– I do not think so. But a great many politicians who are opposed to the Labour party have not merely threatened them, but have taken action to prevent them from approaching members of Parliament.
– How does the honorable senator account for the petition which was presented to Parliament in opposition to this Bill, and which is signed by 4,000 public servants?
– I believe that the majority of the Clerical Division of the Public Service are opposed to this Bill ; and if I were an officer of that division, I should not desire to come under it. I regret to say that there are still some civil servants who approach members of Parliament with timidity, and who are always afraid that they will be punished for so doing. Why ? Simply because they remember -the old days, when neither the body nor the soul of the average civil servant belonged to him.
– The honorable senator is endeavouring to “ pull our legs “ now.
– If Queensland enjoyed better conditions, I congratulate the honorable senator upon the fact. But I know that in Victoria, because public servants asked for fair conditions of labour, and opposed percentage reductions of their salaries, they were disfranchised and created a special class, distinct from the ordinary body of citizens. Realizing that the same class of politicians have hitherto been in power in the Commonwealth, our public servants have feared a similar visitation.
– I have never discovered timidity on the part of civil servants since I have been in politics.
– At all events, it is there. A great deal has been said about the power of Parliament to veto an award. But the officers of the General Division have no fear of that. If Senator Millen can show me a way in which to make the decision of the Arbitration Court final, I shall be found supporting him. I believe that it ought to be final. But, although Parliament has the power to veto any award, I believe, in the absence of exceptional circumstances, any award will be final. Is the veto something which the workers have need to fear? Time after time, in connexion with Wages Board decisions in Victoria, not Parliament, but a Liberal politician, has exercised the power of veto.
– The Wages Board decision in the tannery trade was held up for months.
– What about the bakers’ strike?
– I supported that strike in opposition to an award which I did not consider fair, and I would do the same thing to-morrow. I believe that this Bill contains the most scientific proposal for remedying the grievances of public servants which has yet been submitted to Parliament. It will not remedy all their grievances, but it will remedy nine-tenths of them. In nearly all cases in which bad feeling has been engendered amongst the members of the Public Service, that feeling can be traced to a dispute in regard to wages. Some officer has failed to do his duty by recommending, perhaps, the payment of an increment. As a result a public servant has got his senior officer ‘ ‘ set, ‘ ‘ to use a colloquialism. Then, because the Public Service Commissioner has failed to recommend an increment, a “set” has been made against him. All these grievances will disappear under this Bill, because public servants will feel that when they appeal to the Arbitration Court they will have a full opportunity of ventilating them. I believe that the Public Service Commissioner should appear before the Court in the same way as any private employer. All over Australia we have practically denied the individual employer the right to fix the rate of wages which shall be paid in any industry. Why should not the Public Service Commissioner occupy the position of the common employer?
– He is not the employer of our public servants ; but this Parliament is.
– Surely the honorable senator does not want to go to the Court himself. At any rate, I do not. Under this Bill, if a body of public servants believe that they are labouring under an injustice, they will make a claim to the Public Service Commissioner. If that officer believes the claim to be fair,- he will either grant it or a conference will be arranged, and a compromise arrived at. If the men are satisfied, they will not invoke the aid of the Arbitration Court ; but if they are not satisfied, they will have’ the right of appeal to that Court, just as has any other worker in Australia.
– The Bill does not give them the same right, because it allows the employer, if it suits him-, to turn down the award of the Court.
– I have already said that if the honorable senator can show me any way in which to make the decision of the Court final I shall be prepared to support him.
– I am opposed to the Bill, lock, stock and barrel. I am opposed to every clause, every line, every word and every letter of it.
– What about the commas and full stops?
– I would abolish the whole lot. Ever since it has been talked about, I have been a consistent opponent of any attempt to settle industrial disputes by resort to an Arbitration Court.
– Would the honorable senator suppress strikes, or would he let them continue?
– I do not believe that the Bill is any good. The best title for it would be “ A Bill for an Act to enable some members of Parliament to shirk their responsibility.” I have not observed that our public servants anywhere arc anxious for this measure, but I did see a petition which was presented to this Parliament, and which was signed by 4,000 of them, in opposition to it. It has been said that it is impossible for the Public Service Commissioner, to satisfy the members, of the Public Service generally. If that be so, why did not the Government take the first step, towards bringing about a better state of affairs by adopting the recommendation of the Postal Commission and appointing a board composed of practical men who are acquainted with the service and with all its conditions? Such a step would be more likely to prove successful than will any attempt to transfer power from the Public Service Commissioner to the President of the Arbitration Court. The latter is not more likely to give satisfaction to the service generally than is the former. But if our public servants could appeal to a board of practical men, they might get something better - a great deal better - than they will get under this Bill.
The measure will simply give them a righf to one more appeal. They will be able to appeal from the Commissioner to the Arbitration Court. That tribunal can refer any case to a Judge of a State Court or to a stipendiary magistrate for hearing and determination. If the claimants be not satisfied with that determination they will have a right of appeal once moreto the Arbitration Court, so that they will simply get another appeal, because the Bill provides “ that an appeal from the award shall lie to the Court at the instance of a claimant organization or of the Public Service Commissioner, or of the Minister of a Department affected by the award.” As the hour is late, sir, and the Minister is agreeable, I ask permission to continue my remarks to-morrow.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.16 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 December 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1911/19111207_senate_4_63/>.