8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Eon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers. war gratuity bonds.
Use for Purchase of Land.
Senator WILSON (for Senator Gardiner) asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Is a returned soldier permitted to give a gratuity bond in return for land -
(a) to the owner of the land;
(b) to afirm engaged in the business of selling land?
Senator pearce. - The answer supplied by the Minister for Repatriation is as follows: -
(a) and (b). Subject to the consent of the Secretary to the Treasury having first been obtained, a war gratuity bond may be used in payment or part payment for land.
Report of Ewing Commission
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answer is- 1 and 2. Assuming that the honorable senator refers to a letter from counsel for Mr. H. E. Carey, Dr. J. A. Gilruth, and Mr. Justice Bevan, regarding the report of Ml. Justice Ewing, I would invite the honorable senator’s attention to the fact that a copy of this communication was laid on the table of the Senate on the 22nd July. lieutenants parer and Mcintosh.
Recognition of Flight : England to Australia
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to recognise the wonderful flight from England to Australia made by Lieutenants Parer and Mcintosh, and, if so, in what manner?
– Ministers warmly associate themselves with the widespread appreciation of the magnificent contribution made by Lieutenants Parer and Mcintosh to Australian aviation, and consideration will be givento the question as to whether some tangible recognition of their achievement can be accorded to them.
In Committee (Consideration ‘resumed from 30th July, vide page 3145) :
Clauses 16 and 17 agreed to.
Clause 18 -
No person or organization shall in any proceeding under this Act be represented by counsel or solicitor.
– This is a clause to which I thought the Committee might give some consideration, though I am quite in accord with its purpose to debar the employment of solicitors. I direct attention to the fact that the word “counsel” has a very wide meaning, and that the secretary of an organization may be counsel for it before the Arbitrator. It may be very necessary that he should appear on behalf of the organization to which he belongs. I think the clause would be improved if the word “ counsel” were left out.
– No difficulty can arise in connexion with this clause. A similar provision has been in operation since 1911. Clause 12 of the existing Arbitration Public Service Act provides that -
No organization or person shall in any proceeding under this Act be represented by counsel or solicitor.
Though this bas been the law since 1911, in all the cases that have been heard under the existing . Act the associations have always been represented by their secretaries.
– The Court might have winked at the difficulty.
– No. “ Counsel,” as used in the clause, is a well-known legal term and covers persons other than solicitors.
Clause agreed to. ‘
Clauses 19 and 20 agreed to.
Clause 21 - (1.) The Arbitrator may make a determination which is not in accord with an award or order of the Court, but, except as provided in this Bection, is not empowered to make any determination which is not in accord with the laws of the Commonwealth and the regulations made thereunder. (2.) The Arbitrator may, where he thinks it proper to do so, make a determination which, in his opinion, is not, or may not be, in accord with a law or regulation of the Commonwealth relating to the salaries, wages, rates of pay, or terms or conditions of service or employment of employees; but in that case he shall send to the Prime Minister, and to the AttorneyGeneral, with the certified copy of the determination, a statement of the laws or regulations of the Commonwealth with which, in his opinion, it is not, or may not be, in accord. (3.) The Prime Minister shall, within fourteen days after its receipt, if the Parliament is then sitting, or if not then within fourteen days after the next meeting of the Parliament, cause the determination, and the statement (if any) of the Arbitrator, to be laid before both Houses of the Parliament. (4.) If, before the determination is laid before the Parliament, the Attorney-General advises, the Prime Minister that in his opinion the determination is not in accord with any law or regulation of the Commonwealth referred to in the opinion, the Prime Minister shall cause the opinion to be laid,’ together with the determination, before both Houses of the Parliament.
– After reading the report of Mr. McLachlan on the Public Service, I must again express my regret that it was not in the possession of honorable senators before they were called upon to discuss this Bill. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) said some time ago that the report would not have assisted honorable senators in dealing with this measure, because Mr. McLachlan is against arbitration for the Public Service, lock, stock, and barrel. It is true that Mr. McLachlan is against the existing system of arbitration in the Public Service, and it appears to me that the Government have endeavoured in this Bill to meet some of his objections to the present system. I have to admit that I go a long way with Mr. McLachlan in the objections he raises to the existing system, and regard some of them as unanswerable.
There are a number of men in the Public Service who have been refused admission to the associations in the Service, and only those who are members of associations are entitled to benefit by an arbitration award. I understand that that is in accordance with the policy of the Government, and is provided for by regulation. I am in full accord with that regulation. It is only fair that those who do not contribute to the expense of se curing an arbitration award should not benefit from it. That is a policy which, in common with others, I have supported as a member of the party with which I have been associated in the past. But it is important to remember that immediately preference is granted in that way to members of an association, it should not have the right to close its books to persons desiring to join it. When the general arbitration measure was under consideration, Senators Pearce, Russell, myself, and others strongly defended the principle of preference to unionists, but we laid it down distinctly that immediately a Judge of the Arbitration Court granted preference to unionists, the union should not be allowed to close its books to any one desiring to join it. I have no objection to unionists receiving the benefit of an award which they have assisted to secure, but we have no right to say that where preference is granted to unionists a person willing to become a member of the union should not be allowed to do so.,
– It was suggested that the provision giving preference to unionists would be interpreted as “ spoils to the victors.”
– I remember that when the matter was being discussed here we were not prepared to allow a union to close its books if preference were given to its members under an award. If that principle applies to unions affected by an award of the general Arbitration Court it should have equal force in the Public Service. Mr. McLachlan says in his report that a number of officers who went to the Front found on their return that because they held certain views on the question of conscription they were debarred from becoming members of certain associations in the Public Service. In the circumstances, should these associations obtain an award in the Public Service Arbitration Court, the returned soldiers referred to would not be entitled to benefit by it. I yesterday asked a question to discover whether that statement was correct, but while inquiry was promised, Ministers were for the moment unable to give me a reply.
– Representatives of the soldiers in Public Service associations are meeting in conference in Melbourne. They assured me that they have no complaint whatever on this ground. 1
– That meets my objection, so far as they are concerned. I am aware that Mr. McLachlan has referred to the matter in his report. The case he puts up is a very strong one as affecting returned soldiers employed in the Service, hut the same contention maybe urged in favour of any member of the Public Service. If a person will not join an association and so contribute to the cost of bringing about an award, he should be debarred from the benefits of that award, but if he is willing to become a member of the association he should not be prevented from doing so.
– How would the honorable senator overcome the difficulty where such a person cannot induce anybody else to propose him for membership, as is the casein connexion with some unions outside the Public Service?
– I think that difficulty would be met if the person concerned could show that he had tried to become a member of an association. He would not then be debarred from the benefits of an award procured by that association. Under this clause the Arbitrator is given the power to make an award even against a regulation of the Commonwealth. I understand that there is Public Service regulation to the effect that only those who are members of an association which has secured an award can reap the benefit of it, and if that is thecaseI would like some definite understanding to be given that the books of that association are not to be closed to any one, or that any person refused admission to the organization shall come under the award just as it applies to any member of the union.
.- The point raised by the honorable senator is a very interesting one, and in the past has proved very troublesome, having taken up, I suppose, more of the time of Cabinet than has any other portion of the Public Service regulations. In fact, at times it has proved to be a veritable nuisance. There is a good deal to be said for the contention of the honorable senator, that only the members of an association which puts into operation the machinery of the Public Service Arbitration Act, and in that way possibly obtains some benefit, should secure any advantage which is gained. In theory the principle seems almost unassailable, but in practice ithas been found capable of great abuse. For one thing, it penalizes those members of the Public Service who remain loyal to the Government when it becomes a question of loyalty to the association of which they are members or of loyalty to the Government, of whom they are the servants. All, sorts and conditions of public servants are to be found in these associations. Some of them are heads of sections or foremen, and at times it is a question with them as to whether they, shall remain loyal to the Government or stand by. their association. It is obvious that if the Government, cannot rely on such men to look after its interests it is quite unprotected, and that when a clash of interests arises these men are put in the position that they cannot reap the advantage of any increased award unless they remain loyal to their association, we at once drive them into the arms of the association as against the Government. This, however; is just what has happened in a great many instances, and the Government have felt compelled to remove that regulation. It is no longer in force. One of the reasons actuating the Government in coming to that decision was the very instance Senator Thomas has mentioned, namely, that in the past members of the Public Service have been denied membership of associations, and thus have notbeen able to reap the advantage of any arbitration award. It is a difficult matter for the Government to police the discipline of an organization. Its rules may be all right, and, of course, they must be submitted to the Registrar of the Arbitration Court ; but rules which may be perfectly innocent on the face of them can be administered in a way that will have a harmful effect. Withmany instances, such as the cases quoted by Senator Thomas and those I have mentioned, before them, the Government eventually decided that the only way in which to protect men who felt it was their duty to stand by the Government in certain contingencies, or who held strong convictions of a political or other character which prevented them from joining an association, was by declaring that when the Arbitration Court delivered an award all members of the Public Service concerned in it should be paid what the Court determined they should receive. The amending regulation carrying that decision into effect was passed some time ago, and now the position is that subsequent to an award being tabled in Parliament, and no dissenting resolution having been carried here, all members of the Public Service receive what the Arbitration Court say they ought to receive.
. - I was not aware thatthe regulation to which I drew attentionhad been amended. However, as this has been done, and all members of the Public Service axe now on the same footing, there is no need for me to press the point I put forward.
– This clause gives the Arbitrator control over wages and conditions of labour, and therefore runs counter to the intentions of another Bill before the Senate providing that the Board of Management of the Public Service shall also have control over wages, conditions of labour, and so on. Unless we eliminate the power of the Board we shall thus be setting up a dual control. Again, the decisions of the Arbitrator may come into conflict with the awards of the Arbitration Court. In fact, we shall be getting into a real tangle owing to the fact that we have before us two measures instead of one in which we could see quite clearly what we are doing. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) told usthe other day that he proposed to introduce a third Bill,so that there is a possibility of still greater conflict arising. It is quite patent to any one who considers the matter that we ought to have one ‘Bill dealing with the Public Service instead of legislating piecemeal in this way and each time coming up against an obstacle of greater dimensions than before. The first purpose of this clause is to give the Arbitrator supreme power to make an award which may or may not be in accord with an award of the Arbitration Court relative to persons carrying on similar work outside the Public Service, and as it also impinges on the authority of the Board of Management I do not think we ought to agree to it until we have dealt with the other Bill. Having made an award, the Arbitrator is obliged to inform the Prime Ministerand AttorneyGeneral of what he has done. Here again by inference we are going directly against what may be done . outside the Service. The purpose of the Bill is supposed to be to bring about greater contentment and peace and consequently economy in the Public Service, but here, by inference, we are setting up a position in which the conditions applying in the Public Service may differ from those ‘established by the Arbitration Court in regard to similar work outside, and thus possibly creating greater trouble than now exists. The clause is pregnant with any amount of disturbance and commotion in the Public Service.
– The conditions in the Public Service may not be thesame as those outside.
– There are many cases in which public servants do work which is absolutely similar to that done outside the Service. Engineers employed in the Commonwealth Service are members of an outside union. Yet it will be possible for the Arbitrator to arrive at an award quite dissimilar from that under which the outside engineers are working. That is a state of affairs which is not likely to create peace. In the Postal Department there are a hundred and one avenues in which we have men doing work similar to that which is done outside the Service. The clause gives immense power to one individual.
– The object of the clause is to limit his power.
– If three Judges of the Arbitration Court were given similar power to bring in awards distinctly different from existing awards in the same service trouble would immediately arise.
– I draw attention to the fact that the honorable senator is really debating the power of the Arbitrator and the general scope of the Bill. This clause does not deal with any of the principles to which he is directing the attention of the Committee. It refers only to the power of Parliament or the Government toreview an award of the Arbitrator. I contend that it is not competent for the honorable senator to discuss the other provisions of the Bill or the power of the Arbitrator.
– I understood Senator Senior indicated that he merely wished to make passing reference to the subject in the discussion on this clause, and therefore he is in order; but I invite him to remember that he may only make passing allusion to any other clause that has been already debated and adopted.
– I thank you for your ruling, Mr. Chairman. It is also provided that the Arbitrator shall send to the Prime Minister and to the AttorneyGeneral, with the certified copy of the determination, a statement of the laws or regulations of the Commonwealth with which, in his opinion, the determination may not be in accord.
– But he is only required to do that if he thinks his award is in conflict with the laws or regulations of the Commonwealth. Senator SENIOR. - I agree with the honorable senator. I see great danger in. the clause, and I am afraid that, if passed in its present form, it will be unsatisfactory.
– I welcome the remarks made by Senator Senior, because they are in accord with opinions expressed by other honorable senators on an earlier clause of the Bill. So far from . legislating in the dark, I think Senator Senior is now seeing the light.
– I have never been in sympathy with this Bill.
– Well, only a few days ago a vote was recorded on one of the earlier clauses, with the object of achieving what Senator Senior apparently now wants to do, and he should have been with us. I trust now that he realizes we are creating two authorities, a .Board on the one hand, with extended powers, and an Arbitrator on the other hand, with still greater .powers, that when this clause goes to a division we may expect to see Senator Senior voting against it.
.- I think Senator Foll is quite right. He and some other honorable senators objected to the appointment of an Arbitrator, and tested the feeling of the Committee on this principle. From the tenor of Senator Senior’s remarks, it appears that he should have been with them in the division list.. This is not the clause upon which to test the feeling of the Committee as to whether or not we are to have a Public Service Arbitrator. This clause only gives the Government certain limited powers of review. Clause 20 provides for a determination to be laid before Parliament, and clause 21 gives Parliament power of review.
– But that clause will operate only in the event of the Arbitrator thinking that he has departed from the law.
– The honorable senator is quite wrong. Clause 20 provides that when a determination has been made the Arbitrator shall “ forthwith “ send a certified copy of it to the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral, and, further, that the Prime Minister “shall,” within fourteen days after its receipt, if Parliament ‘be then sitting, or, if not then, within fourteen days after the next meeting of Parliament, lay such determination before both Houses.
– But the determination will come into force nevertheless.
– It will not he effective until after the expiration of the period named. In- clause 21; which is now before the Committee, there is provision that the Arbitrator may make a determination which is not in accord with an award or order of the Court; but, except as provided in that clause, he may not make any determination which is not in accord with the laws of the Commonwealth and regulations made thereunder. Sub-clauses 4, 5, and 6 of the clause state -
– But that is only in the event of the Arbitrator thinking his award is in conflict with the law.
– No ; it is the common practice. This provision has been in the existing law, since 1911. And the reason is obvious - that Parliament will not agree to part with its control of the finances. It will not even agree to part with this control to a Minister.
– Under this Bill Parliament will part with its’ control.
– I assure the honorable senator that he is wrong, and that this provision has been in operation since 1911. The Government may at any time, in respect of any determination or award, submit a resolution that any part or the whole of it shall not come into operation; and if Parliament adopts such resolution, the award will be of no effect. This principle has been inserted into our law for the express purpose of retaining to Parliament this final right of review.
– Will the Minister get an opinion, from the Crown Law authorities on the point? I do not agree with him.
– No, I will not; because this provision is in the existing law, and it is the practice. It has never been departed from. I know what Senator Senior’s trouble is. He did not tell the Committee the whole of the story, but he expressed his opinion on the second reading of the Bill when he stated that as soon as an Arbitrator had given his award it ought to come into operation at once. That is what he wants, and if this Bill does not prevent that, as Senator Drake-Brockman thinks, Senator Senior will be happy, because he will have gained his point. There are two sets of opinion in this Senate. There are those who do not believe in the appointment of an Arbitrator at all. They want the Board of Management to have the last say in regard to the fixing of salaries, wages, and conditions of employment, and so on. They are against the Arbitrator absolutely. Senator Senior, on the other hand, wants the Arbitrator to be the supreme authority.
– You are not a good mind reader.
– But I have the honorable senator’s own words to support my contention. Senator Senior said, “We shall have to eliminate control by the Board of Management over salaries.” What does he mean by that, except that the Arbitrator shall be the final authority in this matter? Senator Senior then went on to say that there appeared to be some confusion in the minds of some honorable senators. I agree that there is some confusion, but it is only in Senator Senior’s mind. He said, “ The clause gives the Arbitrator supreme control.” It does nothing of the kind. It gives Parliament the supreme control.
It might be as well if I state again what is the purpose of these two Public Service Bills. At present we have a Public Service Commissioner and a Public Service Arbitrator in the person of a Judge of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, and it is desired to create a Board of Management in place of the Public Service Commissioner and to appoint a Public Service Arbitrator in place of the Arbitration Court Judge. The Bills do not alter the law in any other respect. The question for the Committee to determine is whether we should have a Board of Management and an Arbitrator in place of the Commissioner and an Arbitration Court Judge.
– I am sorry I cannot read into the Bill’ the interpretation which the Minister has placed upon it. So far as I understand the measure, it states that the Arbitrator shall inform the AttorneyGeneral of only such awards as may be in conflict with the law or a regulation of the Commonwealth.
– But do you not realize that every award is expressed in a regulation, and therefore every new award must be in conflict with it?
– There is no provision in the Bill that awards made by the Arbitrator to be appointed shall not be effective until promulgated in the form of a regulation.
– That provision is in the Public Service Act.
– While there is provision in the Bill to have the awards laid before Parliament, I take it that Parliament may only disapprove of any such determinations if they are in conflict with the law or regulations, and it seems to me that if an award is not in conflict with a regulation, it would come into operation at once.
– If it were not in conflict with an existing determination, there would be no alteration in wages or salaries.
– In that case there does not appear to be any need for the clause which we have just passed.
– The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has entirely missed the point which I have in- my mind. It may please him to say that this provision is already contained in our Public Service Act. I recognise, that clause 20 of this Bill is intended to govern an entirely different set of circumstances. My reason for calling attention to the clause which we are now considering is that it will import into this arbitration scheme the element of delay. When it becomes operative, who will suffer as a result of the delay ? Unquestionably, our civil servants. Cannot honorable senators see that under this clause we are asked to vest in the Arbitrator a power ‘to give decisions which will conflict with regulations made under Commonwealth laws or with an award which has been made elsewhere? My point is that when once an award has been given, if Parliament does not disapprove of it, its operation should be retrospective to the date upon which it was made. Is there anything inequitable in that proposal?
– Otherwise there may be a delay of three or four months.
– Exactly. Of course, a delay of that character is nothing to the Minister, although the few pounds involved in such delay may be a matter of considerable moment to our civil servants. What manner of man can be expected to make an award which will not conflict with some Commonwealth regulations, seeing that those regulations are as thick as leaves in Vallambrosa ?
– The addition of a few words to sub-clause 5 would achieve the honorable senator’s desire.
– But the Minister is not inclined to accept any amendment to the clause. I am merely pleading that when finality has been reached’ after an award has been made of which Parliament has not disapproved, the operation o.f that award shall date back to the time when it was made. I could cite numerous hit stances in which petty delays have occurred, merely . because the expenditure of a few pounds was_ involved. If the clause be passed in its present form tha Committee must accept full responsibility for it. I am content with having entered my protest against it.
– I quite agree with the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) that we should appoint an Arbitrator for the Commonwealth Public Service, but I do not think that we should endow him with legislative powers. Those powers have properly been vested, in the two branches of this Parliament, and I should not be a party to delegating them to any one man or set of men. I do not agree with the Minister’s interpretation of this clause. But, probably, we shall get what he desires if sub-clauses 1, 2, and 3 are allowed to stand as clause 21, and subclauses 4, 5, and 6 are constituted a separate clause. At the present time the position is that- an Arbitrator may be appointed who may not even be a lawyer. He may know nothing whatever about the interpretation of laws, and in the construction which he may put upon them he will have no counsel to assist him. He will not occupy a position similar to that of a Justice of the High Court, who is necessarily a man who is well versed in the law. The clause first provides that this Arbitrator may not depart from the law, and then it goes on to say that in certain cases he may depart from it. It further provides that if he thinks he is departing from the law he must acquaint the Prime Minister with the fact.
– We shall need a very special man, if he is to comply with all those conditions.
– Yes. To this Arbitrator we are asked to delegate legislative powers, and under clause 19 there can be no appeal from his decisions. The Bill contains no provision for bringing any of his decisions which may be contrary to the law before Parliament. The Minister for Defence has said that it does. I do not agree with him. But I think that we shall gain our object If we divide clause 21 into two parts in the way I have .suggested. I am of opinion that sub-clauses 4 ‘to. 6 are intended to apply only to ‘those determinations in which the Arbitrator believes that he has departed from the law. I therefore move -
That the word “the “‘first occurring in subclause 4 be left out, with a view to insert in Heu thereof the word “ any,” and ‘that subclauses 4, 5, and 6 be made a separate clause.
– I must confess that I can see very little in the contention of Senator Senior and Senator Drake-Brockman. To my mind, the clause -as it stands is a perfectly fair one, and what is more to the point, it is a thoroughly workable one. Evidently, the desire of the Government is to create’ a tribunal which will deal with all claims that may come before it as expeditiously as possible, in order that relief may be granted to our civil servants. Senator Senior is of opinion that the adoption of this clause will lead to endless delay. Upon the other hand, I believe that its adoption will make for expedition - certainly much greater expedition than would the adoption of Senator Senior’s suggestion. We have already determined that an Arbitrator shall be appointed. Who is to be that Arbitrator ? Unless we agree to the clause as it stands, it appears to me that we shall have to obtain the services of a legal gentleman of at least equal standing to a Justice of the High Court, because he -will require to possess the widest knowledge of constitutional law in order that he may be able to determine whether any question coming before him falls within the scope of Commonwealth regulations or not. Then there is to be no appeal from his decision. In the interests of the Public Service, it is advisable that we should appoint a gentleman who is thoroughly familiar with the needs of the situation from the Service point of view.
– We have already passed a clause which provides that the Arbitrator shall possess legal knowledge.
– But it is even more ‘necessary that he should know what he is arbitrating upon, namely, the conditions that obtain in our Public Service. We ‘are not so much concerned with whether ‘he is able to determine’ the admissibility or otherwise of certain evidence, or with whether what he proposes’ to do is within the four corners of the law . The power of deciding whether the decisions of the Arbitrator are strictly legal or not, is reserved to the AttorneyGeneral. When a Public Service organization appeals to the Arbitrator, if there is to be argument before him as to whether a claim is or is not within the regulations, or whether any determination which he proposes to make is or is not in accordance with regulations that have been previously passed, it will mean a delay of days or perhaps weeks, because it is manifestly impossible for him to give any fresh decision which is not in conflict with existing regulations. If it is made ‘impossible for the Arbitrator to give any determination which is contrary to existing regulations or determinations, it will be impossible ‘for him to do anything at all. Manifestly, he must have the power to give a determination which is not in accordance with previous regulations or decisions. Once we admit that he must have that power, Senator Senior’s arguments, and the arguments of Senator Drake-Brockman, must go by the board. I quite agree that we must preserve to Parliament the right to declare whether a determination of the Arbitrator shall be adopted or not; but that right is carefully conserved in this clause. I cannot see that any harm would result to the Public Service organizations from the passage of the clause as it stands. On the contrary, I believe its adoption would lead to expedition in settling the claims of organizations, and result in advantage all round.
__ I trust that we shall not make amendments’ simply for the sake of making them. Senator Drake-Brockman’s proposal to divide the clause into two will not alter its force or interpretation. To divide it into six would not have the slightest effect, because the whole- six clauses would deal with the one thing. They would all deal with the question of what becomes of a determination after the Arbitrator has made it.
Senator Benny. - The clause deals only with determinations of the Arbitrator which are inconsistent with Commonwealth law or -regulations. That ‘is what Senator Drake-Brockman wishes to remedy.
– This law has been in operation since 191.1, and it lies on those who ‘hold that view to produce one determination that has come before Parliament, and that has not amended the law or the regulations df the Commonwealth. They cannot think of a determination in regard to the Public Service that is not going to alter some law or regulation of the Commonwealth.
– That reasoning means that attention has to be called to all of them. Is that so?
– Yes; and attention is called to them. I am not surprised at new senators not knowing this; but Senator Senior knows that scarcely a month has passed in which a Minister has not laid on the table a determination of the Arbitration Court affecting the Public Service, accompanied by the certificate of the Attorney-General that such determination is in conflict with suchandsuch a regulation.
-brockman. - It may be in conflict with some other law.
– With whatever law it is it; conflict, the Attorney-General will draw the attention of Parliament to the fact.
-brockman. - I want :t as a matter of right and not of practice.
– It is a matter of right now. The Attorney-General, the duly-appointed guardian of the laws of the Commonwealth, holding his place by the consent of Parliament, has the duty of analyzing every one of the determinations. He does so, and if it involves any amendment of a regulation or law he draws the attention of Parliament to it. If there is no amendment of a law or regulation, there is no new determination, and nothing need be said. What will the procedure be? The Board of Management will bring in new regulations affecting rates of pay or conditions in the Public Service. The Public Service Association concerned will examine them, and, if not satisfied, will appeal to the Arbitrator. If the Arbitrator, after hearing their case, makes no change, where is the necessity for Parliament to concern itself, seeing that Parliament, by not disallowing the regulations, has already indorsed them, ‘and they have become the law of the land?
– Can the honorable senator name one instance in which regulations have been laid before Parliament and attention specifically called to them ? I do not know of one.
– I can name every one. I invite Senator Senior, as he has apparently not done his duty in this respect in the past, to look up the parliamentary papers. He will find that every determination laid on the table, where there has been an alteration, has been accompanied by the certificate of the AttorneyGeneral drawing attention to that alteration. I assure honorable senators that they are fighting shadows. If a determination alters the status quo, it must alter some regulation or law of the Commonwealth. If it does riot, where is the need for Parliament to worry about it at all?
– Then, if you agree with that, why not divide the clause into two, and we can all be happy ?
– Because there is no necessity to do so.
– Do I understand that, when a new award or determination is laid on the table, it supersedes the old regulation ?
– Certainly. All rates of pay and conditions in the Public Service are governed by Public Service regulations, which are laid on the table from time to time bv Ministers. The Arbitrator does not come in until an appeal is made to him by a Public Service organization. If the Arbitrator refuses to alter the regulation, we do not come into the matter. When a regulation is laid on the table, either House has the right within ~a certain time to disapprove of it. Any private member can give notice of a motion to that effect, and that motion takes precedence of Government business. The object of that standing order is to enable Parliament to control the Government issue of regulations. If a regulation is laid on the table, members receive copies of it, and, if they take no action within thirty days, it is assumed that Parliament has indorsed it, and it becomes law. If the Public Service has not appealed against it, and members have not moved against it, it is accepted. The machinery provided here is exactly the same as has been in operation since 1911, and amply safeguards the Arbitrator, the Public Service, and Parliament.
– At a previous stage of the Bill I expressed mv disappointment that the Government had not improved upon the old arbitration laws. It is apparent from the Minister’s explanation that the Bill merely substitutes a special Arbitrator for the Judge of the Arbitration Court. I should have thought that, from the experience of arbitration and the many defects revealed in it, some improvement would have been devised at this stage to make better provision for the settlement of these disputes. That might have been done by creating a Board where representatives of the employees and of the Board of Management of the Service could meet under an independent chairman. However, it is too late to include any such scheme in this Bill, but I agree with Senator Drake-Brockman that the amendment he has suggested should be made. It is clear that “the. determination” mentioned in sub-clause 4 of clause 21 can refer only to “a determination “ mentioned in the first line of sub-clause 1. If not, the draftsman should have used the following wording : “If before a (or any) determination is laid before the Parliament.” Any distinction of that kind would be made still more emphatic by making the provision into a separate clause, as Senator DrakeBrockman suggests. That ought to be done, and, if it is done, it will make it quite clear that “the determination” referred to in sub-clause 4 does not merely mean “ a determination “ referred to in subclause 1.
– “The determination” refers only to the kind of determination mentioned in clause 21.
– I do not pretend to be an absolute authority on the interpretation of Statutes, but if the Minister can see that the clause would be made a little clearer, he should give way and accept the amendment.
– I support the amendment, and believe that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) would be wise to accept it. All that Senator DrakeBrockman desires to do is to preserve to Parliament its power as the supreme arbiter. Two kinds of determination are referred to, one in clause 20 and the other in clause 21. The determination referred to in clause 20may be laid before Parliament, and the rights of Parliament in the matter are apparently not affected. But under clause 21 the determination referred to is clearly one about which the Arbitrator thinks there may be some conflict. It is to be submitted to Parliament, and under sub-clause 5 Parliament Is given the power to express its approval or disapproval of any such determination. If it expresses disapproval the determination cannot come into operation. All that Senator Drake-Brockman proposes to do is to strike out the” word “the” in sub-clause 4 of clause 21, because the determination there referred to is manifestly only a determination about which the Arbitrator is in doubt as to its acceptance.
– If the honorable senator’s interpretation is correct, will he tell the Committee when the determination referred to in clause 20 comes into force ?
– It comes into force as specified in clause 20. I am aware that the Minister does not consider thatthere would be any confusion between the determination referred to in clause 20 and that referred to in clause 21, but in my view it is quite conceivable that there might be, and Parliament might thus be deprived of its right to remain the supreme arbiter. The amendment proposed by Senator DrakeBrockman is a very small amendment to ask the Government to consent to, and it would make this provision more comprehensive.
Question-That the word proposed to be left out (Senator Drake-Brockman’s amendment) be left out- put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 22 agreed to.
Postponed clauses 3 and 4, and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
.- I move -
That the Bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of clause 12.
Honorable senators will remember that in Committee we made an amendment in clause 12. After review by the draftsman, it has been found necessary to recommit that clause, not to alter the substance of the amendment, but to put the clause in proper form.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Recommittal).
The Commissioner,or the Minister of any Department or State, or any organization affected by any determination of the Arbitrator, may submit to the Arbitrator an application tovarythe determination wholly or in part. The Arbitrator shall forwarda copy of the application to the organization affected by the application, and to the Minister, or 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.
– In this clause, on the motion of Senator Duncan, the Committee made an amendment, inserting after the word “ State,” in line 2, the words “ or any organization,” the intention being to give an organization the right to apply for a variation of an award. Consequent upon that amendment it has been found necessary to redraft) sub-clause 8, and I therefore move -
That sub-clause 8be left out, with a view to insert inlieu thereof the following: -
” Any organization or person to which or to whom the Arbitrator has, in pursuance of the last precedingsub-section, forwarded a copy of the application to vary, may within the prescribed time lodge any objections it or he sees fit to make to the granting of the application.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause further consequentially amended, and agreed to.
Bill reported with further amendments.
Debate resumed from 28th July (vide page 3015), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- This Bill is called a Public Service Bill, but it really deals with the appointment of a Board to control the Public Service, which is to take the place of the Public Service Commissioner under the existing law. The change proposed ismerely a change from the management of the Public Service by one official to its ‘management by three, with a possible alteration during the consideration of the measure providing that one of the members of the Board of Management, if that form of control is approved, may be chosen from persons nominated by the employees of the Service. We have been informed that this is not the only measure dealing with the Public Service that is to be brought before us for consideration. But this may be regarded as the management portion of the amending legislation. If we had one Bill before us covering the whole ambit of the Public Service, we could see clearly the relationship of this legislation ; but dealing with the Service in sections in this way we cannot see how the various measures will dovetail. Our difficulty is still more apparent when we learn that the Board of Management is to work under a Bill we have not yet sighted. It is peculiar that the alterations made in the Bill now before us are practically confined to the elimination of the word “ Commissioner,” and the substitution of the word “Board” in thirty-nine sections of the present Act. We may, therefore, assume that these thirty-nine sections will be included in the Bill which the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) promises is tobe brought in next, but upon which we have not yet had a definitestatement. Possibly, other sections will be omitted, and fresh provisions inserted in this succeeding Bill; but, in any case, here we are seeking to legislate for that which has not been made apparent to us without any conception of the relationship in which the Bill now before the Senate may. have towards legislation subsequently to be passed. However, we may assume that the Board of. Management will control the Public Service.
The bulk of the clauses of this Bill are machinery provisions, but in clause 11 the duties of the Board of Management are set out. In addition to such duties as are elsewhere imposed on the Board by the Bill, it will be called upon -
To devise means of effecting economies and promoting efficiency in the management and working of Departments by -
Improved organization and procedure.
The simplification of the work of a Department, and the abolition of unnecessary work.
I should think that “ improved organization and procedure “ would lead to “ the abolition of unnecessary work,” and that “ closer supervision “ would be a direct agent for accomplishing that end.
With “closer supervision” and “coordination” of the work of the various Departments, there must necessarily be simplification of work, and it goes without saying that “co-ordination” will abolish “unnecessary work.”
The Bill does not say whether those staffs are to be utilized in some other Department.
There is nothing to indicate the form that training would take, or whether any method of training is now in existence.
I cannot help feeling that if the work is simplified and organization and procedure are improved, and if closer supervision is exercised, the result will be the avoidance of unnecessary expenditure.
This is certainly breaking new ground.
We are. left in doubt as to whether the check referred to is a check on expenditure or upon goods purchased, or whether the reference is to the previous paragraph, which imposes on the Board the duty to advise upon systems and methods adopted in regard to contracts. If the reference is to the latter it is very desirable to have such a check ; but if it is to be merely a check on work done, I think that the checks already imposed are far too numerous. If a telephone engineer is sent from Adelaide to carry out some work at Largs Bay, and incidentally is instructed to pay a visit to the Outer Harbor and call at Port Adelaide on his way, he is supposed to charge a proportion of the time he occupies in travelling against the several tasks he has to perform ; and when he begins his work he has to note carefully whether he is using new wire from the store or old wire removed from a telephone in some other part of his district. It is a. case of check, check, check until hours of his time are occupied in filling sheets of paper with the necessary figures.
– There must be organization.
– Yes ; but there is a possibility of that organization running mad.
SenatorWilson. - But there must be a close check on any important work.
– When a man’s travelling time must be apportioned to five or six different jobs it is almost impossible for the telephone mechanic to be accurate in his returns. He must do a lot of averaging. However, the point I wish to make is that if all the checks already in existence are to be augmented by others enforced by the Board of Management,’ expenditure will not be lessened.
– The Board of Management will be a business Board, and will not require all the details the honorable senator has mentioned.
– Does the honorable senator claim that the present system is not business-like?
– I would go a long way towards saying it.
– When the request was put forward that one member of the Board of Management should be a representative of the employees, the Minister (Senator Pearce) objected to such suggestion on the ground that this is to be a Board which will stand in the relation of employers to the public servants. Now Senator Wilson suggests that it will be. an entirely different Board; in fact, that it will be a Board of managers, pure and simple.
– Is that not the spirit of the Bill ?
– I am not sure that it is.
In his. report, Mr. McLachlan strongly condemns the idea of having a Board of Commissioners; but yet suggests what is equivalent to it, because while he would make one man responsible, he nevertheless claims that one person cannot do. the whole of the work, and points to the necessity for having a Deputy Commissioner. He would also increase the number of inspectors’ we have in each State at the present time. He would appoint an inspector to be attached to the central office at the Seat of Government, and a travelling inspector to act as a sort of general supervisor to- the whole staff of inspectors. The question we have to consider is. whether the Board will be an improvement on control by a Commissioner. At present the Commissioner is responsible to the Minister. The proposed Board would be responsible to Parliament, but in effect there will, under this scheme, be dual control, that is, control by the Board and control by the Arbitrator, though the function of the Board will be to govern the Service, whilst the duty of the Arbitrator will be to adjudicate.
Again I call attention to the fact that we are somewhat at a disadvantage because we have no information as to the provisions of the promised amending measure affecting the Service generally. In a sense we are manufacturing machinery without information as to what the machinery will be called upon to move; we are building, as it were, an engine, without any knowledge as to the load that will be behind it. It would be an advantage if we had this other Bill before us, not necessarily for discussion, but in order that we might be acquainted with its provisions and thus be able to judge how far this measure, and that which we have just passed through Committee, will fit into the general scheme. At present we are providing for the appointment of a Board of . Management without any knowledge as to whom it will manage.
– The Board of Management will have work to do without any alteration of the principal Act.
– I presume, then, that the Board will take control under the present Public Service Act.
– I should say so, until the amending Bill is passed.
– Of course. The Public Service will continue just the same.
– But that measure could have been before us for our information, and when dealt with, it could come into operation at a date to be proclaimed.
– I must remind the honorable senator that he has already alluded to that matter four or five times.
– I am merely , referring to this subject by way of illustration and not for the - purpose of traversing again ground which I have already covered. We are in an exceedingly difficult position in consequence of this method of legislating by instalments^ and attempting to differentiate between matters, that are so closely -related.
This is to be a Board of Management and not a Board of employers, but the Bill represents an attempt to make the Service a thing a.part, although the trend of modern ideas of management suggests the opposite course. Two of the representatives on the Board are to be chosen by the Government, and- 1 feel that if the scheme is to promote harmony, and therefore efficiency, in the Service, the employees should have an opportunity to exercise some influence on the constitution of the Board. We might, I think, adopt the principle contained in the last Australian Soldiers Repatriation Bill, under the provisions of which members of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League were invited to nominate two or three members, from whom the Government selected one.
– But the position was entirely different. They are not employees of the Government.
– Then the Minister takes up the position that the Board of Management, as outlined in this Bill, is to stand in the relation of an employer of . labour, and not, strictly speaking, a Board of Management, although the interpretation clause clearly provides that “ the Board” means a Board of Management. That being so, the employees should have a right to a voice in the management of the Service. This, I feel sure, would promote harmony and lead to greater efficiency.
– Would you allow them to nominate one of their number to membership on the Board?
– I would allow them to submit a list of three or four names, from which the Government could select one.
– Would you allow them to nominate from the Public Service or outside?
– I would not confine them to the Public Service.
– If a member of the Board were appointed in this way, would he be responsible to the Public Service associations ?
– I should say he would be responsible to the Government, and absolutely out of the control of the Public Service. He would reflect the Public Service view on the Board of Management.
– How would he be reappointed?
– The Government could make the re-appointment in the same manner as the original appointment.
– On the nomination of the Public Service Association!
– Is the Minister averse to the proposal that there should bea nominee from the Public Service, seeing that the men will have to work under the Board of Management ? Surely he will acknowledge that no man is wise enough to have complete knowledge of all details connected with the workingof the Public Service. We may, of course, if we like, regard the Public Service as a body to be ruled with a rod of iron, or, on the other hand, as a body to be moulded and impressed in another way.
– Or as a body to rule us.
– Not if the Government have two out of the three representatives on the Board of Management.
– The Government must have a very bad case if with two out of three representatives on the Board of Management they are not prepared to listen to the views of a third, representing the employees. It might just as well be said that as the Government find all the money for repatriation the soldiers themselves should have no voice in the deliberations of the Board.
– But they are not employees.
– If the Government want to insure a . contented Service they must endeavour to meet the wishes of the Public Service. In the United Kingdom the Public Service have equal representation on the Board appointed by the Government.
– No. I have all that information here.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I was dealing with the question of representation on the proposed Board. I stated that, in Great Britain, the principle of equal representation was recognised, and the Minister (Senator Pearce) thereupon interjected that my statement was inaccurate. Possibly he had one thing in his mind whilst I had another. I know that, in connexion with Boards recently established in England under the Whitley scheme the principle of equal representation has been conceded.
– They are not Boards of Management in any sense.
– The Minister’s interjection recalls the fact that the Board proposed to be established under this Bill is to be a Board of Management, and, consequently, it will not stand in the position of an employer. If it were a Board of employers, it could not discharge many of the functions which it will be able to discharge as a Board of Management. The objection urged by Mr. McLachlan to the creation of a Board of Management is that it would lack elasticity. But the idea underlying this Bill is that the Board shall be vested with greater powers than has hitherto been reposed in the Public Service Commissioner. In that way it will possess greater elasticity, whilst the suspicion of autocracy will be avoided. We must also bear in mind that our civil servants are taxpayers, and that they have a perfect right to a voice in this matter. If the proposed Board can better achieve its aims in the matter of insuring efficiency and a more contented Service, by our public servants beinggranted equal representation upon it, the Minister’s argument, that even one representative of the Service on the Board ought not to be asked for will be destroyed.
– If it can. But the honorable senator has to first establish that fact.
– The Minister’s interjection demands that I should establish it. The reason for substituting the proposed Board for the Public Service
Commission is a desire to secure the advantages of -which I have just spoken. Otherwise we should be merely substituting three Commissioners for one, and thus imposing an additional burden upon the taxpayers without any corresponding advantages whatever. But if the Board is -to be clothed with. powers even beyond those set out in clause 11, it may became the medium for the settlement of disputes’ as well as the business manager of the Service, whilst at the same time it may safeguard the interests of public servants themselves. I would direct attention to the fact that, in connexion with the Admiralty to-day, there is a Board upon which the Admiralty Service has one representative out of three..
– That is a consultative Board.
– But in this Bill no provision is made for consulting the Public Service, which is to be controlled.
– The Service is not excluded.
– The Minister’s interjection is a very illuminating one. True, that the Service is not excluded, but it is not included. In New Zealand the Public Service has one representative out of three upon its Board of Management.
– I know that that information has been supplied to the honorable senator, but it is not accurate.
– I think that the Minister will find that it is not very far from being accurate. Under this Bill a Board of Management is to be constituted, and it should view matters not merely from the stand-point of the controlling authority but from, that of the controlled as well. Beyond that, I see very little in the Bill except the substitution of the word “ Board “ for “ Commissioner.”
– Is the honorable senator’s chief objection to the Board the expenditure that will be ‘involved?
– No. My objection to the Board is that if it is to express only the narrow view with which the Minister seems to be obsessed, it will prove a costly substitute for the Public Service Commissioner. But if it is to partake of an inclusive character, it will be so acceptable to the cavil servants that it will obviate much of the litigation which, hitherto, has proved costly, not only to themselves, but to the Government.
– Can the honorable senator point to any business corporation in the world upon which so little is spent in management - from the stand-point of. the top salaries that are paid - as is spent upon our Public Service?
– I thank the honorable senator for his. interjection. A strong plea has been made, for economy, and various comparisons have been instituted. I do not hesitate to say that the Public Service of the Commonwealth will not suffer by comparison with any private institution. Take our Taxation Department, by way of illustration. It must be admitted that there is no private firm in Australia which handles such a large amount of business as does that Department. If we look at the staffs which are employed by the various banks and insurance societies, and if we recall the commodious establishments in which they are housed, and then stroll down to Elizabeth House, we cannot fail to be impressed by the difference in the conditions which obtain there. I know one taxation officer who is housed in what was originally a bootmaking establishment. Instead of the Public Service” being extravagant, it is penurious from the stand-point of the accommodation which 1 it provides for its employees; and instead of being overmanned, almost any insurance company, doing only a reasonable amount of business, has more employees upon its paysheet. This remark does not apply to one Department only - it applies throughout the Service.
– Why does the v honorable senator compare the Taxation Department with an insurance company?
– Take our Taxation Department. No insurance company does anything like the volume of business that is transacted by our Taxation Department, and -yet that Department employs fewer hands. So that the cry about the lack of economy falls to the ground when a comparison is’ instituted.
– That is the honorable senator’s opinion.
– And ‘ it is an opinion which has been forced upon me as the result of investigation.
– The honorable senator has not gone into the matter very deeply.
– Take the firm of Elder, Smith and Company, or Dalgety and Company, as an illustration.
– The honorable senator has selected two df the best-managed businesses in Australia.
– Undoubtedly. Compare the volume of their business with that done by the Taxation Department, and yet I venture to say that they have more men upon their pay-sheets ‘than has that Department.
– Query !
– Does the honorable ‘ senator suggest that the men in Dalgety and Company’s do not work as hard as do our public servants ?
– I am suggesting that the cry which has been raised in regard to economy does not hold good. We must not lose sight of the fact that the private expenditure of such firms is, after all, as much the expenditure of public money as expenditure by the Commonwealth Government is. (
– Do you suggest that a firm like that of Elder, Smith, and Company -is overmanned?
– My -point is *hat, compared with that firm, the Commonwealth is undermanned for the transaction of an equal amount of business.
– You will not get anybody to agree with you.
– That may be so ; but ‘every man must at times find that he Stands alone in his opinion. A great deal of the talk about the Public Service being overmanned is absolutely groundless. Somebody has said it in the first place, and then others have repeated it. *
– It is very interesting to learn ‘that these capitalistic firms are overmanned.
– I am merely making the comparison to show that for the same volume of business the Commonwealth is undermanned. I am not in a position ‘to say that those firms are overmanned; but I am in a position to say that for the volume of business it does the Commonwealth Service is certainly not overmanned.
– You are not suggesting that Dalgety and Company are public philanthropists ?
– I am suggesting that ‘they are handling money derived from the public just the same as the Commonwealth handles ‘money derived from the pu’blic by ‘taxation.
– Order ! ‘What’ the honorable senator is discussing may be -very interesting, but it is beside the question.
– I wish to- combat the assertions so often made that the Government Service is overmanned, that there is a lack of economy, and that there are in the Service a number of individuals who are doing nothing, with others ‘watching them.
It will be necessary, in dealing in Committee with this machinery Bill, seeing that we ‘know nothing of ‘the contents of the other Bill which is to ‘be-brought before us, to effect alterations which experience has proved to be necessary, in order to make the Public Service Act workable. The mere substitution of a Board of Management for a Commissioner will not meet all that is necessary. In Committee we shall have to take up and amend those clauses in which certain important principles are at stake, and which are opened up for our consideration by the substitution of the words “ Board of Management “ for “Commissioner.” In the meantime, the proposition narrows itself down to the advantages to be gained by substituting a Board for the Commissioner. Mr. McLachlan speaks very strongly in his report on the advantages of having a Commissioner as against a Board. On page 27 he says -
It has. however, become evident that an ‘ inspection staff, which might have been numerically sufficient in the earlier years of Federation, has, with the large increase in departmental staffs and’ the greater complexity of Public Service questions, proved to be now inadequate. The pressure of official duties upon the Public Service” inspectors has reacted upon the Commissioner, who must of necessity pass in review much of the work of his inspectors and ‘accept the final responsibility for all administrative action.
That statement can be further stressed by the fact that the inspectors have had allotted to ‘them a number of other duties besides those originally assigned to them as inspectors, until they become unable to do their own work as adequately and thoroughly as Parliament desired in the first instance that it should be done. On this point Mr. McLachlan observes, further down on the same page: -
For the proper discharge of the duties proposed to be carried out under the new arrangements relating to Public Service management, provision should be made as follows: - Public Service Commissioner ; Assistant ‘Public Service
Commissioner; Public Service Inspectors (7), viz.: - Central Stalls, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Special Service.
Since economy is in the air, we must consider ‘ whether it would be more economical to have that increased staff which an experienced officer says is necessary to carry on this business, or to have the Board proposed by the Bill. The Board must also have many of the officers who,* in Mr. McLachlan’s opinion, are necessary to a Commissioner. We must decide which of the two systems will be the more economical, and which will be the more effective in handling the Public Service. That seems to be really the crucial proposition for us to consider.
– The one which was more efficient would be the more economical.
– Not necessarily so. An inspectorial service as designed by the ex-Commissioner, although effective from the point of view of supervision, might not be efficient from the point of view of management. Under Mr. McLachlan’s scheme the Commissioner might be able to tell, down to the last detail, how many men were in the Service and how they were performing their duties, but it would not follow that his system of management was better than that of the Board. The Public Service Commissioner is to all intents and purposes a supervisor or overlooker, but the Board as designed in the Bill is intended to be a Board of Management, which goes very much further. The Commissioner may be much more efficient and effective as a Service control, and it is for that reason that we ought to revise the whole of the Public Service Act most carefully.
If we believe the Board ‘ will be the more satisfactory system, we must so mould it that it will be not simply an employer of labour, but a power that will care for the welfare and advancement of those who are working under it. ‘That idea is suggested in clause 11, in the paragraph which sets out, among the functions of the Board, “ the improvement of the training of officers.” That is a function which would not come under the purview of a Public Service Commissioner, but would not appertain to a Board of management. I draw attention to the difference between the duties or functions which Mr. McLachlan considers that a Commissioner should have, and those of the proposed Board as outlined in clause 11. Mr. McLachlan, on page 30 of his report, divides into twenty-two headings what he considers should be the functions of a Commissioner. On reading these carefully, I cannot see that they go one step further than the present Commissionership as created by the Public Service Act.’ Although Mr. McLachlan has brought to bear on his report the experience that he gained during the years he was Commissioner, and has undoubtedly collaborated with the gentleman who is now acting as Commissioner, his suggestions in that regard would not advance the Service, in the sense of control or oversight, by one step. But clause 11 of the Bill, nebulous, misty and unclarified as it is, does present an . opportunity to make the Service very much better than it is. Under it, the outlook or vision of the Board will be very much broader than that of the Commissioner, and will take in many aspects, ! tending to the well-being of the Public Service, that are altogether hidden from the view of the Commissioner. In every sense I feel that the Board of Management will be preferable to the present idea of a Commissioner, even strengthened in the direction suggested by Mr. McLachlan.
– Order! The honorable senator has exhausted his time. I find that Senator Elliott, who’ has just risen, has already spoken on this Bill.
– Several honorable senators seem to be of opinion that this Bill should have awaited the bringing forward of the Bill for the general amendment of the Public Service Act. I do not share that opinion. We have had for some years - in fact right through the war - an Acting Public Service Commissioner. Anybody who reads Mr. McLachlan’s report will see what his view is of that state of things. It is most undesirable, and has not been satisfactory to anybody. If we were to appoint a Commissioner he would have to be appointed for seven years under the Act, and that would not be desirable if we intended to amend the Act. It seems to me that the right thing to do, as the Government have made up their minds, is to seek the consent of Parliament to the creation of a Board of Management as recommended by the Economies Commission. If Parliament does not agree to that, but prefers to have a Public Service Commissioner, it has an opportunity to say so in this Bill, but to hold up this Bill until the main amendments of the Public Service Act come forward is unnecessary. The two things are not necessarily bound up together. There is a Public Service to-day, and there is a Public Service Act. Some honorable senators speak as if those things will not come into being until we pass the amendments of the Public Service Act. The Board of Management, if created, will have something to go upon straight away.
asked what Departments are to come under the Public Service Act. Certain Departments are under it now, and it is proposed to extend its scope to cover other Departments and subDepartments. I can give one instance and that is the Defence Department. There is a number of employees of the Defence Department who are not at present under the Public Service Act, but who will be brought under the Act by the amending Bill. There is no reason why they should not be under the Act. The honorable senator further said that the Board of Management should know what powers they will have. The powers they will have are set out in the Public Service Act, and they will know what those powers are, and also the additional powers they will have under this Bill.
It is quite possible that before Parliament passes the main Public Service Bill we may be able to make appointments to the proposed Board of Management. In that event we shall be able to secure the advice of the members of the Board and any suggestions they might have to offer for the amendment of the existing law.
– Rather than the advice of men who have been working under the existing Act?
– Yes. Honorable senators are aware that I have had some experience as a Minister of the Crown. I have had experience of the results of commencing a factory and then appointing a manager of it, and also of the results of first appointing a manager and then establishing the factory. Senator J. P. Guthrie yesterday spoke of one of our factories, the Geelong Woollen Mills, as’ a very great success. Before anything was done in connexion with the establishment of those mills a manager was appointed. Every step taken in connexion with the establishment of the mills was then taken on the advice of the expert who knew all about the business. Where we built a factory first and then appointed a manager we had nothing but trouble.
– The manager of the Woollen Mills had worked in a factory for many years before.
– Of course, he had ; and the persons appointed as members of the proposed Board of Management will not be new chums, but men of business experience.
Senators Fairbairn, Senior, and others have put forward a view which is worthy of consideration. They suggest that the Public Service Association should have the right to nominate a number of persons, one of whom should be selected as a member of the Board of Management. That is a novel .proposal, but I agree that it is well worthy of consideration. Honorable senators have received a circular sent round by the Public Service associations and signed by a number of their representatives. In that circular certain allegations are , made. The authors of it say -
The Public Services throughout the world have realized of late the necessity for appointing Boards of Management to control the various Public Services.
They go on to .say -
The great Public Service of the United Kingdom, upon which the Public Service of this country is supposed to be modelled, some little time ago appointed a Board, on the basis of the Whitley Commission report, to control the Public Service.
In view of the first quotation I have made, I venture to say that any one reading the passage last quoted would naturally comve to the conclusion that the Board there referred to is a Board of Management. I shall show what it really is later on. The circular proceeds -
The Board appointed consists of equal representation from the officers of the Service and equal representation by the Government. Reports to hand from this body show that the result of their labours has proved entirely satisfactory to the Government of Great Britain, and arrangements are now being made in England to extend this principle by having Boards to control the activity of various Departments. It is proposed to grant representation to the officers on these Boards. Our request is that we should have but one representative on the Board of three, whereas in Great Britain they have equal ‘representation, with an independent chairman nominated by the Government.
Then reference is made to the action, not merely the opinion, of the New Zealand Government, in these terms -
The action of the New Zealand Government is also worthy of note in connexion with this matter. In connexion with the last vacancy which occurred on the Public Service Board of New Zealand, the Public Service Associations made representations to ‘the Prime Minister of New Zealand,’ with a view to being permitted to nominate a representative to fill the ‘vacant Commissionership. The Prime Minister of New Zealand agreed, and on their Board of Management of three they now have a representative of ‘the officers df the Service.
The authors of the circular say, further: -
It is also interesting to note that the Western Australian Government have offered to ‘the State public servants now on strike as one of the terms on which the strike should be settled the appointment of a Board to control the Service, upon ‘which the officers should have equal representation. This decision was arrived at, it ‘is under stood, as the result of a special meeting of Cabinet.
First of all, let me say that in Great Britain there ‘is no Public ‘Service Commissioner such as is provided by our Public Service Act, and no such control as is provided for under ‘this Bill. They have nothing analogous to what is proposed here. The Public Service in Great Britain is administered by the Department df the Treasury and not by a Public Service Commissioner or Board of Management. The circular of the Public Service Associations .evidently refers to the Whitley Councils, on which the Public Service is given representation on an Advisory Board. I shall elaborate that matter later.
Referring to. New “Zealand, there is at present there a Public ‘Service Commissioner and two Assistant Commissioners, and a proposal has been made that one of the three should be a representative ‘of the employees of ‘the Public Service. We have in the possession of the Department a report published by the Public Service associations of New Zealand, in which reference is made ‘to the fact that that’ representation was brought before the’ Prime Minister ; hut there is in the re- . port no statement by the Prime Minister of New Zealand that he Accepted the proposition’. ‘On the contrary, his reply was very non-committal, and no one can say, from reading it, that he committed himself to the proposition.
In the case of Western Australia, the only information I have ‘is obtained from the public ‘press, and my reading of what has appeared in the public press leads me to -believe that what has been proposed there is not a Board of Management at all, but something equivalent to a Wages Board, to deal with the recent classification scheme drawn up by the Public Service Commissioner of Western Australia. The Board proposed will not have any power of control, and will have the power only to make recommendations in ‘regard to classifications.
– It is doubtful whether it will be a permanent Board
– That is ‘so. It may be only a Board to deal with the existing classification which led to the recent strike.
I protest against this circular, suggesting as it does misleading inferences,. being put into the hands of members of ‘Parliament. It is an insult to. their intelligence. It assumes that they have no recourse to the press, and that we have not in our Parliamentary Library any documents from which we can discover what are the facts in connexion with these matters. I have some documents here from which I shall make a few quotations to inform honorable senators as to what is the exact position. I have here reports upon the application of the Whitley report to the administrative Departments of the’ Civil Service that were ‘presented to the Parliament of the United Kingdom. I shall deal with them in the order in which they were presented. The first was presented on 7th March, 1919. This is from a. report of’ a sub-committee of the InterDepartmental Committee on the application of the Whitley Report to Government establishments. They say in paragraph 5 -
We conceive that the main objects -of establishing a system of Whitley councils for the administrative departments are to ‘secure a greater measure of co-operation between the State in its capacity as employer and.’ the general ‘body of ‘ civil Servants in matters. affecting . the Civil ‘Service’’ with a ‘View to increased efficiency in the .public ‘ service combined with , the well-being of those ‘employed; to .provide machinery for the ventilation of grievances; and, generally, to “bring ‘together, with a view to the free discussion of many diverse and complex problems, the experience from different points of view of representatives of the many grades and classes constituting the administrative, clerical, and manipulative Civil Service of the country. We assume that the great majority of the civil servants who desire to see Whitley principles applied to the administrative departments have these objects in view. It is, however, possible that the scheme may have received support under the impression that its adoption will give civil servants a deciding voice in the settlement of their own remuneration and conditions of service. Any such proposal would of course, mean the abandonment by the Government of an essential part of the functions which it exercises on behalf of the community as a whole, and its effect could not be confined to theCivil Service.
That is exactly the opposite of the inference which might naturally be drawn from the circular of our Public Service associations. The report goes on to say-
In submitting, therefore, our recommendations for the formation of Joint Bodies and for a definition of their functions so far as possible pending further experience, we consider that a clear statement of these limitations should be made here, in order to remove any misleading impression which may otherwise be created in the minds of those interested.
General Considerations. - With a view to a clear understanding of the questions before us, we think it necessary to draw attention in the following paragraphs to certain general considerations which have a close bearing on the problem.
Differences between public and private employment. - It must be frankly recognised at the outset that there are important and vital differences between public and private employment which must necessarily modify the application to Government Departments of proposals intended and designed for private industry. Among the principal differences are -
The fact that the State is the ultimate employer of Government servants through the heads of departments who, consequently, have not the freedom of decision in regard to wages and conditions enjoyed by the private employer.
The absence of the check imposed by considerations of profit and loss and its replacement by Treasury control which, so far as questions of remuneration are concerned, is now subject to an appeal to the Conciliation and Arbitration Board for Government employees.
The fact that an employee in a Government office is not merely a private individual in public employment, but. is in a very real sense a servant of the public, and as such has assumed obligations which to some extent necessarily limit his ordinary rights as a private citizen.
I hope that honorable senators will pardon me reading this matter, but I think it is very essential that it should go on record. The report continues -
Joint Bodies for the Administrative Departments should be consultative and should have no Executive powers - It follows, in our opinion, that any Joint Bodies set up for the Administrative Departments should be purely consultative and should not be invested with any executive powers. It is obvious that a Minister wouldbe placed in an impossible position if he were bound in any way by a decision to which his subordinates were parties, even though he felt unable to defend it. The maintenance of Ministerial responsibility to Parliament presupposes that a Minister shall be free to accept or reject the conclusions of any Joint Council or Committee, even if they are unanimous.
The sub-Committee responsible for this report go on to set out how the Boards should be selected, their relations with the Treasury; and then, in paragraph 24 they deal with its functions, and say -
Functions. - We do not think it advisable to lay down in advance a close definition of subjects with which the National Council should deal. The Whitley Report itself merely indicates the general line on which developments should proceed. It is desirable, however, to point out the general scope of the Council’s work in certain directions, and. it has been found more convenient to do this under the headings of certain subjects later in the report (paragraphs 26, 27, and 44).
Those paragraphs dealwith matters to which I have already referred. The report continues -
Paragraph 27 sets out the lines on which they think the National Council should develop. The portion dealing with that aspect is as follows : -
Referring to the subjects to be. excluded from the questions to be dealt with, they say, in regard to remuneration -
Questions of remuneration will naturally come up for discussion at joint bodies. These questions often involve consideration of a very technical and complex character, and their satisfactory solution calls for an intimate and general knowledge of terms and conditions both within and without the Civil Service. We hope that such discussion will result in a material diminution of the number of cases referred for hearing to the Conciliation and Arbitration Board. Questions affecting the remuneration and grades common to the. Service should only be raised at the National Council (paragraph 26), and it may be advisable to set up inside Departments separate committees to discuss the pay of controlling and supervising officers (paragraph 36). A Departmental, District, or Sectional Committee will normally only be concerned with the remuneration of a grade peculiar to the Department or branch respectively.
In regard to promotions, they say practically the same. The summary of their main conclusions and recommendations is as follows : -
The main object of establishing joint bodies for the administrati e Departments are to secure greater co-operation between the State as employer and the general body of civil servants, so as to promote increased efficiency in the Public Service and the well-being of those employed, to provide machinery for the ventilation of grievances, and to enable all grades and classes to contribute their views and experience on many technical and difficult problems (paragraph 5).
There is no comparison between a body such as that and the Board proposed to be set up by this Bill. With all that is proposed in this document I have quoted I am in thorough agreement, but there will be nothing to prevent our Public Service Board of Management giving effect to everything that is being done in the United Kingdom, and I think they would be very wise in doing so. At any rate, they are the body to bring such a Board into existence, but as it is in Great Britain it should be a purely consultative and advisory body.
– Where, in the Bill, is the power to constitute such a body?
– Under clause 11 the Board of Management has imposed upon it the duty of devising means for effecting economies and promoting efficiency in the management and working of Departments by improved organization and procedure. Under that authority it would be well advised to form Boards such as the Whitley Councils of Great Britain for consultative and advisory purposes. But it cannot be argued that the Whitley Councils are in any sense Boards similar to our proposed Board of Management. However, a Board on the lines of a Whitley Council would provide a proper channel upon which the Public Service associations could have full representation. On the Committee appointed in Great Britain to consider the application of the Whitley report to the Civil Service, there were fifteen official representatives and fifteen representatives of the various branches of the Civil Service associations. There is no reason why something of the sort could not be set up in our Public Service. Personally, I would welcome it, and I think any sensible business Board would also welcome it, and derive a great deal of assistance from it. But supposing Senator Senior’s suggestion to have a nominee of the Public Service associations appointed to the Board of Management were adopted, and as the managers are to be nominated for three years, four years, and five years respectively, assuming that the person nominated by the Public Service associations is appointed for three years, who will be his masters? Obviously, not the general body of taxpayers. He will be the creature of the Public Service associations, and if he wishes to secure reappointment his task .will not be to please the taxpayers, or the Government, or Parliament, but the Public Service. I have no wish to be offensive, but I maintain that, as a member of the Board of Management, such a man would be nothing more than a spy for the Public Service, and would simply be occupying the position for the purpose of ventilating grievances. Furthermore, instead of the Board of Management being in the position to do the work it is intended to carry out - that of making the Service efficient and of advising the ‘ Government On contracts - its time would be occupied in the consideration of petty grievances.
– That would depend on the class of men appointed.
– But the nominee of the Public Service would be looked upon as the mouthpiece of the Public Service and as their champion on every case they chose to send to him, and at the end of three years, if he did not do what they wished, they would nominate some one else who would carry out their wishes and champion their rights. There is already, under the Public Service Act, a Board on which the Public Service has direct representation, and which has the task of remedying grievances.
– That is an Appeal Board; a very different thing.
– Yes. It is an Appeal Board, and the body before which the Public Service should appear to have all these matters considered. If we give representation to the Public Service on the Board of Management, grievances, instead of being finally dealt with by the Appeal Board, will be sent on to the Board of Management in all cases where the public servants are dissatisfied with the finding of the Appeal Boards. Con- » sequently, the time of the Board of Management may be spent in settling an endless number of appeals from the lesser Boards.
– Evidently cure is better than prevention.
– If we have a Board of Management of the kind suggested by the honorable senator, there will be something to cure. In this regard the public servant must take his position with the other taxpayers of the country. He has no more right ‘ to representation on the Board of Management, who are the trustees for the taxpayers of the country,’ than, any other section of the community. To give 30,000 taxpayers in this country special representation on this Board of Management would be unjust to the balance of the taxpayers. It will be the duty of the Board of Management to represent the whole, of the taxpayers and not a section of them. _ .
– I take it that in all probability there will be at least one man on the Board of Management who is a public servant.
– It is quite possible that there may be two public servants on. the Board; but, at any rate, they will not be at the beck and call of the Service generally. Senator Foll has suggested that in this regard we have set an example in the appointment of the Repatriation Commission. But such is not the case. The Repatriation Commission does not represent the employees of the Repatriation Department. To get an analogy with what Senator Senior suggests should be done, the Repatriation Commission would need to be elected by the employees of the Repatriation Department..
– My object in referring to the Repatriation Department was simply to point out that it was not necessary to have the Public Service Act in order to ‘have a Department controlled by an outside Board.
– I must have misunderstood the honorable senator. At any rate, Senator Senior quoted the Re- .patriation Department as an instance in which the Government had conceded special representation. We have not conceded special representation to the employees of the Department; they have no voice whatever in the selection of the Commission.
We all listened to the very interesting address delivered by Senator J. D. Millen in regard to the scientific testing tff efficiency. No doubt an up-to-date Board of Management will be quite open to adopt any of the suggestions the honorable senator, has made, and there will be nothing to prevent it from doing so.
Senator Elliott has asked that the Board should have more direct power, but his suggestion raises a very important and difficult question. The more we load up a Board such as this with executive power, the less freedom it will have for acting as a Board of critics or a Board of advice on questions outside the Service, such as the fixing of contracts for supplies. If a Department proposes to enter upon a big contract for a building or the purchase of material, the Minister may submit the matter to’ the Board of Management for its advice, and they will be in a position to look at it from a critical ‘ point of view, and say., whether they think the Department is wrong in proposing to do this or that, and recommend that it be done in quite a different way. If, on the other hand, we make the Board of Management the actual body to call for tenders and manage contracts, it would at once lose that freedom of criticism it would otherwise possess, and would be loaded up with executive power.
– Is it proposed to give the Board the functions of a Supply and Tender Board?
– Not necessarily. A Supply and Tender Board actually calls for tenders and accepts supplies. The Board ‘of Management will advise a Department as to the best method of obtaining supplies, and upon, the conditions under which it may be entering into any contract. If we load it up with executive work, naturally it will not be free to exercise a critical oversight over a Department’s proposals or over, the actual administration of a Department.
– The Board of Management will really be a finger post.
– Yes, pointing the way, I hope, to efficiency and economy. .
– Could we not provide that this duty should only apply to contracts over a certain amount?
– That would* be unnecessary. The Board will merely advise the Departments. If a Depart-‘ ment wishes to obtain a quantity of _ boots, why should we worry the Board of Management by asking it to call for tenders for those boots? So long as it lays down the best means of obtaining the goods, and recommends safeguards which will secure to the Department the best value for the money spent, it will be quite unnecessary to load it up with the detail work of actually getting the boots and examining them on the receipt of them from the contractor.
– When a Board makes a recommendation it is left to the discretion of the Minister to accept it. He may not exercise that discretion.
– A Minister who is a fool or an autocrat might not do so, but one who knew of the existence of such a Board would take its advice before entering upon. a. contract. I welcomed the advent of the Business Board. Its advice was invaluable to the Defence Department. No Minister is going to blunder willingly into trouble, and perhaps bring his Ministerial life to an abrupt end. ‘Here is a method by which he may avoid those pitfalls, and there is every inducement for him. to avail himself of them.
Senator Foster raised the question of the facilities for training members of the Public Service after their entering. He put his finger -upon the weak spot in our administration. The great bulk of our public ‘servants enter the service between the ages of sixteen and eighteen years, so that they have not had a secondary education, and in time, unless means are made available to them, very few of those in the Service will have had more’ than a primary school education. This is not at all desirable. I ‘ believe it is an advantage to encourage entrance to the Service at an early age; but at the same time there is an obligation, on those charged with its administration to provide the facilities for further education, especially among junior officers, and I think my late colleague (Mr. Webster) by the establishment of the Postal Institute had the germ of a very fine idea, although it was ridiculed severely by a section of the press. I hope it will be developed in the Public Service generally, so that all young men and young women in the Service will be given an opportunity for further advancement.
– Have you any idea to what extent the Postal Institute was availed of?
– I have no information on that point at all.
Senator Senior, in the course, of his remarks, said that by passing this Bill we will be. creating machinery without any knowledge of its functions. My reply is that I must assume he has not read the Public Service Act. The Board will be charged with the administration under the present Act.
– And not the new Act?
– And the new Act when it is passed.
– Then there are to be two Public Service Acts.
– Not at all. The existing Act will be maintained until the amending Bill is passed, and the Board will administer according to its provisions. Parliament may refuse to amend the Act for all I know.
– We ought to have the amending Bill before us now.
– I do not agree with the. honorable senator at all. I think that when we. have appointed this.. Board it is possible we shall get some valuable advice to guide us in the amendments necessary for the future working and greater efficiency of the Service.
Senator Senior also said that we would be creating two authorities, namely, the Board and the Arbitrator. We threshed this matter out on the other Bill, so I do not propose to go over the ground again. I may, however, point out to Senator Senior that this principle has been in operation for quite a long time, for while the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner controls the Commonwealth railway system, there has always been a Board of Appeal available to railway employees. Senator Senior never raised his voice against this principle before; and, therefore, I think he is now somewhat late in the day with his complaints.
Senator Senior has devoted considerable attention to Mr. McLachlan’s report. I advise him to look at the list of things which Mr. McLachlan says the Public Service Commissioner has todeal with Mr. McLachlan says that, notwithstanding the removal of many matters to the Arbitration Court, the Publio Service Commissioner has been overworked, and suggests the appointment of an assistant Commissioner. In view of this opinion Senator Senior will, I feel sure, realize that there is plenty of scope for the Board of Management in regard to . the more efficient working of the Departments.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Thefollowing papers were presented: -
Audit Act. - Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial Year 1919-20- Dated 27th July, 1920.
Public Service Act. - Promotion of R. A. Fetherston, Department of Works and Railways.
– In moving - .
That the Senate do now adjourn,
I desire to say that, on Wednesday next, the first business to he taken will be the Quarantine Bill. Afterwards we shall resume the debate on the Public Service Bill, leaving the Science and Industries Bill as the third measure for consideration.
SenatorJ. F. GUTHRIE (Victoria) [3.38].- Can the Minister inform me when the documents relating to the contract with the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company and the report of the Central Wool Committee thereon will be made available?
.- This matter is really in Senator Millen’s hands, and he is absent to-day, but I shall have inquiries made, and see if the. documents can be made available by Wednesday next.
Question resolved in. the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 August 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19200806_senate_8_92/>.