6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Alleged Supply of Stores Unfitfor
Food - Mention of Officers’ Names - Censors
– In this morning’s Age is paragraph headed “ Stores for Troops; Alleged Trickery by Contractors.” In it statements are made that in forty-one bags of cabbages there were only a few fit for food, and that ninetyeight cases of butter supplied tothe troops were unfit for human consumption. I ask the Minister of Defence if he will see that the contractor or contractors responsible are treated in the same manner as an enemy would be treated who was found poisoning the water to be used by our troops at the front?
– I am calling for a report to find out if the statements are accurate, and when it has been received I shall decide what action shall be taken.
– It is stated in last night’s Herald that the Minister has decided that the names of officers who have distinguished themselves on the Gallipoli Peninsula shall not be announced to the public, and that no officer’s name mentioned in a letter written by one of the rank and file shall be published. I ask if the Minister intends that the names of soldiers who have distinguished themselves in the present war shall be withheld from the knowledge of the people of Australia, and, if so, why?
– I have not seen the paragraph referred to. If it states that I have given instructions that the names of officers who may have distinguished themselves at Gallipoli are not to be given to the public of Australia, it is wrong. But private letters in which are references to officers, sometimes in terms of praise, and at other times in terms of blame, are being published in the press, and I have issued the order that, in future, when such letters are published, all names of officers shall be deleted. As to the informing of the public of distinguished conduct by officers, there is a proper channel for that, and it ought not to be done through the medium of private letters.
– Has the Minister yet obtained the information for which I asked last week, when the Appropriation Bill was under discussion, namely, whether the censors employed by the Commonwealth Government receive pay from State Governments or from universities in addition to the Commonwealth pay?
– The following answer has been supplied to me -
Universities. - This question cannot be fully answered until further information is available, as the private arrangements members of University staffs have made for locum tenens carrying on their University duties have been subjects of individual arrangements, of which this Department has no records. Information has, however, been asked for, and will be available later.
Civil Servants. -In one district (South Australia) three officers of the Civil Service employed as quarter-time censors are, it is understood, receiving Civil Service pay from the
State. In New South Wales one assistant censor is paid, it is understood, for nineteen hours per week by the State Department. Other civil servants on the censor staff are doing their military duty without pay from their Departments.
– Can the Minister reply now to a question recently asked by Senator Findley as to the payments made to censors in the various military districts?
– The information asked for is as follows -
Head-Quarters ( Melbourne ) . 1 Deputy Chief Censor, £750 per annum. 1 Censor, £500 per annum. 1 Senior Assistant Censor, £550 per annum. 1st District (Queensland) . 1 Censor, £550 per annum. 2 Senior Assistant Censors, £500 per annum. 8 Assistant Censors, £400 per annum. 2 Interpreters, £400 per annum.
N:B. - Two Assistant Censors are paid as part time (when employed). One Assistant Censor employed also on intelligence duties.
Interpreters paid only for time employed. 2nd District [New South Wales). 1 Censor, £550 per annum. 1 Senior Assistant Censor, £500 per annum. 14 Assistant Censors, £400 per annum. 6 Interpreters, £400 per annum.
N.B. - Three Assistant Censors employed as half time. Interpreters average two-thirds time. 3rd District(Victoria) . 1 Censor, £550 per annum. 1 Senior Assistant Censor, £500 per annum. 10 Assistant Censors, £400 per annum. 1 Interpreter (full time), £400 per annum. 4 Interpreters, as required, 3s. per hour. 4th District (South Australia) . 1 Censor (two-thirds time), £550 per annum. 1 Senior Assistant Censor (full time), £500 per annum. 2 Senior Assistant Censors (quarter time), £500 per annum. 1 Assistant Censor (full time), £400 per annum. 8 Assistant Censors (quarter time), £400 per annum. 8 Assistant Censors, £500 per annum. 1- Interpreter (full time), £400 per annum.
Interpreter, as required, 2s. per hour. 5th District (Western Australia). 1 Censor, £550 per annum. 1 Senior Assistant Censor, £500 per annum. 2 Assistant Censors, £400 per annum. 2 Interpreters, as required, 3s. per hour. 6th District(Tasmania) . 1 Censor, two-thirds time, £550 per annum.
– I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council . if the War Committee has considered the War Census Bill, and, if so, whether it has made any alterations in the schedule of the Bill? If it has made alterations, what are they ? Will alterations be submitted to Parliament before effect is given to the altered provisions ?
– I understand that slight alterations will he made in the list of questions, and that the Government will gazette the altered provisions as regulations, which will be laid before Parliament, and’ honorable senators will be able, if they think fit, to take exception to them.
– Does not the
Assistant Minister think that greater publicity should be given to the war loan, so that the subscription list may be as large as possible? Has sufficient publicity yet been given to the loan ?
– The usual business methods have been adopted, the loan being announced by means of posters and through the press. As the honorable senator seems to think that more advertising is required, I suggest that whenever honorable senators address public meetings, they might mention the loan, and thereby bring it more fully under the public notice. ‘
– Does not the Minister think that we should give as much publicity to the loan as to the need tor recruits ?
– We have used all the means at our disposal to advertise the facts connected with the loan.
– I wish to know whether it has been brought under the notice of the Minister of Defence that a letter or letters have been received by Mrs. Jacka, mother of Lance-Corporal. Albert Jacka, late of Wedderburn, and the first Australian in the present war to receive the Victoria Cross, intimidating her to a certain extent and making certain brutal statements ? If so, will the Minister take action to insure that the persons sending such dastardly communications shall be dealt with in the most drastic manner ? “Fill he further give instructions to his departmental officers to endeavour to trace the offenders in this case?
– I suggest to the honorable senator that he might inform Mrs. Jacka that if she will supply the Department with the letters referred to, every effort will be made to trace them to their source, and we shall certainly take strong action in dealing with the perpetrators of such an outrage.
– I may inform the Minister that the letter has been forwarded to the Defence Department.
– I have not yet seen anything of it.
Letter Sorters’ Award and Efficiency
– I have received notice from Senator Senior that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate in order to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ the present dissatisfaction of postal sorters re postal sorters award, and proposed examnations as advertised in last issue of Commonwealth Gazette.”
Four honorable senators having risen in their places,
.- I move-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Monday next at 2 p.m.
The moving of this motion arises from the fact that I observed in Wednesday’s newspapers that a strike was imminent in Sydney of the Post Office sorters. I had received information from Adelaide, and subsequently from Melbourne, that the postal sorters felt aggrieved and very much injured because of the intention of the Public Service Commissioner to institute a series of investigations, by means of examination papers, with which I shall deal later. The Post Office sorters presented an appeal to the Arbitration Court in the early part of the present year. The grounds of their appeal were that the Commissioner, in fixing their remuneration, had not recognised the skill and responsibility attached to their duties; the importance of the work done, and the special conditions under which it was performed; nor the increased cost of living. In the hearing of the appeal, it was distinctly urged from both sides that the Judge should make no discrimination between the
States in fixing the award, and should make no discrimination with regard to special districts in the matter of allowance, the allowances in such cases to remain as previously existing. The award was to be based on normal conditions, exclusive of drought or war conditions. I wish honorable senators to understand that the ground was cleared in this way for the giving of the award. I shall refer directly to the award, but it is quite evident that it was never in the mind of the Judge of the Arbitration Court that the sorters would be subjected to a series of questions of such a character that it is very doubtful whether there is a single person in the Commonwealth engaged in the business of postal sorting who could answer them.
– Is it a test that is proposed ?
– I understand that it is regarded as a check, although there is a continual check upon all sorters at the present time in the shape of the reports of supervisory officers. Before a sorter can secure his annual increase, the Public Service Commissioner must first receive from his supervisory officer an intimation that he is efficient, competent, and willing to carry out the duties in. which he is engaged. So that there is a definite annual guarantee that the sorters employed are competent to perform their work. I wish honorable senators specially to remember that, because, in my view, it obviates the necessity for the proposed examination test.
– The honorable senator objects to the test?
– I object to the test as being unnecessary, excessive, and of such a character that no sorter in Australia can pass it. Because of the time limit to speeches on such a motion as I have moved, it is necessary that I should greatly condense my remarks. I wish to impress upon honorable senators that, before a man can pass from the letter carriers’ branch to the sorters’ branch, he has to pass an examination. There can be no exception to such examination. But there is no necessity for the further examination now proposed, because supervisory officers are each year called upon to report upon the competence and efficiency of the men engaged as sorters. I need not specially refer to the award, beyond saying that, prior to it, from the time a man entered the service as a postal sorter, there was to be no check until he was in receipt of £192 per annum. The Arbitration Court is supposed to have given, and it was intended that it should give, greater benefits than the sorters received prior to their application. I have the statement of the Judge to that effect. But that intention is defeated by the institution of an impossible barrier, the effect of which is to block the postal sorter, not at £192, but when he has reached £162.
– Does the honorable senator mean that the Postal Department is trying to evade the operation of the award ?
– I cannot say what the Department is trying to do, but the opinion that I form from the test to which these sorters have to submit is that the Public Service Commissioner, or whoever may be responsible, is endeavouring to evade the intention of the President of the Arbitration Court by instituting an impassable barrier which will block the men at a salary £30 lower than they would have received under the original conditions.
– Are the sorters getting the benefit of the award?
– In future any postal sorter entering the Service, after passing the test that it is intended to impose, will receive for the first year’s service £168, while the men now in the Service receive only £150 for the first year. New men start with an advantage of £18 over those now in the Service, and yet, by this educational test, the latter are blocked at their third year of service and not allowed to make any further advance. At this stage, I call the attention of the Senate to the Commonwealth Gazette published on the 31st July last, in which two advertisements appear on pages 1477 and 1478. The first is headed “ Sorters’ Efficiency Bar,” and reads as follows : -
It is hereby notified that an examination for the purpose of testing the efficiency of officers in sorting duties will be held early in September, 1915, in accordance with the following conditions: -
The efficiency test will be open to sorters at present in receipt of £168 per annum, or those who, under the award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, will become entitled to advance beyond £168 per annum as from the date of the award, or may become so entitled during the ensuing twelve months by reason of length of service as a sorter.
Note. - The passing of the prescribed sorting test constitutes one of the conditions governing advancement beyond the Efficiency Bar (£168), as fixed by Arbitration Court award.
Here let me say that no efficiency barrier was fixed by the arbitration award. I mean efficiency as proved by this test. There was an efficiency barrier mentioned, but there was no indication that the test prescribed is in accordance with the intention of the award. What is the test? According to the Commonwealth Gazette, it is -
Sorters presenting themselves for examination will be required to pass the following test, viz.: -
I wish honorable senators to notice the difference between the previous test and this. The previous test referred only to official and semi-official offices, whereas receiving and allowance offices are now included. This means that over 2,000 offices are added to the present number in the State of Victoria. A sorter will have to memorize all these names, and in this test of 500 cards a resident of South Australia is allowed only three errors.
– How many postoffices would he have to deal with in South Australia ?
– According to Knibbs, there are 672 post-offices to which 124 receiving offices must be added. That is the first test. The second test is -
This manifestly increases very largely the full number of offices that the sorter is required to know, and at the same time he must be able to say whether the office is official or semi-official, and in which State it is situated. I have made a rough calculation of the number of post-offices of the same name in different States. For instance, there are five Beaconsfield postoffices in the Commonwealth. Some may be official, some receiving, and some allowance offices, yet the sorter is obliged to be possessed of all this knowledge, and at the same time to also deal with the 500 dummy cards. But before he can do the practical test, be has to pass a written test which, in addition to geographical knowledge, comprises -
This means that the sorter is required to know the contents of two large volumes, because the text-books provided are the Commonwealth Postal Guide and the State supplement to the Postal Guide. He is required to pass these tests, otherwise he is not allowed to go forward to. the manipulative test. If this is not a barbed-wire fence capable of keeping out the Germans, I do not know what it is. The Minister may say that there has always been a test, but previously the principal and suburban offices were included. Though they are now excluded, the number of offices that the sorter is required to know is greatly augmented by the inclusion of the smaller offices previously excluded, making the test infinitely more difficult.
– What is the practical test?
– The sorting of the dummy cards; but the candidate must possess a knowledge of the regulations and rates before he can approach that test.
– What time is allowed for the practical test?
– Five hundred cards must be sorted in fourteen minutes. Honorable senators cannot realize the strain on the postal sorter unless they watch him at work. As the letters pass under hiss hand he must see that the stamps have not been obliterated previously ; he must know in a moment whether a letter has been sufficiently stamped, and he has instinctively to feel by the tips of his fingers whether there is anything in a letter of which the Customs Department should be informed. Then, although his supervising officer may say that he is performing his work capably, he has to pass a test which I venture to say no man in Victoria could pass. What advantage will be gained by enforcing this test, except by imposing a barrier in order to prevent men receiving the annual increments to which they are entitled by the arbitration award ? I put this matter before the Senate very seriously, because it affects about half of the sorters - 503. men, I believe.
– -Has the regulation been issued since the award was given ?
– Yes; the award comes into operation on the 6th August, and the test was published on the 31st July, and will practically prevent the award from taking effect.
– That is the Commissioner’s game.
– I am not concerned with that, but I am concerned that the Senate should realize how serious the position is, and how severe a test is being imposed upon men to whom honorable senators are indebted every day in regard to the correct and expeditious delivery of their letters. There will be 503 sorters affected out of 1,106. The Public Service Commissioner may say that there are not 503 men affected.
– It would not matter if there was but one affected.
– At present there are 503 men who are qualified, or will become qualified in the course of time, but who will be stopped by this barrier, which, in justice to those men, I want to see removed. Honorable senators will see that this is the time when we should raise our voices against this proposal. I am not pleading, and it is not necessary I should plead, that incompetent men should be in any branch of the Service, nor do I think that the Minister representing the Commissioner will put up that plea as an argument against the motion. If that is put up, it will be a condemnation of the supervisory officers, because it is an easy matter for the supervisory officer to inform the men, who, if they are incompetent, should be told.
– The test was never discovered to be necessary before.
– I know exactly what is in the honorable senator’s mind. I feel I can leave this matter to the good judgment of the Senate, thoroughly believing that it will see justice done between the Commissioner and the Postal Union.
– I have followed Senator Senior most carefully, for I was anxious to know if there was a real grievance to justify the motion for the adjournment of the Senate. If there was a real grievance, I personally would express myself in sympathy with Senator Senior, and those members of the association , who he informs me are likely to strike. But I would remind the honorable senator. - and in doing that I am reminding those for whom he speaks - that the present Government, or a Government representing the same party as we represent, gave to those letter sorters the opportunity to have their grievances taken to the Arbitration Court.
– Why, then, should you try to get behind the award of the Arbitration Court?
– This is a new regulation altogether.
– I note the interjections, and I would again remind Senator Senior and those who think with him that the party now holding office gave to those engaged in the Postal Service a proper tribunal for the redress of their grievances - the Arbitration Court - and therefore it ill becomes any one now to say that we want to get behind a decisionof that Court.
– But the Commissioner might.
– And if the Government supports the Commissioner the Government is as bad as the Commissioner.
– The Government will shoulder the whole responsibility.
– If you shoulder this, your Government is a sweater.
– I will leave that to the judgment of more unprejudiced men than the honorable senator. I simply want to show that there is now an outcry about a grievance before the regulation has really been tested. Senator Senior declared it to be an impossible test.
– So it is.
– The aim of the Government is to secure efficiency in the interests of the Public Service and the general public.
– This will not make for efficiency.
– That is the object, but as soon as the regulation is gazetted we have the statement that it is an impossible test. I venture to say it would have been a great deal wiser if the people engaged in this branch of the Service had tried the examination and had an experience of the number of failures. There would then have been something to go upon as to whether the test was a fair one or not.
– Why was it not found necessary until the award was given ?
– The honorable senator will know that the object of these tests is to make for improvement in the management of the Public Service.
– The Commissioner is a sweater, and you are supporting him. This is intended to get behind the award of the Court.
– May I put this to the Minister? Will he be prepared to pass an examination on any section in any Act on the shelves without looking at it?
– I am quite sure that if the honorable senator thinks that by over-stating a case he can gain sympathy for this motion he never made a greater mistake. The honorable senator quoted two volumes of regulations, and told us that these men had to pass an examination on the whole of those regulations, covering about 1,000 pages. I point out to the honorable senator that in those volumes there are only two or three pages’ of regulations upon which the postal sorters are required to pass an examination. The honorable senator, therefore, has attempted to buttress his case upon an unsubstantial foundation. Those regulations deal with the different Departments of the Service. There are simply’ two or three pages of regulations dealing with the branch of the Service to which Senator Senior refers, and that is all that is necessary for the men to know. The regulation as to the efficiency test is new, but it is not new to have a, threat of a strike. It has been said that the regulation was not needed before the Arbitration Court’s award was given, but I have here the old and the new regulations. Let us see what is the complaint.
In the new regulation it is stated - after 500 cards have been sorted.
That is the old practical test-
– That excluded allowance and also semi-official offices. This test includes both.
– I desire to get down to the business aspect of the case, and I want honorable senators to free their minds altogether from prejudice. I would also ask them not to assume that somebody wants to get behind the award of the Arbitration Court. I can assure them that this Government does not. Now the new regulation states -
If. when the 500 cards have been sorted, the candidate has a balance of time available, he shall not be permitted to utilize such time to re-sort any cards which may have been wrongly sorted. [Maximum errors permitted will be - New South Wales, 10; Victoria, 10; Queensland, 5; South Australia, 3; Western Australia, 3; and Tasmania, nil.]
There are in New South Wales 2,956 offices; in Victoria, 2,632; Queensland, 1,386; South Australia, 796; Western Australia, 554; and Tasmania, 455. A Tasmanian candidate is supposed to know all the offices in his State, and what lines and services will take the mails to the different parts of his State. It is not unfair to ask a man who has served as a letter sorter, and wants to prove his competence,’ to knowhow to sort letters for 455 offices. That is not a difficult test, and it is the duty of the Government to take care that we have efficient men, particularly in the Postal Department; and the duty of the supporters of the Government to say, “ We shall support you if you do a fair thing, and demand good service for good money.”
– But this is not a fair thing.
– Will the honorable senator show where it is unfair? The sorter in New South Wales, not applying for new employment, but so efficient that he desires an increased wage and a better position, is given his test upon 500 cards. There are in New South Wales 2.956 possible destinations. If the sorter makes nine mistakes in the 500 cards he still passes, but he fails if he makes ten mistakes. Remember, this is not a test for employment but for advancement. No honorable senator would think of advancing a man in his employment who made ten mistakes in every 500 cards he gave him. Victoria is in much the same position as New South Wales, with a minimum of ten mistakes in the 500 cards. In Queensland, the minimum is five mistakes; in South Australia, three; and in Western Australia, three. We ask these men to pass a practical examination in the business they have in hand.
– When you include the semi-official offices, you include offices not known to any postal sorter until he turns up the guide.
– This is a practical test to ascertain the men’s efficiency, and if any one thinks it is instituted to injure the men and prevent their advancement, he had better rid his mind of that impression. It was this Government that placed this method of advancement in the hands of the Public Service of the Commonwealth, and we still have every desire to give effect to it. As regards geographical knowledge, the requirements are -
Knowledge of geography of States of Commonwealth, excluding State in which candidate is employed (already covered by Primary Sorting Test). Names of towns (50 in number) to be selected from official post-offices and semiofficial post-offices in live States in approximate relative proportion to the total number of such offices in each State. Allowance and receiving offices not to be included. Candidate will be required to name the State in which each of the SO towns is situated. Maximum errors allowed will be 5.
Is that a difficult test ? Is not that geographical knowledge necessary to the postal officials who are responsible for the safe delivery of letters from one end of the Commonwealth to the other, and who are seeking advancement?
– Has there ever been any hint of inefficiency?
– I do not see what bearing that has on the question. The geographical test is a test for the well-known official and semi-official offices. Do honorable senators want these men to get advancement without passing any test? Men who are complaining of not being tested, whether the question is a hard one or not, are simply “ jibbing “ at it. From my knowledge of the sorters, hundreds of them could pass the test with ease. It is a test under which the efficient men will be selected, and the inefficient men will not.
– The Commissioner was assured by one of the best men m Victoria that it was impossible for any man in Victoria to pass it.
– Let them try it, and see if there is anything wrong. Senator Senior referred to what was inthe mind of the Arbitration Court Judge. No honorable senator has the right to interpret what is in the mind of any Judge, unless the Judge gave expression to it. If these men have any grievance, there is a method of redressing it in the Arbitration Court.
– I can quote the Judge’s words.
– The honorable senator is quite at liberty to do so, but he should not quote what he thinks was in the Judge’s mind. Another test complained of is in regard to the “ knowledge of postal regulations relating to postage and handling of.-mail matter.” Let me say at once that, so far as the Governmentis concerned, there is going to be efficiency,, not only in the Post Office, but in every other Department. I can see nothing objectionable in the test. It is a practical test of knowledge. Every reasonable opportunity is given to each man to fit himself for the examination, present himself for it, and, if he is efficient, get his promotion.
– The examination isto come on in September, and the men have no chance to equip themselves for it.
– There is no desire on the wart of the Government or the Department to prevent men from getting their promotion. We are prepared to pay men well who can do good work. During the period from 1910 to 1913, when the very Arbitration Act which gave these people the opportunity to appeal to the Arbitration Court was brought into existence, we heard of no attempts to appeal. We heard only continual threats to strike. So far as all the Departments are concerned, the threat to strike is no argument to this Government. We shall provide ample means for the redress of grievances, but no grievances are to .be redressed by the threat of force. The party that threatens to appeal to force to secure better conditions will fail, because such a threat will fall on deaf ears.
– Is not that the old Conservative argument?
– It may be Conservative, but when dealing with an unreasonable section of the community it is the proper attitude to take up. Any one with a grievance will find means of being heard, and redress if redress is called for, but we refuse to be moved by threats of force.
– Why should .the honorable senator charge these men with being unreasonable?
– The honorable senator says that I charge them with being unreasonable, because I state that they have a ready means of redressing their grievances. They are complaining of what after all is a simple and practical test, and complaining- before they have tried it.
– These men went to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court at a cost of £1,000, and almost before the ink on the award is dry a test is introduced with the object of trying to evade that award.
– These men went to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, and the President of the Court decided that promotion should be by means of a test.
– That is not so.
– I have before me what is a fair summary of the award. lt sets forth that -
The advancement of sorters from the minimum of £150 to £210 is subject to conditions prescribed by the award.
– No such conditions are imposed.
– This is a fair summary, and the conditions set forth are -
Provided (I) that no employee shall receive more than £168 a year unless reported by the Chief Officer as willing to perform, and capable of performing, any of the duties of a sorter in the section in which he is employed; and (2) that no employee shall receive more than £192 a year unless the Chief Officer certifies that he is engaged in .final sorting or in some work recognised by the Department as. one of the higher functions of a sorter, or that he is willing to perform, ‘and is capable of performing, the work of final sorting, or any of the other functions of a sorter recognised by the Department as the higher functions of a sorter.
– Is that the Commissioner’s definition of the award ?
– It is a fair statement of it. Without such a test, how is the Department to ascertain who are most competent to perform the final duties of a sorter ? Why complain that the test is too difficult before it has been tried ?
– At page 24 ‘ of the award as printed the honorable senator will see that existing conditions are made a ground of the award.
– The award declares -
Provided ( 1 ) that no employee shall receive more than £168 a year unless reported by the Chief Officer as willing to perform, and capable of performing, any of the duties of a sorter in the section in which he is employed, and (2) that no employee shall receive more than £192 per year unless the Chief Officer certifies that he is engaged in final sorting, or in some work recognised by the Department as one of the higher functions of a sorter, or that he is willing to perform, and is capable of performing, the work of final sorting or any of the other functions of a sorter recognised by the Department as the higher functions of a sorter.
That is the award which the Department has to observe. Would it be wise to make these promotions in a haphazard way upon the recommendation of officers under whom men had been working for twelve months rather than to have an examination in which their efficiency will be tested ? If the examination proves too difficult it will naturally be remodelled, and no injury will be done to any one. Most honorable senators have passed a far more difficult examination. If it proves to be an easy and reasonable test to which to submit the men - as I think it will - then honorable senators will admit that the method adopted by the Department is the proper one to follow if it is desired to have responsible positions filled by efficient men.
– It is unnecessary.
– Most things that cause any trouble are described as unnecessary. If there is one Commonwealth Department more than another which has been the butt of the press and the subject of criticism founded on imperfect knowledge of the facts it is the Postal Department. ‘ But when an attempt is made to put that Department on a better basis, so that it will give tlie very best service to the public, complaint is made. No Department comes more closely into touch with the business community and the people as a whole than does the Postal Department, and I venture to say that this test, aiming as it does at efficiency, will lead to its giving the very best service. I do not object to honorable senators voicing their disapproval of these matters, but I certainly object to their suggesting that the Government and their responsible officers are prompted by ulterior motives in providing this test. We are quite above-board in regard to it. The test for which we have provided is believed by those responsible for the management of the Department to be reasonable and just, and upon that test promotion will take place. Before it has been tried, however, an outcry is raised. I venture to say that it would have been better to await the results of the first examination before making any complaint. The first examination will take place, I think, next month.
– Not 1 per cent. of the men will pass.
– I venture to prophesy that efficient men who present themselves will find no difficulty in passing it, and thus securing promotion and better wages. It may be that the officers of the Department can do as the honorable member threatened they would do in regard to certain work - it may be that they will strike by way of protest against this test. That, however, would be a very sad thing for the men who have worked so long in the Department, and who have been so long entitled to promotion. But for the Labour party they would never have secured the opportunity to go before the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, and thus clear the way to their promotion. These questions of wages cannot be settled by a Parliament. Parliament is too busy with other matters to be able to. attend to such questions.
– Why is this matter brought here, seeing that the Conciliation and ArbitrationCourt is open to the men for the redress of their grievances?
– The Conciliation and Arbitration Court provides a means for the ventilation of the grievances of these men. If, as Senator Senior suggests, the men think this test has been devised as a means of getting behind the award, all that the union has to do is to put its case before the President of the Court. If it can prove that the Public Service Commissioner is thus trying to evade the award, the grievance will be promptly redressed. Speaking on behalf of the Department, however, I do not hesitate to say that we have made no attempt to evade the award. On the contrary, we are anxious to observe it, and this test is proposed so that the most efficient men may be secured for the higher positions. The test will be carried out strictly, without fear or favour, and, in short, is one which many men in the Department will not only attempt, but will prepare for, and pass without great difficulty.
– I regret that it should have been necessary to move the adjournment of the Senate in order to discuss this question, but I believe it is of great importance’, not only to the letter sorters, but to every branch of the Public Service, in respect of which an award of the Arbitration Court has been made. Whatever is done in respect of this award may also be done in regard to other awards secured by public servants. If any award is to be evaded or side-stepped-
– That has been done.
– It has been done. I was surprised to hear the VicePresident of the Executive Council upholding, as he did, the action of the Public Service Commissioner. We know him to be a militant unionist, and he is just the man who would cavil at any private employer instituting such a test in connexion with an award obtained by a union of which he was the organizer. It seems to me that this test is designed to prevent these men obtaining their just due as determined by the Court. The Minister, in the course of his reply, seemed to base his speech on the question of efficiency. Listening to him, one would imagine that we had in the Public Service an army of inefficients.
– Not at all.
– No such suggestion was made in the Court during the hearing of the case, And I contend that the proposed test will not make the men one whit more efficient than they now are. It is quite possible that men might pass this test after much cramming and study and yet be not as efficient as an old experienced sorter who, having done the work day by day, and year after year, knows his duties by heart. Surely the supervisor should be the man to judge of the value of a sorter, and his judgment should be sufficient, without putting the employees to the unnecessary bother of passing a test. The acquisition of so much head knowledge that will not help the men forward in their occupation does not make for efficiency. The old method has stood the test of many years. The Commonwealth Postal Service is second to none in the whole world, and yet we have heard the Minister reading a brief handed to him by the men who have instituted this means of sides’.epping the award when there is absolutly no occasion to do so. T trust that the discussion .of the matter in the Senate will result in this obnoxious proposal being knocked on the head. If the proposal is allowed to pass, it will establish a precedent that will live, and be used against other sections of the Public Service which have had awards granted to them, and may also be made an excuse for private employers endeavouring to apply the same system to employees who have given them many years nf valuable service. This test is infinitely more severe than the test which the men had to pass in order to get their positions ; and to apply it now is only to harass men who have given to the Commonwealth good and faithful service. It is not too late to remedy what is a palpable misuse of the powers handed over to the Public Service Commissioner.
Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) T4.31. - I support the Minister in his desire to have in the Public Service the most efficient men obtainable. And in bringing this question before the Senate this afternoon Senator Sen;or had no other object in view than to preserve that high standard of efficiency which exists in the Public Service. and particularly in the .Postal Department. The M:n:ster became somewhat heated in the course of his remarks, and practically charged the letter-sorters with being unreasonable, because they had adopted this means of ventilating what they, -and’ I, consider to be a very serious grievance. The honorable gentleman claimed that he is a member of the party that introduced the system of settling industrial disputes by the medium of Arbitration Courts. That is quite true, and I was one of those who supported the establishment of Arbitration Courts. These employees have been before the Arbitration Court, and, at considerable expense, obtained an award. The Vice-Pres:dent of the Executive Council now suggests that if the men have any grievance in regard to the manner in which the award is being interpreted they should again approach the Arbitration Court for an interpretation, which, of course, would cost them still more money. Yet the honorable senator is a member of a party that is endeavouring to make the path to the Arbitration Court as straight and inexpensive as possible, and to make the Court iftself a final Court of appeal. I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that, either intentionally or unintentionally, the Commissioner is endeavouring to get behind the award. The Minis’ er read to the Senate, not the award itself, but an interpretation of the award by the Commissioner - the employer of the men - and it is this interpretation of the employer that the Minister accepts instead, of that of. the employees. Not long ago the Minister himself was an employee, and he had too much fighting spirit in him to accept the interpretation of the employer as to the wages he should receive. .
– I belonged to a union that never had to approach Parliament for the redress of its grievances.
– The Minister may thank his stars for that; but the fact that he was a member of a particulary strong union, is no reason why he should be a party to the oppression of a weaker body of men who have obeyed the law, and have obtained an award. This is what Mr. Justice Powers said in delivering his award -
I am also informed that - even if I do fix the maximum wage of sorters, not doing final sorting, at £IC>2, or at any amount less than £11)2 - those who are at present in the Service doing the primary sorting, and who are continued at that work; - and who are at present receiving more than the maximum fixed for that work - will continue to receive their present wages, and continue to receive their annual increments up to £102, just as if an award had not been made, fixing lower wages for primary sorting.
Further on His Honour said -
The necessity for further considering that question, however, appears to me unnecessary, for, after full consideration, I am satisfied that
I am only justified in making an award on existing conditions, and not on conditions to bc fixed at some later date.
Those conditions are about to be fixed to-morrow when the award comes into operation -
And that it should not make any difference in my award, even if the respondents fixed a date upon which they undertook to start the new system.
Later on, Mr. Justice Powers said -
If the grading had been adopted before the case for the respondents closed, 1 at present fuel that 1 would have been compelled to make an award for the different grades; but all the
Court is justified in doing is to fix wages for sorters, under the circumstances existing at the time the award is to be made.
I prefer to accept the words of the Judge rather than the interpretation of the Commissioner. A fair procedure would have been to have submitted this extra test to the Court, so that the men could have had an opportunity of combating the Commissioner’s statement, and producing evidence in support of their case. But when the men went to the Court, they placed all their cards on the table. The Commissioner did not; he kept the joker up his sleeve, and he proposes to play that card to-morrow.
– You say that the effect of the test is to nullify the award?
– The information I had is that 503 men will not get beyond £168 per annum, whereas, according to the award, they could have risen by annual increments to £192.
– The test was published in the Government Gazette in April, 1915, before the award in the sorters’ case had been made by Mr. Justice Powers.
– That was the test for the admission of letter carriers into the Sorting Branch, and I admit that such a test is necessary ; but this proposed extraordinary test applies to men already in the Service, with whom there has been no fault found during the many years they have been in the Department. As I have already said, the Judge felt that he would have been compelled to make an award for the different grades if ally particular new situation had been put before him; but seeing that no new situation was put before him, he made the award under existing conditions. I regret to have to express the opinion that the Public Service Commissioner is, in this case, doing what he did with the telephone electricians, namely, endeavouring to get behind the award of the Court. In the latter case, I was present in Court on behalf of the Western Australian men; and I remember that, when the representative of the Commissioner appealed to the Judge for instructions as to the interpretation of the award, His Honour said, “ My direction to you is to obey the law.” That attempt to get behind the award did not succeed, and yet, here again, in the case of the letter sorters, we have a simi lar attempt. With all due respect to thePublic Service Commissioner, and to the Minister, I say that this is the place in which this matter should be ventilated. We are the duly elected representatives of the people of Australia, and we have to consider the case of a number of citizens who have obeyed the law as laid down by this Parliament. Of- course it is a pity that the time of Parliament should be occupied with matters of this kind ; but I know of no employer outside the Commonwealth Public Service who would so endeavour to get behind an award of the Court. The postal sorters form a very important branch of the Service. As Senator McKissock has already said, there was no charge of inefficiency laid against them while the plaint was being heard, though that was when any charge should have been made, and not after the - decision had been given. If the Government agree to’ this particular test, or extra test, as it might be termed, I unhesitatingly say that they are acting in concert with the Public Service Commissioner, who, from some false view of economy, is endeavouring to prevent these men from getting their just due in the shape of the remuneration awarded them by a Court properly established by Parliament. I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council to look more closely into the award, and into the interpretation given to it by the Public Service Commissioner, for I am sure that, if the honorable gentleman does so, he must take the part of the men.
– This is the type of discussion which was somewhat frequent in bygone years, but which some of us hoped we had heard the last of. Prior to the Labour Government providing machinery for settling such questions outside the walls of Parliament, we used to have similar debates almost every week. At last, however, the Labour Government very happily hit upon the expedient of submitting such matters to the Arbitration Court, which is the right and proper tribunal. As already remarked by, I think, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, Parliament is not at all fitted for settling wage questions; and I think we may congratulate ourselves that discussions of this kind have been minimized, because, as we know, we never could arrive at any finality or settle any question affecting the Civil Service. I am somewhat sorry that the letter sorters have introduced this subject here to-day, because it may be interpreted as a want of confidence in the Arbitration Court, which has done good work. I advise senators to read the report of the Royal Commission on the Postal Department. In that report we find suggested a remedy for almost every possible kind of grievance; but one of the recommendations that was not adopted had reference to the very matter we are now discussing. Consequently no machinery is provided for settling questions of the kind, unless the President of the Court takes it on himself to go into all the details and ramifications of the work, and decide them before the case leaves the Court. This was not done; and, in my opinion, the President of the Court has only half performed his work.
– The President distinctly stated that the question of grading was not within the province of the Judge.
– That it was not before the Court.
– At any rate, grading involves promotion.
– Promotion to-day is not by efficiency, but by pure accident, depending on the death or transference of some officer.
– I think we are all agreed that promotion and grading - which mean the same thing in the present instance - should take place on the basis of merit, and not on the old and obsolete basis of seniority. The only proper reason for promotion is that a man can prove that he is a good workman and entitled to the change.
– The honorable senator will admit that if these sorters are doing the highest class of work, they are entitled to the highest pay, and that no barrier should be placed in their way.
– I agree with the principle; but we have to provide some means of ascertaining whether or not the sorters are doing such work as entitles them to the highest pay. My point is that there is no means of determining whether one sorter, as against another, is entitled to promotion. The Royal Commission recommended that there should be a test for sorters on entering th branch; and that test was, I think, quite ns severe as the present one.
– I am npt quite familiar with the present test.
– The present test applies to official, semi-official, and receiving offices; and also to the very small offices that are sustained by payments for work done.
– The test is that an officer must show knowledge of the work done at the particular kind of office with which he may be associated.
– I agree with Senator Senior that knowledge of the kind now insisted upon is not calculated to help a sorter in the work he has to do, and to me it has always been a puzzle why examinations of this kind should be regarded as necessary. Whatever test is applied should be a practical test relating to the work the officer may be called upon to perform, and not to work with which he is not concerned. A sorter is not required to sort letters differently because they happen to be going to offices of different grades. What he has to do is to put the letters into the bags representing those offices, whether they be official, semi-official, allowance, or receiving. The bag does not bear any outward sign of the grade of office to which the letters are going, and if the officer knows, the knowledge does not help him, or make him any the more proficient. Consequently the test that is now applied does not add to the efficiency of the sorter, nor does it offer any indication of the sorter’s merit, or solve the question of whether he is entitled to promotion or not. Tests of the character now insisted upon have always made the Department look ridiculous in the eyes of ordinary people. For instance, men who have been engaged upon labouring work in the Department have been required to pass an educational test on subjects with which their work has not been concerned in any shape or form.
– Unfortunately they have to do that now.
– Tests of that kind make the whole system ridiculous. May I refer for one moment to the recommendations of the Royal Commission in order to show honorable senators what the conclusions arrived at on that occasion were. They will then see that the present proposal is not all in keeping with the recommendations then made. The Royal Commission laid it down that there should be an entrance test for all applicants, whether they were letter, carriers or sorters.
– That is the case today.
– One test was that a sorter should be given ten minutes in which to properly sort thirty-five cards, an allowance of 3 per cent, of errors being made. The Commission also recommended that a committee, to be known as the Staff Committee - which, by the way, has not yet been appointed - should be appointed, consisting of experts in the various branches of the Postal Service, upon whom would rest the duty of deciding which of the employees were entitled to promotion. If that recommendation had been put into practice, this discussion would have been unnecessary. We cannot decide as to the rights and wrongs of the claims made by the sorters. We can ventilate the question, but there is an end of the matter. If we had a properly constituted tribunal for the settlement of disputes of ‘this kind, we could have asked why the tribunal had not dealt with this. There is not much advantage to be gained’ by the provision of an Arbitration Court if that Arbitration Court leaves its work half done - if it does not put on the final touches, as it should have done in this case by explicitly and clearly laying down what the work of the sorters must be, and what they must be able to do before they are entitled to promotion - and it seems to me that the question ought to be referred back to the Arbitration Court for final settlement. Just one word in conclusion. I am sorry that the Minister apparently lost his temper, and spoiled his own case by going out of his way to make a threat. Nothing will be gained by any Minister - particularly by a Labour Minister - getting; up in this or any other place, and threatening what may happen to anybody, or to any class of workman, who talk of or hint at striking.
– Order ! The honorable senator has reached the time limit.
– T think it is unfortunate that the Minister, in his reply to Senator Senior, should have been so unfair to the men as to have accused them of making a threat, while lie himself justified his own action by making another.
– I did not make a threat ; I made a statement.
– The Minister took to himself and his party credit for the introduction of the Arbitration Act, which gave public servants the right of appeal to Court. That is quite true, but just as it was the duty of this party to give these men these facilities, so, too, is it the duty of the party to preserve their rights and to see that they get the facilities that were intended for them. The Commissioner was fully represented at the Court which dealt with the claims of the postal sorters, and did everything within his power to put forward his side of the case. The award having been given, the Commissioner, who acts for the Government in this matter, is as much bound by it as are the men. Let us consider the conditions which existed in the Department before the award and the present conditions, to see whether the Commissioner is not deliberately attempting to get behind the award. Previously, a man to become a sorter had to pass a prescribed examination, and before a sorter could obtain promotion an Advisory Board of three members had to report that his average efficiency for the year was satisfactory. To-day, to become a sorter, a man must pass the prescribed examination, but to secure promotion as a sorter he must pass another prescribed examination every year. In my opinion, the Public Service Commissioner has violated the award in imposing this condition. Mr. Justice Powers said -
If the grading had been adopted before the case for the respondent closed, I at present feel that I would have been compelled to make an award for the different grades; but all tlie Court is justified in doing is to fix wages for sorters, under the conditions existing at the time the award is being made.
The wages were fixed under the existing conditions, but the Commissioner now imposes new conditions, and is thus acting illegally, because Mr. Justice Powers said -
This award is made subject to the provisions of all Acts and regulations affecting sorters as public servants, except such of them as are inconsistent with this award.
The action of the Commissioner is inconsistent with the award, and is therefore illegal, and would not stand ii tested.
– Then why not test it!
– It cost the men a considerable sum to secure the award, and it would be unfair to ask them to go to the Court again.
– The honorable senator admits that the Court can deal with this matter 1
– The Court should not be asked to deal with it. If the Commissioner is permitted to flout the men in this matter, he. will do so in other matters, and, if they are compelled to go to the Court this time, they will be compelled to go to it on other occasions, and thus they will be subjected to perpetual litigation, which would practically ruin them. That would not be fair. The Labour Government said to the public servants, as to tlie ordinary civilian, “ We give you permission to go to the Arbitration Court.” It should, therefore, see that the awards of the Court are observed by its officers. If the Commissioner succeeded in this insidious attempt to get behind tlie award, no award affecting tlie Commonwealth Public Service would be worth the paper on which it is written, because, no sooner would it be made than the Commissioner would impose altered conditions, which would prevent the men from getting any benefit from it. In what other walk of life is a man asked to pass an annual examination 1 When once a man has qualified to do any particular work, he is no longer subjected to examinations to test his efficiency.
– An engine-driver must have his eyesight tested every year.
– If there were any doubt as to the physical efficiency of a sorter, he could be subjected to a physical test, but every sorter ought not to be compelled to pass annually a written and oral examination. If the Commissioner succeeds in this case, he may say next year to the officers of the Clerical and Professional Divisions, “ Although you have passed examinations qualifying you to enter the Service, you must pass further tests to show that you are still efficient.” I hope that the Minister will be reasonable in this matter. It is a peculiar thing that the honorable senator seems to regard it as his duty to protect the big officials. Why should he protect the Commissioner any mere than the men ? He is supposed to be the representative of all classes.
– He is the mouthpiece of his Department.
– He should see that all have a fair deal; but he takes it upon himself to defend the Commissioner in all that he does.
– If the honorable senator can show that any difficult condition is imposed, I shall be prepared to deal with the matter. I have not heard of any such condition.
– The conditions have already been read to the Senate, and they were not in existence before the award was obtained. The award was based on the conditions previously in existence, and had the Commissioner frankly informed the Judge that he proposed to impose new conditions respecting promotion, the Judge would have been disposed to fix a higher rate of wages for them. The men’s contention is that, having secured an award from the Court, the Commissioner should be compelled to abide by it.
.- The tenor .of the utterances this afternoon might lead one to think that the Government desires to treat one branch of the Civil Service unreasonably, but I do not think that is so. The members of the Government were chosen by the votes of the party, and I do not think that they would misinterpret the opinions of the party, or the feelings of. the public generally, by acting unfairly towards any body of public servants. It is as well that we should keep in mind the fact that there are two’ parties to these disputes - the public servants and the public who pay them. It must be remembered that among those who pay the bill there are many who have a much harder row to hoe than any member of the Public Service. To hold the balance of justice evenly, Parliament decided that all disputes between public servants and the authority representing the public should be submitted to the Arbitration Court, which is an impartial tribunal. In the case under review, an award has been obtained from the Court, and one of the parties is endeavouring to use the Senate as a means of rectifying some defect in its observance.
– That is not the position.
– If there had not been an alleged violation of the award, we should have heard nothing of thistrouble.
– There has not been an attempt to evade the award.
– When an attempt is made to evade an award, the proper’ authority may he appealed to. In this case the proper authority - the Arbitration Court - is not being appealed to; the appeal is being made to the Senate. If the Federal Parliament becomes the final Court of appeal in regard to every breach or evasion of an award, its time will be wholly occupied in the settlement of disputes. I ob ject to making the Senate the arena in which disputes and evasions cf an award mav be reviewed. I say that we shall be shirking our duty, and going behind our own policy deliberately framed, if we attempt to erect this Parliament into a final tribunal for the settlement of all these disputes. Coming to tlie merits of this particular case, I have to confess that I am not very conversant with them. I throw myself on the indulgence of honorable senators taking opposite views on the subject to ass : st me as I go on. It appears that there is one body of the Public Service, namely, the letter sorters, who enter the Service after passing a specified examination. This body is divided into grades. Am I right or wrong in that statement?
– As sorters, they are not divided into grades.
– There are various grades amongst the sorters.
– I am informed that there are various grades amongst these public servants. The Public Service Commissioner, as representing the Government, has hit upon a plan for regulating the passage of a sorter from a lower to a higher grade. Apparently, all the trouble centres around this device in-, vented by the Public Service Commissioner. Those who have brought the grievance of the sorters here claim that the Public Service Commissioner has been wrong in the action he has taken : that it represents an evasion of the Arbitration Court’s award, and that the Government are unreasonable in standing behind the Public Service Commissoner and indorsing what he has done. I ask those who take this view of the matter to say in what way the public servants affected by the action of the Public S?rvice Commissioner are prejudiced in their positions. I ask honorable senators to consider the practice which prevails amongst different bodies of men outs:de the Public Service. I worked for many years amongst the engineers engaged in ships trading along our coast. There is a body known by tie generic term of “ engineers,” but it includes first, second, third, fourth, and fifth engineers. Before a man can pass from one grade of the engineering profession to a higher grade, he must. pass a stiff examination, and is rated accordingly. There are strict rules provided for promotion from one grade to another in that calling.
– The honorable senator misses the facts of this case.
– I am dealing now with a general principle. My personal opinions may go for nothing, but I am referring honorable senators to actual and personal experience in my life. The same principle has been put into practice for many years in connexion w.th other occupations. This principle governs promotions amongst the men engaged in those occupations at the present time, and it is not only indorsed but welcomed by the men concerned. The principle is adopted by marine officers as wed as by men engaged as engineers in the coastal service. Amongst marine officers, before a man can pass from one grade to a higher grade he is required to pass an examination to test his efficiency and competence for a position in the higher grade. The principle to which 1 refer is in operation to-day, and there is no outcry on the part of those affected for any departure from it. A man desiring to obtain a position as a letter sorter is required to pass an examination. There are several grades amongst the letter sorters, and Senator Senior strongly objects to any examination being required between those grades.
– There are no grades amongst the letter sorters in the sense in which the honorable senator uses the term.
– I do not know what the discussion has been upon, if it has not been to condemn the action of the Commissioner for instituting this means of regulating the passing of persons from one grade to another among the letter sorters.
– The honorable senator dons not understand the matter.
– What is the grievance of the letter sorters?
– An extra examination after a man has been a letter sorter for years.
– Honorable senators object to an extra examination?
– Yes; to an extra examination introduced since the award was given.
– My illustration still stands. In the other walks of life I have mentioned, the principle to which I have referred has been strictly adhered to for years, and the men concerned would depart from it very unwillingly. I ask, not Only iu justice to the men who have adopted this principle outside, but also to the men inside the Public Service, that the same tests should be applied in the Public Service as is applied amongst other bodies of workers. I have mentioned engineers and marine officers, and T could also mention engine-drivers. I know from personal experience that if an engine-driver wishes to secure employment at a class of work in a higher grade than that which he has reached, he has to pass an examination to show his fitness for the higher grade work. When all these workers have adhered to- this principle, and .have worked under it for years, I say that it is no hardship i.o apply the same principle to grades of the Public Service
– There is no grade amongst the postal sorters, according to the Judge of the Arbitration Court, and also according to the Commissioner.
– The honorable senator is beating the air.
– The honorable senator does not understand the matter. Both the Judge and the Commissioner are agreed that there are no grades, and that it is a matter only of experience.
– I commenced my : speech with a saving condition, that I hoped to gather information as I went along, but I cannot compliment myself on tlie light I have gained from honorable senators. 1 hear on one side that there are no grades amongst the sorters, and on the other that there are grades amongst them.
– Different men amongst the sorters receive different rates of pay, and, whether that be called grading or not, the principle is the same.
– As I understand the matter, a person on passing a specified examination becomes a letter sorter, and is entitled to a minimum wage of £192; but the passing of that examination does not entitle him to. the highest wage paid to letter sorters.
– That is so, notwithstanding his experience.
– Why does he not qualify for the highest rate of pay?
– By passing the original examination he would have been qualified to receive wages up to £192 a year but for the arrangement which has now been made.
– Why does not the passing of the first examination qualify the letter sorters for the highest wage paid to sorters if there are no grades amongst the letter sorters? It is clear that my argument must stand. Between the person who enters the service as a junior letter sorter at £192 a year, and the letter sorter who is entitled to £210 a year, there are grad-w of difference separated one from the other by varying rates of pay. We are told that it was the practice that when a letter sorter was due for promotion, an Advisory .Board of three made a report on his general efficiency throughout the your. Thai is an admission that a form of test was applied to discover the qualifications of a letter sorter before he was allowed to pass from fi lower to a higher grade. Let me say that if I were in the Public Service, and desired to qualify for a higher grade, I. should infinitely prefer to rely upon my own resources to secure promotion than to have to depend on the good will or favoritism of any Advisory Board.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Senator NEWLAND (South Australia) [4.55 J. - The discussion which has taken place has justified Senator Senior in submitting his motion. “ I must compliment Senator Lynch upon telling us that he knew nothing whatever about the subject, and upon proving his statement absolutely before completing his speech. I start, from the point that there was fixed, for I do not know how many years, an examination which a man was required ti pass in order to secure a position as a letter sorter. That is quite proper, and no one objects to it. But once a man becomes a letter sorter he remains a letter sorter until he has secured promotion to a higher grade. He has to submit to another examination to secure entry into that higher grade. What Senator Senior has complained about is that a second, and a much more severe, examination than the first has been introduced amongst the letter sorters, and. is applied to men who may have passed the first examination twenty years ago,
– The trouble is that this was done subsequent tn the award.
– I leave that for the moment, because quite apart from the award of the Arbitration Court, the second examination amongst letter sorters is most, unfair to the men. Men get into c. certain way of doing work which they are called upon to do for many years, and the efficiency they obtain in the performance of their duties may disqualify them from passing any examination other tl tin a practical test of their competence ti’ perform their work. Senator Lynch bus quoted the case of the engineers engaged along our coast. Every examination of the kind to which the honorable senator referred takes a man from a lower to a higher grade in his profession. The Post Office officials would have no right to complain of an examination which would carry them from a lower to a higher grade.
– They are required to paris ul: additional examination if they wish to enter the Clerical Branch of the Service.
– That is so. According to the statements which have been made here to-day, the most expert amongst the sorters fear flint they will bo unable to pass the new examination which has been sprung upon them. I know something of examinations of this kind sprung upon railway employees engaged, first of all. on the daily-paid staff. An opportunity offering to secure a position oil the clerical list, they were required to pass h stiff examination. Mcn engaged on a daily-paid staff for, maybe, twenty years could cheerfully undertake to pass a practical test, but they are out-distancJ in n theoretical and educational test by youths who have just left school. These theoretical examinations of men who have shown their competence by many years of service have caused a tremendous amount of dissatisfaction in the Post Office, one cf the largest Departments of the Commonwealth. Not only in Sydney, but also in Melbourne and Adelaide, men are concerned very much a<? to this test that they will be required to pass >n the very near future, and we cannot blame them if they see behind the regulation some connexion with the arbitration award. I do not say that it is so, but many of the men, and many other persons, hold the opinion that there is some relation between this test and the award. Remarks have been made this afternoon about letter sorters passing from one grade to another and receiving higher salaries. It is a fact that some of the men are paid more than others receive, but this is brought about through length of service, and not as the result cf passing examinations. The regulations provide for periodical increments of £6. The men who have served the longest receive the highest salaries.
– I was too modest in my statement. I find that there are two examinations which the men are now required to pass.
– The Minister representing the Postmaster-General has beard what has been said this afternoon. I do not think that he will adhere to the position taken up by the Public Service Commissioner in preference to acceding to the men’s request, but he is certainly taking an easy way out of the difficulty by claiming that the men can refer their trouble to the Arbitration Court. I understand that it cost the sorters employed in the Post Office £1 per head to obtain the award. Why should they be put to the expense of citing another- case because the Public Service Commissioner thinks fit to authorize the imposition of an examination such as has been described this afternoon J It would be unfair to ask them to do so. The Minister should investigate the matter himself, and ascertain whether the proposed test is too severe, or whether it would be possible for the letter sorters to pass it in the limited time allowed in the advertisement. Tn my opinion, it will be impossible for them to do so. Instead of penalizing the men by getting them to cite another case to the Arbitration Court, at a cost of perhaps £1,000, the Minister should take the steps urged upon him this afternoon, and inquire for himself whether it is possible for the men to pass the test. He should not wait until, as he has suggested, certain men have put up for the test and failed, because, should this regulation be permitted to go through, if a man fails to pass the test, he will be fined to the extent of £6. owing to the fact that he will not be given his increment when it would otherwise become due. I have every confidence that the Minister will make proper representations to the
Postmaster-General, and ‘undertake to see that a large section of our public servants, who are doing very important work for the community, do not labour under a disadvantage, or have a just cause to be dissatisfied with their conditions, which we, as members of the Labour party, have always contended should be the best that can be afforded. I have every confidence that the Minister will not compel the men to go to the Arbitration Court. I have not the slightest fear that there will- be a strike in connexion with the matter. The men have loo much common sense; they are teo well seized of their responsibilities to the community to go on strike; their organizations are too well managed, and they know, whether the Public Service Commissioner is in sympathy with them or not, that, at any rate, the Government and Parliament are in sympathy with them. They can rest assured that the Government will take the necessary steps to give them a fair deal, and that, if considered advisable, the examination will he modified.
– Honorable senators, except, perhaps, the mover, are placed at a considerable disadvantage in discussing the matter which the motion is intended to cover. I have listened to the extracts read by Senator Senior, some from the Commonwealth Gazette, and some from a copy of the arbitration award, and I have listened to the extracts read by Senators de Largie and Mullan from what appears to be something in the nai ure of an exordium or preface to the arbitration award, but which do not appear in (he terms of the award itself. It was the first time that those extracts had come under my notice, and though, since hearing them, through the kindness of Senator Senior I have had the opportunity of looking at an office copy of the award, and I have seen the Commonweal th Gazette, as I have already said, we are at a considerable disadvantage in dealing with the matter on its merits as accurate1 y as we should like to do. We all agree with Senator Lynch as to the position of Parliament, ho’d:ng the balance, so to speak, between the public who pay, on the one hand, and the public servants who render service and expect payment for it, on the other hand : but when the honorable senator deduced from that statement of fact that we were taking up an utterly wrong and indefensible position this afternoon by dealing with this matter, few can fellow him. He has asked whether the Commonwealth Parliament is to be made the theatre of conflicts with respect to e”very Arbitration Court .award, but no such departure from a well-ordered course of business is involved in the Senate dealing with the question raised this afternoon. We have to remember that ohe of the parties to this award was the Government of the Commonwealth, and that the Government of the Commonwealth are responsible to the Parliament of the Commonwealth; and it is not to be inferred, from any action taken to-day, that the Senate is to be invited to declare adhesion to or deviation from any and every award that may be made in respect to a dispute before the Arbitration Court. Here is a case to which the Government, and, indirectly, the Parliament, is a party; and, according to the allegations made and the arguments put forward by previous speakers, it is contended that we are not respecting the award in its entirety. I must confess that I am not prepared to say. in any unhesitating fashion, whether that conclusion is correct or not ; but I have certainly been struck by the words quoted by Senator Needham, and, afterwards, by Senator Mullan. The Judge of the Arbitration Court was emphatic in making clear that in his award he was dealing with the conditions of tlie men as they existed at the time of the dispute. The question arises whether Hie interposition of the proposed examination, to which reference has been made, and which is advertised in the Com mo n wealth Gazette, alters the conditions that were existing at the time the award was made.
– We complain that it does.
– Then, if it doss alter the conditions, whoever is responsible for the publication of the advertisement, or for requiring the sorters to pass the test, has deviated from the award.
– Application should have been made to the Court for a deviation of the award.
– Does it substantially - T do not use “ substantially “ in the ordinary current acceptation of the term - does it. not only theoretically but really, alter -the conditions which existed at the time the award was given T
– From a technical point of view, I can assure the honorable senator that it does do so considerably.
– The degree of alteration does not matter much. The quest.on is whether it does, to any extent, alter them other than theoretically. It seems that it does do so. The words “Efficiency Bar (£168)” appear in the notification in the Commonwealth Gazette, but in the office copy of the award I can find no reference whatever to any “ efficiency bar.” I am not sure what those words mean; but I take it that those responsible for the notification in the Commonwealth Gazette intend that efficiency and service as a ground for promotion cease at £168 per annum, or that at £168 efficiency and length of service no longer count, and that these new grounds of advancement are to be instituted. The passing of a certain examination is interposed. At any rate, that is how I read it, but I may be wrong, as we are all at a disadvantage in dealing with this matter. The way in which the term “ efficiency bar “ is used in the notification conveys the impression that the procedure laid down in the notification is implied in the award. I have perused the award necessarily hurriedly, but, as far as I can -see, there is no implication in it that such a requirement would be enforced as against the officers. The Judge was emphatic that he was dealing with the conditions as they were, and that, had certain matters been placed before him, he would have been called upon to deal with the subject otherwise than he did. He said all the Court was entitled to do was to determine the matter under the conditions existing at the time of the award. After setting out the payments to be made according to the years of service, the following appears in the award: -
Employees appointed as sorters at a minimum wage of £108, after the date this award comes into effect, shall, subject to the conditions hereinafter set forth as to annual increments, be paid the following wages: -
Bunning up to £210 in the ninth and succeeding years, the increments being at the rate of £6 per annum.
– Given automatically or on merit?
– It appears that the whole basis of the award is that the Bench contemplates that the increases shall operate automatically. There is, however, a restriction. Provision is made that preference shall be given to those already in the Service, and then follows thu proviso - that no employee shall receive more than £168 a year unless reported by tlie Chief Officer as willing to perform, and capable of performing, any of the duties of a sorter in the section in which he is employed.
The question arises whether the Commissioner reads into, that proviso the condition that he is entitled to require a demonstration of capacity and an intimation of willingness.
– More than he had before ?
– Yes. I would draw the attention of Senator Lynch and others to this further provision: -
No increment shall be granted to any employee if the Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner determines that any such employee has not been performing Iiia duty satisfactorily during the preceding twelve months, or that he has been guilty during such time of such misconduct as would, in his opinion, justify the postponement of the increment.
That operates against absolute automatic increases in all cases, as does the following :-
Should any employee have had an increment postponed during his service as sorter, the period of such postponement, or any part of such period, shall not be counted, if the Commissioner so determines, in reckoning the years of service for the purpose of paying tlie wages awarded.
But the award seems to be based on the conception that automatic increases at the rate of £6 per annum shall be the rule. There are limitations imposed upon that, such as I have quoted. Having made these specific provisions with regard to a sorter arriving at the salary of £168 per annum, a provision of much more specific character than that referred to - providing that no employee shall receive more than £168 per annum unless reported by the chief officer as willing and able - would have been inserted if it was intended that there should be an examination of the character described in the advertisement.
– Are the duties of. a senior sorter more responsible than those of a junior sorter?
– Yes; that is also implied in this report.
– Do not you think then that it cuts right across the principle of automatic increases without examination?
– No, because that is practically dealt with in the award. Reference is made to the advances to the top grades or divisions exceeding £192, and this was all clearly in the mind of His Honour when he made the award. The Minister, by interjection, referred to the fact that an advertisement had appeared in an April issue of the Gazette. That advertisement, which appeared in the Gazette of the 24th April, 1915, under the heading of “ Promotion to position of sorter,” was before the Court as an exhibit of the respondent. : The debate that has taken place has quite justified the extraordinary motion for adjournment moved by Senator Senior, and the Government will, I think, realize that, at the very worst, the claimants have made out, and can make out, a very : good case for the Government to review its action. I suggest to the Government that before anything is done under the advertisement they should, at any rate for their own satisfaction and the satisfaction of Parliament, refer the matter to their legal advisers to ascertain, not alone whether the advertisement is or is not in conformity with the award, but whether it is not, and cannot be, construed into a subterfuge, or a departure from the principles laid down in the award.
– It is well that this question has been brought before the Senate. I am not sure whether honorable senators have a very clear grip of it or not, but the Minister, who should have known something about it, did not give the Senate a clear lead. I watched the proceedings of the Court while the postal sorters’ appeal was before it, and remember that Mr. Skewes appeared as the agent of the Government. If that individual had been representing a sweating den, he could not have taken up a more hostile attitude to the men, or advanced more ridiculous arguments against any increase in their wages, than he did. It proved to me clearly that the Commissioner had made up his mind to defeat the men before the Court if he could. The award, however, has been given, and the question for the Senate to consider is whether the conditions applicable to the sorters have been varied since. If not, this debate goes by the board. If yes, the. men have a clear grievance against the Government, which is the employer in this case, for the Public Service Commissioner, while in a manner independent of the Government, is under the control of the Government all the same. If the conditions have been varied, if the avenues of promotion have been made more difficult of access since the award was given, then undoubtedly the Commissioner is trying to get behind the award, and endeavouring by indirect means, to defeat it. I cannot say exactly whether that is the case or not.
SenatorPearce. - Do you take the point that the Courtor the Commissioner ought to lay down the conditions of promotion ?
– The award was given on the conditions as they existed at that particular time.
– Does that mean that those conditions cannot be altered except with the consent of the Court?
– I should think so.
– If the men have to go back to the Court for an interpretation, the Government should stand the expense.
– If the Court gave an award in the case of a private company on existing conditions, and the company so altered the conditions as to create the suspicion of a desire to evade the award, would the men have to ask the Court for a new award under the new conditions?
– They would have to go to the Court to fight the variation.
– If so, there is a defect in the law. If an award is given under certain conditions, and an attempt is made to vary them so as to defeat or evade the award, some penalty should be imposed on the employer, instead of the men being compelled to go to the Court to fight the variation.
– What would be the good of imposing a penalty on the Government?
– Probably no good; but if the Commissioner is trying to evade the award and block the men’s promotion by indirect means, and to prevent them getting increments which the Court decided they should get, and if the Government are sheltering the Commissioner in that attempt, the Government deserve very severe censure. The Government were brought into existence to do away with sweating and with the existing disparities as between the workman and his employer.
– Is sweating involved in this case?
– I am not very sure. If the bricklayers went before the Court, and the average number of bricks to be laid per day at that period was 500 for a wage of, say, 14s. per day, and immediately the award was issued the employers decided that 600 bricks per day should be laid, a curious position would be created; but, if what has been alleged this afternoon is true, that is exactly what the Public Service Commissioner has done. He has made the examination of those who desire to benefit by the award more difficult than it was when the award was made. That is a distinct attempt to evade the award, and should not be countenanced by the Government. The Government, and the party they represent, are bound by their traditions and platform to see that every man employed in the community gets fair play. Parliament, having supreme power, can interfere even with the Commissioner in this connexion. I trust that the Minister will make aclose investigation of the facts, and, if he finds any attempt being made to deprive the men of their rights under the award, see that that attempt does not succeed.
– I hoped to hear from the Minister a little more sympathetic utterance.
– I should like to hear from you the part of the test that is objected to - the part that is difficult.
– I assume that the Government are acting under the award. There is nothing in the award to justify the imposition of this test, and I venture to say again that not 1 per cent. of the letter sorters can pass it.
– I think I must have met more intelligent sorters than you have.
– I want to inform the Minister’s mind on this question. In the original test, all the official and semiofficial post-offices, municipal and suburban post-offices were included, while the proposed test includes these offices, as well as allowance offices and receiving offices, thus making; the work very much more difficult. Besides this, the sorter is expected to keep up the very rapid rate specified.
– What is the present test?
– To become a sorter a man is required to sort 500 letters at the rate of thirty per minute. This test is much in excess of that. The candidate for admission has to sort imitation letters or cards for places all over the State in which the examination is held.
– But is there not an intermediate test ?
– The test I refer to is for entry into the Service.
– But we have been told that there is an intermediate test, by. which the person for promotion had to rely upon a report of efficiency in his favour. The proposed test is an examination of efficiency.
– But it will not prove efficiency, and I want to point out how the honorable senator was in a false position just now. He stated that an engineer had a qualifying test to advance him, but this qualifying test for postal sorters will not put a man one step further ahead. On the contrary, it will retard him.
– You are in favour then of the rotten old system of favoritism to advance a person in the Service. I believe in relying on one’s own resources.
– In the award it
Was clearly stated that advancement and the increments were to operate automatically, and if the Commissioner alters the conditions he intervenes between the Court and the men. There is not the shadow of a doubt about that. The Commissioner intended to intervene with the examination at the £168 limit. . If he had this test in his mind it was his duty, through the mouthpiece of the gentlemen who were putting the case for the Government, to have stated it at the time, and not to have altered the conditions after the award was given. All the way through the Minister has held to the view that without the award there will be inefficiency.
– Nothing of the kind ; this is a test of efficiency.
– Then if the award does not mean inefficiency, why the need for examination ?
– I claim that ninety out of every 100 sorters are prepared to pass the test.
-I am speaking on the authority of those who ought to know, and I say that not 1 per cent. of the sorters in the Melbourne Post Office can pass the test in the time.
– Will you read out any part of it that is difficult?
– If I put up a case that not 1 per cent. can pass it, why in the name of common-sense should the Minister ask me to show how it. is difficult?
-Because he knows, and so does the Commissioner.
– Why cannot they pass the test ?
– I have already pointed out that they cannot pass it for the simple reason that the 500 letters or cards will include all those different classes of offices throughout a whole State.
– But is it not their particular duty to sort letters?
– The test requires them to sort letters under conditions which they do not meet in their ordinary work. With five or six sorters in front of a table, it might happen that they would come across the name of a town with which they are not familiar, but immediately they are required to give the destination of that letter.
– But do they not have to do this every day of their lives?
– Yes; but working in that way is different to an examination test. It is quite possible that one letter will be fora town in the farthermost portion of Western Australia, which is not well known to the sorter.
– After hearing you I can quite understand why it is that letters go astray.
– Yes, and it is about time there was an examination test.
– Not only are they required to know all the towns, but they are expected to know the routes also, and routes may vary. On some days letters might go by one route, and, perhaps, the next day by another, yet all this is supposed to be known by the men. The Minister, when he was speaking, said the regulations ought to be known, but I want to ask him has he in the Department one officer who can quote these regulations correctly without referring to the book? You cango to any post-office you like, and if you ask the postage rate to a certain place you will find that the regulations are referred to. This is the every-day practice, and yet men, before they get the magnificent sum of £l68 a year, are expected to pass a severe examination test in these matters. There does seem tobe an intention on the part of the Commissioner to intervene in connexion with the award.
– I can assure the honorable senator that is not so.
– Then, why is this examination test set up?
– It is a test of efficiency and an assurance that the most efficient man will get promotion.
– There are supervising officers who are expected to state whether a man is efficient or not, and a test of this description is evidence of want of confidence in those officers.
– Are the duties of a senior sorter more responsible than those of a junior sorter?
– Yes; but that has nothing to do with this case, because a junior sorter works alongside a senior sorter. The sorter which the honorable senator has in mind takes the place of the roan who is called the despatching officer.
– Then you are not willing to institute a test?
– I say the test is valueless for the purpose the honorable senator has in his mind.
– They are all doing the same kind of work.
– The officer termed a senior sorter to-day is taking the place of the officer who used to be called the despatching officer, and is doing the work at a lower salary. The intention of the Commissioner evidently was to institute a bar to prevent sorters passing over it, and thus do away with the position of senior sorter. Instead of improving the Service, this will do a great deal to destroy the efficiency of that branch. I do not know that there is anything more for me to say, and I ask leave of the Senate to withdraw my motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Nurses Outfit - Machine Guns
asked the Minister of Defence,upon notice -
When, and by whom was £15 fixed as an adequate amount to cover the cost of a nurse’s equipment?
– The answer is as follows : -
The amount was recommended by the former Director-General of Medical Services, and approved by Senator Millen, as Minister, on 7th September, 1914.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice - i
– The answers are as follow: -
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
– Arising out of the answer given by the Minister, I wish to know whether the Principal Medical Officer at Brisbane is allowed to carry on private practice while he is in receipt of this salary from the Defence Department?
– Not since 1st July last.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill read a first time.
Debate resumed from 4th August (vide page 5556), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– As this Bill is liberal in character, and is but an extension of the principles embodied in the original Act, it is unnecessary for me to say that I am in favour of it. I welcome anything that will tend to show that the nation has a full appreciation of those who wear themselves out in its service. Those who go to the front and fight valiantly in the cause of Empire and liberty must be properly considered; and, while I am in favour of waging war on a far more economical basis than we have adopted, it is not in the direction of curtailing pensions that I wish economy to be observed. I shall offer no comment upon the measure. I am not captious in regard to any of its provisions, and it has my hearty commendation. Economy in regard to pensions can be observed without in any way curtailing its provisions. Although this terrible war has lasted a year, we are, so to speak, only on the threshold of it. We believe that we are in possession of all those factors that will make for ultimate decisive victory; but, except in certain directions, we cannot flatter ourselves at this juncture that complete victory is immediately in sight. As adding to the possibilities connected with the burden that will be imposed upon the nation by the large pension list which we unfortunately will have as one of the results of this war, I have to complain that we are not making our arrangements for the enlistment of men on anything like a decently economical basis.
– I must ask the honorable senator not to pursue that line of argument, since he has on the businesspaper a notice of motion dealing with it.
– I propose only to deal with the financial side of our system of enlistment, and I shall be very brief, because I recognise that the passing of this measure should not be delayed. I read in the press not a week ago the report of a case heard before a Victorian
Court of Petty Sessions, in which a woman sued her husband for maintenance, and, singular to say, it was proved that the man, although fifty-two years of age, and the father of twelve children, had been accepted as a recruit.
– That is understandable; he must have misrepresented his age to the military authorities.
– Our system of recruiting must be very lax. It adds most’ terribly to the contingencies of our pensions scheme–
– Order! The honorable senator must not continue that line of argument. Included in the motion of which he has given notice is a proposal that there should be a systematic method of raising the Forces, so as to distribute the burden of sacrifice over all the suitable male population of the Commonwealth in equitable measure. He is anticipating the discussion of that motion by commenting now on the method of enlistment. That question is not involved in the Bill.
– I should be the last, sir, to challenge your ruling, and if you hold that I am anticipating ‘the discussion of the motion in question, I shall bow to your decision, and content myself with the statement that I am in favour of the most liberal pensions scheme, but that I adjure the Administration to take to heart certain matters, which, unless remedied, will make our pensions bill, I am sorry to say, very much heavier than there is any reason for it to be. Our pensions scheme may be regarded as a fairly liberal one, and I regret to say that there is going to be a very long list of pensioners. There is a possibility that the casualties sustained by the Forces of Australia at the front will’ exceed sixfold or sevenfold the number of those who have been wounded up to the present time. Seeing that economy should be the order of the day, because it is said by some that this is to be a war of financial endurance, we should carefully avoid those conditions’ which will unnecessarily inflate the large sum that we must provide for a liberal pensions scheme - a pensions scheme which is, perhaps, the best means of providing suitably for, and rewarding faithfully, those who have become incapacitated for civil service because of the efforts they have put forth for national service on the battlefield.
– I wish to impress upon the Minister the desirableness of giving consideration to one or two points connected with the future enlistment of men for the front. It will be generally admitted that the greater the number of married men who go to the front, the greater will be the financial burden cast upon Australia. I shall not touch upon the question of whether conscription will become necessary, and, if so, when, but I think that the Minister and those associated with him in recruiting should exercise a little more discrimination than has previously been displayed in connexion with it. It is generally understood that a very large number of those who have enlisted within the last few months in all the States have been married men. The proportion of married men has been altogether too large.
– I think that the proportion of married men enlisting in England is greater.
– Exactly ; and it is because so large a proportion of those enlisting in England are married men that there has been such an outcry for conscription there. If we continue to accept all the married men who wish to go to the front, we shall undoubtedly have a much heavier pensions bill to meet than we should have if the larger proportion of our soldiers were single men. There is another point which is worthy of the Minister’s attention. It has been stated in the press. on several occasions that many soldiers have married between the date of their enlistment and their departure for the front. In sporting parlance, the betting is even about a man returning whole and sound, and I do not think it is advisable that a man who is unmarried when he enlists should be allowed to marry before embarkation, and so leave behind him a liability on the taxpayers to pay a pension to his wife if he is killed or incapacitated.
– Apart from the matter of pensions, there is a very good reason for him marrying before he departs.
– In some cases there may be exceptional reasons for a marriage. In the early stages of the war the newspapers featured the fact that weddings were taking place in camp. In numerous cases marriages have taken place simply in order that the wife might be entitled to draw a pension in the event of the soldier being killed. In my opinion that is not a fair liability to place upon the people of Australia. The position of a married man who enlists is different. My objection is to men marrying in order to confer upon some woman the privilege of drawing a pension. While the soldier in such cases is doing his duty by going to the front, he is placing upon the people of Australia a liability with which they should not be burdened.-
– Who could judge of a man’s motive in marrying?
– I am not much concerned with the motive. It is the liability that is cast upon the taxpayers that concerns me.
– What is that liability compared with the man’s life?
– The Minister of Defence would be quite justified in making a regulation to the effect that a man who is unmarried when he enlists shall not marry between that date and his departure for the front.
– That is too great a power to give the Department.
– Does the honorable senator say that the Defence Department is powerless in that matter ?
– There are big financial problems ahead of Australia, and if we can by any means minimize the burden which the people will be called upon to bear, it is our duty to do so. I am sup-westing a means by which the payment of a certain number of pensions might be avoided. These eleventh-hour marriages are absolute nonsense, unless there exists one particular reason why they should take place. If that reason does exist, no one would object to a .marriage. But my opposition is to marriages being allowed after a man has entered camp, when, in the ordinary course of events, were it not for the desire to qualify a woman for the pension, the marriage would not have taken place for a year or two. This is a matter which the Defence Department might well consider.
– The Department ought certainly to refrain from enlisting men who have five or six children.
– I have already expressed that view. The provisions of the Bill seem to be absolutely necessary; but, having regard to the general .principle of war pensions, I feel strongly on the two points I have .dealt with.
Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) [6.101. - I cannot allow the remarks of Senator O’Keefe and Senator Bakhap to pass without comment. It is not the duty of the Government, the Defence Department, or even of this Parliament, to dictate to the men who volunteer to fight the country’s battles whether they shall marry or remain single. That is a matter that can be determined only by the individual. Although the enlistment of married men may involve the country in a greater financial responsibility than would the enlistment of only single men, the people should be prepared to pay the cost, because that is the only burden that we who remain behind will have to bear. Senator O’Keefe appears to me to have taken a very fallacious view of this matter. We have to remember that, apart from the financial aspect, there is the population to be considered, and if any young couple who have been keeping company for a considerable time choose to get married prior to the departure of the man for the front, that is a matter which they alone have the right to decide.
– They should be encouraged to marry.
– There are many reasons why our soldiers should be encouraged to marry.
– If your argument is carried to its logical conclusion, you would prefer to see every man married before he leaves for the front?
– Yes, if the man himself so chooses.
– And he would leave his widow to be a burden on the people of Australia.
– Whose burden is the soldier shouldering - his own or that of the people of Australia 1 He is taking on his shoulders the burden of his country, and nobody should question his right to marry before he leaves the country.
– It is rather a good thing for Australia to have the children of such men.
– It is a good thing for Australia to have the descendants of men of such spirit. We must remember that the very cream of our population is going to the front. I cannot understand Senator Bakhap’s at- titude. because it seems to me quite inconsistent with that he has hitherto taken up in regard to conscription.
– Does not the honorable senator know that the recruiting of such a large percentage of married men at Home has resulted in the birth-rate being 1,500 per week less than it was last year ?
– I do not know where the honorable senator has got his figures, because the facts point in another direction, if one may judge from what one sees ‘ in the newspapers about war babies.”
– That idea is exploded.
– All this discussion is out cf order, as irrelevant to the Bill.
– I shall not’ transgress any further, but dismiss the whole subject by saying that we shall take up a wrong position if we attempt, in the slightest degree, to interfere as suggested by Senator Bakhap and Senator O’Keefe.
– I have much pleasure in supporting this Bill within limits; and when I say “ limits,” I mean that I have an objection to the small amount suggested as compensation or pension. I realize that, compared with previous Acts passed by this Parliament in regard to persons who have suffered injuries while in the employ of the Commonwealth, the payments under the Bill are, perhaps, on a liberal scale. We have to consider however, that those who are going to the front are vastly different from persons employed in an ordinary hum-drum groove of life. The men who are going forward, to sacrifice it may be their lives, are entitled to the utmost consideration that this Parliament and country can give them. I am giving this Bill what is, perhaps, a grudging support, in the hope that, in the near- future, this Parliament will rise to the occasion and give more ample compensation than that now suggested. I have also an objection to the word “ pension,” which in itself indicates the limitations of our language. It may be said that “ pension “ is a very old term applied in the past to a form of payment made to a person whose services have not always been of the highest or most patriotic character.
– Do Judges not get pensions ? -. Senator LYNCH. - Yes, and also do informers. We are suffering, as I have said, from the limitationswhich our common language imposes upon us ; and I suggest that to meet the present circumstances a more suitable word ought to be coined. I have been reminded that Judges receive pensions; but a Judge, from his childhood until he gets his wig and gown, never smells powder. We have adopted a word to define an obligation under our foolish paradoxical system that has come down to us from the day of the flintlock and other antiquated weapons. We are now dependent for our defence on the best elements in the country. That being the case, we should, if possible, spend some time in selecting a term that will correctly describe payments that the country is going to make, not only to our soldiers, but to their dependants. I have a few words in my mind, and amongst them is “ patrimony,” only spelt with an “ e,” which would more correctly express what we mean. Of course “ pension “ may indicate a very fair and commendable form of recompense for those engaged in ordinary pursuits, and it does apply to men who have in their country’s service given the best of their energy and ability. As I have said, however, “pension” may mean an allowance given to a person who has been engaged in very questionable services by Governments and administrations, and even by individuals in the past.
– Has not the term, even in ages past, been applied, more particularly to an allowance made to soldiers - an allowance for martial services?
– Soldiers, in those cycles of peace of some years ago, never entered on a battlefield, and even if they did, it was under conditions entirely different from those which surround our soldiers to-day. I submit that those now going from Australia to the war represent the very best elements in our population - they represent the most spirited, courageous, unselfish, and enterprising of our men.
– I think the honorable senator is somewhat unduly stressing the point when he suggests that there is any opprobrium attached to the word “ pension.”
– I did not use the word “ opprobrium “ ; but I know that in my boyhood days a person who received a pension was not necessarily a soldier, and was pointed at as “ an old pensioner.”
– Was that in some foreign country?
– It was in a country from which Australia has drawn the best of its population. I have known men in receipt of pensions who have performed work of a kind that there are not many words in the dictionary to adequately describe; and I feel that the term “pension “ ought not to be applied under the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
Turning to the Bill itself, I think there is a short-coming in the exclusion of persons who are entitled to payments under our Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. Throughout the Commonwealth there are a great number of charitable institutions, in which are many people who are not in receipt of old-age pensions; in fact, some of these are so high-spirited that they would decline to receive one. As I have indicated, the Bill proposes to exclude all those who are in receipt of any form of relief under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act; and in this I feel that the Government have made a mistake. This may have arisen from the hurried manner in which the amending Bill has been introduced, but it is not too late to find a remedy; and before the Bill leaves us I hope to test the opinion of honorable senators on the point. I do not think it is necessary to. convince members of the Government that it is only equity and common justice to include those citizens who, owing to various causes, find themselves at present in our charitable institutions. Of course, it is sometimes their own fault that they have become inmates of such places, but very often they have been flogged by the scourge of circumstances.
– There is a proposed amendment which, I think, will meet the objection of the honorable senator.
– I am glad to have an assurance from the Minister that it is contemplated to make the amending Bill sufficiently comprehensive to cover this class of case. There is another small matter that requires consideration. I refer to the compensation payable to persons who have been partially incapacitated as a result of either accident or illness occurring during the war ; and I hope that the standards observed will be strictly those laid down in the case of the
Workmen’s Compensation Act. I see no reason why power should be given to any Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner to depart from those standards by one iota; and at the proper time I shall feel it my duty to suggest that the Bill shall make it incumbent on such officials to observe them. In this connexion, there should be no difference made between a man at the front and a man working at home in an ordinary groove under the Commonwealth. At any rate, I hope that whatever elasticity may be permitted in the conduct of officials under the measure, the allowances will be on the liberal side rather than on the conservative side; and to that end I shall take an opportunity to propose that the scale provided under the Workmen’s Compensation Act shall be strictly adhered to. I am only sorry that this country cannot afford a more bountiful compensation to those who are going to the front, and to their dependants. I welcome this Bill, because I know it will, in many ways, liberalize the allowances made under the original Act, and also because I regard it as an attempt to place the administration of the Act on the right shoulders. In my opinion, the appointment of a Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners is a welcome improvement on the Board provided for under the original Act. We have had a lengthy experience of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, which, apart from isolated cases, may, I think, be said to have worked satisfactorily under a Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners.
Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 8 p.m.
– Before the’ suspension of the sitting I pointed out how I considered desirable amendments could be effected in the measure before us. What I desired was to insure the payment of reasonable pensions to soldiers totally incapacitated and having dependants, and in order to secure this I suggested that pensions should be based upon the standard set by the Compensation Act passed in respect of employees in the Federal Service. I believe this is only a reasonable proposition, and its acceptance will remove any danger there may be of the Commissioner or his deputies looking upon the claims of dependants in any conservative or parsimonious spirit. Without any reflection being cast upon the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioners responsible for the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act, it is known that cases have been brought forward in which the Deputy Commissioners were disposed to take a somewhat cheese-paring and parsimonious view of the position of persons entitled to relief, and, in my view, an improvement would be effected if this Bill made it obligatory upon the Commissioner or his deputy to observe the standard set forth in the measure to which I have referred. The other amendment to which I drew attention is, I understand, about to be dealt with. What I desired was to secure that persons in receipt of pensions under the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act, and inmates of a charitable institution in the Commonwealth, should be put on the same level as other pensioners; and I am very glad to know that the Government have decided to extend special consideration to this class of dependants. There are other aspects upon which the measure now under discussion might be improved. I feel that power should be given to any dependant of a deceased soldier, or to the wife of a. totally incapacitated soldier, to capitalize the whole of his pension of which he may be in receipt. One can easily imagine that the wife of a soldier might, in the interests of her children, be anxious to become the possessor of a small business, which her allowance of £26 a year would not permit her to obtain.
– That is provided for, where the sum total is not more than 30 per cent., under section 9 of the principal Act.
– But it does not apply to all cases.
– No, not to all cases.
– If it is wise to make such a provision in certain cases, it should be equally wise to extend it to all the beneficiaries under this Bill. Why stop short at a certain point?
– Experience has shown that it is not always desirable to do as the honorable senator suggests.
– But why limit the privilege to a certain few? In my view, it should not be confined to a certain section of dependants. I would urge that the widow or wife of a soldier - who cau now raise capital upon any income of which she may be in receipt - should be enabled to capitalize her income under this Bill, in order that her children might have a better means of earning a livelihood than they would otherwise possess.
– There are dangers in - front of such capitalization.
– There are dangers associated with almost every power that is taken under this Bill. Danger is inseparable from all law, and all operations of the law, but if the provision is a wise one in regard to certain dependants, it should be equally extended to all. Another point, which perhaps hardly comes within the legitimate scope of the present discussion, arises out of the provision under which power is taken to allot half the pension of a totally incapacitated soldier to his wife. I do not know whether it is made clear in the Act what the intention is, but I should like it to be stated definitely whether, in case the soldier dies whilst in a state of total incapacity, the widow will automatically receive the full pension which would have been paid to her in case her husband had been actually killed at the war.
– That point will be dealt with in one of the amendments suggested.
– Clause 11 provides that the dependants of a soldier may receive a certain sum, at the discretion of the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner, and provision is also made that the wife of a soldier who may be in a state of total incapacity shall be entitled to 50 per cent, of the pension. The clause also provides that the pension payable to the dependant of a soldier may in certain circumstances amount to £52 per annum. That seems to suggest that the pension payable to a brother, or to a sister, or to a step-brother, or to a mother-in-law, may, under certain circumstances, be equal to £52 per annum, and it would seem, therefore, that the mother-in-law, although so often made the subject of friendly banter, may, under the operation of this Bill, be elevated to a plane higher even than that occupied by the wife herself.
– No; that is not cor’rect.
– Discussion of the point would be outside the latitude allowed at the present stage of the debate; but when the time comes, I think I shall be able to show that, under the provisions pf the Bill as it now stands, the motherinlaw may be placed in a most advan tageous position as compared with the wife of a totally incapacitated ssoldier. I can only say, in conclusion, that 1 am rather pleased the Bill has been brought forward in its present shape. It is an acknowledgment by the people of the Commonwealth of their obligations and gratitude to the men who have given their lives in the firing line. Whatever sum of money the operation of this Bill may involve, the amount will be one that I believe will be ungrudgingly spent, for we cannot under any conceivable circumstances shirk our obligations to the men who have enlisted. As I said at the outset, the pension is not as large as I would have liked to see, or as large as I believe the resources of this great and growing young nation could afford. Still, it is a beginning, and, as a beginning, it is a marvellous advance upon what has hitherto obtained in any other part of the civilized world. It is only right that Australia should set the standard high in matters of this kind, and although, as I say, this standard is not as high as I should have liked, I welcome the Bill as part of the obligation which the present generation owes to the men who have gone forward. By their action we hope that this country will be preserved in a state of security. Those who have followed the course of events know that the preservation of Australia is just as much the object of the men who are to-day fighting on the slopes of Gallipoli as it would be if they were fighting in any part of this island continent itself. They are the rightful children of the enterprising people of this country; by passing the Bill we should register our obligation to pay them these pensions. I welcome the present scheme of pensions as a first instalment, and I hope that in the future the position of the country will warrant us in increasing the rates of pension.
– I shall give the measure my whole-hearted support, because I realize the need for it. The mcn who have gone to the front, and are ottering their lives as a holocaust on the altar of the world’s liberty, should know that those whom they have left behind will be well provided for by the nation. I agree with Senator Lynch that the amounts set down in the Bill are inadequate. .The question that exercises my mind is whether all the dependants of soldiers who may fall at the front, or who may come back incapacitated, will receive pensions at the full rate set down, irrespective .of any income that they may have from some other source. I asked the Minister if that were the intention, and he said: “Tes, so far as the members of the soldier’s family were concerned.” But I gathered that it would not apply to other dependants. I hope that in Committee this fault will be remedied. In my opinion, no matter what income a dependant may have from other sources, he or she should receive the full amount of the pension provided for in the schedule of the Act.
– The honorable senator regards it as an indebtedness of the nation.
– I regard it as the right of every dependant, as a recognition of the nation’s obligation in respect of the services rendered by the fallen or incapacitated soldier. If a person was dependent on the earnings of an incapacitated or fallen soldier, he or she should receive the full pension, irrespective of relationship or other income, the pension to be given, not as a charity, but in recognition of services rendered. The maternity allowance is given to every mother who bears a child in Australia, whether she be the wife of a millionaire or of a peasant; she has merely to claim it. Mothers render a great service to the nation by thus giving hostages to fortune. Similarly, the men who are laying down their lives on Gallipoli and elsewhere are rendering the greatest service to the Empire, to this country, and to the cause of liberty the whole world over. If the Bill does not provide for what I think should be done, and if Ministers will not make this provision, it will be incumbent, on the Committee to see that it is made. I do not care what income a dependant may have; the fact of dependency on a fallen or incapacitated soldier should be in itself a sufficient title to a pension at the full rate. No exception should be made.
– Does the honorable senator say that a pension should be given to every relative that a soldier may have?
– A pension should be given to all those who have been dependent on fallen or incapacitated soldiers.
– Every person who can prove dependency will be entitled to a pension.
– Irrespective of other income?
– A person who has an income is not a dependant.
– Pensions should be given in recognition of the services rendered by our soldiers.
– Then, the honorable senator would not base the right to a pension. on dependence?
– Not altogether.
– What the honorable senator suggests would be a very nice thing if the country had millions of money to play with. Under his proposal we should be giving pensions to persons who did not need them.
– We give tha maternity allowance to persons who do not need it.
– The maternity allowance is, given only to mothers, not to all relatives. It is not given to the motherinlaw.
– The Act gives to mothers-in-law the right to claim pensions. If a person has been dependent, on a fallen or incapacitated soldier, will he or she receive a pension, irrespective of any other income? The Minister speaks of millions, but what I propose is merely the proper recognition of the services rendered by our soldiers, and if the Government are not prepared to do what we wish, we should see that the law is so framed that dependants will be provided for to the extent I suggest.
– As to the point raised by Senator Needham, I would point out that pensions at the full rates will be paid to dependants who prove their dependence. Our first consideration is for the wife and family of the fallen or incapacitated soldier.- They rightly have the first claim. Then come other dependants. The family of a soldier may include his wife, father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, step-father, step-mother, son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, step-son,’ step-daughter, brother’, sister,, half-brother, half-sister, adopted child, and mother-in-law, and there may be other dependants. If an officer who, as a civilian, had an income of £1,000 a year, from which, he made his mother-in-law an allowance of £100 a year, were to fall or become incapacitated, should that mother-in-law be paid a pension, supposing her to have a further income of £200 a year in her own right?
– I would give her a pension.
– The pension fund will be created by the taxation of the people, many of whom are not receiving so large an income as I have stated. The mother-in-law might have had nothing to do with the soldier’s going to the front; she might even have tried to dissuade him from going. “Why should she receive a pension simply because she happened to be not even a relative, but merely a marriage connexion? The idea underlying Senator Needham’s proposal is a very generous one, and if we had a few millions to throw away, its adoption would make the Government and Parliament exceedingly popular with many persons who have no claim to consideration. Where dependency actually exists, and claims are established, pensions will be paid. But the Government is not prepared to provide that persons in receipt of incomes perhaps larger than the full amount of any pension shall be paid pensions in addition.
– This is the most liberal military pension scheme in the world.
– Tes. . If we start bidding against one another to liberalize it, we may go to great extremes. Our duty is, first, to provide for the wives and families and immediate relatives of fallen and incapacitated soldiers who may have been dependent on them. We should be as generous as we can, having regard to the ability of the taxpayers to provide the necessary money. But we should not use the pension scheme simply as a means to distribute largess through the country. Senator O’Keefe suggests that the marriages that soldiers are making just prior to their departure from Australia should be discouraged, but I do not agree with him.
– I said that in many cases they should be discouraged.
– There may be instances in which marriages in the true sense are not being made, but the question has a physiological aspect, and T do not think that it would be in the true interest of the country to discourage this marrying of soldiers. Senator Lynch raised one or two questions which would more properly be dealt with in Committee, but I hope that by dealing with them now I may induce him to refrain from further action in the matter. He complains that the Bill does not include the scale usually found in Workers’ Compensation Acts. But it is on quite different lines. In an ordinary Workers’ Compensation Act the payments are in ratio to the wages received.
– So are these pensions.
– By no means. A soldier whose pay is 6s. a day may receive a pension of £52 per annum, whereas an officer whose pay may be £1,500 a year can receive a pension of only £150. There is no such disproportion in any Workers’ Compensation Act. The general rule in workers’ compensation legislation is to give to the person injured three times his yearly wage, no matter what that wage may be. Then, again, such legislation deals in the main with accidents, and ignores sickness, except sickness arising directly from the employment in which the claimant has been engaged. Industrial accidents for which compensation is claimed have generally resulted in the loss of a limb or an eye. When the original Bill was being framed we considered whether we should put into it the scale of compensation provided in the Workers’ Compensation Act, but it was felt that; that scale would be an inadequate guide to a commissioner or a board engaged in the work of assessing pensions.
– Would not the difficulty that the Minister refers to arise in the administration of the workers’ compensation law?
– I do not think so. A number of soldiers may return, each having lost an eye. Under the Workers’ Compensation Act they would be treated alike, but thereby great injustice might be done, because the loss of an eye on the battlefield might involve many degrees of incapacity, and might be accompanied with sickness. It was felt, therefore, that to lay down an arbitrary rule would lead to inconsistencies and anomalies, and might prevent rather than insure justice being done. The matter was fully considered, and it was decided to leave out of this Bill any such arbitrary scale. It is probable that regulations under the Bill will make some reference to the matter, but there can scarcely be any doubt that, in dealing with normal cases, the Commissioner will take as his guide the Workers’ Compensation Act. If, however, we laid it down as an arbitrary rule that 50 per cent. should be allowed in the case of the loss of an eye or an arm, the result in some instances might be to inflict injustice. I have already informed Senator Lynch that the Government propose to introduce an amendment which will deal with the question of the limitation as to family and dependants. The honorable senator raised the further point as to the desirability of the payment of a lump sum instead of an annual pension in, say, the case of the widow of a soldier. That proposal has also received full consideration. I can speak on this subject with some little knowledge, because, in the course of my life, I have had to deal, through trade unions, with a number of cases of people who have been assisted in this way. I believe that any one who has had a considerable experience of friendly societies or trade unions will bear me out when I say that frequently the most unkind way in which to deal with dependants is to give them a lump sum of money.
– Very few have business capacity, and they are as poor as church mice inside of a year after receiving the lump sum.
– The experience in many cases where a lump sum is given is, as Senator Lynch has suggested, that the money is put into a business, which, as Senator Bakhap interjects, is taken charge of by persons who have no business training whatever, and within twelve months the person to whom the money has been paid comes back to the friendly society or trade union in a penniless condition, and seeking further assistance. I am sure that honorable senators do not desire that such cases should be brought before Parliament. We could not but sympathize with’ them. I take the case of a widow who has elected to receive the pension in a lump sum. In twelve months’ time she is penniless, her children are starving, and her case is brought up in Parliament. An appeal is made to the Treasurer to reinstate her on the pension list. I say that in such cases, for the protection of the pensioners themselves, it is infinitely better that annual payments should be made. This does not apply with equal force in the case of smaller amounts payable to persons who have not been so directly dependent upon the soldier, and the Bill provides that where the amount is less than 30 per cent. of the total set out in the schedule, a lump sum may be given. It is clear that if such dependants waste the money they will not be entitled to the same consideration as the widow and children of a soldier. As the Bill is one which can be best considered in Committee, I shall take up no more time on the second reading.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section 2 of the principal Act is amended……
– I move -
That after the word “amended” the following new paragraph (aa) be inserted : - (aa) by omitting the definition of “dependants “ and inserting in its stead the following definition: - “ ‘ Dependants ‘ means the wife or widow and children, or ex-nuptial children, of a member of the Forces, whose death or incapacity results from his employment in connexion with warlike operations, and includes such other members of the family of that member of the Forces as were wholly or in part dependent upon his earnings at any time during the period of twelve months prior to his enlistment, or who would, but for such incapacity, have been so dependent, and parents who, though not dependent upon the earnings of the member at any time during the period of twelve months prior to his enlistment are, at any time within five years after his death, without adequate means of support; and where the member -
being the grandparent of an exnuptial child, leaves the child so dependent upon his earnings; or
being an ex-nuptial child, leaves a parent or grandparent so dependent upon his earnings, includes such an ex-nuptial child and parent or grandparent respectively.”
Honorable senators will see that the proposed amendment extends in several ways the scope of the definition of “ dependants.” It also extends the operation of the Bill to cover the twelve months preceding the death or incapacity of the soldier and a period of five years after his death to meet the possibility of claims under conditions of dependency that have then arisen.
– I wish to know whether a sister dependent upon a soldier would come within the amended definition? I have in mind the case of two sisters who were dependent upon two brothers who have gone to the front. They have been receiving an allotment of the pay due to their brothers. One of the brothers has, unfortunately, been killed. There is some doubt as to whether the sisters are entitled to any portion of the pension. Perhaps the Minister will say whether the definition will cover a case of tlie kind.
.- The dependants are the wife, or widow, and children of a member of the Forces, and include such other members of the family as were wholly or in part dependent on his earnings. If the honorable senator will look at the principal Act, he will find that “ members of a family “ are defined to mean -
Wife, father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, stepfather, stepmother, son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, step-son, stepdaughter, brother, sister, half-brother, halfsister, adopted child or mother-in-law.
The first claim is that of the widow and children, and the others are considered in tlie relative order of dependence.
– In speaking on the second reading of the Bill, I mentioned the case of dependants who may be inmates of charitable institutions. It struck me that they were not provided for in this Bill, but the Minister intimated that the Government propose to introduce an amendment which would cover such cases. I have perused the amendments which have been circulated, and, as any provision to meet such cases is not obvious to me, perhaps the Minister will say where, in these amendments, the case of such dependants is provided for.
– I do not think they are excluded. .
– They are not included. I believe that under section 3 of the principal Act they are specifically excluded.
– They will not be excluded under this Bill.
– I should like to be told how they will be included in this Bill.
.- If Senator Lynch will turn to his copy of the existing Act, as proposed to be amended by this Bill, he will find that paragraph b of section 3 of the existing Act will, as amended by this Bill, read in this way -
If the member or his dependants is, or are, entitled under any Act (other than the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-1012, or any Act amending or substituted for that Act) to receive any payment by way of compensation, pension, retiring allowance, superannuation, or gratuity (but not including any payment in lieu of furlough under the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1012-1013, or tlie Defence Act 1003-1015), the right to payment by way of pension in accordance with this Act shall be taken to be substituted for the right of the member or his dependants to any payment by the Commonwealth under that Act, and the right of the member or his dependants under that Act shall be by force of this Act determined.
The honorable senator will see from this that the persons to whom he has referred will not be excluded under this Bill.
– By this amendment the receipt of an invalid or old-age pension will not exclude participation in a war pension?
– That is so. The reason for the specific exclusion is that a soldier might make a claim for compensation under the Defence Act, the Naval Defence Act, or the Workers Compensation Act, and provision had to be made that if he made a claim under any of those Acts he could not claim under this measure. A soldier, for instance, may claim under the Defence Act, but if he does so he cannot then claim under this Bill. The case of persons in receipt of invalid or old-age pensions referred to by Senator Lynch is provided for.
– Will the invalid or old-age pension received by a dependant be set off against the pension to which that person is entitled under this Bill ?
– The pension payable under this Bill will not be determined by the amount any person is receiving under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, but will depend on the amount nf his dependence upon the deceased or incapacitated soldier.
– Will the amount a person is entitled to receive under the
War Pensions Act affect the pension that he is entitled to draw under the Invalidand Old-age Pensions Act?
– No; neither will the amount he receives under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act affect his claim under the War Pensions Act.
– The intention is that a person in receipt of an old-age pension will not have his claim to a war pension affected by the fact of his being in receipt of an old-age pension, but an individual in receipt of a payment or gratuity under any other Commonwealth Act will be in an entirely different position. I wish to be clear upon the position of those persons who are in charitable institutions by virtue of the operation of a State Act, and not “ any other Commonwealth Act.”
– The parent Act specifically mentions payment by way of compensation, pension, retiring allowance, superannuation, or gratuity. Relief given by such as benevolent societies does not come under any of those headings.
– Am I to understand that persons in these charitable institutions are included among those who shall be entitled to claim war pensions?
– Yes; they will be entitled to claim to the amount of their dependency.
– I take it that the amendment proposed will really substitute the War Pensions Act for the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, and claims will he made under the former, and not the latter.
– No; the receipt of an old-age pension will not disqualify any person who is a dependant under the War Pensions Act from claiming a pension under that Act.
– This Bill amends a provision in the original Act directed against any person receiving a double pension. The present law is that if a member of the deceased soldier’s family or his dependants are entitled under any other Act to receive payment by way of compensation, pension, retiring allowance, superannuation, or gratuity, the right to payment by way of pension under the War Pensions Act shall be taken to be substituted for the right to any payment by the Commonwealth under such other Act, which right is determined by the War Pensions Act. The pension under the War
Pensions Act is substituted for any preexisting pension. The Bill before us provides that if a person” happens to be receiving an invalid or old-age pension the war pension is not to be substituted for that other pension. As to whether the invalid or old-age pension is liable to be lessened by the fact that a person is in receipt of a war pension, I do not know.
– The Minister says that it will not be affected.
– There is nothing in the Bill making that provision. .
– Then the point should be cleared up.
– The necessary provision” will have to be made in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
– On a point of order, I submit that this discussion can only be raised on the clause dealing with the matter. It is not raised by the amendment which I have submitted.
– I have allowed considerable latitude in the matter. I ask honorable senators to adhere to the amendment before the Chair.
– It was not my intention to speak to the amendment except by way of interjection, indicating that we were not treating the old-age pension and the war pension as a double pension; but during the course of the debate the question arose to which I was directing attention. As the point arises in a subsequent clause, we can deal with it directly. This clause does not affect the position.
Amendment agreed to.
– I would like to know if the policy in connexion with the administration of the Act has been so determined that the Minister can say whether the existing machinery for the administration of invalid and old-age pensions will be retained for the administration of war pensions, or whether further administrative machinery will be created’ in connexion with war pensions.
– The intention is to place the administration of war pensions, a? far as practicable, in the hands of the officers who are now administering the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 (Amendment of section 3).
.. - This is the clause upon which the point we have been discussing arises, and I am still in doubt upon it. When a dependant in receipt of a war pension, but not of the statutory age entitling him to an old-age pension, subsequently makes a claim for an old-age pension, will the Commissioner, in determining the matter of the old-age pension, take into consideration the fact that the ^applicant is in receipt of a war pension?
– So far as this Bill is concerned, the amounts paid under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act will not be a set-off against any claim for a war pension. As to whether any amounts paid under the War Pensions Act can be. set off against any old-age pension claim I am not prepared to say; but no amendment of the Bill before us can amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. However, as it would be inconsistent for the Committee to say that a pension payable under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act is not to be a set off against the claim under the War Pensions Act, and then to declare that a war pension should be taken as a set-off against an old-age pension, I shall submit the point to the Attorney-General, and if the Government find that a war pension can be- set off against a claim under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, they will amend that Act in order to make the same provision as we find in the Bill before us.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5- (Commissioner, Sta.).
.: - I think that this is a favorable opportunity for drawing attention to the position in the Western Australian Old-age Pensions Office. There the Public Service Inspector acts as Deputy Commissioner of Pensions, while another officer - Mr. Cornish - does the work, and does it excellently. I wish to know whether the intention is to continue the work under Mr. Cornish, and, at the same time, allow Mr. Green, the Public Service Inspector, who does practically none of it, to have the controlling power over the man who is actually doing it, or whether it is intended to put the whole of the responsibility on te the latter?
– A discussion concerning the Deputy Commissioner in Western Australia hardly seems connected with the Bill.
– I think it does, because we are anxious to know whether it is intended to appoint, for the purpose of administering this measure, the person who is now doing the work in connexion with invalid and old-age pensions, and who is really the responsible officer.. Perhaps the Minister can say what are the intentions of the Government in regard to that officer.
– I have already said that it is- intended, at” the outset at any rate, to use the existing machinery of the Old-age Pensions Office, and, therefore, the Deputy Commissioner of invalid and old-age pensions in Western Australia will be the Deputy Commissioner for war pensions. I do not know whether the person who is now the Deputy Commissioner in that State will continue to hold’ the office or not. The Chairman would’ call me to order if I discussed his right to the position. Let me suggest to Senator de Largie that next week a Bill will come forward which will give him opportunity to test this question. I may say that it is proposed that the Deputy^ Commissioner under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act in each State shall be the Deputy Commissioner under the War Pensions Act.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 -
Section 8 of the principal Act is amended -
by adding at the end of sub-paragraph (iii) of paragraph (B), the words “and
Provided that the maximum rate of pension payable to any one dependant of a member shall not in any case exceed the amount specified in column two of the Schedule opposite to the rate of pay of the member.”’ . .
Section proposed to be amended - 8. (1) The rates of pensions payable under this Act shall not exceed, the following: -
In case of the total incapacity of a member of the Forces -
– This might be called the “motherinlaw” clause, as under it it is conceivable that a mother-in-law dependent upon a totally disabled soldier could draw £52 per annum, while the soldier would draw £52 per annum, and his wife only £26 per annum.
– That could not be so.
– There is a possibility of a great anomaly as I . read the clause. Under paragraph B of section 8 of the principal Act the wife would be entitled to receive 50 per cent. of the total pension due to a totally incapacitated husband ; so that they would receive £78 per annum between them. Under proposed new paragraph iv. the dependants are to receive “ such rates as are assessed by the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner, but not exceeding in the aggregate the rate specified in column 2 of the Schedule opposite to the rate of pay off the member, plus £52 per annum.” Thus . a step-father or step-mother, or father or mother-in-law, might receive £52, as against the wife’s £26.
.- No mother-in-law in such a case would have the right to claim £52 per annum. The matter is governed bythe clause at the end of the Schedule, which fixes the maximum amount payable. That is very necessary, forotherwise where a man had a dozen people dependent upon him, the Government might have to provide from £600 to £700 per annum inpensions.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 , and 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 (Pensions payable for a limited period in certain cases).
– I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added: -
A child to whom a pension has been granted, who, on attaining the age of sixteen years, is, in the opinion of the Commissioner, unable to earn -a livelihood, may then be granted a pension at such rate as may be assessed by the Commissioner, but not exceeding the rate specified in column two of the Schedule opposite the Tate of pay of the member:
Provided that an application for the pension shall be made to the Commissioner or a Deputy Commissioner within six months of the child attaining the age of sixteen yean.
There might be a delicate or invalid child who, at the age mentioned, would not be able to earn its own livelihood.
– It would be better to let such a case be dealt with under the Invalid Pensions Act.
– Total incapacityhas to be proved in the case of an invalidity pension. This person might not he totally incapacitated.
-I assume thatno pension would be grantedunder this proposal unless total incapacity was proved. It is a pity to mix up invalidity pensions with war pensions.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 15 to 19, and title, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Thursday next.
Honorable senators will see that the business wo have is not of a very important character, though there are some important measures coming forward. However, they will not be ready for this House on Wednesday, and therefore it is hardly worth while calling the Senate together on that day to deal with the three small Bills on the notice-paper.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Senate, and the Minister representing the Postmaster-General particularly, the case . of a late employee of the Department at Ballarat. This man, whose name is Gomer Jenkins, was employed by the Commonwealth Government in the Post Office at Ballarat, and in the course of his work one day he fell from a telegraph pole, with the result that he broke one of his legs. He was ill for a vary long time, and during that illness contracted pneumonia and various other complications. When he came back to his work in the Department he was employed for some time on full time, but subsequently was put on half time. This man has a wife and three or four children dependent on him, and 27s. 6d. a week is of very little use to him. I and one or two other members have endeavoured to get him put on full time, and the officers of the Department have stated there was any amount of work available in the Ballarat office. He was reported as being one of the best employees there. At the time of his accident the Commonwealth Compensation Act had not been passed, and I desire to know if the Postmaster-General will take his case into favorable consideration, and place a sum of about £300 on the Estimates for this man. In my opinion, and in the opinion of a number of people who are deeply interested in this matter, this is one of those cases in which there is a responsibility on the Government to do something. I understand it was mentioned in the other House a few ‘days ago, and that favorable consideration was promised. I hope, therefore, that the representative of the Postmaster-General in this House will undertake to do something.
– I can only promise the honorable senator that I will bring his representations under the notice of the Postmaster-General. I have no knowledge of the circumstances other than those he has given to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative..
Senate adjourned at 9.19p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 August 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1915/19150805_senate_6_78/>.