6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I askleave to make a statement.
– In accordance with the promise I gave, that any announcement of an important character to be made by the Government in another place would also be made here, I wish to inform the Senate that, acting under the power conferred upon them by the Trading with the Enemy Act, the Government have decided to appoint a comptroller of the Australian Metal Company, whose head office is situated in Williamstreet, Melbourne, and the Minister in charge of the Act has given an instruction to that effect to-day.
– Has the attention of the Minister of Defence been called to a statement in yesterday’s Herald, which reads as follows: - “One of the Soldiers” (Broadmeadows Camp) writes: - Allow me to express the feelings of indignation of myself and comrades at the statement of the Minister of Defence that he had far more complaints of drunkenness among soldiers in the streets of Melbourne in the time the canteen existed at the camp than at present. Senator Pearce should come out to the camp more frequently, and have a look at the guard tent, which is generally full of soldiers who had broken leave to set beer. They will have beer, no matter who tries to stop them. There has been far more crime in camp since the canteen has been closed than before. Men accustomed tohaving their beer at regular hours were always ready togo to bed as soon as the canteen closed.
Will the Minister cause inquiries to be made to prove whether that statement is true or otherwise, and, if it is true, will he reconsider his attitude in regard to the canteen question?
– My attention was drawn to the letter in question by the honorable senator. My statement was not one of opinion, but of fact; that is, that I received more complaints as regards drunkenness among soldiers in the streets of Melbourne during the time of the wet canteen at Broadmeadows than I have received since it has been abolished. Regarding the statement made by the writer of the letter who is alleged to be a soldier at the camp, it must be remembered that the soldiers who were there whilst the wet canteen was in existence are not now in Australia, and, therefore, if the gentleman who wrote the letter is a soldier, he could not have been at Broadmeadows at the time of the wet canteen. The soldiers who are now at the camp are members of the second contingent, who have come in since the wet canteen was abolished, and, therefore, I fail to see how the gentleman, if he is a soldier, has had an opportunity to make a comparison. As regards the statement that the guard tent is full of soldiers who have over-stayed their leave, I will have inquiries made, hut I see no reason to reconsider my position on the general question.
– Is it not correct that in connexion with the canteen for the First Expeditionary Force at the Broadmeadows camp - that is the wet canteen - there was an official prohibition against the sale of cigarettes to the soldiers, and was not that official prohibition grounded upon the belief that the smoking of cigarettes rather than any other kind of smoking was inimical to the health and the efficiency of the soldiers ? If the circumstances are as stated by me, does the Minister approve or disapprove, or does lie intend to ignore the concerted action which is now being publicly taken to supply the Australian troops going to the front with cigarettes?
– I have no knowledge of any such prohibition ever having existed in any camp in Australia.
– Why do you not go the whole hog, and stop them from smoking as well as drinking?
– As a matter of fact, cigars and cigarettes are sold at the canteen in all military camps.
– I was told officially at the camp that cigarettes were prohibited to be sold at the canteen.
– In view of the honorable senator’s statement I shall have further inquiries made, but it has never come under my knowledge that the sale of cigarettes has been prohibited.
– They ought to be, because they are more injurious than beer.’
– lu regard to the appeals being made by private individuals I do not propose to take any action.
Progress of Work
– In view of the severe drought experienced in Western Australia, and its consequent effect upon the labour market, can the Minister of Defence give the Senate any assurance that the work at Cockburn Sound will bo pushed on energetically so that a much larger number of men may be employed? Is there any explanation why the work has not been advanced much further than it is to-day? For the last three years it seems only to have been in the initial stages.
– When the lata Labour Government left office a certain amount of preliminary work still remained for completion. A number of men were being employed on that work, and under the Department, arrangements were being made for the preparation of plans for the permanent works. As a matter of policy the late Government decided to alter that, and an expert was brought from England to go into the whole question of the permanent works, and all preparations for the permanent works were stopped so far as the local staffs were concerned. The matter waa handed over to Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice. The preliminary work that was going on was continued by a reduced staff, and spread over a greater period, and has been finally completed. Therefore, when the present Government took office, they found that the preliminary work had been practically completed, that no preparation of plans had been mad© by the local staff, but that that work had been handed over to an English firm, and was being proceeded with in England. The consequence of that is that there is no opportunity to put on a great number of men, except for some temporary work which is being done, and the number of men has been considerably increased on that work since the present Government took office. But as regards the permanent works, we have to await the plans which are being prepared by the firm with which Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice is connected before those works can be put in hand. Every effort is being made to push on with all works which can be undertaken* To that end the Director of Naval Works was sent to Western Australia, and has been there for some two weeks, and “is about to return. I can assure Senator Lynch that everything we can do to push on, not only with that work, but other works throughout the Commonwealth, will be done.
– Has the attention of the Minister of Defence been directed to a discussion regarding preference to unionists, which took place at the Trades Hall last night, and which is reported in this morning’s newspapers; and, if so, is there any ground for the complaints made during the discussion?
– As the reply I shall have to make to the question will be rather in the nature of a statement than of an answer, I ask permission to make a statement.
– I have had this matter brought under my notice, and I have read the report of the discussion. Assuming that the report is a correct one, I wish to make a reply. Mr. Strong, the representative of the Hotel and Caterers’ Employes, made the following statement: -
For years past the Department had engaged members of the union direct, and the men recognised that they were liable to be on duty from early’ morning till late at night. The wages were 15s. per day for work lasting less than a week; under a fortnight £4 per week, and over four weeks 10s. per day. At present the catering was done by contract, ami not only were the wages lower than those paid to unionists in the past, but non-unionists wereemployed, whilst the men had to pay 15s. each for their positions.
That statement is ‘ partly correct, and partly incorrect. It is correct that where the Department employs directly hotel and restaurant employes it pays 10s. per day. It is also correct that where the Department lets catering by contract the specifications in the tender provide that no labour shall be employed on the contract except at the rate laid down by the Wages Board decision in the State in which the catering is to be carried out. That decision gives a lesser wage than the amount which is paid by the Department directly, but it is governed by conditions as to the hours of labour, whereas in the case of catering done by the Department directly, that condition does not obtain. The rate laid down by the Wages Board of Victoria is less than the amount paid by the Department directly, which is the same throughout Australia.
– In the conditions of contract, is it provided that none but union labour shall be employed?
– No. It is not correct to say that all the catering is done by contract. Part of it is done by contract; part of it is done by the Department directly, and the conditions under which the catering has to be carried out govern the question as to whether it shall be let by contract or done by the Department. In some cases it is advisable to do it by the Department, while in other cases it is not. The policy of the late Labour Government in regard to the question of preference to unionists was that in employment by the Government, other things being equal, preference should be given to unionists, and a minute to that effect was issued immediately after the present Government took office in all Departments, including the Defence Department. During the time of the late Labour Government there was never in any contract a condition that preference to unionists should be given as a condition of the contract. That was not the policy of the late Government, nor has it been adopted as the policy of the present Government, and the contract condition under which all contracts are carried out to-day are the same as those which were drawn and adopted by the late Labour Government.
– They are no different from what they were before.
– No. At the Trades Hall last night the Musicians Union brought up the question of bands. That does not affect the Defence Department at all, because the bands to which the speaker referred were not engaged by that Department. In regard to the question of the hawkers, the chairman said -
A week ago there had been a deputation on behalf of the Hawkers and Dealers Union, the members of which were not allowed to go into the military camp, though non-unionists were there.
Now, not only are non-unionists not allowed to go into the camp,- but the prohibition applies to unionists, unless they have some business there. Business people were formerly allowed to enter the camp for the purpose of selling tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes to the troops. That condition of affairs, however, has been altered, owing to the establishment of a dry canteen at which these goods are sold. The canteen is the property of the officers and soldiers themselves, and the profits derived from it find their way into the regimental funds, which are used to purchase music for the men and to provide them with recreation. A deputation recently waited on me asking that hawkers should be allowed to enter the camp, and I have approved of six stands being permitted in the camp. These stands are to be the property of the Hawkers Union, which is to be responsible for the behaviour of the men placed in charge of them. They are to be allowed to sell certain goods. That permission was granted by myself, and not by the Prime Minister, as stated in this report. Then Mr. McPherson, of the Fuel and Fodder TradesUnion, said that -
Non-unionists engaged in the fuel trade were employed in providing goods at the camp.
In that connexion I wish to say that the contract for the carriage of goods to the camp is one which is let to firms in Melbourne under similar conditions to those which govern other contracts. That is to say, Wages Boards rates must be paid. There is no provision in those contracts that preference shall be granted to unionists.
-Colonel O’LOGHLIN. - Arising out of the statement made by the Minister, I desire to ask him whether the statement in the report that men have to pay 15s. for the right to be employed by the contractors is true?
– If the honorable senatorwill be good enough to point out to me that statement in the report, I will undertake to have inquiries made. I have no knowledge of any such statement appearing in the report.
– Why, the Minister himself read it.
– No; what I read was that the wages paid were 15s. per day.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and will be supplied as early as possible.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator Gardiner) read a first time.
– I move -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its remaining stages without delay.
In submitting this motion, my object is not to secure the passage of the Bill through all its stages to-day. But unless we suspend our Standing Orders, only the first reading of the measure can be dealt with at this sitting. The Vice-President of the Executive Council is ready to deliver his second-reading speech upon it, and my object in moving the suspension of the Standing Orders is to enable him to do that. There will be no objection to any honorable senator moving the adjournment of the debate immediately the Vice-President of the Executive Council has made his second-reading speech upon the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Honorable senators are aware of the reasons which have led up to the introduction of this measure. They chiefly concern decisions by the High Court. I have no desire to complain of those decisions or of the grounds upon which they have been based. Indeed, I think that the Commonwealth, on the threshold of legislation of this kind, is to be congratulated upon having on the High Court Bench gentlemen of the capacity and character of those who have been called upon to deal with Acts of this nature. Of course, it may be irritating to find that decisions of the High Court Judges are not always in accord with the intention of the Legislature. But while the Commonwealth is in its developmental stages, I am strongly of opinion that every step taken should be taken in such a way as to prevent our Constitution being infringed to the slightest degree. In this Senate we are following that excellent example, and you, sir, very properly keep us to the clear track which has been laid down for our guidance-
Senatorfer ricks. - Good old precedent. An excellent argument for no progress.
– I hope that the illustration I am drawing is not an inappropriate one, and that the Senate will always be pleased to find its Standing Orders interpreted in the way in which they appear in print. Exasperating as it may be, more particularly in our industrial concerns, to find that the things which we thought we were doing when enacting certain legislation, we have not done - costly as that may be to our trade organizations, and disastrous as it may be to our industrial peace - the fact remains that all these things are possible under the decisions which have been given by the High Court. The industrial peace of this Commonwealth has beon threatened by certain recent decisions.
– Take what we can get and be thankful for it!
– Nothing of the kind. I am not advocating that. I am merely putting before honorable senators a measure which I hope will enable us to overcome some of the existing difficulties. If the Bill is not successful in removing difficulties which now lie in the way of securing industrial peace, a further step may be taken, namely, that of broadening the base of our Constitution. Personally, I think that that may be the last resort to which the Democracy of Australia may be driven, in order to obtain that measure of conciliation and arbitration which is necessary to insure industrial peace throughout the Commonwealth.
– That is the only possible way of securing it.
– It may be that the broadening of our Constitution is necessary to give to the High Court powers which it does not possess.
– To broaden its powers of interpretation?
– It would be wiser for us to broaden our Constitution. Personally, I have no complaint to make as to the decisions of the High Court.
– I cannot say “amen” to that.
– If I thought that we could get to safer ground more quickly by criticising individuals than by removing the grounds of their criticism, I might join with my honorable friend. But I believe that we are only on the threshold of our legislation in connexion with industrial matters. As a matter of fact, this legislation is of an experimental character and baa been tested only for a few years. I think that some honorable senators here were the pioneers in the matter of bringing before the various Parliaments of Australia legislation in respect of conciliation and arbitration. The Bill will make changes in several directions. In clause 2 provision is made to deal with a real grievance which may be easily remedied, and as it applies to both sides, no great exception is likely to be taken to it. In the operation of section 9 of the original Act it has been found that members of unions have been dismissed, or seriously prejudiced in their employment, merely because they have appeared as witnesses before the Arbitration Court, and for the other causes set out in the section. The section which, under this Bill, it is proposed to substitute for section 9 of the original Act makes it an offence to dismiss an employé because he has appeared as a witness in the Arbitration Court, and also makes it an offence for employés to cease work or go on strike because their employer has appeared as a witness, or is carrying out an order of the Court. Clause 3 proposes an amendment of section 19 of the Act designed to get over the difficulties in the way of an approach to the Court created by the decision of the High Court in the Tramways case. In that case the High Court decided that, even after an association has been registered as such by the Registrar of the Court, and a certificate of registration granted, it cannot validly bring a plaint before the Court if it is proved that there was an irregularity in the formation of the association or organization, although the members might not be aware that any such irregularity existed. This Bill will permit an association, which, for the time being, is registered as an organization, to bring and prosecute a plaint before the Arbitration Court. So long as the association is registered, it will not be competent for the respondents to the plaint to apply for a prohibition on the ground of an irregularity in the registration of the association. If this be agreed to, it will be necessary in the future for the respondents to a plaint to have the organization lodging the plaint deregistered for an irregularity in its registration before they can proceed with an application for prohibition. To show the importance of this proposal, I need’ only remind honorable senators that, after an application for prohibition had been made, months passed before any decision was arrived at. The next, and, perhaps, the most debatable, change which is proposed by this measure is contained in clause 6, which proposes to insert after section 21 of the principal Act the following section : - 2Iaa. (1) When an alleged industrial dispute is submitted to the Court -
This brings us to the much vexed question of what is a dispute. After having waited many months for a decision, we all know now that, although there was industrial turmoil at Adelaide, Melbourne, and Brisbane, which was most acute in Brisbane, and iu connexion with which the Government of Queensland even thought it necessary to make an application to the Prime Minister to have the troops called out, it was not a dispute within the meaning of the Arbitration Act. The Justices of the High Court have decided that, and I am not here to offer any criticism or complaint upon their decision. It is intended by this clause to make it clear, at the threshold of an action, what is a dispute. Under the existing law, what has happened, and what can happen, is that a case may be brought before the Court absorbing a large amount of the time of the Court and of witnesses, and of the funds of both parties, and, after the whole case has been heard and a decision and award given, an application for prohibition may be made on the ground that no dispute has actually been in existence.
-Colonel O’Loghlin. - In the Tramways case, after three years of litigation.
– That is so. After the evidence is given, the case fully heard, and a final decision and award pronounced, the parties may be told that a dispute did not exist. Honorable senators will agree, in the circumstances, that there is wisdom in proposing that at the beginning of a case the question of whether there is a dispute shall first be settled. If there is not a dispute the case will not be proceeded with, and if there is, the case can be considered and an award given, and the parties will know that the trouble, expense, and time expended to secure an award will not have been in vain. I do not know that it is necessary to further explain the clause, but I think it well to quote briefly what Mr. Justice Isaacs said on this point. Speaking of the necessity of determining at the threshold of a case what an industrial dispute is, he said -
It seems to me that it ought to be iudiciallv determined at the threshold whether the entry of the Arbitration Court upon an arbitration inquiry is justified or not. If it is, let it proceed, and the result, whatever it may be, depend on the merits alone. If not justified, then let it be prevented at the outset. Such a shocking waste of public and private time, money, and energy as has occurred in the present instance ought not even to be possible.
I commend that statement to honorable senators. I ask their consideration of this Bill, but I hope they will not adopt the line of using the Bill as a medium for an attack upon the Justices of the High Court.
– Poor fellows!
– They are all Solomons.
– I believe that, so far as modern Solomons are concerned . it may be said of the gentleman who occupies the position of Chief Justice of Australia that this young Commonwealth
– Which he helped to
– This young Commonwealth, which he helped to create, will live to appreciate the fact that a man of such clear insight and such faculties as fit him pre-eminently for the position, has held the highest judicial position in Australia.
– That was not what the Minister said of him when he was a private member of the Senate.
– He is full, up to the neck, of prejudice.
– At the outset, I say that the true way in which to benefit the Democracy of Australia is to turn our attention to remedying the real evils which exist. No real improvement is to bo made by abuse of individuals. I do not object to the criticism of Judges. I say that the Justices of the High Court are open to criticism.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that in suggesting that there is any probability whatever that any member of the Senate will abuse the Justices of the High Court the Minister is quite out of order. The Minister has repeated a statement that such a thing may probably be an outcome of the debate upon the Bill. I submit that such a remark is quite out of order.
– The Minister criticised the Justices of theHigh Court himself. He praised them, but apparently nobody is to blame them.
– On the point of order, I wish to say that I think I was quite within my rights in pointing out that this is a Bill intended to amend the principal Act, and that it might be possible that criticism would be levelled against the Justices of the Court, which has made the amendment of the Act necessary. I think honorable senators will agree that I did not foreshadow that there was any likelihood of abuse of the Justices of the High Court coming from members of the Senate. I have said that I hold that the Judges are not above criticism.
– Why become an apologist for the Judges?
– I am not apologizing for them; they need no apologist.
– Why insinuate that we are likely to abuse them?
– I made no reference to honorable senators abusing the Judges. That never entered my mind. I should say, particularly, that Senator de Largie would never dream of such a thing.
– At the time the Minister was making the remarks to which Senator de Largie has called attention I was engaged upon other business with a member of the Senate, and I am unable, of my own knowledge, to say whether the honorable senator was correct in the remarks he attributed to the Minister. I may say, however, that our Standing Orders strictly provide that no reflection shall be cast upon a Justice of the High Court. It would be quite out of order for any member of the Senate to make any remark which might be construed as a reflection upon a Justice of the High Court. It would therefore be disorderly for the Minister to say that any member of the Senate would be guilty of such disorderly conduct. If the Minister implied that any member of the Senate would be guilty of reflecting upon a Justice of the High Court he was out of order. I did not hear him do so; but if he did so, I ask him to withdraw his statement.
– As you, sir, have assured us that you did not hear what I said, and as you have asked me to withdraw, on the statement made by Senator de Largie, I do withdraw, in order that the good conduct of the Senate may be continued, even if you are not paying attention.
– The honorable senator has now passed a reflection upon the Chair, and I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it.
– Even if I was not paying attention for the moment, honorable senators must recognise that there are other matters to which I have to attend besides continually listening to a debate. Other business very often necessarily engages my attention while I am in the chair, and a sneer of that kind at the Chair is entirely uncalled for on the part of the Minister.
– I withdraw and apologize for my remark. I go further, and say that I quite recognise the truth of what you have said. I had almost concluded when Senator de Largie raised his point of order, which you, sir, have decided he was justified in raising. I had no idea of imputing to honorable senators an intention to abuse the Justices of the High Court. If the language I used conveyed that impression, I was unfortunate in my effort to convey my thoughts. I spoke as I always do, and as I have been accustomed to speak when addressing intelligent people, who may be expected to understand what I am saying without undue explanation. I have said that I think that the decisions of the Justices of the High Court are not to be considered above criticism, but I think that we should try to remedy the evils we know of by agreeing to legislation which will give them an opportunity to carry out the will of Parliament in a manner in which they now doubt they have the power to carry it out.
– Provided that the Constitution gives the powder.
– If it does not, the next step to be taken must be to ask the people to broaden the Constitution sufficiently to give the necessary power. That is an absolutely sound position to take up. So far from applying strong language to the Justices of the High Court and their decision, I should like to say that if our case is strong - and I believe it is - our language can well be mild. The man who has a strong case has no occasion to put it in strong language. So far as the bringing about of industrial peace is concerned, members of this Parliament cannot be accused of not having gone to extreme lengths in their legislation to facilitate friendly relations between employers and employe’s. We have tried arbitration legislation in this and other Parliaments of Australia, and we have seen the intention and will of our Legislatures almost absolutely set aside. I could quote cases in the Newcastle district coming under Judge Heydon. I could quote the Tramway and Railway Men’s cases, in which the union was deregistered by the decision of that Judge. I say without fear of contradiction that if ever a man set out possessed with the idea of bringing about industrial trouble it was that gentleman. Wherever a fine has been inflicted on a union it has been the heaviest fine possible, even in cases where we were dealing with the most difficult questions that a union could have to deal with. Take, for instance, the case of the miners in the northern district of New South Wales refusing to work the second shift. They are quite prepared to work it if they can get the conditions that have been agreed to in almost every other occupation in every award that has been given - time and a quarter or time and a half for hours outside the regular working hours. It could not be claimed that these few men standing out in a few mines was a serious breach of the award, yet if they went back and worked the extra shift, as -directed by the Judge, it would be the means of compelling many men in many mines to work the undesirable shift, where it is not now being worked at all. The penalties inflicted on not only individuals, but organizations, appear to have been the severest possible, and to have been calculated to bring about industrial turmoil.
– Is that under an Act which was intended to promote industrial peace ?
– Yes. We are going through a time of war and drought. If to these difficulties industrial trouble is added, there is a serious time in store for the whole of the people. This Bill is another attempt to avoid the dangers, difficulties, and disasters that appear to be ahead. If it is not successful, I hope that the industrial unions will set about taking the necessary and proper steps to bring about an amendment of the Constitution.
– Do not ask for too much alteration, and you will get it.
– Personally, I would not ask for too much in any amendment of the Constitution. I should simply ask for such powers to be given to this Parliament as would insure the will of the people being given effect to in every piece of legislation that we pass. If we cannot ask for, and be given, that power, we have no right to be here speaking on behalf of the Australian people.
– We should ask for a little more this time than the last.
– No matter what we ask for. the fight to ?et it will be equally hard. The fullest powers possible to legislate in the interests of the people should be conferred on this Parliament at the earliest moment. If this Bill fails to secure the proper treatment of these cases in the Arbitration Court by the Judges; if they feel when the measure comes before them, as they have felt with previous measures, that it does not give them power to go to the extent that this Parliament believes it does, the next step must be an appeal to the people to enlarge the powers of this Parliament in dealing with arbitration matters.
Debate (on motion by Senator Bakhap) adjourned.
Report adopted. I
SenatorRUSSELL (Victoria- Assistand Minister) [11.50]. - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Its object is to amend section 112 of the Customs Act by inserting the following new sub-section - 1a. In time of war the Governor-General may, by proclamation, prohibit the exportation of any goods.
The object is to cover proclamations that have been issued by the GovernorGeneral prohibiting the exportation of wheat, meat, coal, mares, and sugar under the powers conferred by section 112 of the existing Act. Unfortunately, in that section there is a limitation to the effect that a proclamation prohibiting exports may be issued, provided that the export is harmful to the Commonwealth, irrespective of what its effect may be upon people in other parts of the Empire. It is intended to make it quite clear that in time of war the GovernorGeneral may prohibit the exportation of any goods. Another difficulty is, that under the present Act the proclamations could continue in effect after the war is over. That is not desired. It is desired that they should automatically cease on the declaration of peace. We want to make the powers clear, and give legal authority for the actions already taken under section 112.
– Yes, and to make our legal power of enforcement clearer thau it is.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Barker) proposed -
That the report of the Printing Committee, presented to the Senate on the 26th November, 1914, be adopted.
– I move -
That the following words be added to the motion : “and that, in addition, the return to order of the Senate ‘Royal Commission on Postal Services, recommendations, and action taken,’ be also printed.”
I moved some time ago for this return, showing in a summary form the recommendations made by the Royal Commission on postal, telegraphic, and telephonic services, and the action taken. The return was tabled quite recently, and I desire that it be printed. Although it looks a bulky document, the matter to be printed is not great. It is a very concise return, and would furnish every member of Parliament with a convenient means of seeing what has been done and what is being donein connexion with these matters in the Postal Department. The return looks bulky, because it includes, in pasted cuttings, all the different recommendations already printed in the report of the Commission. I should like honorable senators to look at it.
– The Printing Committee have looked at it.
– Perhaps some of the members of the Printing Committee, seeing its thickness, thought there would be a considerable amount of matter to set up, but there is not. A number of whole pages appear in this form - 141. That proportional grading of telegraphists be abolished. - This has been done. 142. That the ordinary salaries of telegraphists be from £120 to £210 per annum. - The classification of telegraphists has been amended. Such officers are now classified in three divisions. . . . 143. That the hours of telegraphists be six per day at Staff offices, and six and threequarters perday at other offices. - Not approved.
Since the Com mission presented its report much has been done by the Department. Some of the recommendations have been disapproved, and others require legislative action before they can be carried into effect. All this is indicated in the report. A number of recommendations have been dealt with by the Public Service Commissioner in. various reports from time to time, and the return shows where that has been the case. I may quote the following paragraphs : - 102. That departmental fines be abolished, and that the management bo empowered to reduce the status of officers whose conduct is unsatisfactory. - Matter of policy requiring legislation. Not yet decided. 103. That the procedure of Boards of Inquiry be simplified. - Dealt with by the Public Service Commissioner, on pages 25 and 40 of his memorandum relating to recommendations of Royal Commission on postal services. 104. That the right of appeal be preserved to officers, and a departmental arbitrator appointed to deal with appeals. - Matter of policy requiring legislation. Not yet decided.
I venture to say, without any hesitation, that all the reports which have been circulated by the Post Office, taken together, will not give to honorable senators, or to readers of them, the same amount of information so compactly and so intelligibly as this return does.
– What is the date of the report?
– This return is brought right up to date.
– It is all the more valuable.
– The Postal Commission sat in each State, and took a tremendous quantity of evidence. I venture to say, without disrespect to the Commission, that there is no member of Parliament who has read anything like a fair proportion of that evidence and the report.
– It was of absorbing interest a few years ago, and we all read it.
– Here is a résume of all the recommendations in their order, and very briefly put. The recommendations were very succinctly stated by the Commission, and here is a summary of what action, if any, has been taken, stated concisely, so that any member of Parliament who wants to know what is being done, or is likely to be done, or to be submitted to Parliament, has a handy work of reference. Very few documents have been printed, I venture to say, which would be used more frequently and more advantageously by honorable senators than would this particular one. It has taken no little time to compile the document, for the very reason that the statements on the recommendations are given so concisely. It may be opened at random anywhere, and a precise statement will be found.
By a brief reference to the document, an honorable senator can learn where he is in connexion with every one of these matters. I invite honorable senators, before giving a decision, to take the document in their hands and open it at random.
– How long is it since it waa tabled ?
– It was only tabled on the 26th November. I believe that if it were passed around amongst honorable senators they would at once see that, while in volume it is not very large, the information, and the report itself, are absorbing in interest. It is condensed, practical, and most serviceable.
– Do you say that it was only tabled on the 26th November ?
– Then it cannot have been in the hands of the Printing Committee.
– It is dealt with in their report.
– Probably it was tabled at an earlier date.
– It is marked here as having been tabled on the 26th November. I only saw the document last evening, and at the time I was inclined to think it was bulky, but when I read it, as I did read it, through, here, in a very short space of time, I thought it was a document which every member of this Parliament would be very glad to have. I earnestly ask honorable senators not to give a vote on this question before they have examined the document. They will see that it is a most concise summation of the whole positon of the Post Office at the present time. They will see at a glance what the Postal Commission recommended, and what has been done. It would be a valuable vade mecum for every member of Parliament. I wish honorable senators to realize that it is not bulky. Its very conciseness and practicableness give it an advantage. The Printing Committee has to deal with a large number of documents, and the very sight of this document may have scared them. They may have thought that it looked very bulky, but, as I said, the matter contained therein is not large. The pages of the document axe very stiff, because of the matter wasted thereon. I believe that every honorable senator who supports my amendment will feel on many an occasion that he did a good tiling in getting such a document printed and circulated. I do not in the slightest degree make any reflection on the Printing Committee. I think that from a parliamentary stand-point it would be calamitous if a document of this character were not printed and made available to members of the Senate.
– What is the object of getting the return?
– It is possible that I, moving for and getting the return, took more notice of it than probably individual members of tlie Printing Committee did. I was more interested in the return. I expected it to be a valuable return, and I now say that, having read the document here last night while the debate was proceeding, it is ten times more valuable than I thought it would be. I commend my amendment to the favorable consideration of the Senate.
– In seconding the amendment, I wish to say briefly that some years ago the proceedings of the Postal Commission excited a great deal of attention in the various States. I have read some of the evidence, and I know, to speak of no other class of people, that the employes in the Post and Telegraph Department think a very great deal of some of the recommendations made bv tlie Commission. This return, epitomizing all its labours, and what has been done by the Executive in connexion with the recommendations, will be most valuable to honorable senators, because many of us are asked questions from time to time as to what is likely to be done with the Department, what has been done, and so on. There can be very little doubt that tlie desire of Senator Keating to see the return printed is a most laudable one. If it is printed and circulated, we, as members of the Senate will hereafter have every cause to congratulate him upon having taken action and secured to us ready reference to a return which otherwise might fall, if not exactly into oblivion, into such a position that the perusal of it would be a matter of difficulty. The amendment, of course, is no reflection on the members of the Printing Committee, who have a great deal of work to do. It is not to bo expected that from time to time there will not be a document which members of the Senate may desire to see in print, but which the Committee has not recommended to be printed. I know that it has piles and piles of papers to wade through, arid no one recognises the arduous nature of its work more than I do. I hope that the amendment will be carried, because I feel that this return, if printed, will be of great use to us in the future.
– I would request Senator Keating, if he can see his way clear, to amend his amendment by proposing that the paper be referred back to the Printing Committee for reconsideration. I a3k the Senate to show a little consideration for the Committee. As a member of that body, it is my anxiety to do the best I can for the Senate and the Committee; but I realize that our printing bill is very extensive. The business we had to deal with yesterday was extremely large, owing to the fact that the Committee had not sat for some time, and this paper may have been overlooked. Bather than take the document in my hands here and decide whether it should be printed, I would prefer that the Committee should have another opportunity to go through the paper. If Senator Keating cannot see his way clear to amend his amendment as I have suggested, I would like some other honorable senator to move to that end, and I will vote accordingly.
– I am obliged to Senator Keating for bringing up this question. To some extent I am personally interested in the report, because I believe that I am the only member of the Senate now who was a member of the Postal Commission. Being familiar with the report and knowing the amount of attention which it received throughout the Post and Telegraph Service, and, indeed, I may say, throughout the Commonwealth, I think that we should not lose sight of a valuable return which, on reference, will disclose exactly how many of the reported recommendations of the Commission have been put into practice. That is the main consideration. The return, if printed, would be a very convenient document for a member of this Parliament to refer to, because he could ascertain at once whether a particular recommendation had been carried out or not. I remember that while the Commission was sitting a great many of the recommendations which it was quite evident, from the press reports, would be made, were put into practice by the Department. A considerable number of the recommendations have been carried into effect by various Administrations from time to time. I dare say that there is not a single member of this Parliament who knows exactly how many of the recommendations have been adopted, and how many of them still remain to be given effect to. A paper of this kind would undoubtedly be valuable as a work of reference, because honorable senators have not time to wade through the recommendations, and afterwards to find out how many of them have been carried out, and to what extent.
– It would take three months for a senator to get that information for himself.
– I question whether any honorable senator could compile the information in that time.
– The recommendations of the Postal Commission constitute a pretty live question yet.
– Many of the recommendations do simply because they have not been given effect to. I think I am right in saying that up to the outbreak of the war there was no Department of the Federal Government which was so subjected to criticism, and to questions, both here and in another place, as was the Post and Telegraph Department. It is only because the war is attracting universal attention that the Postmaster-General is receiving so little notice. It is well known that since Federation the Department which has received the greatest amount of criticism, both here and elsewhere, has been the Post and Telegraph Department, and it has also been the subject of comment that such an important Department should always have been considered the junior Department in connexion with our Government agencies. Its importance is such that a document of this character should be printed. I know that the Printing Committee have not had the time at their disposal to peruse all the documents which have come before them. But, as a member of the Postal Commission, I can assure honorable senators that there are recommendations in its report which have yet to be put into practice; and if those recommendations were properly understood, I am quite sure that we would hear of them oftener than we do. To enable us to understand exactly how many of those recommendations have been put into operation, this is a paper which should be printed and circulated. 1 am convinced that there are very few associations connected with the Postal Department which will not desire to obtain a considerable number of copies of it to enable their members to understand how many of the Commission’s recommendations have been officially adopted.
– It seems to me that the Printing Committee for some reason or other, which has not been explained, have neglected to recommend the printing of one of the most important and valuable returns that has been presented to the Senate for some time. I do not know upon what principle the Committee act, but it would appear that they deal with documents from the point of view of their quantity rather than their quality. If they are confronted with a bulky document, they apparently come to the conclusion that its printing would be too costly. They do not read it, they do not endeavour to ascertain whether its printing would be of any value to Parliament or not. They merely glance at it, arrive at the conclusion that its printing would cost a great deal of money, and immediately resolve to make no recommendation in respect of it. On the other hand, if a document be small, and will not cost much to print, no matter how worthless it may be, they recommend that it should be printed. Here is a case iu point - “ Grant to Belgium. Further message from the King of the Belgians. To be printed.” But of what earthly value is such a document to us? How will the printing of it help any honorable senator in the performance of his duties?
– That document has been printed in every newspaper throughout Australia.
– If what Senator Turley says is correct it is surely superfluous to print it again.
– It is worth printing as a record, but it has already been printed in every newspaper throughout Australia.
– Thehonorable senator is entitled to his opinion. I do not think it is worth printing as a record. What the King of the Belgians says is of no earthly consequence to us. There are other papers I might mention which are of no consequence, but the printing of which is recommended, and yet the return to which Senator Keating has directed attention is not to be printed. I intend to support the proposal for the printing of the document.
– Much has been said concerning tlie action of the Printing Committee in reference to a particular document which came before them. I do not think that I ever realized more than I did yesterday the truth of the saying that “ Of making many books there is no end.” If the Committee had done what Senator Stewart suggests it should have done, I would have been able to complete the quotation by saying, “ and much study is a weariness of tlie flesh.” Senator Stewart has picked out from a pile of documents with which the Printing Committee dealt, the reply of the King . of the Belgians to the gift of the Commonwealth. I hold that, as a historical document, that reply should be preserved, though it may not be of the slightest importance to Senator Stewart. Is tlie question of whether or not that reply should be printed to be gauged by the present alone, or are we to have regard for the future ? There is no comparison between the cost to the Commonwealth of printing that reply and the cost of printing the document to which Senator Keating has directed attention. The question has been raised, “What has become of the recommendations of the Postal Commission?” We might just as legitimately ask, “ What has become of the recommendations of every other Commission? “ I admit that honorable senators have a right to express a wish to have certain papers printed. But they might just as logically demand to know what has become of the recommendations of a hundred and one other Commissions.
– No other Commission has presented such a bulky list rf recommendations.
– Am I to understand that because of their bulk those recommendations should be printed ? I recollect a document coming before the Printing Committee the very bulk of which precluded the possibility of its being printed.
– What was it about ?
– For the moment I cannot recall. The setting up of the tables in it would have involved a very heavy expenditure.
– Does the honorable senator say that those tables form part of the recommendations of the Postal Commission 1
– No. If bulk is to be the test-
– Bulk is not the only test which should be applied. It is the importance of the recommendations which we have to consider.
– Then it is equally important that we should know what has become of the recommendations, for example, of the Fruit Commission.
– -They are not likely to be of such an important character.
– I understood that Tasmania was an important State, and that fruit-growing was one of the most important industries there. I also understood that a Commission which cost a large sum of money had investigated the conditions obtaining in that industry. Yet Senator Bakhap affirms that it is a matter of no importance how tlie recommendations of that body have been treated .
– Their recommendations are not so numerous as were those of the Postal Commission.
– I submit that the sole test which should be applied is that of utility. If honorable senators believe that the document to which Senator Keating has called attention is of a particularly useful character, I am in favour of the suggestion of Senator Shannon, that the report should be referred back to the Printing Committee. Seeing that that Committee have had such a large amount of arrears to overtake - owing to the recess - I am of opinion that that would be the better course to adopt. To take any other course would Le tantamount to censuring the Committee.
– Nobody wishes to censure them.
– At any rate, it would be tantamount to saying that they had been guilty of a dereliction of duty. I favour the suggestion of Senator Shannon, that the report should be referred back to the Printing Committee.
– Honorable senators are satisfied that the document in question should be printed. In such circumstances, why should we not order it to be printed?
– If there be any question of urgency involved there may be some point in the honorable senator’s contention. Otherwise there is nothing in it.
– I intend to adopt the suggestion of Senator Shannon, and I therefore move as an amendment -
That the amendment be amended by leaving out the words “ also printed,” with a view to adding the words “referred back to the Committee for further consideration,” in lieu thereof.
As the matter stands, the Printing Committee could take no exception if the Senate ordered the document to which Senator Keating has directed. attention to be printed. But, recognising, as I do, that the Committee performs a large amount of work, and performs it very well, and realizing that there is no question of urgency involved, I am in favour of the course suggested by Senator Shannon.
– I support the position taken up by Senators Shannon, Gardiner, and Senior. The members of the present Printing Committee are nearly all new to the business.
– The honorable senator should not apologize for them.
– I had a good deal of experience of the Printing Committee and of Senator Stewart -when it was my duty to submit reports of that Committee.
– The honorable senator went through most of the papers.
– I did. I was on the Committee for seven or eight years, and I always made myself acquainted with the contents of the papers before the Committee sat.
– In this case that could not be done.
– That is so, and it is for that reason I think it is only fair that the Committee should have an opportunity of reviewing its decision in the light of the views expressed in this chamber. I believe that the paper in question is an intensely valuable one, and will remain of value for a considerable time to come. If the matter be again referred to the Printing Committee I think there will be no difficulty in the way of having the report printed.
– I support the proposal to refer the matter back to the Printing Committee. I direct attention to the fact that we have gone to very considerable expense in the building and maintaining of the trawler that has been engaged in the work of investigating our fishing-grounds for a considerable time. The object has been to develop one of the food supplies of the people. I notice that the Printing Committee decided that the report of the Fruit Commission should be printed and circulated, whilst, with respect to the reports of the trawler, it makes no recommend a* tion. I have made application for copies of these reports only to find that there are none in stock to-day but those which have been laid on the table of the Senate, and which cannot be removed from this chamber.
– If the honorable senator had applied to Mr. Dannevig he could have secured copies.
– It should not be necessary for me to apply to Mr. Dannevig. I applied to the officers of the Senate, with the result I have stated. If we can circulate information regarding the fruit industry, why should we not circulate information obtained at very great cost, regarding our fisheries?
– I asked for these reports twice.
– At one time I moved that a quarterly report of the work of the Endeavour should be laid on the table of the Senate.
– It is not the duty of the Printing Committee to see that papers are circulated to honorable senators or to the public. All that they are required to do is to check the printing, so as to avoid the duplication of printing of the same papers.
– When papers are laid before the Printing Committee it is its duty to say what shall be done with them.
– No; only to say whether they should be printed or not.
– That is the only duty of the Committee.
– If that he so, why has it, in other instances, done otherwise? Have the members of the Printing Committee exceeded their duty? If honorable senators will look at the report of the Printing Committee, they will find that, in respect to some papers, the statement is made, “ already in print and circulated to members.”
– So they are already circulated, but by the Departments concerned.
– The Printing Committee has frequently ordered papers to be printed and circulated, but with respect to the fisheries report it says that it is in print, and they make no recommendation. If these reports of the work of the Endeavour are to be of any value to the community, they must be circulated.
– It is not the duty of the Printing Committee to circulate papers, or to recommend that they should be circulated.
– I may be wrong, but I think it is. Papers are laid before the Committee, and it has to decide whether they shall be printed, and how they shall be disposed of. Honorable senators are aware that when members of the Printing Committee are informed that a paper has been printed in tlie Gazette, they are satisfied that it is given sufficient circulation, and they make no order with respect to it. Of what use is it to have a Printing Committee if its members are unable to recommend that a paper already in print should be circulated to honorable senators? These fishery reports are very valuable, and they should not be hidden away. The investigations carried on with the trawler are intended for the information of the people outside, and the Printing Committee should have made a recommendation for the circulation of the reports.
– Senator Guthrie’s remarks have appealed to me. I agree with him that, having gone to a great deal of expense in providing a trawler, and in working her in Australian waters to discover fishing grounds, there is something wrong if the reports of her work are merely to be laid on the table of the Senate, and no person outside is to be permitted to obtain copies of them. I should imagine that it would have been considered a good thing to print an additional number of copies of such reports. I am not criticising the work of the Printing Committee, but I am asking for information. I ask the Chairman of the Committee whether Senator Guthrie’s statement that reports of the investigations of the trawler cannot be obtained by persons outside is correct 1
– No; the reports are available for members, and any member of the public who asks for them may get them.
– That shows the value of a discussion of this kind. Senator Guthrie says one thing, and Senator Barker, as Chairman of the Printing Committee, says another.
– The copies we have here are not allowed out of this chamber.
– That may be so; but is it a fact that copies of these reports are not available to members of the public? If that be so, much of the value of tlie work done by the trawler is likely to be lost. It is possible that many people outside would be induced to put money into the fishery business if they could get access to the information supplied in these reports.
– They can get copies of them from the Customs Department.
– If that be so, then Senator Guthrie’s statement is absolutely inaccurate, and he ought to be asked to withdraw it. He told us that no copy of the report can be taken outside this chamber.
– It is true that copies of these reports laid on tlie table of the Senate cannot be taken out of the chamber, but hundreds of copies of the reports may be obtained from the Customs Department.
– Then Senator Guthrie has made an absolutely misleading statement, and I think he should withdraw it.
– I rise only to remove a misconception. Certain departmental reports are printed by the Departments concerned. For instance, the report of the Royal Military College is printed by the Defence Department. When it is printed, a copy is laid on the table in each House, and it goes before the Printing Committee. The members of that Committee, seeing that it is already in print, do not make any recommendation in respect to it. Any person who wishes to get a copy of the report of the Royal Military College has only to ring up the Defence Department to be supplied with a dozen. In the same way, if any one wants a copy of the fishery reports, he cannot get iti from the Clerk of the Senate, who has only the one. sent him by the Department, but he may obtain a dozen or more from the Customs Department.
– He cannot get them through Parliament.
– He may get them from the Customs Department, and if an honorable senator does not car©’ to take the trouble to go to the Customs Department for them, I feel sure that if he asks the officers of the Senate to do so, they will get them for him. The Committee was appointed to prevent the duplication of printing, and if it does not do that it is not doing its duty. It has simply done its duty in this case. Senator Keating has had to leave, but informed me before leaving that he was quite willing to let the matter be reconsidered by the Printing Committee.
– I am willing that the matter should be referred back to the Printing’ Committee, but the whole discussion has developed into a question of the dignity of the Committee. I did not remember their names, but when I heard Senators Senior and “Shannon speak I turned up the noticepaper, and found that they were both members of the Committee, who were pleading with the Senate not to pass a vote of censure upon them, but to settle the matter in a dignified and gentlemanly way. I do not mind this, and shall beperfectly satisfied so long as we get the document; but we must not forget that wo are indebted, not to the Committee, but to Senator Keating, for it. I had never seen it before. It was referred to the Committee, and I had full confidence in their judgment, but, had it not been for Senator Keating’s action this morning, none of us would have had an opportunity of getting the document, which is declared by those who have seen it to be one of the most valuable returns in the way of information ever placed before the Senate. Whilst we shall carry out our duty, and see that no indignity is inflicted on the Printing Committee, every one of us owes a debt of. gratitude to Senator Keating for bringing the mat ter Tip and enabling us to have the return printed.
Senator BARKER (Victoria) [12.50]. - The argument adduced for printing the return is that it is one of the most valuable ever presented to the Senate. No doubt those who ask for returns of this character regard them as the most valuable that ever have been, or will be, presented, but the first duty of the Committee fs to ascertain the value of documents presented to them, and to order that they be printed’ and circulated if that course is desirable. It is also their duty to stop the printing of what they consider to be documents that are not valuable, and so to save a great deal of expense in the shape of the printing bill. The Committee are not concerned in any way about their dignity. They are concerned about whether documents presented to them are valuable enough to incur the expense of printing. We must, therefore, consider their size, and decide whether, when they are bulky, they are valuable enough to be printed. This return looked bulky, but apart from that consideration the Committee did not think it. so valuable as they now find it to be, and, therefore, made no recommendation on it. They knew that it would be available for any members who required it, and, therefore, did not consider themselves entitled to incur the expense of printing it. If the Committee are to print all the papers that every individual member thinks valuable, it will be best for the Senate to. instruct them to print every paper laid on the table, irrespective of its bulk or value.
– Why not?
– Senator Guthrie referred to the printing of the reports regarding the work of the trawler Endeavour. We made no recommendation on that subject. The reports are in print, and we said so.
– We cannot get them.
– We are not a Committee for the circulation of documents to members. If these are in print they are available to members on application either to the officers of the House oi the Department concerned.
– What good is that to a man in the north of Queensland?
– He can write to the Department for copies. A great deal has been made out of very little, but I am pleased to know that the matter is to bo referred back to the Committee. They will take it into consideration again, and have an opportunity of reviewing their judgment and carrying out the wishes of the Senate.
Amendment of the amendment agreed to.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
That the report of the Printing Committee presented to the Senate on the 26th November, 1914, be adopted, and that, in addition, the return to Order of the Senate “Royal Commission on Postal Services, recommendations, and action taken,” be referred back to the Committee for further consideration.
The following paper was presented : -
Defence: Report on State Rifle Associations. District Rifle Club Unions, andRifle Clubs, for year ended 30th June, 1914.
Senate adjourned at 12.56 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 November 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1914/19141127_SENATE_6_75/>.