4th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Defence whether he has noted from the press of this morning that the Western Australian Government have already introduced a Bill in the State Parliament to concede to the Commonwealth the land required for the construction of that part of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway which will traverse Western Australian territory ? As the message gives no indication as to what proposals the Bill contains, I would further ask the honorable senator if he will communicate with the Western Australian Government, informing them as to the area which the Commonwealth Government thinks should be ceded? Otherwise the State Parliament, having passed the Bill referred to, may find it necessary to pass another.
– I am under the impression that the Prime Minister has already done what Senator Millen suggests should be done, but I shall have inquiries made onthe subject.
– I desire to ask the
Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, when the returns asked for in connexion with the land tax will be placed on the table of the Senate, or of the Library, for the information of honorable senators ?
– The return asked for will be laid on the table as soon as the Commissioner of Land Tax is in a position to complete it. I am informed that there are items called for in the return which it will take several months to compile. But, as soon as the return is ready, it will be laid on the table.
– May Iask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether his attention has been drawn to a paragraph which appeared in the Herald of last evening, ‘ under the headings “State Land Tax,” “Assessors Appointed,” in which it is shown that sixty-one assessors have been appointed, whose duty it will be to value land on similar lines to those adopted in connexion with valuations for the Commonwealth Land Tax Department. It is further shown that amongst the assessors appointed are the following gentlemen : - Brunswick, J. Hume Cook ; Collingwood, William Rain ; South Melbourne, John Baragwanath, Frank Gerald Hartley ; and Coburg, J. W. Kirton. As similar positions will probably have to be filled in a very short time in the. Commonwealth service, I should like the honorable senator to say whether the Commonwealth Government have in contemplation any scheme whereby it will be possible to appoint men who have been actively associated with the Labour movement, and have failed to get into Parliament, following the example in this connexion set by the Government of Victoria ?
– I sincerely trust that the party behind this Government will never have so many defeated candidates and political derelicts to look after. . . I hope, also, that they will never descend, though they are often accused of it, to this kind of illegitimate preference to people other than unionists.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral if he has any further information to supply in connexion with the construction of the Youanme telegraph line?
– The answer supplied to me by the Postmaster-General is as follows : -
The Deputy Postmaster-General, Perth, has furnished the following replies : - “ Construction is being carried out by day labour under departmental supervision, not by contract.”
– We cannot hear a word that the Minister is saying.
– The difficulty is that honorable senators will carry on conversations among themselves, and the honorable senator who now complains is generally as bad as any one. I think that he has reason for his complaint on this occasion, as honorable senators sitting alongside of him are carrying on a conversation now.
– Thank you for the slur. I am much obliged to you. You are very kind.
The Electrical Engineer reports that every effort has been made to expedite the work, but difficulty is being experienced in obtaining anything like suitable labour, and the ground is extremely hard for sinking post holes. It is anticipated the line will be completed by the 23rd inst.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral if he has received a reply to the question I asked earlier in the week, and a fortnight before, on the subject of wireless telegraphy in Queensland?
– No further information on that subject has been forwarded to me by the Postmaster-General.
asked the Vice-
President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
Debate resumed from 7th December (vide page 3893), on motion by Senator McGregor-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I have already stated my opposition to this Bill. I am opposed to the principle of endeavouring to settle industrial disputes by means of an Arbitration Court. Many attempts have been made in* this direction, but none has been absolutely successful, or anything like it.
– What about the Broken Hill strike; was not that successfully settled ?
– No. I do not think it was. There were rumours of a strike almost directly after the decision of the Court had been given.
– But it did not occur, and it has not occurred yet.
– Even though that one case were successful, one swallow does not make a summer, and I could name very many cases where strikes have followed the decision of an Arbitration Court. I think it was New Zealand that commenced this business of arbitration, and from the time that it was begun some alteration of the law has been made almost every year, whilst to-day the feeling against the principle is so strong that many people in the Dominion are desirous of sweeping the whole thing out of existence. It has failed to produce industrial peace and rest in that Dominion. There have been many strikes since the establishment of the principle there.
– They have been very trivial affairs.
– Then we will say that the principle has not been absolutely successful, even there.
– Have the Ten Commandments been absolutely successful?
– The principle of the Ten Commandments is absolutely right, while the principle of the Arbitration Court is not right, The experience of New South Wales has, I think, not been any better than that of New Zealand. The New South Wales Arbitration Act was supposed to be a most perfect piece of legislation, and under it strikes and lock-outs were to become an absolute impossibility. Yet I think that within twelve months of the establishment of the New South Wales Arbitration Court, the statement was made that it had two years’ work ahead of it, and would never be able to overtake it. Certainly, it cannot be said that there have been no strikes in New South Wales. When we come to consider the position in Western
Australia, I may say that about a year ago I read that one of the Judges of the Arbitration Court there wanted to know whether persons appealing to the Court desired to continue playing a comic opera part in connexion with the State Arbitration Act.
– The fault was in the Act, and not in the men who came under it.
– The fault was always somewhere. The Judge of the Western Australian Court said that if the Court gave a decision which suited the parties it was all right, and they went to work, but if it did not suit them there was immediately a strike. I think he was dealing with the tramway strike at the time. He said, in effect, “ If our decision does not suit, there will be another strike. I want to know whether you are going to continue playing this game of comic opera.” That was the testimony of the Western Australian arbitration Judge as to the value of the arbitration principle as applied in that State. I oppose it, because I think that the principle is bad. It never has succeded, and’ I think it never will. It has never prevented strikes, and I think it never will. There is no way of forcing the decisions of the Court on both sides. Provision is made in this Bill that the Judge of the Arbitration Court may impose penalties up to £to for a breach of an award, but, if there were an association of 200 civil servants and they refused to accept an award of the Court, I do not believe that this Government, or any other, would attempt to drag those 200 people before the Court with the object of getting them fined £10 or less each. This Parliament has no right to hand over any of its powers or functions to any Court whatever.
– -Why hand them over to a Public Service Commissioner?
– We are always handing our powers over ; we could not carry on the administration of the country otherwise.
– Under this Bill it is proposed that Parliament shall hand over to the Arbitration Court duties which it ought to perform itself. When it is said that we handed over our powers to a Public Service Commissioner, let me reply that there is an appeal from that official to Parliament, and there is going to be an appeal from this Court to Parliament. That being so, what is the use of putting the Arbitration Court between the public servants and Parliament? The public servants may and do approach members of Parliament. I do not know why they should not. I have had a number of them come to me with their grievances, and I say that if a member of the Public Service considers that he has not been fairly treated, he has a perfect right to come to a member of this Parliament, and lay his case before him.
– The honorable senator dare not make use of their grievances.
– I stated them here.
– The honorable senator dare not go with them, to the Public Service Commissioner, or else out would walk the men.
– I went to see the Public Service Commissioner, and laid before him the case submitted to me and the reasons why I thought the men concerned should receive consideration.
– Was the honorable senator not breaking the law ? I dare not do that.
– I am sorry that Senator W. Russell has not the courage to do what is right. Personally, I believed it to be the right thing to do, and I went to the Minister and to the Public Service Commissioner, and presented the case of these men to them. I would do the same thing again. I remind honorable senators that a number of South Australian public servants have issued a reply, in pamphlet form, to the memorandum of the Public Service Commissioner on the report of the Postal Commission! I do not think that any language more emphatic could be used in condemnation of the memorandum of the Public Service Commissioner than is used in that pamphlet, but I have never heard that the persons responsible for it have been penalized because of its publication.
– Has the honorable senator heard that their grievances have been redressed?
– The only way in which their grievances can be redressed is by the aid of this Parliament. I am sorry that no Minister has seen fit to take up their case with a view to securing justice for them.
– How is Parliament to arrive at what is just?
– I think that it could arrive at what is just.
– It will be in a better position to do so after their claims have been stated before a judicial tribunal.
– If these men had a claim, which was highly moral, even though it might not have been perfectly legal, I do not think that it should have been set aside by the Court on a mere technicality.
– The Arbitration Court does not determine cases upon technicalities, but upon considerations of equity and good conscience.
– The appeal of which I speak was made to . the High Court, which placed a certain interpretation upon our Constitution, and which, if it did not do a legal wrong to these men, certainly did them a moral wrong. This Bill is an attempt to enable members of Parliament to shirk their responsibilities, especially in relation to our civil servants. After all, it is a permissive measure. In clause 4 it is provided that certain officers of our Public Service may form an organization, and may register under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. But there is no provision in the Bill that they shall form an organization and register. As the Vice-P.resident of the Executive Council has pointed out, even the heads of Departments may form an association, and if three-fifths of their number choose to apply to the Arbitration. Court for an increase of their salaries, there is nothing to prevent them doing so. But if the Arbitration Court ought to settle the claims of our public servants, why is not a reference to that tribunal made compulsory ? But sub-clause 2 of clause 5 reads -
The Public Service Commissioner and the Minister of any Department of State affected by the claim shall be entitled to be represented before the Court, either jointly or separately, in the hearing and determination of the claim.
Who will represent them?
– One of their own number.
– If the Public Service Commissioner, or the Minister of any Department is to appear in person, the clause does not seem to be quite clear. Then clause 12 provides -
No organization or person shall in any proceeding under this Act be represented by counsel or solicitor.
– But a person may appear himself.
– The Bill will give him an opportunity to allow somebody else to appear for him, although such a course of procedure is apparently forbidden by clause 12. Then clause 6 vests in the Court power to impose all sorts of penalties. It reads -
The Court shall, as regards any claim of which it has cognisance under this Act, have power -
to fix maximum penalties, not exceeding Ten pounds, for any breach or nonobservance, by any member or an organization bound by an award or order, of any term of the award or order.
But if any organization refuses to obey an award, I do not think that anybody will bring the individual members of it before the Court for the purpose of enforcing the penalties provided. Then clause 7 gives the Court power to delegate its powers. Instead of hearing any claim it may refer such claim to a Judge of a State Court, or a police stipendiary or special magistrate of the Commonwealth or of a State, or other person authorized by the Governor-General.
– That procedure has been adopted for the sake of convenience.
– Exactly. When a claimant is not satisfied with the decision thus given, this clause provides that “an appeal from the award shall lie to the Court, at the instance of a claimant organization, or of the Public Service Com? missioner, or of the Minister of a Department affected by the award.” So that if the verdict of a Judge of a State Court, or of a police stipendiary or special magistrate, be not regarded as satisfactory, an appeal will lie to the Federal Arbitration Court itself. Thus there will be no finality reached. Clause 9 appears to be a most peculiar one. It reads -
The Court may exercise any of its powers under this Act on its own motion, or on the application of a claimant organization, or of a Minister of State or the Public Service Commissioner.
So that the President of the Arbitration Court is to exercise a’ paternal oversight over Commonwealth public servants.
– Senator Gould found fault with the Bill because it did not make provision for that.
– I am not concerned with Senator Gould, ‘but with an endeavour to find what :>the Bill actually means.
– Does the honorable senator object to that provision?
– Yes. I object to the whole of the Bill.
– It was that power which enabled the President of the Arbitration Court to settle the trouble at Renmark recently, because he compelled the parties to appear before him.
– This time one of the parties appeared before him because it was obliged to do so. Twelve months ago it declined to appear before him.
– We do not want our Public Service to be capsized as the result of a strike.
– There ought not to be any such possibility while there is a Parliament to do justice to that service. If the award of the Court be not deemed to be satisfactory, the claimant can then appeal to Parliament.
– Does the honorable senator object to that?
– No, but it need not have been affirmed in the Bill. That power is inherent in Parliament, and consequently we do not require legislation of this character. Clause 15 is a most extraordinary one, seeing that it confers legislative powers upon the President of the Arbitration Court. It vests him with power to make an award contrary to the law. In other words, he will exercise legislative functions, notwithstanding that, as a rule, his duties are confined to the interpretation of the law. Sub-clause 5 of that clause provides for the Parliamentary veto, and reads -
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.
Let us take the case of an award which does not satisfy a claimant organization. What will happen? Members of Parliament will be immediately besieged with applications to upset it. Thus we come back to my dictum that Parliament must be the supreme authority. I dp not see that the Bill will accomplish any good whatever. But I notice that it provides for the creation of a new office - that of Industrial Registrar - at £600 a year, and with a maximum salary of £800 per annum. To my mind,. this is a piece of extravagance which is entirely unwarranted. I object to the Bill from beginning to end, and I shall not support it in any way. I recognise that I have not the power to dot an “ i “ or cross a “ t “ in it, but I have entered my protest against it, and I believe that in the near future the electors of the Commonwealth will agree with me that it is a piece of mischievous and useless legislation.
– Amongst the many weighty speeches which have been delivered by honorable senators opposite, we have had one honest and candid reason advanced why this Bill should not become law. That reason was put forward by Senator Vardon. He has said quite frankly that he is opposed to the Bill because he is opposed to the principle of arbitration. If other honorable senators had been equally candid they would have said the same thing. Their opposition to the Bill is based upon their opposition to the principle of arbitration. I admire Senator Vardon for his plain and straightforward declaration. I can understand his position. My only regret is that other honorable senators have not been equally candid.
– Does the honorable senator imagine that we all think the same way ?
– Past experience has taught me that honorable senators opposite generally take up an attitude antagonistic to the principle of industrial legislation.
– Each man upon this side of the Chamber speaks for himself.
– I have heard that before. But I would ask the honorable senator how the party to which he belongs treated Mr. Willis when he accepted the Speakership of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly? That gentleman was free to do as he liked, but the party to which he belonged is proceeding to punish him by every possible means in its power.
– What would the honorable member’s party have done if a member of it had taken a similar course? The honorable member would have shot him.
– But we do not argue that every member of our party is free to do as he likes.
– You are holding up Mr. Willis for admiration.
– I am expressing no admiration for Mr. Willis, because I feel none. What is the principle at the bottom of this Bill ? It is that the members of any branch or section of the Public Service who think that they are badly treated shall have the right to appeal to a judicial tribunal. The Labour party entered politics first as the opponents of all class distinctions and privileges. It entered this Parliament, as it has entered every other Parliament in Australia, with the avowed object of removing every disability from which any citizen was suffering. With regard to public servants, we have tried to do that. We have removed the political disability which they suffered under previous Governments, and we have not found the slightest difficulty arising from that act. We are now removing another disability under which they labour, by conferring upon them the right of appeal, in common with every other citizen in the community, to a judicial tribunal to insure that they shall get a fair deal. It is said that they have the right to appeal to Parliament. Of course they have, and we now wish to give them a right which every other citizen has, and that is the right to appeal to a Court. If they have reasonable grievances, or think that they are not fairly treated, the Arbitration Court is the place in which to prove that. Senator Vardon made a good deal of the fact that, after the Court has given its award, .the public servants will still have the right to appeal to Parliament. If they do exercise that right, Parliament will be in an infinitely better position then than it is at present to say what are the rights and wrongs of the case. It never yet has been in a position to rectify the grievances of public servants, and to see that absolute justice was done, because it never possessed itself of all the facts. It could get ex parte statements from one side or the other, but it could not get the evidence presented, weighed and sifted as it will be able to do through ‘the medium of a judicial tribunal. When we have had an appeal made on behalf of a section of the Public Service, what has happened ? We, as the representatives of the people, have presented the case to Parliament, or to the Ministry. We have done what we could to get the whole thing rectified, and then it has been referred to the departmental officers, who issued a report which was pigeonholed. We are now providing a means by which Parliament can be placed in possession of all the facts of a case, so as to be able to do justice, if an appeal to it is made. There is no inconsistency in Parliament saying to public servants, “ While we are your employer, we want to give you exactly the same redress for any unfair conditions, or unfair hours of labour, or unfair remuneration, as every other citizen has.” Parliament is a very large employer, and between ourselves and our servants we have interposed a Commissioner. I have not a single word, except of admiration, for the gigantic work which Mr. McLachlan has done. In spite of all complaints, I hold that he has done a great deal of good to the Public Service; but it must be admitted that it was too great a task for “any one man. I do not think that if his inner mind were expressed, he would be found to have any objection to giving those who think that they have been unfairly or improperly dealt with by him the right of appeal to a Judge of the Arbitration Court.
– Why not give him assistance, as the members of the Postal Commission recommended?
– On this Bill I cannot allow myself to be dragged away to deal with that vast subject. Mr. McLachlan acts as the Commonwealth employer in place of the Ministry and of Parliament. It is for him to fix what are, in his opinion, fair conditions for the men in the Federal branches. But he cannot be expected to be infallible. He cannot be acquainted with all the details - the technicalities, or the varying circumstances which surround every walk of life in the Public Service, and, therefore, he cannot be expected to do complete justice all the time. Besides, he will never have an opportunity of having all the evidence brought before him. While he is the proper man, as the employer representing the Commonwealth, to fix what, in his opinion, are fair conditions and fair wages, there is nothing absolutely wrong in allowing an appeal from his decision to the Arbitration Court. I think that it is an admirable principle. In the multitude of his duties, and the many obscuring details of varying Departments which are brought before him, he, as the employer, will undoubtedly make mistakes. It will be for those servants who think that they are unfairly dealt with to state their case to the Arbitration Court, to present all the evidence, and to rely upon a fair Court to get a decent wage. If that fails them, and they still think that they are not fairly treated, they will have the right of appeal to Parliament, and the strong recommendation of the whole Bill to me is that, in that event, Parliament will be in a position it was never in before, and that is to judge as to what is the right thing to do. We have been told that we are simply shirking our duty ; that we should safeguard the interests of public servants, and investigate and rectify any grievances they may have. If that argument is sound, why is it that all honorable senators on the other side have presented the view in forcible terms of interposing the Commissioner between the public servants and Parliament? Why is it that they were so strong in having the Public. Service entirely removed from political control? That is a question which I think is unanswerable. They cannot justify their opposition to giving the public servants the right to apply to the Arbitration Court for the rectification of grievances and at the same time their advocacy of interposing the Commissioner between the Public Service and the Ministry and Parliament. If it was a good thing in one case, undoubtedly it is a good thing in another. Having removed the disabilities from public servants, why should we create a specially privileged class in the Public Service? We say to every other worker in the Commonwealth, “This is the proper way to insure that you shall get a fair deal! in your employment “ ; and .why should we not say the same thing to public servants? Is there any reason why we should make them the one privileged class which has the right to appeal to Parliament ? We, as their employer, will have the final say, and, as Senator Vardon so cogently pointed out, Parliament has the inherent right to be supreme over any decision or award arrived at by any Court. But the strong point of the whole Bill is, I repeat, that after an award has been given Parliament will then be in a position to do justice if appealed to.
– We have the report of a Royal Commission, and we have not acted on it.
– With regard to one branch of the Public Service that is quite true. But if the honorable senator has unbounded confidence in the Royal Commission and their findings, that is a great deal more than I have. I have viewed with a great deal of suspicion various Royal Commissions which have been appointed at the instance of different Parliaments. This is a generally accepted truism in Parliament when a Royal Commission is to be appointed, “ Tell me who the Commissioners are to be, and I will tell you what their verdict will be before a tittle of evidence is taken.” It is quite true that we have, with regard to one branch of the Public Service, the report of a Royal Commission to guide us. Very likely, in future years, when the conditions have altered, we may want to appoint another Royal Commission to inquire into the new circumstances, and we shall be continually wanting to appoint one. The Arbitration Court is, I hold, a very much better tribunal than would be any Royal Commission to get evidence, to weigh and sift it, and to give an award. The Postal Department is not the whole of the Public Service, by any means. We are going in for enormous railway construction enterprises. We will employ a very large number of persons in the development of the Federal Capital Territory in the very near future, and also men in various walks of life all over the Commonwealth. Apart from the Clerical Division, there is the large General Division of the Public Service to which there has been little attention paid. These are the men, rather than the highly-salaried officers, who, I think, will derive most benefit and get the surest means of having their cases heard and their grievances attended to and rectified by the Arbitration Court. They are a very hardworking and deserving class of the Public Service. We should extend to them exactly the same rights as every other individual in the community has, and assure to them that measure of justice which hitherto they have been denied. It is unanswerable, I think, that whereas highly-paid officers could come here and to other Parliaments year after year and get increases of salaries, it was almost impossible to get an increase of 2d. for a working man at the bottom of the ladder. A highly-paid officer has the ear of the Minister; the man next to him has the ear of the head of the Department ; but those in the General Division . have the ear of nobody. They have been looked upon as slaves to carry out any one’s bidding. Now. however, they are to have the right, for the first time on record, of appealing to an independent tribunal. I am sure that they will appreciate it, and be glad that there is a Government in power which has given them access to a Court endowed with authority to remedy their grievances.
– I am not sure whether honorable senators opposite are so sanguine as they profess to be that this Bill is going to do a. vast amount of good. If I had heard from any branch of the General Division of the Public Service, that they approved of the Bill, I should have felt it to be my duty to give a great deal more thought to it than I have done. But we have only had one petition, from 4,000 members of the service, who are opposed to the measure. It is true that there are something like 16,000 public servants in the Commonwealth, and that only 4,000 have expressed their opinion. But they certainly are a fair proportion of the whole, and the rest have not taken the trouble to signify their view. A Commissioner has been appointed to deal with the Public Service. He has nothing else to do. It is his whole and sole duty to control this body of Commonwealth employes. But while we are told with one breath that he is not able to do this work, we are informed with the next breath that it is necessary to refer the grievances of the public servants to the Judge of an Arbitration Court, who has thousands of other things to do. He has to hear disputes, not merely from 16,000 men, but from hundreds of thousands all over the Commonwealth. What better opportunities will the Judge have than the Commissioner has at present? Every tittle of evidence that the Judge of the Arbitration Court can obtain, the Commissioner is equally able to get. The fact is that the Government simply have not the courage to deal with this question, and the party behind them have not the courage to force them to deal with it. At present public servants have a right to appeal from the Public Service Commissioner to a board. I do not know the Commissioner personally. To the best of my knowledge I have never seen him in my life. Therefore, I can speak of him impartially. I agree with Senator Givens that he has done a vast amount of good.
– I believe he has practised a lot of cruelty.
– I am not aware of it.
– I am.
– I hope that the honorable senator will get up and give instances.
– I did.
– I had not the pleasure of hearing the honorable senator speak on this Bill. We appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into the grievances of about two-thirds of the public servants of the Commonwealth, employed in the Post and Telegraph Department. I have before me the details of expenditure for 1911-12. I find that the Royal Commission is set down for an expenditure of £1,591 in that year, and that it spent £623 in 1910-11. It presented a report. What did the Government do? Did they act upon the recommendations? They simply shelved the document, notwithstanding that it contained evidence collected from all parts of the Commonwealth. The Commission recommended the appointment of a board, consisting of men acquainted with all the technicalities of the Public Service, and fully able to value the work of the officers. The Government turned down that recommendation also. We have not been told why.
– The Government did not even say that they rejected the Commission’s report. They left the road open to themselves in that respect also.
– We are entitled to a Ministerial explanation on this subject. Will the Judge of the Arbitration Court be in as good a position to understand the work of the service as the board recommended by the Royal Commission would be? His Honour will have no knowledge of the intricacies of the service. He will have to form his opinion from evidence brought before him. What will be the position of the employes in the General Division ? Is the Judge going to grade the officers? Is he going to say to one man, “ You are not in the right class,” and to another, “ You are not paid sufficiently for the position you hold “ ? Do the supporters of this Bill think that the Judge is going to do that? The idea is absurd. He cannot grade the service. There must be an expert officer to do that. Had the Government proposed’ to appoint a board I should have had no objection whatever to it, because an expert board would be in a position to review the work of the Commissioner, and to weigh evidence. I believe that the Public Service would have approved of that proposal. But under present circumstances public servants are simply put off with a buffer between themselves and the Government. A large number of them believed that when the Labour Government came into power their condition would be improved. They now find that no such thing is taking place. We are told that the Government have granted large increases. But it must be remembered that the cost of living has increased in the Commonwealth. We have a Tariff that has sent up the price of commodities all round. The Government had to meet their servants in consequence of this. They could not say to a man, “ We have increased your cost of living by £10, but we are going to increase your wages by the same amount.”
– Does not the honorable senator think the cost of living in London is higher than it is here?
– A man cannot get a decent meal for is. in England.
– I have never had a decent dinner for is. here, except at Parliament House.
– The cost of living is certainly greater in England.
– I say, without hesitation, that it is not. It may be that the cost of hotel life is much higher in England than in Australia, comparing similar hotels. But that does not mean that the cost of living to householders is greater there. Within the past twelve months the Post and Telegraph employes have been brought very near to a general strike. The Postmaster-General had to go over to Sydney, where the employes laid their case before him. I maintain that it was his duty to come down to Parliament and propose an alteration of the law to meet the necessities of the case. But did he do so? No. The Government simply content themselves with bringing forward this Bill, relegating the settlement of grievances to the Judge of the Arbitration Court. Why did the Postmaster-General and his predecessor make these trips to Sydney? Surely after hearing evidence they could make up their mind whether there was a grievance or not. The Postmaster-General said that the telegraph employes worked only 6£ hours per day, and that he did not see any grievance in that. Immediately after he made that statement I received letters from Brisbane, from people in the same class of employment, saying that their hours were ten and eleven per day. Who is right, the employes or the Postmaster-General ? I do not know. Until I have evidence to the contrary I must accept the statement of the PostmasterGeneral. The Judge of the Arbitration Court is given the powers of a despot under this Bill, powers which ought not to be given to any man. Parliament has no right to shirk its own work by handing it over to the Arbitration Court. A number of civil servants may appear before the Court, and obtain an award which Parliament will decline to accept, or it may be that the public servants will decline to accept it, and it must then come before Parliament. What position should we be in then? We should be inundated with letters and should be almost unable to approach Parliament House, because of the number of public servants who would be seeking personal interviews with us to induce Parliament to give effect to the recommendations of the Court if it increased their emolument or to defeat it if it decreased their emolument.
– I hope we shall be in Yass-Canberra by that time.
– I believe that the honorable senator desires to get to YassCanberra to be away from the public servants, and I also believe that this Bill has been introduced to enable the Government to avoid giving them their rights. We have been told, time after time, that the reason why the service has not been put upon a better footing has been the lack of funds.
– That is what other Governments have said.
– That is what was said by the Government whom Senator McGregor sat behind and dictated to. We believed that the Government were -telling the truth, and would be prepared to rectify anomalies in the service, and improve the conditions if they had the necessary funds for the purpose. But the present Government have the necessary funds. They are in a position to pay every public servant a fair salary. I notice that it is expected that there will be a further increase of revenue next year to the extent of ;£i, 000,000 from the Tariff. The Government have not known what to do with the funds they have had control of, and they have lent money to all the States, with the exception of Queensland, at 3$ per cent. Now that they have the funds, why do they not do justice to the civil servants. Senator W. Russell has told us that certain Commonwealth servants in South Australia have not been justly treated. He is now sitting behind the Government that has ample funds for the purpose, and can do what is right by them.
– The present Government have done more for the civil servants in one year than the Deakin Government did in ten years.
– The honorable senator was supporting the Deakin Government when I entered the Senate.
– We commanded them.
– 1 admit that, and I ask why the honorable senator did not see that the Deakin Government did what was right by the public servants.
– Mr. Deakin is the leader of the honorable senator’s party now.
– He was leader of Senator O’Keefe’s party when he was a member of a previous Parliament. When I entered the Senate every honorable senator on the other side, with the exception of those who were returned at the last election, were behind the Deakin Government. They laid down the law for Mr. Deakin, who had to carry out their behests. The excuse given at that time was that the Government had not sufficient funds to do justice to the Public Service, but now Mr. Deakin has been thrown over, and when the Labour Government have sufficient funds to do justice to the public servants they prefer to say, “ We will shelve this matter for three years. We can get out of it by telling the public servants that we will give them what we give to every other citizen of the Commonwealth.” We know that that is not done by this Bill. If a private employer does not obey the mandate of the Arbitration Court to pay wages in accordance with an award he can be made to do so. But the Government cannot be made obey an award of the Court. If the Government, on an appeal by members of the service, consider an award of the Court reasonable they can act under it, but if they consider it unreasonable they are in a position to reject it. Yet they tell the public servants that they are pla.ing them in this matter in the same position as the general body of workers outside. After consenting to the appointment pf a Royal Commission to take evidence and report on the conditions prevailing in the Post and Telegraph Department, the. Government set aside the recommendations of the Commission. Why do they not adopt the recommendation to appoint a Board of three members to manage the Post and Telegraph Department. If they did so it might be said that the Postal -Commission had done some good. But they have turned down the report of the Commission, because it does not suit them. If honorable senators carry this Bill they will be shirking their duty as members of the Senate. If it were shown that the public servants had wrongs which Parliament should right, and that any class in the service was not being properly paid, there would not be one dissentient on this side to a proposal to pay them properly. I can refer to the case of a young man in Melbourne, who is twenty-two years of age, and in receipt of the munificent salary of £120 a. year. Last year, when he reached the age of twentyone years, he received an increment of £to, and this year he receives another similar increment bringing his salary up to £120. I believe that he has a wife and child, as well as himself, to support. In ordinary occupations outside, demands are made by unions for minimum wages of 9s. and ros. per day, yet we have a man in the Public Service, who is expected to keep up a respectable appearance on £120 a year.
– Does the honorable senator not know that the present Government have raised the minimum salary in the service above £120.
– I am aware of that.
– The honorable senator has just said that the man to whom he referred was expected to keep up a respectable appearance on £120 a vear.
– It is a fact ‘that he had to do so.
– Under former Governments.
– I have already dealt with that, and I remind Senator Givens that he was a supporter of former Governments. Why did he not compel them to do what was right by the Public Service. The present Government have ample funds.
– So had previous Governments only they gave away £6,000,000 to the States.
– The honorable senator supported the Governments that gave that money to the States. A young man enters the Public Service at a minimum salary which is increased by annual increments to, it may be, a maximum of £160 or £180 for his class. What chance has such a man in the service compared to what he would have outside? There may be a dozen clerks in the office with him, and no matter how much they differ in ability they all get only the same increment of salary every year.
– The honorable senator was supporting the Fusion Government for nine months. Why did he not insist upon such a condition of affairs being altered.
– The Minister of Defence does not know what he is talking about. I was never tied to the Fusion Government, nor did I give that Government my support. I was here as an independent senator, to do what I thought right and just in connexion with every matter that was brought before the Senate. That is what I pledged myself to, and on that I was returned to the Senate.
– It is only a coincidence that the honorable senator votes with his party on every occasion.
– I vote with my party when I think it is right. I shall vote against this Bill because I think it is wrong. I have never left the chamber when a division was about to be taken. I have always had the courage of my convictions. I am not like a good many honorable senators opposite, who, when the bells ring - although they have not heard a single word of the discussion - troop into the chamber and take their seats with the other members of their party.
– The honorable senator is a good hand at that sort of thing himself.
– I am always prepared to vote in accordance with my convictions. Indeed, on one or two occasions, I think I have been instrumental in saving the Government. A great deal has been said during this debate abort the increments which have been granted to our public servants by the present Ministry. But I would ask Senator Givens whether wages have not been increased in nearly all walks of life - in private employment as well as in our Public Service?
– Has any increase taken place in the wages of the miners of Queensland ?
– I do not think so. But in nearly every walk of life there has been an increase. Until recently the men who have been employed as navvies by the Commonwealth received only 7s. 6d. or 8s. per day. But in a good many instances they are now receiving a higher rate of pay. Why? Because the cost of living has increased.
– Have the public servants of Queensland received an increase of pay ?
– Yes. We have been told that honorable senators upon this side of the chamber do not act fairly, and that they resemble Mr. Willis.
– Order ! Senator Givens made that statement in reply to an interjection by the honorable senator himself. It had nothing whatever to do with the Bill.
– The party to which I belong has no control whatever over Mr. Willis, and does not wish to have any thing to do with him. When you, sir, saythat the statement of Senator Givens was” made in reply to an interjection by me, I fancy that you are in error. I have brought many cases of hardship in our Public Service under the notice of the Minister, but he has not taken any steps to remedy that hardship. When I made a certain, statement in this chamber whilst the Supply Bill was under consideration, I was immediately written to by the Department of Home Affairs asking for corroboration of my statement. Happily, I was in a position to sit down and supply the desired information. Later on, I received a letter informing me that inquiries would be made into the matter. I was told that in 1910 an officer had been deputed to look into it, that he did not think it necessary to take any action then, but that a sum of money to enable it to be dealt with would be placed upon the Estimates next year. This is the way in which members of Parliament are treated by the Government. That being so, what is the use of public servants appealing to them?
– That is all the more reason why they should have an appeal to the Arbitration Court.
– No President of the Arbitration Court will be in a position to know as much of our public servants as the Public Service Commissioner knows of them. But the Government will not appoint a board to investigate their complaints. It is true that a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the working of the Postal Department; but although it has presented its report, the Ministry have not accepted its recommendations.
– We have accepted nearly all of them.
– Only the other day I heard a gentleman in another place say that the Government have not agreed to its chief recommendation, namely, that a board of management should be appointed. Paragraph 907 of the Commission’s report reads -
The specific objections of the Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner to the desired alteration of the Constitution of Appeals Boards are as follow : -
The Commonwealth would have no control over a Judge or stipendiary magistrate who is a State official, and the substitution of such an officer for the Public Service Inspector would leave the Commonwealth practically unrepresented.
A Judge or magistrate cannot possess the knowledge and experience of public administration or of the general principles underlying the classification of officers necessary to enable him to adjudicate on the many involved Public Service questions remitted to Boards of Appeal.
A State officer presiding over Boards of Appeal would necessarily be guided largely by ex -parte evidence, and his decisions would consequently create anomalies and cause injustice to officers who were not applicants. “Decisions of Boards of Appeal, unlike those of Courts of Law, cannot be based wholly on the evidence submitted, but must take into account surrounding circumstances, which can only be fully within the knowledge of the Commissioner and Public Service Inspectors. Boards of Appeal are not legal tribunals.
I agree with that statement of the Commission. In my judgment, the Bill will t>e a complete failure. In the first place, advantage will not be taken of its provisions ; and in the second, if advantage be taken of them, no benefit will be conferred upon our public servants. I ask the Government to take upon its shoulders the burden of doing what is right. If, even at this late hour of the session, they will bring down a Bill to do justice to our public servants, quite independently of the Arbitration Court, I feel sure that it will meet with ample support from honorable senators upon this side of the chamber.
– I have listened to a great many remarks in regard to the principle which is embodied in this Bill. I have heard the Government urged repeatedly to do justice to the public servants. I have heard the principle of arbitration held up to ridicule until I am forced to say a few words, as far as Tasmania is concerned, to justify my attitude on the Bill. Senator Sayers has repeatedly asked us this question, “ Why do you not do justice to the Public Service?” He did not take the trouble to remind the Senate lhat the Government have done more for the Public Service during the eighteen months they have been in office than was done by previous Governments during a period of eight or nine years. In the first annual report of the Postmaster-General’s Department, there are several paragraphs which contain a good deal of information -
Since the close of the preceding year the salaries of a large number of the permanent employes have been, or will be, appreciably increased by amendments which have been approved in the rates of pay, involving a total annual cost of £107,000, divided in the proportions of £20,000 amongst Clerical Division officers, and £87,000. amongst those of the General Division.
In addition to this amount increases accruing otherwise than through the amendments mentioned will be granted throughout the year, and these will augment the salaries of the officers sharing therein to the extent of at least £70,000, giving a total of £177,000 for increases in annual salaries.
– Which Government gave them the minimum wage?
– I am not dealing with that aspect of the question.
– That is about the best thing they have ever got.
– I wish to show what the Government have done for public servants in Tasmania, where the conditions prevailing amongst postal employes under the State regime were a disgrace to the Legislature. Prior to Federation, one of the practices adopted by Ministers in times of retrenchment was to send round circulars to small contract postmistresses who were receiving sometimes the munificent salary of £25 a year. Quite recently, I met one of these persons, who told me that while Sir Edward Braddon was Premier, she received a notification that, owing to the bad times, her salary of £25 would be cut down by £10. That shows the conditions which prevailed under the State control of the Department. On a later page of this very valuable document, I find the following statement regarding Tasmania -
The officers in Tasmania have benefited to a larger extent than those in any other State. The average salary paid by the State was £107 per annum. It is now £137, an increase of £30 per officer, or 27 per cent. Among the classes of officers who have shared in the increased emoluments due to their transfer to the Commonwealth are -
Telegraphists, whose salaries have been raised from an average of £118 to £180*, an increase of £62, or 53 per cent.
Letter Carriers, who are receiving an average increase of 25 per cent, on State salaries.
Postmasters and Postmistresses have benefited to a large extent, and also sorters, postal assistants, linemen, and others, whose increases, while impossible to state definitely, owing to differences of designation, have been on a similar scale to those abovementioned.
- Estimate under new classification.
That is what the present Government have done for officers in my State. Yet the argument is hurled at ‘our heads that we should do justice to the employes in the Postal Department. Regarding the principle of this Bill, Senator Vardon made the very sweeping statement that arbitration has never succeeded, and never will succeed.
– And I will repeat the statement any time you like.
– I maintain that the statement cannot be substantiated by facts. If we take our own Arbitration Court, we find that, although it has delivered awards covering hundreds of thousands of men, not one award has been broken. The Court has undoubtedly done that which it was directly created to do, and that is to bring about conditions of industrial peace, where it had jurisdiction over disputes. By one case alone, it has, I maintain, justified its existence. In the case of the Australian Workers Union, comprising 49,000 odd members, the Court, by its award, undoubtedly brought about conditions of industrial peace in the pastoral industry. Our opponents on the other side continually tell us th.-it they oppose strikes, yet. the only remedy which they have urged by interjection is that there should be voluntary conciliation.
– Quite right, too.
– That has never succeeded in practice.
– Sensible men get on very well.
– Compulsory arbitration has succeeded in practice.
– Not in many places. New Zealand is going to give it up.
– In the case of our own Arbitration Court, we have not only a striking, but an absolutely convincing illustration that compulsory arbitration has succeeded in practice- The Court has never failed yet so far as arbitration is concerned. If honorable senators on the other side would recognise that the only hope of the worker, who economically is not in the same position as the employer, to demand his rights, is by means of collective bargaining, I think that they would fully recognise the principle of compulsory arbitration. What did Mr. Justice Higgins say on this point when he was dealing with the economical position of the workingman?
– - I do not recognise him as a good authority.
– Certainly the honorable senator does not. In delivering his judgment on the claim of the Federated Engine-Drivers Association of Australasia, Mr. Justice Higgins said, dealing with economic theories -
It has been of no advantage whatever to the claimant that some of its claims have been preposterously high. An excessive claim does not affect my judgment, unless in a direction unfavorable to the claimant. I tried to find the “ fair thing,” not to take a mean between the highest demand and the lowest offer. It affords one some food for reflection, however, to find that although in theory there is a power to decrease wages in every case which has come before my predecessor or myself, the Court has had to interfereby way of increase. The reason seems to be that the employer usually needs no Court to enable him to reduce wages - he has simply to ref.use to give employment at wages which he seems to think to be too high. It ought to be frankly admitted that, as a rule, the economic position of the individual employe1 is too weak for him to hold his own in the unequal contest. He is unable to insist on the “ fair thing.” The power of the employer to withhold bread is a much more effective weapon than the power of the employe1 to refuse labour. Freedom of contract, under such circumstances, is surely misnamed ; it should rather be called despotism in contract; and this Court is empowered to fix a minimumwage as a check on the despotic power.
We can never get honorable senators opposite to admit that, economically, the employe is in a weaker position than the employer. When we come to deal with the case of our public servants, we find that, although they are better off, in many respects, yet, economically, they are in a weaker position than their employers, that is, the people of Australia. In this Bill we enable them to take any grievances to a tribunal armed with full power to deal with them. We have had a striking instance of the need for this legislation. As I listened to Senator W. Russell’s speech on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, I was particularly impressed with the feeling that the need of arbitration to settle that great dispute in South Australia was very great indeed. One would have thought that even Senator Vardon would have been anxious to pass this measure.
– What is the dispute to which you refer?
– The prolonged disagreement between the Public Service Commissioner and a large section of the employes in the Postal Department in South Australia.
– It has never been settled yet.
– No. But one would have .thought that the honorable senator would have welcomed such a tribunal as we propose to create.
– The Arbitration Court cannot deal with that case.
– In what way? I fail to see that.
– It will have no jurisdiction. The case has been before the High Court already.
– I am informed, on the best of authority - and I prefer to take that authority before the honorable senator’s statement - that the dispute can be settled by the Arbitration Court.
– Surely they can get before the Federal Court.
– One honorable senator is thinking of one thing, and the other of another.
– Surely Senator Vardon should know that I v/as dealing with the prolonged dispute in South Australia ?
– What are the particulars of the dispute?
– I do not wish to be drawn off the track.
– Are you referring to the dispute about the accruing rights of transferred officers?
– Yes; a number of points have been in dispute. I do not think that the honorable senator will seriously say that we should devote ourselves to unravelling the meshes of that net.
– Parliament could do justice.
– I think that the only way to do justice to these officers is to place them in a position to ventilate their claims fully - a thing which they could not do before Parliament.
– Why not have a Public Service Commissioner?
– We have; and friction has arisen.
– Are you referring to the dispute about accruing rights?
– That and other grievances.
– That involves a constitutional question.
– Yes; but I understand that it is not the only grievance. I am not prepared to say that one particular point is not unconstitutional. At any rate, the postal employes in South Australia have endeavoured for a long time to voice their grievances, and, though they have adequately represented them, their complaints have never been brought before Parliament.
– As regards the matter of accruing rights, these officers are in no different position from other transferred officers in the service of the Commonwealth.
– Some of these officers have told me that they will be very glad indeed to have the opportunity of going before the Arbitration Court. I know that, in Tasmania, officers in the General and the Clerical Divisions, particularly in the former, will welcome the passing of this Bill. It has occasioned no dissatisfaction in that State. Some highly intelligent officers, with whom I have conversed, have stated that they are quite prepared to submit a case, if they should have one, not only to a Court presided over by Mr. Justice Higgins, but to any properly constituted Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. I believe that in Tasmania the Bill is welcomed. I have not received one protest, either orally or by letter. The employes of the Postal Department are quite content with the Bill, and I hope that it will be passed, and, further, that it will afford them an opportunity to ventilate legitimately every reasonable grievance.
– I should like the Minister in charge of the Bill to tell us, in his reply, why, in the definition of “ Public Service of the Commonwealth,” in clause 2, there is no allusion to the Public Service of Papua? Seeing that it is under the control of the Commonwealth, why should not the public servants of that Territory have the advantage of this legislation ? I notice that the definition includes the Public Service of the Northern Territory, and of the Territory of the seat of Government. Why should it not also include that of the Territory of Papua ?
– Because its public servants are under another Parliament.
– They have the same right, I presume,, to the benefits of this legislation as have other servants in the employment of the Commonwealth.
– They have a Legislative Council, which is equivalent to a Parliament.
– But everything which the .Legislative Council of Papua does is subject to the veto of the Government and the Parliament of the Commonwealth. I do not see why the principle of this Bill should not be applied generally. Surely the Arbitration Court has quite enough to do already, without casting upon it work of this kind. I think that we are overloading the Court. We shall have to appoint a second Judge shortly if we go on like this.
– It is better to overload the Arbitration Court than to have so many strikes.
– Clause ti provides that no costs shall be allowed in connexion with proceedings under this measure, and clause 12 that counsel or solicitors shall not be engaged. That seems to me to be unfair. The Government will have legal advice, and why should not the public servants be similarly equipped? If they have to consult lawyers, it is not fair to expect to get that assistance for nothing. It appears to me that much valuable time will be lost both on .the part of heads of Departments and the Public Service Commissioner, if they have continually to attend appeals before the Arbitration Court. I know from experience of other institutions that it is generally the lame ducks of the service who are continually bothering about more pay. In nine cases out of ten these persons have no cause for complaint.
– Cases of that kind are not likely to be taken up by a union.
– It would be better to give some men six months salary and let them retire than to give them these facilities. The last speaker said that the public servants owe more to the present Labour Government than to any previous Government. I am of opinion that the Commonwealth public servants owe much to the first Federal Government, which took care to put them in a comfortable position with regard to a minimum wage. It is nonsense to say that the present Ministry have done more than any previous Government. They have simply gone a little further than others were able to do, but the foundations were laid in the first Parliament of the Commonwealth. I have a lively recollection of the struggle we had for the minimum wage, and for the rights of the women employes. But all those past works are now looked upon as worthy to be forgotten. I believe that the Public Service Commissioner has honestly endeavoured to do what is right between man and man; and while the present Government are doing what they believe to be right, there is no reason whatever to suggest that previous Ministries did not strive to do the same. It is a great mistake to praise one Government at the expense of another to such an extent as has been done. As to Senator Ready’s remarks regarding arbitration, I must observe that ever since we have had arbitration in the Commonwealth, .we have had industrial unsettlement. At Lithgow the men will not carry out the award given by the Court. There certainly has been more excitement in regard to labour during the past four years than ever before. I do not believe in strikes. I believe in sensible men meeting together to settle their differences amicably. We do that in private life, and why can it not be done in the industrial arena. I like to be a man of peace, and believe in friendly conciliation in connexion with all matters. I strongly object to the party to which I belong being looked upon as inhumanitarian. It is nonsense to make suggestions of the kind. We have just as kindly a feeling towards the public servants as have honorable senators opposite.
– I think that the Government ought to make a statement in regard to their intention with respect to the report of the Postal Commission. So much is due to the employe’s of the Post and Telegraph Department. If this Bill passes, will it mean that the work of the Commission and all its recommendations, and the money it cost, and everything connected with it, will be thrown upon the scrap-heap.
– The great bulk of the Commission’s recommendations have been adopted.
– Some may have been, but there are others undoubtedly affecting large bodies of men which have not been adopted. The men will be very anxious to know whether after this Bill passes they will have to approach the Arbitration Court with fresh evidence, repeating everything that was laid before the Royal Commission.
– The PostmasterGeneral made, a speech in another place ir» which he stated definitely what recommendations were accepted, and what it was not intended to accept. The officers will know exactly what is to be done if they read that speech.
– -There is a great, deal of dissatisfaction in the service. I have a letter from an officer who tells me that the recommendation of the Commission with regard to day-work was that the hours should be forty-four per week, and that the hours for night work should be thirty-six, whilst with regard to broke shifts the hours should be forty.
– For what class of work.
– I think this refers to sorters.
– They would haveaccess to the Arbitration Court, which would be able to give them satisfaction ir» regard to their hours of work.
– That is exactly the point upon which I wish the Government to be definite. Do they intend to throw the Commission’s report on the scrapheap.
– It has not been thrown on the scrap-heap. Part of the recommendations have been adopted.
– Will the men have to go through the same operation, again stating their case before this Court, ranging up their witnesses, and going to a great deal of expense and trouble to state their disabilities, which they have already explained to the Postal Commission. That Commission, which was appointed several years ago, was careful and laborious in making its investigation, doing more than any Judge is ever likely to do. It visited a number of post-offices throughout Australia, saw the men at their work, saw the conditions under which they laboured and generally collected all the information which it was possible to get. I do not suppose that the Judge of the Arbitration Court is likely to do that sort of thing. My contention is that work has already been exhaustively done for the Post and Telegraph Department by the Royal Commission. The Government ought either to adopt its report or reject the recommendations. They ought to tell the men definitely what they do not accept, so that they may be in a position to know what to do. I should particularly like to hear a statement from the Government with regard to the hours of labour. Although the Commission recommended that forty-four hours per week should be worked, there are men who are working ninety-three hours per fortnight as a minimum. They might even be required to work ninety-three hours in one week if the Department demanded it. Certainly no more than forty-four hours should be worked in any one week, and those hours should as nearly as possible be evenly distributed over the week. With regard to night work, I consider six hours per night are quite enough.
– I used to have to work eight hours per day or per night, and did not get a farthing extra for night work.
– I am sure that the honorable senator grumbled very much. I am of opinion “that more should be paid for night work than for day work, and I am satisfied *hat Senator Givens will assist the men who are doing night work in the Post Office, if not to get more money, at all events to get shorter hours.
– Every miner in Australia has to work at night, and does not get more pay for it.
– It does not matter to the miner whether he works by day or by night. He is working in the dark under any circumstances.
– He misses the daylight which he would have if he were working on top.
– Any man who works at night, whether below or above ground, is entitled to more pay than is given for day work.
– Miners cannot get more.
– Not from private employers, but the Commonwealth is in a position to do justice to its employes. Night work is very unpleasant. All that these men ask is that their night duties shall be limited to six hours per night. My correspondent says that the books at the office where he is working show that men are doing night duty for from fifty-two hours down to forty-one per week.
– Were they paid extra?
– I do not know. I do not think so.
– They were allowed time off next week, I expect.
– I know nothing except what I have been informed. Yet the recommendation of the Commission is that thirty-six hours should be the limit for night work. Honorable senators know what broken shifts are. They mean that men sometimes begin work at 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning, and their day is not ended until 10 at night.
– That is worse than night work.
– It is very bad and most disagreeable.
– That ought to be remedied.
– I think the men are entitled to what they ask for. They should be told either that the recommendations of the Royal Commission in this connexion are to be carried out, or that they will have to state a case to the Arbitration Court. I invite the Government to make a statement on the subject. With regard to the general question of arbitration, I recognise freely that if the men are not satisfied with what Parliament, representing their employers, has done for. them, it is only right and proper that there should be some other authority to which they can appeal. So far as that goes, I approve of the establishment of the Arbitration Court to hear appeals from public servants. But then another consideration comes in. The Arbitration Court may fix wages, conditions, and hours of labour such as no Parliament, having a majority of Labour members in it, could agree to. What would happen then? The award of the Arbitration Court would have to be overridden. If it was not, our supporters outside would bring political pressure to bear upon us, as they would be quite entitled to do, and the work of the Arbitration Court would go for nothing. So that we are in an extremely difficult position whichever way we look at it. I think the Government should make a definite statement with regard to a number of the recommendations of the Postal Commission which have not been adopted, so that the men concerned may know exactly where they are.
– I congratulate honorable senators upon the exhaustive manner in which they have dealt with this question. There is not a great deal to reply to, with the exception of some urgent requests made by Senator Stewart with respect to the work of the Postal Commission. The honorable senator must recollect that there are other persons in the Commonwealth Public Service than those in the Post and Telegraph Department, and it is necessary that this Bill should deal with them all. I might inform the honorable senator that, so far as the lower grade’s, particularly of -the Post and Telegraph Service are concerned, the Government have adopted almost nine-tenths of the recommendations of the Postal Commission.. He will admit, from his own experience, that that is a bigger proportion of recommendations adopted than he has ever known in the case of any other Royal Commission that ever reported to Parliament. Some of the recommendations which have not yet been dealt with are under consideration, and inquiries are being made with respect to them. Senator Stewart must also recognise that there has been no Royal Commission that has not made some recommendation that it would be impossible for any Government to accept. With reference to what the honorable senator said concerning night work and day work, the difficulties to which he has referred are being adjusted as speedily as possible..
With respect to broken shifts, I am able to say that the Postmaster-General has that matter under consideration. Senator Stewart should bear in mind that, in connexion with a service like the Post and Telegraph Service of the Commonwealth, emergencies will arise which it is almost impossible to foresee. I am sure thatevery loyal servant of the Department is willing to exert himself a little more on such occasions than he would expect to be compelled to do in ordinary circumstances. I do not think that Senator Stewart canknow very much about the difference between night work and day work. 1 haveworked at night as well as in the daytime,, and I would just as soon work at night.. As a rule, people are not expected to work so hard at night as in the daytime, except in mines, where it is all the same to the men whether it is day or night. The trouble is not in working at night,, but in getting res; during the daytime in a hot country like Australia. So far as the difficulty to which the honorable senator has referred can be met, the Government will do ali they can to meet it,, and to give consideration to those who labour under such difficulties. I am sure that neither the honorable senator nor the Post and Telegraph employés expect that all night work can be avoided. The matter is under consideration, and everything: will be done in die direction of giving fair play to those concerned. ^ This Bill is one of the means which will be placed at the disposal of the members of the Public Service to secure redress; of grievances if what the Government do isconsidered insufficient. I am sure that, if the public servants consider the measure fairly, they will be only too willing to accept it. There have been other matters mentioned during the debate which might be dealt with, but, if they arise in Committee, I shall endeavour to make any explanations concerning them that are necessary. In connexion with public servants whose disabilities arise under the provisions of the Constitution, it is clear that they cannot be remedied in the same manner as grievances in connexion, with wages, hours, and conditions of labour. Some of these were referred to by Senator Rae, and a number of them have been in the mind of Senator W. Russell. Honorable senators will admit that the High Court isthe tribunal to which grievances in the service in connexion with accruing or accrued rights should be submitted, and the Arbitration Court is the place in which grievances of the other class may be dealt with. I hope that the Bill will be allowed to pass as speedily as possible.
Question - That this Bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 (Short Title).
– I think that the Government should make some statement as to whether there is any intention to appoint an additional Judge or Judges to the Arbitration Court. It must be evident that the present Judge of that Court will be quite unable to undertake the work that will arise after the passing of this Bill.
– Senator Stewart will acknowledge that the President of the Arbitration Court is the best authority to express a definite opinion on the point he has raised. When he expresses the opinion that he is unable to cope with the work, the Government will be prepared to give him the assistance he considers necessary to get the work done.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 - “ The Public Service of the Commonwealth “ includes the Public Service of the Northern Territory, and of the Territory of the Seat of Government. . .
– I rise to reply to the question raised by Senator Walker as to why the Public Service of Papua has not been included in this clause. The honorable senator will know that Papua has, to a limited extent, self-government, and, in the circumstances, it would be something like including the Public Service of a State under this Bill if we were to attempt to include the public servants of Papua. Consequently, they are left out. The Northern Territory and the Federal Territory have not selfgovernment yet, and consequently the Publie Service in those Territories must be included in this Bill.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. -Who pays the public servants of Papua ?
– That is not the question ; they are appointed on the recommendation of the authorities in Papua.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - By the Executive of the Commonwealth.
– Their salaries do not appear upon our Estimates.
– The reason given by the Minister as to why Papua is left out pf this. clause strikes me as rather amusing. He says that it is because Papua has some measure of local government, and we should not therefore attempt by Federal legislation to direct the action of the Papuan authorities in connexion with their Public Service. The Minister surely overlooks the fact that he is a member of a party which sought to apply this legislation to the public servants of a fully equipped State. In the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill originally introduced, they sought to bring the public servants of the several States within the jurisdiction of the Federal Arbitration Court. They had no hesitation about it then. At that time, none of the finer feelings disturbed the inner consciousness of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. It is only now that he is. afflicted with these little conscientious spasms. I ask him not to impose on the good nature of the Committee too much, by asking us to regard an argument of that kind with any seriousness.
Amendment (by Senator Walker) proposed -
That after the word “ Government” the words “ and of Papua “ be inserted.
– I am sure that when Senator Walker realizes that the public servants of
Papua are not under our Public Service Act he will not press his amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 -
An organization of employes in the Public Service of the Commonwealth shall be entitled to submit to the Court by plaint any claim relating to the salaries, wages, rates of pay, or terms or conditions of service or employment of members of the organization, and the Court shall thereupon have cognisance of the claim as if it were an industrial dispute within the meaning of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-11.
The Public Service Commissioner and the Minister of any Department of State affected by the claim shall be entitled to be represented before the Court, either jointly or separately in the hearing and determination of the claim.
– I have never heard of any portion of the Public Service which desires the settlement of its claims to be transferred from Parliament to the Arbitration Court. I have a lively recollection of a deputation, composed of. members of all the lower grades of the Public Service, which waited upon me in Brisbane some time ago. That deputation laid its grievances before me, and we discussed them very thoroughly. Some of the points which were then raised have since been favorably considered by, the Minister, but others have’ not. One of the grievances of these men was in regard to their salaries. That grievance has since been remedied. The other point which they raised had reference to the Public Service Act and the Public Service Commissioner. To the honour of that deputation be it said, its members quite recognised that the Commissioner was faithfully discharging his duty to this Parliament. One of the great grievances urged by these men was that, in matters of appeal in regard to fines or punishment, the Appeal Court under the Public Service Act was not properly constituted. They made it perfectly clear that under that Act the right of appeal which they enjoy is merely an appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober. Everywhere that I have come into contact with public servants - and I see no reason why they should not approach members of Parliament-
-The Public Service Act forbids them to do so.
– If the Public Service Act forbids that sort of thing it is nothing short of tyranny. But, as a mat ter of fact, that Act provides that no member of the Public Service shall approach a member of Parliament with a view to exerting political influence.
– What other influence can a member of Parliament exercise?’
– Suppose that a public servant thinks that he has not been properly treated, and puts his case beforean honorable senator. Does the PublicService Act prevent that honorable senator from making representations to the Min- . ister ?
“Hansard” Staff and Late Sittings, Order of Business.
. -In moving-
That the Senate do now adjourn,
I have no doubt that honorable senators are aware that the other branch of the Legislature has sat continuously throughout the night, and may possibly sit all today, to-night, and to-morrow. There are only a limited number of Hansard reporters, and it is really to make their work a little easier that the Government propose to adjourn at this unusual hour.
– I am sure that the Senate will appreciate the reasons which have been assigned by the Vice-President of the Executive Council for the somewhat extraordinary course which is being adopted on the present occasion. I do not intend to raise any demur to the action proposed, because the Vice-President of the Executive Council did intimate to me early inthe day that, for the reason which he has given, he would feel it incumbentupon him to take this step. But I cannot refrain from expressing surprise that he should have interrupted the progress of business before the Bill which we have just been considering had been got out of the way. I understood him, to say that he expected the consideration of that measure to be completed before the Senate adjourned ; and I had given him an assurance that, so far as the Opposition were concerned, the discussion of it in its Committee stages would be very brief. Seeing that, owing to the state of public business, the Government may have to make extraordinary demands on our time next week inorder to terminate the session, I think that- the Vice-President of the Executive Council made a mistake in carrying that business over to next week. I would like to ask him whether he intends on Tuesday next to proceed first with the Arbitration (Public Service) Bill or with the Bank Bill?
– With the Arbitration (Public Service) Bill..
– The consideration of that Bill would have been completed in a quarter of an hour if the VicePresident of the Executive Council had only hung on to it.
– Whilst every honorable senator will agree with the proposal that the Senate should adjourn at this . unusual hour today, I do think that if the same peculiar circumstances arise in the future-as they are likely to do - it might be well for the Government to make arrangements for extra hands to take shorthand notes of our debates.
– Competent men cannot be obtained.
– I think it is quite possible that arrangements might be made with some efficient shorthand writers.
– One docs not know that an all-night sitting will take place until a brutal Government forces it.
– Even though the Government are taking this humane course to-day, we know that on several other occasions during the present short session the powers of the Hansard staff have been unduly strained - strained almost to the breaking-point. Human nature must give way if too big a strain be imposed upon it. I think that the Government should endeavour to make extraordinary arrangements to meet extraordinary circumstances whenever they may arise.
– I am sure that Senator O’Keefc must know that reporters, with the ability of the members of our own Hansard staff, are not to be picked up at a moment’s notice, and that these late sittings occur at a moment’s notice. The Government never know until after ti p.m. that there is going to be an all-night sitting of either House. In reply to the Leader of the Opposition, I would point out that when the Senate is in Committee, the Chairman, immediately 1 o’clock arrives, intimates that he will resume the sitting at such and such an hour. If the Senate bc not in Committee, the President adopts the same course. As it was incumbent upon me to allow honorable senators, a few minutes upon the motion for adjournment to express their approval or disapproval of my action, I had no option but to reportprogress before the consideration of the Arbitration (Public Service) Bill was completed.
-In consequence of what Senator O’Keefe has said, I beg to remind the Senate that the Hansard staff are under the control of Mr. Speaker and myself, and that therefore the Government cannot be held responsible in the matter of procuring assistance for the ‘ staff. I can assure the honorable senator, and the Senate generally, . that it is not quite so easy as it looks to pick up at a moment’s notice two or three men who are competent to do the work. Once or twice Mr. Speaker and I have had to consider the matter of getting temporary assistance, and we have had to make an arrangement perhaps a week ahead.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The Senate adjourned at 1.2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 December 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1911/19111208_senate_4_63/>.