8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Sale to Colonial Combing and Spinning Company
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate if he will lay on the table the contract for the sale of 10,600 bales of wool to the Colonial Combing and Spinning Company, of Sydney, and’ also the report of the Central Wool Committee upon the contract.
– Iscarcely know what the honorable senator’s request is, unless it be that certain papers should be laid on the table of the Senate. I am under the impressionthat the papers to which he refers have been made’ available to Parliament, but if the honorable senator will repeat his question on Wednesday next, I shall in the meantime place myself in a position to give a definite answer to his inquiry.
Bill (on motion by Senator E. D.
Millen) read a third time.
Bill (on motion by Senator E. D. Millen) read a third time.
Bill received from House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator E. D. Millen) read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I cannot recollect a Bill coming before this Chamber since its creation which, it seems to me, required less in the way of argument to support it than does this measure. It is simply a Bill which, if it becomes operative, will insure to this Parliament absolute freedom. It will insure the right of honorable senators to access to this building, and the greater freedom still for this Parliament to carry on its deliberations without being influenced’, or, it may be, intimidated, and possibly even interrupted, by any gathering of an assemblage within] the precincts of Parliament House.
The Commonwealth Parliament, in taking this step to protect itself and insure its perfect freedom in carryingout its functions, will not be at all singular. I think I am safe in saying that, in one form or another, all Parliaments secure for themselves the freedom to which I have referred. It seems to me that it was a mere oversight, on the creation of the Federal Parliament, that a Bill of this character was not then placed on the statute-book of the Commonwealth. When as a result of an arrangement with the State Parliament of Victoria this buildingwas made available for meetings of the Federal Parliament, that protection which previously existed and was thrown around this building as the result of such an Act, was removed from these premises and transferred to the building now occupied by the Victorian. Parliament, leaving the Commonwealth Parliament without that protection which experience has shown to be necessary where ever parliamentary government exists. Probably in the rush of more important matters at that time thegap thus created was not filled by Federal legislation.
When during the progress of the war certain demonstrations, whichI think I am entitled to say were hostile, occurred outside this building, resort was had to the War Precautions Act, and under that measure a certain protection was afforded to Parliament. The operation of that measure is drawing to a close, and honorable senators will recognise, as the Government do, that as the War Precautions Act ceases to operate it is desirable that we should proceed to obtain the necessary authority and power by ordinary legislative procedure. Parliament is now being asked in that way to secure to its deliberations that freedom, and, it may be, that protection which at present we lack outside the powers of the War Precautions Act.
I should like honorable senators torecall what happened not only quite recently, but a few months ago. I think it is no exaggeration to say that the demonstrations which took place outside these walls were not so much in the nature of agitations to arouse public opinion as they were demonstrations intended to influence and, it may be, to overawe Parliament. No Parliament can. carry on its functions within the shadow of what is intended to be, and undoubtedly is, a threat. These demonstrations outside seem to me to become a little more serious because of the obvious sympathy extended to them by members of this Parliament. I do not think 1 can be accused of resorting to exaggeration if I say that the gentlemen to whom I refer - members of one or the other branch of this Legislature - accepted a very grave responsibility when they extended a measure of encouragement and sympathy to the gatherings which took place outside these walls. It is not difficult to conceive that when an excited crowd gathers together, if it is afforded the leadership and stimulus of the presence of public men, it may easily get out of hand. There was one occasion upon which the tumult reached the very doors of Parliament House itself, and but for the presence of certain policemen, it is safe to say that it would not have stopped there, and might, indeed, have invaded the legislative chambers of this building. Fortunately those occurrences passed off without any mishap, but I desire to say that in my judgment, if anything serious had occurred, the responsibility would have rested with the public men who associated themselves with those demonstrations rather than with those who were encouraged by their sympathy.
This is an extremely modest measure, and provides only what is necessary to meet the circumstances of the case. I ask honorable senators for the moment to set aside the purpose of the recent demonstration of a night or two ago, which had reference to .the deportation of Father Jerger, and regard only the demonstration itself. It would have been equally objectionable if it had had to do with any other matter. There should be no freedom for a demonstration to gather ‘on the very steps of Parliament House. Whilst I am asking honorable senators to ignore for the moment the purpose of the recent demonstration, I do direct attention to the fact that it was a distinct and open flouting of authority. The handbills circulated calling the meeting together contained amongst other announcements this very extraordinary statement -
Returned Australian soldiers will form a bodyguard for speakers.
A bodyguard against whom ? If the intention were to protect the speakers from some one, it could only have been to protect them from the representatives of lawful authority. I .submit that that was a distinct call to’ disorder. It was a call for citizens to gather here, it may have been with a bond fide belief in the .justice of the views they held, but it was nevertheless an appeal to disorder, and for people to place themselves in open and direct conflict with the law. In view of that, the Government took the only action which it could take by the assertion of the powers it then had to prevent the gathering from assuming any more serious aspect than it did.
The Senate is now asked, not for the protection of the Govern[ment, but for the protection of this Parliament, to embody in definite Statute form a prohibition against the holding of such meetings, and provision for the imposition of certain penalties if such meetings are held. There can be no question that these meetings held in the vicinity of Parliament House are for the purpose of influencing or overawing Parliament. There could be n;o objection to such meetings, if they were otherwise unobjectionable, being held at any one of the hundred and one places available to those responsible for them. But it is quite clear that that would not serve the purpose of the promoters of such gatherings.
There ‘is only one object in calling for such demonstrations here, and it is too obvious for me to make any further reference to it. By means of this Bill Parliament will be afforded an opportunity of stating that that shall be regarded as an offence, and provision will be made for the punishment of those who wilfully break the law.
I said just now that this is a modest measure, and I repeat that statement. Parliament is asked to prohibit the holding of such demonstrations within the smallest possible area which may be effective for the purpose. Under the War Precautions regulations a larger area was covered, and this Bill places an embargo only on that area which is coterminous with the streets immediately surrounding this block of buildings. That is the area in which meetings of the kind referred to’ are to be prohibited. I ask honorable senators to realize that in the matter of numbers we are granting reasonable limitations, as the number of persons allowed to meet has been fixed at twen ty. In Queensland it is three. That State does manage somehow or other to give us a lead at times. I am not asking the Senate to be so extreme as the State of Queensland, as our number has been fixed at twenty. I have referred to the Victorian legislation, .but at the moment I have not before me the .number which it has fixed as’ a limit. There is a similar prohibition in. New South Wales, and in the Mother of Parliaments the number varies from ten to fifty - ten in the case of people submitting a petition and fifty for an ordinary gathering in the streets. I think it will be generally agreed that the number of -twenty is quite within the limits of reason. I feel it is not necessary for me to stress the importance and necessity of a measure of this character, because it is within the knowledge of honorable senators that certain happenings which have occurred quite recently are stronger arguments than any I could hope to shape into words.
Some honorable senators may question our authority under the Constitution to legislate in this manner; but I think it will be apparent to every one that there is within an assembly of this kind an inherent power to see that the work intrusted to it by the Constitution is carried out effectively and without undue interference. Apart from that, however, our legal advisers in the Crown Law Department are quite clear that in the section of the Constitution which gives us power to legislate on certain matters we are also given the right to legislate on all those matters that are deemed necessary, independently of those which are specifically referred to, which necessarily include legislation for the good order and government of the country. Unless we can legislate freely and without intimidation, it must lae apparent , that the whole Constitution must break down. The Crown Law officers are emphatic that we have the power, both stated and implied, under the Constitution to legislate in this direction.
– I do not wish to unnecessarily delay the passage of this measure, but I would like to know why the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) is anxious to proceed to-day.
– I would like the Bill to pass, because at present we are acting only under a “War Precautions regulation, and honorable senators will, I think, admit that it is desirable to have a. special measure.
– I am in perfect sympathy with the principle embodied in the Bill, as I do not think any Parliament should be in the position of being in any way intimidated by outside authority. I was in doubt as to whether we had power under the Constitution to legislate in this manner, but, in view of ‘the statement of the Minister for Repatriation, which has been based on the advice of the Crown Law officers, that difficulty does not now exist. Although I believe we are legislating in the right direction, I would like to know what power Khe Government consider they possess to enforce the law when it is on our statute-book. It is apparent that the Government must have some force behind an Act of Parliament to enable ‘the legislation to become effective, and unless we have that what is the use of it?
– It will have the same force as our other laws.
– I take it then that the Commonwealth will need to have a police force to carry out its laws. At present I believe that no such a force is in existence.
– We have a Commonwealth Police Force.
– If we have, its numbers must be very few. In the absence of our own. police, we will, as we have been compelled to do in the past,, have to rely on the assistance of the Victorian Force. Since the inception of the Commonwealth Parliament we have had no cause to complain concerning the Victorian Force, because its officers have always been ready and willing to place men at our disposal when needed.
– That is so.
– -The Victorian Government have treated us* very well so far, I suppose, because they have been in sympathy to some extent with the actions of the Federal Government. They have always been ready to render such assistance as was required, but we have to realize that the time may be approaching when that assistance will not be forthcoming. The measure we are discussing furnishes, in my opinion, one of the strongest arguments that can be used in favour of moving the Seat of Government from Victoria to Canberra, as we have no right to be continually seeking the assistance of the State of Victoria. I would support this Bill more readily if we had a definite assurance from the Government as to the time when the Federal Parliament is likely to meet at Canberra, where we could have our own police to protect us.
– And be away from the savages.
– I would not say that.
– We might become savages ourselves.
– That is unlikely. The fact that these demonstrations are held outside this building, and that we have to seek assistance from the State, shows that there is every need for the change. It is quite possible that on some future occasion a hostile demonstration against the Federal Parliament may occur outside this building, and when the Victorian Government of the day might be in sympathy with its objects, in which case we could not expect much help. I hope the Minister for Repatriation. when replying, will make a definite statement as to when it is proposed to move to Canberra.
– Why leave a good home?
– Why not go to our own home, where we could have every comfort, and where there would be no need for legislation of this character?
– The honorable senator must admit that there is an obvious attempt being made by some to side-step the provisions of the Constitution.
– And there are others in Victoria that ave keen on keeping a contract.
– Order! The honorable member is not discussing the Bill.
– If we were legislating at Canberra it is unlikely that hostile demonstrations similar to those which have recently occurred would take place. I hope the Minister for Repatriation will state definitely the proposals of the Government regarding Canberra, as it is very desirable that we should be legislating at the real Seat of Government, and where we would be away from undesirable influences.
– I intend to support the Bill, but I do not want my support to be construed to mean that my action is intended to in any way curtail that freedom of speech and action which lias been fought for and won by the people of Australia. I do not want to place any restriction on the reasonable and free discussion of public questions or on any matter which affects the welfare of the people. I realize, however, that it is most essential that the Parliament of any country should be absolutely immune from outside influence; but this may really be a two-edged sword, and may have the opposite effect to that which is intended. There may be honorable members in one branch or other of the Legislature who might be intimidated by hostile demonstrations outside concerning any action of theirs, and there may be some who would so resent an attempt at browbeating that under certain circumstances they would adopt the opposite course to that which they would otherwise take. It must be apparent to everybody that a Legislature such as this, which is making laws for the government of a na tion, should be absolutely free from any outside influence. I must admit that I did not know that there was not a law in our statute-book to prevent hostile demonstrations in the vicinity of this building, and I often wondered when organized demonstrations had been arranged by certain irresponsible people that more forcible means were not taken by the Government to suppress them. This measure is’ somewhat belated. The area mentioned by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) should be limited. I direct attention to the fact that in the Treasury Gardens, which is included within the boundaries indicated, there are suitable places in which public meetings could be held without interfering with Parliament in any way. Demonstrations held in the Treasury Gardens, for instance, would not interfere with the work of this Parliament any more than if they were held on the Yarra bank, and we should not do anything to interfere with the free discussion of questions of public interest. The area, as honorable senators will see, follows Spring-street to Wellington-parade, along Wellington-parade to the thoroughfare which divides the Treasury and Fitzroy Gardens, thence along to Albert-street and back to Spring-street.
– There is plenty of room outside.
– Not to Albertstreet, but to Gipps-street.
– That is so. In my opinion, it is desirable that the Treasury Gardens should be omitted from the prohibited area. I fail to see that a public meeting there would in any way interfere with the work of this Parliament. I should like the Minister to consider my suggestion, with a view to making the southern boundary of the prohibited area that street which runs past the Government buildings. Another point which is worthy of consideration is whether it is not advisable that we should delete the words in clause 3 of the Bill “for any unlawful purpose.” What right has any body of people to hold meetings adjacent to Parliament House?
– Subclause 2 of that clause defines an unlawful gathering.
– If the Bill affirms that meetings shall not be held within a prescribed area there is no necessity for us to describe any meeting as “unlawful.”
– Suppose that a meeting were called to discuss a matter of national importance, in what more appropriate place could it be held than in the vicinity of the parliamentary buildings?
– In that case there would be no interference with it. We have many laws upon our statute-book which upon certain occasions are not enforced. But they may be enforced when required.
-son. - ‘Under this Bill, all meetings would be “unlawful” if they were held within the prohibited area.
– They might not be. The. question would then arise as to what “ was the correct -interpretation of an “ unlawful “ assemblage. These are the two questions to which I desire to direct the attention of the Minister. The main principle of the Bill has my hearty support.
– The introduction, of this measure irresistibly reminds us of the earlier history of the’ life of Parliaments generally. Honorable senators will doubtless recall with considerable interest how frequently the Mother of Parliaments has been approached in much the same -way as this Parliament has recently been approached. In the early days, before the Reform Bill, the British House of Commons was frequently approached by immense numbers of persons who desired to support petitions which had been presented to it. To-day such an act would be regarded as an attempt to overawe Parliament. Whilst, therefore, I am perfectly in accord with the purpose of this Bill, We need to be extremely careful lest we preclude the people who really make our Parliaments from freely expressing their opinions upon public matters other than through the medium of cold type. There may be occasions upon which more than twenty persons may desire to wait as a deputation upon a responsible Minister in Parliament in regard to some matter of public interest. This Bill may prevent them doing that, especially if it be unsympathetically administered. Honorable senators should recollect that we are enacting legislation not merely for to-day, and that .occasions may arise upon which this measure may prove a barrier to . the expression of our own desires. I can recall many occasions upon which large deputations have approached the British House of Commons.. Indeed, all kinds of methods have been adopted in approaching that body - methods which to-day would be regarded as decidedly objectionable. I do not think that any gatherings, similar to those which we have witnessed outside .of this Parliament during recent years, are likely to have any effect upon a wellbalanced mind. Indeed, they are calculated rather to antagonize than to influence one in their favour.’ Parliament should be free to conduct its deliberations with absolute freedom from coercion or attempts at intimidation. At the same time, we ought not to close every avenue of access to it except the medium of cold type. I can imagine that the time may come when some autocratic Government will be in power, and when we may be found pleading for that measure of liberty which, as British subjects, we have so long enjoyed. It is a dangerous thing to limit liberty merely because it sometimes degenerates into licence. We need, therefore, to be very cautious, lest we defeat the very object that we are seeking to attain. I had not the slightest sympathy with the demonstrations which have recently taken place outside of this .Parliament. ‘But I am jealous of the liberties which we enjoy as the result of the hard fights put up by our forefathers. Another point which is worthy of consideration is that this Bill, whilst imposing penalties for offences against it, provides no machinery for the enforcement of those penalties. In that respect it differs from many mea.sures with which Senator Earle is familiar. It seems to me that the Bill has been hurriedly drafted, and that, as a result, it will probably fail to achieve its objective. I do not object to any body o’f individuals holding meetings, but it may be necessary to permit of public gatherings of more than twenty persons within the prohibited area.
– Not necessarily within the boundaries defined in the Bill.
– I have attended a good many deputations to Parliament House, and so has Senator Henderson, at which more than twenty persons have been present.
– This Bill will not affect them.
– It is not unlawful assemblages that I desire to foster, but, at the same time, I do not wish to hamper lawful gatherings by imposing upon them restrictions of too arbitrary a character.
– But in the case of a meeting which was called for a legitimate purpose the ‘Government would riot exercise their powers under this Bill.
– Surely my honorable friend does not desire to pass a measure which will be more honoured in the breach than in the observance. Who is to be the judge of whether a meeting is lawful or unlawful? .From the point of view of the Minister it may be an unlawful one, whilst from the point of view of the populace, who wish to approach him, it may be a perfectly lawful one.
– The honorable senator wants the Bill, but does not want its provisions.
– My honorable friend is not justified in drawing that conclusion. I want demonstrations of the kind we have recently witnessed outside of this building to cease. They are futile, and worse than futile. But, in our endeavour to suppress them, I do not want to deprive the people of that measure of liberty which, as British subjects, they have hitherto enjoyed.
– Nowhere, except in this city, have the people the “ liberty,” as the honorable senator calls it, to gather round the steps of Parliament itself for the purpose of making a demonstration.
– On that point I am in accord with the Minister, but he is- now defining a much narrower limit than the Bill does. Looking through the crevice that the Minister is looking through, I see. exactly the same perspective as he does, but looking through the Bill I find at has a much wider outlook.
– Is it not usual for a Minister to indicate first whether he will receive a deputation or not? If he says he will, all right, but, if not, does it riot immediately become an unlawful assembly if it forces itself upon him ?
– If some such definition were understood, even although not included in this Bill, I would be in agreement with the honorable senator. I simply call attention to the fact that, sometimes in our moments of haste, we do that which afterwards we have to undo, and to undo things we have done so short a period ‘before makes it seem that our work is imperfect. I am in agreement with the design of the Bill to suppress unlawful assemblies in the immediate vicinity of this building, and for that reason I shall support it, but it must not be overlooked that, whilst we provide penalties, we have to depend upon others to enforce them.
– The Judiciary law of Victoria provides for carrying out Commonwealth law.
– I shall be glad if the honorable senator will draw my attention to the particular Act which makes that provision.
– What authority otherwise have we to get the police up here- on any night on which they are required ?
– I took that to be an act of grace on the part of the Victorian Government, and not as due to any authority of. this Parliament at all.
– All our laws would be useless without some such provision as I have referred to in the Judiciary Act of Victoria.
– I have only the honorable senator’s assurance that that provision exists, and am, therefore, justified in calling attention to what seems to be a weakness in the Bill. However, I do not wish to impede the passage of the Bill, because it is in some degree necessary, and I intend to support the Government in it.
– It is to be deplored that a measure of this kind is necessary, but, in view of recent happenings, it is plain that the business of this Parliament cannot be conducted as it should be unless some such precaution as this’ is taken. During my term in this Parliament I have seen occasions when members of the outside public have invaded the precincts of this building by forcing their way in, and have sought in the most threatening manner to frighten members into a sense of what they regarded as their public duty. I could understand that being necessary at one period of our history, when Parliament was anything but a true reflex of public opinion. It was necessary in those days for a Cromwell, so to speak, to appear and to dissolve a Parliament that did not deserve the name. But, living as we do in this pure Democracy, I suppose the last word in Democracy, where the people at recurring periods have the opportunity to send men to Parliament to give legislative effect to their views, and where those men have in turn to face the electors and render an account of their stewardship; living, I say, in a country and an age of that description, we can find no warrant, whatever, for the unseemly disturbances that have been noticed in the neighbourhood of Federal Parliament House lately. It is to be specially deplored, as has been mentioned by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), that members of this Parliament have by their presence and utterances aided and abetted those disturbances. I will go a step further, and say that a member of this Parliament who acts in that way entirely misconceives his position as a public man and his duty to the Democracy of this country. My idea of a Democracy is that, no matter how backward or repellant or unpopular your individual view may be, you should have ample freedom to express it on all occasions, provided of course, that to carry it into effect would not disturb the social order or interfere with the laws of the country. The modern idea of liberty seems to be that some men may take upon themselves to be keepers of other people’s consciences, and unless your views coincide with theirs, the most effectual way they have of reasoning with you is to knock you on the head, or turn up in their numbers and try to compel you to share their views, and suffer the penalty which they are always only too ready to inflict upon you. It is a fell day for any Democracy when developments of that character occur. It prompts one to recall the saying of the old philosopher Aristotle, that the bane of Democracy was not the agents of privilege, ‘nor the votaries of a privileged class, but the demagogues. I venture to say that there are some of that class in this Parliament to-day.
– Not in the Senate.
– I shall not draw a distinction between the two branches of the Legislature. If we are to preserve the social order which has been gained for us by the good old fighters of the past, we need to take stern action against those who would undermine it and pull it down. The disturbances outside this Parliament have really been too frequent and too free, and call for stern action on the part of all genuine upholders and defenders of our democratic order. I would have some sympathy with those people who assemble outside this building if this Parliament represented only the city of Melbourne, but it is too often forgotten that it represents not only Melbourne and every other city of the Commonwealth, but the whole continent. For people in the immediate vicinity of Parliament to take it upon themselves to emulate the three tailors of Tooley-street is altogether unfair to those living further afield, who have just as much right to make their feelings known’. We can all recall more estimable citizens in every sense of the word, living in other parts of Australia than any single man who was in that meeting the other night. There are men living in isolated situations in Australia whom it would take five or six weeks to reach the steps of this Parliament. As it is not possible for them to come forward and represent their views here, it is out of place and out of date for the tailors of Tooley-street living in Melbourne to take it upon themselves to represent their views for them. Electors living in the north-west of Western Australia or the north of Queensland have little or no chance to come to this Parliament, yet Parliament is just as representative of them as it is of the men who live in the immediate vicinity of this building. If the whole 5,000,000 of our people would be so foolish as to assemble here to express their views to a Parliamentjust fresh from the hands of the electors, I could understand it, but when a mere remnant of the populace of Melbourne assembles here, and claims to represent the people of Australia, it is about time for this Parliament to draw the line. Let them stay ‘away until they are authorized to express the views of the people of Australia. I support this measure, although, of course, I believe it will be met with opposition outside. The mere fact that it is necessary to introduce and pass such a Bill through this Parliament warrants us in assuming that it will be opposed outside. But I draw the attention of those who will oppose it to the fact that the Parliament is the creation of the people every three years, and that the people have the opportunity of expressing their views through their representatives in Parliament in< an orderly and intelligent manner. While that priceless gift is in the possession of the people they need no such outlet for their feelings as has been availed of on the steps of this building in recent times. This Parliament is, or ought to be, a true reflex of public opinion, and, therefore does not require to be overawed or stampeded.
– I am not at all surprised, but am naturally pleased, to find this measure received so approvingly by this Chamber; but one or two points have been raised to which I take the liberty of referring in reply. Senator Thomas and later speakers said that we should have to rely upon the State police authorities to carry the Bill into effect. That is perfectly true; but it is rather late in- the day to raise that point ; seeing that for nineteen years we have been passing laws with penalties, and have been dependent upon the State legal machinery to give effect to each and every one of them. Senator Senior will recollect many measures which he has helped to pass here, and which carry penalties, or make statutory offences with penalties attached, although we were entirely dependent upon the State police machinery for giving effect to them. Provision has been made to that effect in the Constitution.. Section 5 of the Constitution provides -
This Act, and all laws made by the Parlia-ment of the Commonwealth under the Constitution, shall be binding on the Courts,- Judges, and people of every State and of every part of the Commonwealth, notwithstanding anything in the laws of any State; and the laws of the Commonwealth shall he in force on all British ships, the Queen’s ships of war excepted, whose first port of clearance and whose port of destination are in the Commonwealth.
There is a general instruction to the Courts to observe our laws.
Section 120 is a little more definite -
Every State shall make provision for the detention in its prisons of persons accused or convicted of offences against the laws of the Commonwealth, and for the punishment of persons convicted of such offences, and the Parliament of the Commonwealth may make laws to give effect to this provision.
These provisions, and the fact that we have for nineteen years been passing laws relying upon the State police machinery to give effect to them, sufficiently meet the point raised by Senators Thomas and Senior!
I was unable to follow or appreciate the logic of Senator Thomas when he referred to that happy place of abode - the Federal Capital - which we are all longing to reach. He said he would support this measure the more readily if lie had a definite assurance that we should be going there shortly. It ‘seems to me that if we were going there shortly, the fact might bo used as an argument to prove that we could muddle along without this Bill; but, whether we stay here a week, or a year, or ten years, I claim that we want the same measure of protection as is enjoyed, so far as I know, by every other Parliament. I am not prepared to give the definite promise which Senator Thomas seeks, except to say that when introducing the financial proposals for the year the Government will indicate the course of action proposed to be taken to redeem the pledge given under the Constitution- itself.
Senator Earle not improperly raised the question as to whether this Bill might be interpreted as an effort, on the part of the Government, to interfere with freedom of speech. It does nothing more than is done by many other Bills. It does not seek to prevent any man saying what he likes. All that it declares is that a man shall not say these things within a certain area of Parliament House.* Whether these people be haters of England or lovers of Germany; whether they be hotheaded irresponsibles, or cold calculating politicians, they may say what they will, so far as this Bill is concerned, but they must not say it here. There is, in fact, no check except the ordinary laws of the country upon liberty of speech at all beyond the area defined in the Bill. The Bill will not interfere with the right of any people to agitate as much as they like, but what it does say, is that they shall not become a nuisance to this Parliament.
Another matter raised was the question of our constitutional power. I have already dealt with that, but Senator Senior stressed the point, and I should like to draw attention to the authority given in the Constitution, section 51 of which states -
TheParliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government with respect to: -
Then follows the thirty-eight matters in respect of which it is competent for this Parliament to legislate and - (xxxix.) Matters incidental to the execution of any power vested by this Constitution in the Parliament or in either House thereof, or in the Government of the Commonwealth, or in the Federal Judicature, or in any department or officer of the Commonwealth.
I submit that the matter referred to in this Bill is clearly incidental to the execution of a power vested in this legislation. Parliament must be entirely free to discharge all the responsibilities intrusted to it. On this point, the most definite assurance has been given by the Crown Law officers.
Senator Earle also raised the question of the area. If honorable senators have any doubt as to the wisdom of the course adopted I suggest that they examine the map which I have had prepared setting out the area within which the assemblies referred shall not be permitted. They will then see that having regard to convenience of boundary as well as the purpose of the Bill, it would not have been possible to limit the area to any greater extent. It is a very considerable reduction on the area protected by the War Precautions Act. One reason why it was not possible to curtail it further was that the street suggested by Senator Earle as a boundary, and which would have shut out the Fitzroy Gardens, is, I understand, not a street or a proclaimed thoroughfare at all. We have, therefore, taken the proclaimed thoroughfares around the buildings concerned. I submit, further, that even if it were possible to exclude a few more yards than we have done, no very great hardship wouldbe done, because the people who want to demonstrate have the whole of Victoria, and, indeed, the whole of the Commonwealth available to them, because we are making no great inroads upon those places at which they usually demonstrate. I feel sure, therefore, that the Senate will assent to the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Prohibition of unlawful assemblies).
– I notice that the penalty prescribed is a fine of £100, or six months’ imprisonment, or both. Is it not possible to allow a magistrate discretion to impose smaller fines for technical breaches of the Act ?
– I can quite understand the honorable senator’s difficulty. No doubt he is unaware that for convenience the Federal Parliament, in an earlier measure, has provided that the penalties mentioned in any Act are to be regarded as the maximum penalties, and, therefore, the magistrates may, at their discretion, impose lighter penalties for minor offences.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 and 5 and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 29th July, vide page 3074) :
The Arbitrator shall, subject to the provisions of this section, determine all matters submitted to him relating to salaries, wages, rates of pay, or terms or conditions of service or employment of officers and employees of the Public Service.
Any organization shall be entitled to submit to the Arbitrator by memorial any claim relating to the salaries, wages, rates of pay, or terms or conditions of service or employment of members of the organization.
If any objection is lodged, the Arbitrator shall call a conference and following upon such conference shall, after hearing such evidence (if any) in respect of such matters as have not been agreed to at the conference, as the Arbitrator thinks necessary, determine the claim.
The Commissioner, or the Minister of any Department of State affected by any determination of the Arbitrator may submit to the Arbitrator an application to vary the determination wholly or in part. The Arbitrator shall forward a copy of the application to the organization affected by the application, and to the Minister of the Department of State affected if the application to vary has been made by the Commissioner, or to the Commissioner if the application to vary has been made by the Minister of the Department affected.
– When a previous clause was under discussion, Senator Drake-Brockman raised a question which is affected by this clause also, and’ I am afraid, in replying, I was under a. misapprehension. The honorable senator asked whether it was clear what organizations could have access to the Arbitrator, and I drew attention to the definition! clause. As that matter affects this clause also, I asked leave to report progress, so that I might be fully informed on the point. The Crown Law officers advise as follows: -
The point has been raised as to. whether the Bill covers persons employed on the Commonwealth Railways, in the Harness Factory, and persons employed in connexion with shipbuilding operations carried on by the Commonwealth. “The Public Service” is defined as including “ the Public Service of the Northern Territory and. the Territory for the Seat of Government, and the service of any public institution or authority of the Commonwealth,” and “ all .persons’ employed in any such service . . . whether under the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1902-1918 or not. . . .” This definition is exactly the same as- that appearing in the present Arbitration. (Public Service) Act 1911.
In my opinion, the words “ Public institution or authority of the Commonwealth” would include the Commonwealth Railway Service, the Government Harness Factory, and ship-yards carried on by the Commonwealth. If this interpretation is correct, there is no doubt that the Bill covers the persons referred to.
In regard to persons employed on Commonwealth Railways, there is another ground for holding that they are covered by the Bill. The Commonwealth’ Railways Act 1917, section 47, enacts that the Arbitration (Public Service) Act shall apply’ to the railway servants. Clause 11 (5) of the Bill provides that any reference in any Act to the Arbitration (Public Service) 1911 Act shall be read as a reference to the Bill. It is quite clear, therefore, that the Bill applies to the railway service.
Although the employees on the Commonwealth Railways and in- the Harness Factory are entitled to form associations and to become registered under the Arbitration (Public Service) Act, I understand that they have not largely availed themselves of this right. Apparently, most of them prefer to belong to large associations such as the Australian Workers’ Union, the Federated Engine-drivers’ and Firemen’s Union, . and the Saddlers’ Union, which are registered under the ordinary provisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
I am sorry that, the question being sprung upon me in Committee, I was not1 fully informed upon the- point, aand, to some extent, misled the Committee. However, it is within the competence of the Committee to deal with this matter, which affects the whole of the Bill. It is only right that the Committee should know that the Bill also covers those industries carried’ on by the Commonwealth as part of the Commonwealth Service.
– Will.it also cover’ the Government Service in Papua or Norfolk Island ?
– Not at present, because they are not in the Public Service, but in the amending Public Service Bill to be introduced they will be included, and, therefore, will be affected by this Bill.
– As well as those branches of the Public Service that are already covered by existing awards obtained by outside organizations?
– Not all of them. Some are covered by award’s obtained under the Arbitration (Public Service) Act, and some by awards obtained in the Arbitration Court.
– Then we do get the difficulties referred to by Senator Duncan, in regard to men in the Service belonging to large organizations outside.
– My answer to that is that we have, had experience of the operation of the existing law since 1911, and no difficulty has arisen which it was not easily possible to overcome.
– That is because they all went to the one Court.
– No ; they went indifferently to either Court.
– Under this Bill, they must go to the Court provided by this measure.
-Not : necessarily. Some went to the general Court of Arbitration, and others to the Court established under the Arbitration (Public Service) Act, but the Commonwealth Government laid it down as a principle that, in the Public Service, they would obey Arbitration Court awards. If an organization obtained an award affecting the employees in one of our Government factories in the general Court of Arbitration,, the Government would obey that award. So far no practical difficulty has been experienced.
– I direct attention to sub-clause 5 of clause 12,’ under which it is provided that the Arbitrator, having called a conference, shall - after hearing such evidence (if any) in respect of such matters as have not been agreed to at the conference, as the Arbitrator thinks necessary, determine the claim.
It is apparent from .this that the Arbitrator can exclude evidence which he does not think necessary. This makes him the absolute judge of the evidence to be tendered. There must be evidence! tendered by both sides, or there can be no trial. I think the sub-clause requires some modification, and the Arbitrator might be given the power to exclude irrelevant evidence.
-brockman. - He may not be a lawyer.
– That is so. Under the provision to which I take exception, the Arbitrator may exclude evidence which- those presenting it may consider relevant and necessary to inform his mind.
– It would be dangerous to allow complainants to bring forward whatever evidence they pleased, whether, in the opinion of the Arbitrator, it was relevant or not.
– My honorable friend will see that, by parity of reasoning, it is equally dangerous to give the Arbitrator power to exclude whatever evidence he pleases.
– I agree that it cuts both ways.
– With the general tenor of the provision I agree, but I think it requires modification.
– If either side did not desire the settlement of a claim, they might submit all kinds of evidence in order to delay a settlement.
– That is true; but unless the evidence presented is irrelevant to the case, I do not think that the Arbitrator should have the power to say that he will not hear it.
– We must give someone the power to decide what is relevant evidence.
– We may very well assume that the Arbitrator will not be a lawyer, and he may exclude evidence absolutely necessary to prove the case of either side. Unless it is clear that evidence is being presented for the purpose of obstruction, I think the Arbitrator should be obliged to hear it. If the Arbitrator is to determine the matter sub mitted to him, it must be upon the evidence presented, and. under the powers given him in this clause, he may exclude evidence, which ought to be received if he is to arrive at a just decision.
– Before the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) attempts any explanation of this matter,’ I wish to express my belief that it is a highly dangerous thing to give . an Arbitrator the power which this provision would confer. I have had a considerable amount of experience in Arbitration Courts. I have conducted a few cases in my time, but I have never appeared in any Court in which the Judge had the power to say what evidence I should present in support >i my case. The Judge, of course, had the power to sa,y whether the evidence I did present should influence his judgment. The Arbitrator may not have a personal knowledge of the matter with which he is called upon to deal. He may be absolutely ignorant of technicalities associated with it, and without any desire to act wrongfully, he may,, because of his ignorance of the conditions of labour of those responsible for a plaint, exclude evidence which might be the pivot upon which the question at issue should be decided. I think that the latter part of sub-clause 5 should bo amended to read -
The Arbitrator….. after hearing evidence (if any) in respect of such matters as have not been agreed to at the conference, determine the claim.
A case is in dispute between two parties, and the Arbitrator is then called in.
– No; the Arbitrator holds a conference first, and then hears evidence on points upon which the conference does not arrive at an agreement.
– He holds a conference, and then no matter what the conference may decide, he is given the power under sub-clause 5 to reject certain evidence. I consider that a dangerous power which the Arbitrator should not possess.
– Senators Senior and Henderson have raised the question of the power of the Arbitrator to hear such evidence as he thinks necessary. Senator Senior suggests that the Arbitrator should have the power to exclude irrelevant evidence. Do I quote the honorable senator correctly?
– Who is to he the judge of relevancy ? Obviously, it must be the Arbitrator, and that brings us back to the same position. The effect is the same whether the Arbitrator says, “ I do not think this evidence will assist me, and therefore I do not propose to hear it,” or “ I do not think this evidence is relevant, and therefore I do not propose to hear it.” I direct attention to the fact that all Courts exercise this power, even where it is not conferred upon them by Statute. A Judge may say, “ I consider this evidence irrelevant,” and order counsel to desist from presenting it.
– There is no provision for counsel here.
– No; but there will be an agent- representing the organization, and another representing the Government. The provision will cut both ways. I am informed that already one case has occurred in which the Government suffered in this connexion. The persons representing the Government at the hearing of one case desired to bring before the Court the effect of a certain judgment upon the country at large in the matter of revenue and expenditure, and the Court prevented him giving such evidence. The Judge said that that was a matter for Parliament, and not for the Court to deal with. This power must be vested in some one. We must give the parties to the case the right to bring as much evidence, and evidence of any kind they please, before the Court, or we must make some one the judge of the evidence to be presented to the Arbitrator. Obviously we cannot constitute the parties to a case the judges in’ such matters, and the discretion must be left to the Arbitrator. To say that the Arbitrator would exclude evidence pertinent and relevant to a case is to not only say that he would be willing to make himself unpopular, but that he would show himself quite unfitted for his position. He has to seek re-appointment, and it is not likely that he would do any such thing. He would, for his own assistance, naturally desire to hear any evidence that would be likely to aid him in coming to a determination. He has already had these matters discussed before him with the representatives of the two parties at the conference. They have covered the whole field, and have come to an agreement on certain points, and have failed to agree on others.
On the latter, he proceeds to hear evidence, and he is to be the judge of what evidence is to be submitted, and whether the case is to be kept within reasonable limits. There must be some limitation, and an attempt made to prevent stonewalling, as it must be admitted that Parliament is not the only place in which that occurs. Some one must have the power to exclude irrelevant evidence.
– Do I understand that lawyers can be present if both sides agree?
– That is not permissible.
– If it were, it would go on for ever.
– When it is a question of going on indefinitely, I do not think it is lawyers alone who are to blame. I believe the provision is for the benefit of both parties; it is the best means of arriving at a speedy settlement, and prevents either party introducing extraneous matter.
– Do we understand thatthe Public Service Association is quite satisfied with the Board of Management without an Arbitrator?
– I understand that the Association is not satisfied with a Board alone, and that it desires to have the right to appeal from the Board to an Arbitration Court of some kind. I am not prepared to say whether it is satisfied with this particular Court.
– The evidence is restricted, not as the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) points out, at the finding, but at the conference.
– No, but following upon a conference.
– The provision states: “ following upon such conference shall, after hearing evidence”.
– He hears evidence after the conference. What is the use of taking evidence on matters that have already been agreed upon at a conference ?
– Take the position when it is narrowed down to the points that have been agreed upon.
– After a conference.
– The conference narrows the question down to what the two parties are agreed upon, and the whole question may turn upon the wages hours, and conditions of labour. The
Arbitrator may have got them to consent to the hours of labour and the wages they will receive, but he may not be acquainted with the conditions under which they labour. He may exclude that evidence because he does not see that it is necessary, and he is made the judge of whether it is necessary or not. One party to the case may be prevented from bringing forward certain evidence.
– Every one of the points will be raised in the plaint lodged by the association, and when the plaint is lodged the Arbitrator has to arrive at a decision on those points. He only hears evidence on the points in the plaint not agreed upon at the conference.
– The plaint may refer to rates of wages, hours, and conditions of labour. Wages and hours may be determined at the conference, but when itocmes to hearing evidence it is confined to the conditions under which the men labour. The Arbitrator may not be acquainted with the nature of the work in which the men are engaged.
– Is it reasonable to assume that if he was not acquainted with the conditions, he would come to a determination without hearing evidence?
– It is not a question of assumption. We are giving him the power to include or exclude certain evidence.
– He would be very careful, as it wouldbe too good a job to lose.
– If there is any strength in that argument which has been referred to not only by Senator Duncan, but also by the Minister for Defence, we have to assume that the Arbitrator will have to make it his main business to look after the interests of those who will be in a position to re-appoint him.
– That was a weak link in the Minister’s argument.
– It is a weak link on either side. Are we to believe that the Arbitrator will hear all kinds of evidence because he is anxious to keep his job? Has the Minister for Defence a biased man in his mind ? We must dismiss such a suggestion from our thoughts, and see that a man is appointed who is prepared to act fairly. No one,however perfect, is able to arbitrate on all questions. We may have an Arbitrator who will recognise that the hours are excessive and. the wages inadequate, on which points the conference will agree, but the conditions under which the men labour will still have to be settled. The Arbitrator may be trained in such a way as to be able to arbitrate in certain directions, but he may not be in a position to judge concerning the conditions of labour as placed before him by the claimant organization. He may consider that he is in a position to say that evidence submitted is unnecessary, and under the powers conferred upon him will exclude it.
– Has not every Judge of the Supreme Court the power to exclude irrelevant evidence?
– If we place that power in the hands of a Judge, does it mean that we should give it to one who is not a Judge, or even a justice of the peace? Are we to give the Arbitrator power to say what evidence he will receive and what he will not? He may hear evidence from one side only?
– How long would an Arbitrator last if he adopted such anattitude?
– Again the question arises of allowing the man to keep his job. When an Arbitrator has heard evidence he has a perfect right to say that certain information submitted will be disallowed when ho is coming to a decision.
– He might only hear one case in seven years.
– That does not matter. He has a perfect right to dissect the evidence and say what will be allowed when he is giving judgment. He has no right to exclude evidence which is important.
– If he is to be given the right to ignore evidence, why not give him the right to exclude it?
– Would Senator Earle be in favour of giving the Arbitrator power to say that he would not open the Court because he has the power to exclude evidence? Both sides must have the right to place their case as they see it, and the Judge should hear evidence from both, and then come to a decision.
.- I understood the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) to say, by interjection, when Senator Senior was speaking, that the members of the Public Service desired an Arbitrator to whom they could appeal from any decision given by the Board; but, so far as I can gather, claims cannot be submitted to the Board, but only to the Arbitrator.
– The Board will, first of all, fix the salaries and conditions of labour, and then, if the organization isnot satisfied, it will appealto the Arbitrator.
– The Bill does not state thatthe Board shall havepower to deal with such cases.
– That is in the other measure.
SenatorFOLL. - If certain rates of wages are fixed by the Board and a plaint is lodged by any particular section of public servants for increased salaries, the plaint is lodged with the Arbitrator and not with the Board.
SenatorRowell. - Does not the honorable senator think they would ask the Board first?
– It is not necessary to do so, because this Bill gives any organization the right to go over the head of the Board to the Arbitrator - not to appeal from any decision previously given by the Board. I was under the impression when the two Bills were brought before the Senate that when the Arbitrator was appointed he was to deal solely with appeals from the Board, but sub-clause 2 of clause 12 states -
Any organization shall he entitled to submit to the Arbitrator by memorial any claim relating to the salaries, wages, rates of pay, or terms or conditions of service or employment of members of the organization.
– Then why have a Board?
SenatorFOLL. - There does not appear to he any necessity for the two, and unless gome strong reasons are given an Arbitrator should not be appointed, or a different arrangement should be made. So far as I can judge, the Board will be totally ignorant of the rates of pay and working conditions. The Minister for Defence, when introducing another Bill relating to the Public Service, pointed out the necessity of having a Boardto conduct our Public Service, and referred to the duties of the Board. It appears, however, that the proposed Board will have no power at all, and that when dissatisfaction exists in any particular Department the employees will not go to the Board of Management appointed by the Government - referred to by the Minister as the actual employer - but to the Arbitrator.
SenatorRowell. - What is the general practice?
– It is not a question of the general practice. The appointment of a Board of Management is something that is entirely new.
– Under the Public Service Bill we shall merely have three Commissioners instead of one.
– The appointment of an Arbitrator to deal exclusively with Public Service cases is also a new departure. It is only reasonable that the Minister should agree to postpone the consideration of this clause in order that we may be afforded an opportunity to study it more closely.
.- I am unable to agree with the arguments which have been presented by Senator Foll. Under this Bill we shall be following precisely the course that we have followed previously. At the present time the Public Service Commissioner determines the salaries to be paid to officers, and also their hours of labour and working conditions, and until recent years his decision upon these matters was absolutely final. Some years ago, however, Parliament, in its wisdom, gave our public servants the right to appeal to the Arbitration Court for a redress of their grievances. But they did not go to that tribunal until they had first endeavoured to come to terms with the Public Service Commissioner. The Board proposed to be constituted under the Public Service Bill will do exactly what the Commissioner has done hitherto. It will fix the salaries to be paid, and determine the working conditions of our public servants, and if the latter are satisfied with its decisions so much the better. But if they are not satisfied I have no doubt that deputations from their various associations will wait upon the Board in an endeavour to obtain concessions. The Board may agree to grant those concessions, but on the other hand its members may say, “ Having gone into the matter we cannot do more than we have done.” Then the public servants who feel aggrieved will approach the Arbitrator just as hitherto they have gone into the Arbitration Court.
SenatorFoll. - This clause does not say that.
– Surety the civil servant is as intelligent as is the man outside.
– He may be too intelligent.
– It will cost the public servants a certain amount of money to get their cases before the Arbitrator. If they can get their grievances remedied by approaching the Board they will avoid that expenditure, and consequently it is only reasonable to assume that they will adopt that course of action. The reason why our public servants have appealed from the decision of the Public Service Commissioner to the Arbitration Court is because they have thought that the Commissioner was paying; more regard to the need for making the Departments pay than he was to the question of whether adequate salaries were being paid to them, and whether the conditions of their employment were satisfactory. The Board of Management to be appointed may take up an exactly similar position. Personally, I shall be very glad if the Arbitrator has nothing whatever to do. This clause merely gives to the civil servants of the Commonwealth the same opportunity of going before the Arbitrator as the miner has of going before the Arbitration Court to-day. Before resorting to that step the miner naturally approaches either the mine manager or the board of directors and says to them, “ Cannot you give me an extra1s. per day and less hours of work.?”
– The honorable senator has had no experience of miners.
– I have had a little experience of them. In Broken Hill the miners have waited upon the Mine Managers’ Association in an endeavour to come to terms, before going to the Arbitration Court. Indeed, I have never heard of a case in which a body of men appealed direct to the, Arbitration Court. They have always conducted negotiations in a preliminary attempt to arrive at an amicable settlement of their grievances. Of course there may be some direct actionists in the community, but these individuals will not go to the Arbitration Court in any circumstances. Men who are willing to approach that tribunal will always endeavour to meet their employer first, and to discuss their grievances with him. Under this Bill, the Board of Management to be appointed to control our Public Service will fix the salaries and the hours of labour of the officers of that Service.
– But, under this clause, the Arbitrator must first call a conference between the employees and the Board.
– He must do everything that he can to bring about a settlement of any dispute by means of conciliation. I cannot imagine that any association of public servants will refuse to discuss its grievances with the Board of Management before approaching the Arbitrator. When he is approached, the Arbitrator will have to decide whether the claim put forward is just or otherwise. Suppose he says that the wages and the working conditions fixed by the Board are those which are just and desirable.
– He can veto the whole of those things.
– But the Board must first fix the wages to be paid.
– The public servants may get before the Arbitrator by means of a memorial if they wish to do so.
– This Bill will not deprive our public servants of the right to submit their cases to the Arbitrator. If they are foolish enough to go to him direct, they will be at perfect liberty to do so.
– But their wages and hours and conditions of labour are already fixed, and the Board of Management will accept the conditions which obtain at present.
– Exactly. It is quite open to question whether the three members of the proposed Board will do any better than will one man. Upon the Board there is bound to be one man who is abler than his colleagues, and, if he is appointed chairman, he will practically run the Board. Consequently, under this Bill, we are merely appointing an Arbitrator in lieu of the Arbitration Court.
– I can quite understand that a conservative mind like that of Senator Thomas is bound to be in opposition to a progressive mind like my own. However, I feel obliged to the honorable senator for having confirmed the view which I expressed yesterday in regard to the two “ Bills dealing with the Public Service that have already been submitted to us. He has stated that, under the amending Public Service Bill, instead of having one Public Service Commissioner, we are about to incur the expenditure that will be involved in the appointment of three Commissioners. He has also pointed out that, under the Bill, which we are now discussing, instead of our public servants going before the Arbitration Court in the ordinary way, they are to be given a. Court exclusively their own. Consequently, all the promises made by the Government in respect of industrial reform
– That is a different matter entirely.
– If the Government are so anxious to bring forward a system of industrial reform, surely they have an excellent opportunity of doing so now. Only last night, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in another place, dealt with this very question of industrial reform. He went to considerable trouble to show that the present system of arbitration was wrong. Yet in the two Public Service Bills which have been presented for the consideration of this Chamber we are asked to adopt the same old system which the Prime Minister himself has condemned. If the new method of settling industrial disputes which he outlined last evening is an ideal one, the Government will be acting wisely if they introduce it into our Public Service. Surely they should put their own house in order before dealing with the houses of other people.
– As one who listened to the speech made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in another place, I cannot admit that he condemned the principle of arbitration, as has been suggested by Senator Foll. What the right honorable gentleman did say was that the arbitration system had not proved the success which had been anticipated. He pointed out that it had not proved a panacea for industrial strife, though it had achieved a vast amount of good. The Bill which we are now considering merely seeks to further the principle of conciliation without abandoning the principle of arbitration. The contention of honorable senators opposite is that, without consulting either the responsible officers of the Public Service or the Board of Management which is to be appointed, the associations within the Service may appeal direct to the Arbitrator. It has been argued that the adoption of such a course would injure the discipline of the Service. That may be so. But would not the objection of honorable senators be met if sub-clause 2 of clause 12 were amended so as to make it read -
Any organization having failed to obtain satisfaction from the Commissioner-
– This Bill will come into operation before the proposed Board of Management for the Public Service is constituted.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.80 p.m.
– It has been suggested to me by Senator Elliott that the insertion of the words “ having a dispute with the Commissioner,” after the word “ organization,” would be more acceptable. I have no objection to substitute those words for those I put forward, as they will get over the difficulty in which some honorable senators seem to find themselves. They seem to think that the different organizations within the Public Service might ignore the Commissioner, or the Board which is to be appointed, and go direct to the Arbitrator for the settlement of their grievances, and it is the general wish of the Committee that there should be an opportunity for organizations to obtain redress and satisfaction from the Commissioner, or the Board, before the interference of the Arbitrator is invoked. I move -
That after the word “ organization “ in subclause 2 the words “having a dispute with the Commissioner “ be inserted.
.- The words proposed by Senator Earle are surplusage. The procedure is set down in somewhat different terms in the Act now in! operation, section 5 of which provides -
An organization of employees in” the Public Service of the Commonwealth shall be entitled to submit to the Court by plaint any claim relating to the salaries, wages, rates of pay, or terms or conditions of service or employment of members of the organization, and the Court shall thereupon have cognisance of the claim as if it were an industrial dispute within the meaning of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1911.
Under this Bill, the very fact that the memorial is presented to the Arbitrator is an indication to him that the organization is dissatisfied with existing rates of pay and conditions of service. In every branch of the Service there are rates of pay and conditions of service in existence. These things are not going to be originated The Board of Management, or the Commissioner, is the custodian of those existing rates and conditions. An organization may go to the Commissioner, and ask that certain changes be made. The Commissioner may do what it asks wholly or in part, or refuse to do it. If, when that decision is given, the organization is dissatisfied, it approaches the Arbitrator by means of a memorial. The procedure is already provided for. If the amendment now proposed is made, it will be necessary to include in the Bill a definition of “dispute.” There is an interpretation of “ industrial dispute “ in the main Arbitration Act.
– At the present time, does an organization notify the head of its Department that it is filing a plaint in tha Court?
– I am not aware whether that is done or not, but I think it is done as a matter of procedure. A number of law cases have arisen out of the definition of “industrial dispute,” and it is not desirable that we should complicate this legislation any more than is necessary. If the organization does not lodge a memorial, it’ is to be assumed that it is satisfied with the pay and conditions offered. If it does lodge a memorial, the Arbitrator must take notice of it, and follow the procedure laid down. I ask the Committee not to accept the amendment.
– I feel strongly that the words proposed by Senator Earle ought to be inserted. The desire expressed in all quarters is to bring employers and employees together, and not to separate them. The amend ment would insure to some extent that the Public Service employees would go before the Commissioner, or Board, and submit a claim. It is desirable to provide that they shall not go to the Arbitrator unless they fail to get satisfaction in that way first.
– There is a feeling amongst honorable senators that the public servants should not go direct to the Arbitrator without having first endeavoured to come to terms with the Commissioner, or Board, , by means of a round-table conference. The point was raised this morning that the Arbitrator could only call a conference after an objection was raised; hut there is some misconception on the part of some honorable senators on the question of whether a conference would be called on all occasions before the Arbitrator preceeded to take evidence, and practically set up an Arbitration Court.- An objection can only be raised by the Minister or Commissioner,- and in that event a round-table conference must first be called. Then I take it, the opportunity would be given to the Minister, or Com; missioner, to put his views before the organization affected. This would give an opportunity for an understanding to be’ arrived at, which might obviate the necessity for any appeal to the Arbitrator. There is no need, so far as this sub-clause is concerned, to talk about having a dispute, because there would be no dispute if the claimant organization asked for certain things and no objection was raised by the Minister or Commission(er. If the latter objected that the claim went beyond the means at the disposal of the Government, a round-table conference would first have to be called by the Arbitrator before the matter went to him for settlement. For that reason, I cannot agree to the amendment
– If sub-clause 2 is passed as it stands, I have not the slightest apprehension that public servants in any part of the Commonwealth will at any time go straight to the Arbitrator. If they want an increase in their payments, or ah, improvement in their conditions, they will do as they have done up to the present - make the application in the first instance to those immediately in authority above them. That application will go to the Commissioner, or Board, and it will only be when the public servants do not succeed in impressing the Commissioner with the justice of their claim that they will resort to the Arbitrator. That is the procedure and practice of to-day. It is common sense. An additional inducement to follow that course in the future is contained in the later provision in the Bill, that no costs incurred in connexion with arbitration shall be recoverable. Senator Thomas pointed out that public servants cannot go to the Arbitration Court without incurring costs and expenses, and I do not think that in any circumstances resort will be had to the Arbitrator unless they have failed to secure from the authorities immediately over them what they have asked for. For that reason the proposed amendment is unnecessary. It is also undesirable for the reason given by the Minister (Senator Pearce), that it will necessitate the insertion of a definition of the word “ dispute.” What would be a dispute?
– A disagreement.
– Whatever the word is, it will have to be defined. A claimant organization, may approach the Commissioner with certain requests, and the Commissioner may say, “ Those requests are reasonable enough, and I do not dispute their justice; but just at present the Government are so pressed with certain other matters that it is impossible to do more than! promise early and favorable consideration.” The claimant organization may then go to the Arbitrator, but the other side may urge, “ There is no dispute at all; we quite agree as to the justice of the requests, but there are other circumstances which prevent us from considering them favorably just at present.” Immediately we proceed to define a dispute or a state of disagreement, we open up the possibility of making this arbitration tribunal a place where we shall not get the speedy finality which we all desire.
– There is no appeal, and there cannot be any argument about it. If the Arbitrator says it is a dispute, then there is an end of it.
– Then, what is the use of putting in these words? The honorable senator has given an additional reason why the amendment is superfluous.
.- I have not heard any sound reason why the amendment should not be adopted. I realize, along with other honorable senators, that the general policy will be to negotiate with the Board in order to bring about a settlement of any disagreement before an appeal is made to the Arbitrator; but I judge, from the tone of the debate, that there is a general belief that organizations within the Public Service will be encouraged by this measure to. ignore the Board and go direct to the Arbitrator, and I have suggested a means by which this course may be obviated without loading the Bill to any extent whatever. Senator Keating’s argument has convinced me of the wisdom of excluding gentlemen of the legal profession from any of the proceedings before the Arbitrator, because, after all, there cannot be any doubt as to the interpretation of the word “ dispute.” A dispute must be a disagreement between two persons. Sub-clause 2, with the inclusion of my amendment, will read as follows–
Any organization having a dispute with the Commissioner shall be entitled to submit to the Arbitrator, by memorial, any claim relating to the salaries, wages, rates of pay, or terms or conditions of service or employment of members of the organization.
Organizations will have to show that they are dissatisfied with an attempt to bring about an agreement before they approach the Arbitrator. The inclusion of the two or three words I have suggested cannot possibly do any harm.
– You might as well summon a man for an amount owing before sendinghim an account.
– That might be done, but I do not think there will be an appeal by an organization to the Arbitrator before negotiations for redress of grievances have been carried on. with the Board.
– In order to clear away any doubt that might be in the minds of honorable senators, let me point to the procedure under section 50 of the Public Service Act -
Any officer (except officers of the Parliament) affected by any report or recommendation made or action taken under this Act other than a report or recommendation made or action taken under sections 31, 46 to 49 inclusive, 65, 66, and 73 thereof may, in such manner and within such time as may be prescribed, appeal to a Board consisting of an inspector, the chief officer of the Department to which such officer belongs, or an officer nominated by such chief officer and the representative of the division to which such officer belongs, elected under the regulations by the officers of the division to which such officer belongs in the State in which such officer performs his duties. The Board shall hear such appeal and transmit the evidence taken, together with a recommendation thereon, to the Commissioner, who shall thereupon determine such appeal……
The Commissioner at present has power to fix the salaries and wages of the professional and general divisions, to deal with new appointments, promotions, matters affecting length of service, vacancies, transfers, examinations, and conditions generally. In regard to all these matters there is provision in the Public Service Act for appeal, not to the Commissioner, but to a Board upon which officers of the Public Service are represented.
– So far as I can ascertain, the clause contains no provision for the Board or Minister to approach the Arbitrator direct for an alteration of any determination. The whole structure of the clause is based upon the assumption that dissatisfaction us to rates of pay and conditions of employment will exist only on the one side; namely, the employee. This is, strictly speaking, an Arbitration Bill, and it should contain some machinery to facilitate approach to the Arbitrator by the Board as well as the organizations, because awards made during a time of prosperity or when conditions are abnormal, as at present, may bo unwarranted on some future occasion when the co3t of living shall have receded to the normal level.
– The Board can take action direct without going to the Arbitrator, and the organization, if dissatisfied, may then, appeal to the Arbitrator.
– There is another point. I notice .that cases will originate by way of claim or memorial from employees. Now, any such memorial must be the outcome of a. feeling of discontent, eventually inducing the employees to approach the Board for an adjustment of grievances, and I can easily imagine tho time when the Arbitrator will be deluged with appeals, because experience teaches us that a favorable award leads to a very great deal of additional business.
– It is a good advertisement.
– That is so, and under these circumstances it is necessary that only bond fide applications be allowed. 1” suggest that special provision should bc made to insure that any complaint is indorsed by the general body of workers belonging to an organization. We should not leave it to any set of officials to voice the feelings of the organization. Some of us are aware that there is frequently a number of operatives in a trade union who never go to a meeting of the union from one end of a year to the other. They leave the control and policy of the union entirely to a set of officials, and very often those officials misinterpret the minds of the majority of the men they are supposed to represent.
– That is not the fault of the officials, but of the members of the union, who neglect their duty by failing to attend its meetings.
– Quite so. I do not say that it is possible to provide a complete remedy for that state of affairs, but I think that it is possible for us to provide in this Bill that before the Arbitrator is called upon to adjust a dispute he should be satisfied that the application made to him is genuine and is backed up by tho overwhelming majority of the members of the organization concerned, and is not based merely on the say-so of the officials of the organization. I am inclined to propose, as an amendment, the addition to sub-clause 2 of clause 12 of the words -
Every such memorial or claim must be accompanied by a certificate to the effect that a two-thirds majority decision of the members of such organization, at a secret ballot, has been obtained in favour of its submission.
Honorable senators may prefer that we should provide for a simple majority, but I favour, personally, requiring a twothirds majority of the organization concerned to be behind a memorial submitted to the Arbitrator. The object of such an amendment is, of course, to determine the feeling in connexion with tho matter in dispute that animates the general body of the workmen concerned.
– The honorable senator wants to bc quite sure that they desire an increase in wages ?
– Absolutely. We know that men placed in the positions to which I have referred are, perhaps quite unconsciously, in the habit of magnifying their offices and doing something that is unnecessary in order to justify their existence. I do not say that this applies particularly to the officers of trade unions. I do not know that members of Parliament are not sometimes affected by the same virus. We may wish to surround ourselves with something beyond the measure of dignity and importance to which our positions entitle us. It is not, I think, too much to say that some of the responsible’ mouth-pieces of trade unions are given to the practice of stirring up trouble in order to emphasize their own importance. I do not say that this applies to organizations in the Public Service, but we do know that persons occupying such positions have too often a false conception of their duties and responsibilities. They seem to think that they must be making an appeal here and there, and they are inclined to make men believe that they have grievances when, as a matter of fact, they have not.
– They find that keeping peace ‘is too monotonous.
– It is to checkmate the tendency to which I have referred that I think provision should be made to insure that the great body of the members of an organization should be behind a complaint before the Court to be set up under this Bill is moved to consider it.
– With regard to the first point raised by Senator Lynch as to the necessity of the Government represented by the Board of Management or the Public Service Commissioner, as the case may be, having the right to initiate a plaint before the Arbitrator, I suggest to the honorable senator that it is unnecessary to make any provision in- that regard. Under sections 19 and 20 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, the Public Service Commissioner presents to the Governor in Council - and that is the Government - his recommendation as to salaries, wages, and conditions in the Public Service. The Government of the day must approve that recommendation or reject it. If they reject it the Public Service Commissioner is called upon to submit a fresh schedule. If the Government approve of the recommendation the expenditure necessary to give it effect is included in the annual appropriation presented to Parliament. So that the honorable senator will see that the existing state of affairs has already received the approval of the Government and subsequently of Parliament. There is, therefore, no necessity to make provision for the Government or the Board of Management of the Public Service having the right to appeal against their own judgment. They have already given judgment. The existing state of affairs doesexist because they have consented to it. An appeal by them to the Arbitrator is, therefore, unnecessary. But the employees of the Public Service, on the other hand, have not had an opportunity to appeal, and it is the purpose of this Bill to give them that opportunity. They are the only persons for whom it is necessary to make provision for an appeal in this particular way.
– How are the Government to reduce wages recommended by the Public Service Commissioner or the Board of Management?
– By calling upon the Commissioner or the Board to submit a schedule on a reduced .scale. For instance, if the Board of Management were in office and the Government found that it was necessary to reduce wages, they would inform the Board that there was only a certain amount of money available for the payment of the Public Service during the current year, and would ask them, in submitting proposals for wages and salaries, to keep within the limits of the amount available.
– If the reduction suggested affected an award under this Bill the Government would have to proceed under sub-clause 7 of clause 12.
– I do not think so. I think they would proceed under the Public Service Act, which lays down the way in which salaries, wages, and conditions may be fixed or altered.
– That is only in the absence of any arbitration award.
– I think that that is the way in which the Government would always proceed.
– Not if we pass this Bill.
– I think so. Those who might feel that they would be unjustly treated by a reduction decided upon by the Government would appeal to the Arbitrator.
– The Minister is overlooking the fact that he is quoting legislation which was passed before any means of resorting to arbitration was provided for the Public Service.
– The Public Service Act is read along with the Arbitration (Public Service) Act and yet the Public Service Commissioner, as a matter of practice, has been submitting his proposals as to salaries, wages,’ and conditions of the Service every year.
– This measure will alter that.
– The Arbitration (Public Service) Act has been- in operation since 1911, and contains exactly the same provision as a provision contained in this Bill, only expressed in different terms, and still the Public Service Commissioner has annually presented his recommendations as to salaries and wages.
– But his recommendations have not conflicted with awards of the Arbitration Court.
– That is so; but I contend that if they did, and Parliament voted only sufficient money to cover his recommendation, an organization considering itself unjustly treated would have to appeal to the Court against the recommendation. It is not necessary to pro(vide that the Government should have the right to initiate proceedings before the Arbitrator.
To prevent other- than bond fide grievances being brought before the Arbitrator, Senator Lynch suggests the taking of a secret ballot by the organization concerned. Personally, I am very much in sympathy with the idea the honorable senator has expressed. I believe that if machinery existed for the taking of a secret ballot under proper conditions, many cases that are now brought before the Courts would not come before them at all. But I submit to Senator Lynch and the Committee that it is impossible by one sub-clause, such as the honorable senator proposes, to provide the necessary machinery for such procedure. I also .submit that it represents such a revolution in our arbitration policy that it should be embodied first of all in the general arbitration! law of the country.
– If it is a good thing, can we not make a start with it here ?
– I do not think that this is the right measure in which to make the change, because this legislation is really only supplementary to the main arbitration law of the country. As honorable senators are aware, it is the intention of the Government to introduce a Bill to amend the main Conciliation! and Arbitration Act, and, personally, I hope that some machinery can be devised to secure a true expression of the will of the persons concerned in any appeal to the Arbitration Court. If that can be done, I see no reason why the same machinery should not be applied to the Public Service. The honorable senator’s proposal could not be given effect to by the simple amendment he suggests. For instance, who is to take the ballot ? Upon what conditions is it to be- taken, and what guarantee will the Court have that it has been properly conducted, and that the members of the organization have actually voted ? The mere presentation of a certificate by some person as to a secret ballot will not be proof that a ballot has been taken. Much more elaborate machinery must be devised in order to give effect to Senator Lynch’s idea. While the object he has in view is a perfectly good ohe, it is, I think, better that we should wait until we have before us the measure for the amendment of the general arbitration! law, and if that does not meet with Senator Lynch’s approval, he can endeavour to secure any amendment of it that he desires when it is under consideration.
– Does the Minister not think that if a memorial is presented for increased wages, the Court will be justified in assuming that the organization concerned is behind it ?
– I think that the virtue of Senator Lynch’s proposal will be found to be not that it will’ prevent plaints being submitted to the Court, but that it will prevent direct action or strikes. The adoption of the honorable senator’s idea might have the effect of actually increasing the number of cases coming before the Arbitration Court; but I believe that it would decrease the number of strikes and prevent the resort to direct action.
Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) [3.141. - I direct attention! to the fact that sub-clause 7 of the clause under consideration provides that -
The Commissioner or the Minister of any Department of State affected by any determination of the Arbitrator may submit to the Arbitrator an application to vary the determination, wholly or in part.
There should be some provision in this sub-clause enabling an organization also to make an’ application for varying any determination of the Arbitrator, either wholly or in part. The sub-clause as it stands appears tome to be quite unfair. I can easily foresee a condition of affairs where the members of an organization may be smarting under a strong sense of injustice. Any determination arrived at by the Arbitrator will, I assume, cover a prescribed period; in other words, his decision will not be subject to variation at any moment. In this sub-clause the right is given to the Commissioner or the Minister to lodge an application for a variation of any award, either wholly or *” in part, but there is no provision whereby an organization may, owing, perhaps, to changing circumstances, seek a similar variation for the benefit of its members. Surely it is up to us to give our Public Service associations an equal opportunity with the Commissioner or the Minister to obtain a variation of any determination. If the Commissioner or the Minister has a right to obtain such a variation, most certainly those organizations should have a similar right.
– An organization mayact under sub-clause 2.
– But I anticipate that when under sub-clause 2 an- organization does submit to- the Arbitrator, by memorial, a claim “relating to the salaries, wages, rates of pay, or terms or conditions of service or employment” of its members, the determination of the Arbitrator will be for a specific period.
– - In most Public Service cases there has been no period fixed.
– But this Bill goes a great deal further than does the Public Service Act, and covers branches of employees which are not covered by that Statute. I cannot see that any harm will be done if we insert in clause 7 after the word “State” the words “or any organization.” In sub-clause 8 the organization is again brought in. It reads -
The organization, and the Commissioner or Minister, as the case may be, may, within the prescribed time, lodge any objections they see fit to make to the granting of the application.
Under that provision the organization has a right to lodge an objection. Why not give it the right to apply for a variation of any determination?
– That is because the application is being made by the Minister or the Commissioner.
– If the application has been made by them, why should they desire to lodge an objection to it?
– Does not the honorable senator think that the words in subclause 8 indicate that the organization has already acted under sub-clause 2 ? Otherwise the words of sub-clause 8 are meaningless.
– I can quite understand that it will be the organization which will move the Arbitrator for the purpose of securing an adjustment of the conditions of its members. But if a determination is to cover a prescribed period - even a period of only twelve months - it may be found within that time that the determination is not working in the way that it was expected to work, and the organization may therefore desire to secure some small variation of it. But under this sub-clause there is no power given to it to approach the Arbitrator and ask for such a variation.
– Is not the honorable senator’s point covered by the provisions of clause 14?
– I do not think so. There is no power given under this subclause to make any application on behalf of an association, and I want to see that power conferred by it. If the Minister has power to lodge an objection to the granting of an application, the Public Service associations ought to have the right to apply for a variation of any determination. I therefore move -
That after the word “ State,” first occurring, in sub-clause (7) the words “or any organization “ be inserted.
– I am of opinion that under sub-clause 2 an organization can apply for a variation of an award. I think that this is implied by the language which is employed in subclause 8 of this clause. The sub-clause sets out -
The organization, and the Commissioner or Minister, as the case may be, may, within the prescribed time, lodge any objections they see fit to make to the granting of the application.
Obviously if the Commissioner or the Minister had lodged the application, there would be no need to provide that either of them might lodge an objection to the granting of it.
– Will the interests of the Minister and of the Commissioner always be identical?
– They may not be.
– The Minister may be applying for a variation of a determination, and the Commissioner may be objecting to any such variation.
– However, I see no objection to the insertion of the words proposed by Senator Duncan.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That at the end of sub-clause 7 the following words be inserted: - “or to the Commissioner and the Minister of the Department affected by the application, if the application to vary has been made by an organization.”
.- As this is one of the most contentious clauses in the Bill, and as the majority of honorable senators are anxiously awaiting an opportunity to peruse Mr. McLachlan’s report upon the Public Service, which is now in the hands of the Government Printer, I suggest that the Minister should consent to report progress.
– I think that we should proceed with the consideration of the Bill. This clause may be recommitted if necessary.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 -
For the purposes of this Act, the Arbitrator shall have power as regards any claim or application of which hehas cognisance under this Act -
– This clause contains no provision for consultation between Departments which are affected by a particular determination being declared to be a common rule. There ought to be some provision in it to enable the wishes of other branches which may thus be brought within the scope of any determination to be clearly ascertained. Otherwise a great deal of hardship may be inflicted. I would suggest that at the end of sub-clause e the following words should be inserted : - “ Before such common rule is made, any organization whose members are likely to be affected by it shall have the right to submit evidence and arguments on the matter.”
.- This is one of the cases in which, if the contingency referred to by Senator Senior did arise, the Department or the Minister or Commissioner, or organization concerned, would apply for a variation of the award. We have provided machinery for that in the clauses already passed. If the common rule was likely in their opinion to injure them in any way, they would operate the machinery provided in clause 12 in order to get before the Arbitrator to show that the common rule should not apply to them.
– The common rule would have to be in operation before the Minister’s argument would apply. My point is that when the Arbitrator declared that the common rule should apply, and before it came into operation, the organizations should have the opportunity of showing why it should not apply to them. To follow the course indicated by the Minister would mean beginning an entirely new case and arguing it again before the Arbitrator. I want to allow the organizations to make their representations as part and parcel of the first proceeding. The Minister’s suggestion would simply mean finding more work for the Arbitrator to do. Before an organization could start another case, its members might have to suffer for a considerable time under the disadvantage of an award being made into a common rule and applied to them.
– Before the Arbitrator exercised his’ jurisdiction under paragraph e and made a common rule of any particular term, he would inform himself as to its applicability to that part of the Service in respect of which it was to be made a common rule. If he were inexperienced he might not do so on the first occasion, but after one experience of that kind he would soon learn wisdom, and, before making a common rule of this character, inform himself as to the exact conditions and give an opportunity to be represented to those who should be represented because of the fact that the common rule was to be applicable to them.
– Do you think it. is possible in a service of that character to make a common rule?
– It may be in certain circumstances. If the Arbitrator does not so inform himself, and does not give those affected an opportunity to be represented, it will be open to them, as pointed out by the Minister, if they are an organization, or it will be open to the Minister or the Board, to take action under clause 12. I am not sure that it would not be possible by means of regulations under clause 22 to provide certain machinery for the Court functioning under clause 14, and to prescribe the necessary forms for the notification of persons to be affected:
– But provision is not made for that to be done in the clause which enables the common rule to he applied.
– It is not, but it is possible under clause 22 to frame regulations, rules, and forms for giving the necessary notice.
.- I move-
That in paragraph e after the words “ Public Service,” second occurring, the following words be added: - “Provided that before any such common rule is made any organization whose members are likely to be affected by it shall have the right to submit evidence and arguments on the matter.”
That is not mandatory. It simply gives organizations the opportunity to inform the mind of the Arbitrator as to how the common rule will affect them. I am not very much impressed by Senator Keating’s suggestion that the necessary provision can be made by regulation. My experience of rules and regulations is that under them anything is possible to those who want to do it. Regulations are very voluminous, and it will be much clearer and simpler to include in this Bill a few simple words giving the organizations the right to be heard before the common rule is applied to them.
– I ask Senator Senior not to press the amendment. We should not act on the assumption that these proceedings take place in the dark, and that nobody knows that they are going on. The ‘ organizations affected oan be trusted to keep a strict eye on all that happens before the Arbitrator. Any one who’ has studied the operations of the Arbitration Courts knows that that is so. If Senator Senior is in earnest in proposing the amendment, he has not gone far enough. He assumes that the only people who will be affected by the common rule are the members of organizations, whereas the Minister and the Commissioner, or the Board, will also be affected. If there is any necessity to notify the organizations, it is also necessary to notify the Minister or the Commissioner, so as to allow them to intervene. If the Arbitrator were so foolish as to make a common rule without notifying those concerned - and, as Senator Keating points out, he would always notify them, because it would be common sense to do so - the organization, or the Minister, or the Commissioner, could apply for a variation of the award.
– The Government are placed in an entirely different position from an organization. They are all the time in touch with what is going on, and can in’tervene in the case before the common rule applies, whereas an organization would be shut out. The two cases are, therefore, not parallel. All I want is to give common justice to those who may be affected by the common rule. I have- no wish to be obstructive. T desire to make the measure useful. No common rule should be applied to the disadvantage of any branch of the Service without their first being heard.
– “Will organizations have to submit their rules to anybody for approval, as ls necessary now under the Arbitration Act?
.- When an organization applies for registration, it has to submit a copy of its rules. That is provided for by regulation.
– Is this Bill to be incorporated in the Arbitration Act?
Clause agreed to.
Clause 15 agreed to.
Motion (by Senator E. D. Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral a matter of some interest to honorable senators, and I am mentioning the matter now, not in the expectation of obtaining a definite answer, but in the hope that when we are dealing with the Supply Bill next week, I may have an opportunity to refer to it again, when I trust that the Minister will be in a position to furnish me with a reply. I have no desire to mention names, because I am dealing rather with the principle than with an individual complaint. I was under the impression that an injustice had been done to an officer of the Department, and made application to see the papers, in order to satisfy myself as to whether what I had heard was correct or otherwise. I telephoned to the Department, and, in the absence of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise), the secretary informed me that, as soon as the Minister’ returned, the matter would be brought under his notice. Subsequently I received a letter stating it was not the practice of the Department to allow a perusal of the files and papers dealing with matters under the Public Service Act, and regretting that the PostmasterGeneral was unable to see his way clear to depart from the principle laid down by his immediate predecessors, that such papers were only to be produced as the result of action in Parliament, and then only when strong presumptive evidence was submitted that a miscarriage of justice had occurred. It came as a surprise to me to learn that an honorable senator may not see papers in cases like this. I think the principle laid down is an unwise one. To require an honorable senator to submit a motion dealing with a complaint before he can have access to departmental files seems to me like using a big steel hammer for the purpose of cracking a nut. Even then the Department might argue that an honorable senator had not submitted a sufficiently strong case to justify permission to peruse the papers. If access to the files is denied, an honorable senator might, when submitting a resolution, put up a very strong case, but, after perusal of the papers, he might have reason to regret that he had taken any action at all.
– I shall discuss the matter with the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise), and give the honorable senator a reply as soon as possible. It seems to me to be much better to’ allow honorable senators access to departmental files in the circumstances mentioned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 July 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19200730_senate_8_92/>.