8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
. (By leave). - Honorable senators will have learned, I am sure with very deep regret, the news of the death of Sir Samuel Griffith, late Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. With the death of this distinguished gentleman passes away another one of that remarkable band of men who, in striving, as they did successfully, to achieve the union of the States of Australia, earned for themselves a lasting place, alike in the history of this country and in the hearts of its people.
Sir Samuel Griffith not only established a claim on the regard of Australians by his action in the Federal arena, although he was never a member of the Federal Parliament, but will long be remembered for the statesmanship he displayed when actually engaged in State politics in the State which he adopted as his home.
Remarkably gifted, by reason of his giant intellect, bis extremely ripe judgment, his high sense of public duty, and his truest of patriotism, he brought to bear upon the task of securing the union of the States of Australia all those qualities which did so much to achieve that full union, the advantage of which was manifested so pointedly during the recent war.
Sir Samuel Griffith, as honorable senators will recollect, was appointed, and everyone will admit wisely appointed, the first Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, created after the establishment of the Federation. This reference enables me to point to a remarkable tribute to the character of one of his colleagues on. the High Court Bench, Sir Edmund Barton, who himself might have secured appointment as Chief Justice, but who, moved by his well-known patriotism, as well as by his perception of the character of Sir Samuel Griffith, requested that gentleman to occupy the position in his place.
It has been said, and I think rightly, that Sir Samuel Griffith’s name will go down as “the Justice Marshall of Australia.” It is true that we are but in the early days of the Federation yet, but already the decisions and judgments of the late Chief Justice of the High Court have indicated many roads along which we can travel, and have also pointed out the danger that awaits us should we adopt other courses.
I venture to say that in nothing did Sir Samuel Griffith and his colleagues display more clearly their wisdom in connexion with the shaping of the Constitution than when they left it in such a form tha1-) succeeding generations can alter it as they wish. I do not desire to say any more, as nothing that I could say could adequately express the high esteem in which Sir Samuel Griffith was held by the people of this country.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear !
Eulogy of Minister - Queensland Land Settlement
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation if he has seen the statement made by a prominent West Australian Labour official with regard to the work of his Department. It is reported as follows: -
Mr. Alexander McCallum, general secretary of .the Australian Labour Federation, West Australian Division, speaking on the occasion of the retirement of the West Australian State Board of Repatriation. referred to the misery and chaos which existed after every previous war. He compared those conditions with the. present satisfactory, state of affairs in the Commonwealth, and particularly with respect to the industrial situation in Western Australia. There was practically no unemployment there, but as a matter of fact, there was a shortage of labour in skilled trades. The success of the repatriation effort would pass down as a record in the history of the Commonwealth. The work of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) had been nothing short of remarkable, and the success of the scheme was beyond expectation.
Has the Minister for Repatriation seen that statement, and, if so, what does he think of it?
– I have seen the statement. It is one of the few kindly references to myself that unknown friends have been good enough to send along. I appreciate it, as I think I am entitled to do.
– Has the Minister for Repatriation seen the report in the press of a statement by the Acting Premier of Queensland, to the effect that on account of the Premier of Queensland being unable to raise certain moneys in London, hundreds of returned soldiers who would have been settled in the Burnett district would not now be able to be settled there? Seeing that the Commonwealth Government are making themselves primarily responsible for the. settlement of returned soldiers on the land, has the Minister any information to give regarding an utterance of that description?
– I know of no reason why, because of any action in London, any soldier desiring to go on to the land in Queensland should not do so. The Commonwealth Government have undertaken to make available to the States a flat sum for every soldier settled on the land. That applies to Queensland as well as to other States.
Case of C. R. Thompson
– I ask permission to make a statement in reply to what was said by Senator Earle in the Senate on Wednesday, 4th August, regarding the case of a disputed allotment to a soldier’s wife. (Leave granted). I adopt this course because it would be impossible to give the facts to the Senate in the form of a reply to a question. As the statement on one side has been given publicity, I think the Senate ought to know the other side, in order to be able to judge upon what grounds the Defence Department took action. The case is that of Mr. C. E. Thompson, ex-No. 2514, 12th Battalion. The facts are these: -
Thompson’s mother was willing to make over the allotment to his wife.
The soldier’s mother, in reply to inquiry, wrote -
Charles R. Thompson was married to Nellie Rafferty about eighteen years ago and went direct to Western Australia. About five or six years ago they returned and lived with us for some time.
Charles was unable to get employment, and Mrs. Thompson went to live with her relatives. They have been parted ever since.
I did not know he had enlisted as a single man. His company left in a hurry, and he wrote while on the voyage saying for me to draw his pay. He may have a reason why his wife should not draw it. As she is still his wife I suppose she can claim his pay. (Signed) Jane Thompson.
On 29th July, 1916, the Military Paymaster, Hobart, replied that the mother was willing to transfer 3s. per day to Thompson’s wife, and this was done.
On 10th December, 1918, the Department was advised that the soldier (Thompson) protested against the allotment to his wife, as he was not living with her for six years prior to enlistment. Further investigations were then made by the Department. A report received from an investigating officer substantiated the statements made by the mother.
The soldier’s wife when interviewed at the Homoeopathic Hospital, where she was employed at 30s per week, said that - ~She and her daughter, who was nine years of age, stayed with a married sister at ‘ 679 High-street, Prahran’. She was married to Thompson nineteen years ago in Tasmania; they lived together at various places, but Thompson, owing to intemperate habits, was constantly getting out of employment. They then went to reside with his parents, about eight years ago, at Lathrole, Tasmania, and shortly afterwards he left for Melbourne to seek employment. She stayed with Thompson’s parents for eight months, an’d, not hearing from Thompson, or receiving anything towards her maintenance, she came to Melbourne to live with her sister, where she remained for four years. She next obtained employment as lady’s companion to a Mrs. Wallace, the wife of a solicitor in Tasmania, to whence she returned, and remained there two years. It was whilst there that she, beard, of her husband’s enlistment.
She then returned to Victoria, where she has since remained. She never at any time made her whereabouts a secret, and her movements were always known to the soldier’s relatives, but he never wrote to her, or made any inquiries about her, as far as she knows.
The inquiring officer said that he had gone into this matter fully, and it appeared to him .that if there was desertion at all it was on the part of the soldier.
Australian Imperial Force Headquarters, London, was informed, that the soldier’s statement of his wife’s desertion was not substantiated, and that the allotment was being continued.
A statement was made by the soldier to Australian Imperial Force Headquarters, London, on 26th September, 1918, reaffirming desertion on the part of his wife. Soldier admitted enlisting as a single man.
Separation allowance was paid to the wife from before 5th April, 1918, and as the soldier had been promoted to corporal, the allotment was increased to 5s. per day from date of promotion.
The then Assistant Minister for Defence disallowed the appeal of the soldier.
On 17th May, 1919, Australian Imperial Force, London, was informed that the appeal which had been forwarded re overpayment - i.e., overpayment of separation allowance - would be placed before a special committee, which had been constituted to inquire into such cases, upon which the Returned Soldiers League was represented.
The soldier, meanwhile, arrived from England, and stated his case to the Complaints Officer, Hobart. Papers were received from Australian Imperial Force, London, showing that the case came before me there, and I ordered that the matter should be referred to Melbourne for investigation. It is obvious that it could not be investigated in London. On 23rd April, 1920, the Assistant. Minister went into the case, and decided that the decision must stand. An appeal was made to me, and I went through the file, and decided to approve of the Assistant Minister’s decision.
The Separation Allowance Overpayments Committee referred to above went into the question of overpayments, and allowed a refund of £20.
Three Ministers have at different times investigated and passed similar judgment on this case - Mr. Wise, Sir Granville Eyrie, and myself.
The following papers were presented: -
Customs Act. - Proclamations, dated 28th
July, 1920, revoking previous proclamations relating to the exportation of -
Arms of all kinds, and other goods.
Hides and leather.
Northern Territory. - Ordinance No. 6 of 1020. - Necessary Commodities.
Public Service Act. - Promotions, &c. - De partment of the Treasury -
D. M. Kay, A. D. B. Rowley, C. H. Brown, G. M. Garcia, and R. W. Chenoweth.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it a fact that there is a serious shortage of coal in Australia for industrial and other purposes?
Are there large consignments of coal being shipped oversea to foreign countries?
If so, will the Government’ take imme diate steps to prohibit the export of coal until the requirements of Australia are supplied?
– The answer is - 1 to 3. There is a shortage of coal in the Commonwealth, which is due to abnormal cir cumstances. Before the war, there were always heavy delays to tonnage during July and August at Newcastle, owing to the shortage of coal and increased demand during the winter period. The position is aggravated by there being practically no stocks of coal whatever in the various States, due to the influenza epidemic, the seamen’s strike, and the engineer’s strike.
It is not considered advisable to discourage the oversea trade, upon which the working of the Newcastle mines is dependent, the InterState demand being not nearly sufficient to profitably work the collieries. The maintenance of the oversea trade is essential to the industry as a whole - both to this proprietors and to the miners - and in the financial interests of the Commonwealth.
In any case, unless legislation is: enacted, the Government cannot prohibit the export of coal. The Prime Minister has indicated in another place that, if Parliament desires that the Government should be clothed with power to prohibit the export of coal, itmust express an opinion to that effect, when legislation could be introduced.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the great increase in freights on raw sugar from Queensland, which between some ports amounts to 500 per cent, since 1915, the Government will, give imme diate consideration to the question of establishing a Commonwealth Inter-State shipping service for the carriage of sugar and other cargo at reasonable rates, particularly to and from our far northern ports, which at present are so badly provided with shipping facilities?
– The question will be answered by my colleague, Senator Russell, to whom it should have been addressed.
– The increases in freights on raw sugar have mainly occurred in connexion with the small Intra state steamers engaged in lightering, &c, and over which the Commonwealth neither had nor has control. The increases in Inter-State rates have been strictly governed by regulation, and the running costs have justified such increases.
Debate resumed from 5th August (vide page 3294), on motion by Senator Russell -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- This is one of those Bills which, although harmless in appearance, have a farreaching effect on the States of the Commonwealth. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell), in moving the second reading in a very able speech, called attention to, but did not lay great stress on, what is undoubtedly the most important clause in the measure, namely, that which gives the Commonwealth absolute control of all quarantine work during a widespread epidemic. He also pointed out that the definition of “vessel” included air craft which might be quarantined after passing through an affected country. I feel in a somewhat awkward position, because I realize that it is essential that there should be one central authority to deal with all quarantine work. During the late influenza epidemic we all had experience of the chaotic conditions into which portions of Australia were thrown in consequence of six or seven authorities overlapping. But at the same time, had the central authority on that occasion been able to enforce its desire I believe we would have fared even worse, particularly in the State I have the honour to assist in representing. The central authority, in consequence of the dearth of shipping, was very wrath at the action of the State Government of Tasmania in insisting upon a rigid quarantine; but I believe that through that action - although I cannot prove it- many are alive to-day who would be in their graves had the State restrictions not been enforced. In Tasmania we got through fairly well, and I believe our satisfactory position was due to the determination of the State authorities in connexion with quarantine matters. The epidemic ultimately reached Tasmania, but in a rather mild form. It is now for honorable senators, as representatives of the States, to decide if this power should be handed over to the Commonwealth authorities. It is for them to say whether, in the case of an epidemic, each State should handle its own quarantine work, or it should be placed in the hands of a central authority controlled by the Commonwealth Government. This is the position “we have to face. The Bill provides for Commonwealth control, and I am afraid that, although such a step may be the means of causing hardship and discontent in the minds of many people in the different States, it is the only way we can get unanimity. It is not my intention to oppose the Bill, and although it is a measure many of us may not like, it is one that will, perhaps, prove of advantage to the whole of the people of Australia. In case honorable senators may not have had an opportunity of perusing the provisions of the Bill very closely, I direct their attention to clause 2, under which the power I have described is sought.
SenatorRUSSELL (Victoria- VicePresident of the Executive Council) [3.28]. - Senator Earle has stated that I did not deal as fully as I might have done with the extreme power which the Commonwealth seeks under the provisions of the Bill. If my memory serves me aright, I believe I said that there were really only two important clauses in the Bill, one of which gave the Commonwealth Government the power to usurp the functions of the States, but that that must not be taken literally. The States representatives met in conference and gave certain specific powers to the Commonwealth Government in the event of an outbreak. Some States were in favour of being empowered with the issue of pro clamations, and others were opposed to such a practice, with the result that there was a lack of unanimity. Recognising that we must have the power we desired, we stated that if the States could not come to an unanimous decision it would be better for the Commonwealth to withdraw. There was no conflict in regard to the administration in Tasmania, and everything Tasmania asked us to do we did. We did not desire to interfere with the States when acting within their rights. We are not anxious to undertake control of State health matters, but we are prepared to shoulder responsibility when a national crisis arrives, and it becomes necessary that there shall be national united action in the common interest. As far as possible, the Commonwealth authority will leave the work generally to the States, which, no doubt, will do their best in every ordinary circumstance; but the various States, naturally, could not carry out the whole of the necessary quarantine work for the Commonwealth in an emergency which suddenly overflows the artificial State boundaries. Honorable senators will recall the situation which arose at several of the border lines during the influenza epidemic. Cases were reported of men trying to bribe their way across the Murray, for instance, with the aid of a bottle of whisky. The artificial State boundaries could not be held secure, and the matter of isolation as between the States proved farcical.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 11 agreed to.
Clause 12 (Quarantine signals on vessels).
– In this clause there is reference solely to the master of a vessel. What would happen in the case of a State Government which failed to take necessary precautions to announce the outbreak of an epidemic? On the introduction of Spanish influenza to this country its first appearance was noted when there was an outbreak in New South Wales; but the Government of that State blamed the Victorian authorities for having within their boundaries acknowledged cases of
Spanish influenza and for not publicly notifying the fact. Unless there is general power to compel not only the owner or master of a vessel but any other person or authority, including a State Government, to notify the outbreak of an epidemic disease, it appears to me that the position will be unfair. Should not all authorities which are aware of an epidemic outbreak stand on the same footing? This measure ought not to single out merely the masters of water and aircraft.
– The purpose here is to do away with the former practice, under which the master of a vessel had to hoist the quarantine signal at his mainmast head. Now he is to be required merely to “ display “ the quarantine signal. There is a significant difference. It is possible that if the signal is “ displayed “ on a ship it may not be so conspicuously placed as to catch the eye of the responsible officers ashore. I fully understand, of course, that it would be ridiculous to legislate, in respect of aircraft, that they should be made to fly the quarantine flag at their mainmast head.
– There is no desire or intention to make any distinction such as Senator Lynch has referred to. It is important that there should be wide freedom to act over the whole of Australia, seeing that an epidemic may be more severe in one part than in another. The whole circumstance, whenever it may arise, will be controlled by the best medical authority and evidence available at the time and place in question. The sole desire in a crisis is, with the greatest speed and effectiveness possible, to prevent the extension of the trouble, and to cure those who have been stricken. In regard to the other point raised by Senator Senior, I am in complete accord with the view which he has expressed. The principal Act provides that the quarantine signal shall be hoisted “ at the mainmast head of ‘ ‘ the vessel : We are omitting those words and substituting for them the words “display the quarantine signal on.” We need a common definition of all these matters, but we can scarcely arrive at one, seeing that there is no mast-head on an aeroplane. The object of the amendment is to empower the Government to prescribe quarantine signals which may be used from time to time without the necessity of asking Parliament to amend the principal Act. Our only aim is to insure that the quarantine signal shall always be displayed in the most conspicuous place, either on a ship or an aeroplane.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 13 to 23 agreed to.
– For the purpose of greater clarity, I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 23a. Section 64 of the principal Act is amended (a) by inserting in sub-section (1), after the word ‘ surveillance,’ the words and the expenses connected with the removal, disposal, and destruction of any animals, plants, or goods ordered to be destroyed in pursuance of this Act,’ and (6) by adding at the end of sub-section ( 1 ) thereof the words or may be recovered as provided in this part of this Act.’ “
The amendments are intended to make it quite clear that, in the event of a vessel being quarantined, and of certain animals or plants which are suspected of suffering from disease being removed to a prescribed area, the expenses incidental thereto shall fall upon the owner of the vessel, or upon his agent in Australia.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Clauses 24 to 27 and title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 6th August, vide page 3367) :
Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Section 2 of the principal Act is amended by inserting after paragraph (f) of sub-section (1) thereof, the following paragraph: - “And (g) ‘the Board’ means the Board of Management appointed in pursuance of this Act.”
– I can only repeat any regret that the Government intend to proceed with this Bill before they introduce the main Public Service measure. Our acceptance of the proposed Board of Management should largely depend upon the powers which will be conferred upon it by the provisions of the main Bill. I was not present at the time, but I understand that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), in reply to some criticism, especially by myself, made the statement that the Government intended going on with this Bill, because they desired to have the assistance of the members of the Board of Management in drawing up the provisions of the main Public Service Bill yet to be introduced.
– That is not quite what I said. I said that we might appoint the members of the Board before we finally submitted the main Public Service Bill to Parliament.
– It is clear from the Minister’s interjection that the Government have in mind the possibility of appointing the members of the Board before the main Public Service Bill becomes an Act of this Parliament. If that be so, I cannot imagine that mien of the type the Government should desire to have on the Board of Management will accept positions on the Board on such terms. There is, no doubt, in Australia a number of men who would readily accept positions on this Board at the salary which will be offered; but it is a question whether they would be men of the right type. No doubt, many prominent persons in the Public Service to-day would accept positions on the Board, because the salaries: would be higher than those which they now receive.
This Bill purposes handing over to the Board the control of a great deal more than the Public Service Commissioner has control of under the existing Act. He has to deal with staff matters, the appointments, promotions, and salaries of public servants. The scope of the work of the Board of Management will be much wider than that. It will be within the power of the members of the Board to enter any Department of the Public Service, and ascertain whether it is being efficiently and economically worked. This will impose a great responsibility upon them. If the Board is to fulfil the desires of the Government, and be the means of suggesting improvements -in the different Government Departments, it must be clothed with ths power, not only of suggesting necessary improvements, but of seeing that they are carried out. I agree with the statement of the Minister for Defence on the second reading of the Bill, that the power merely to suggest improvements in a Department is of very little value unless there is also the power to see that they are carried out. We must have able and skilled men on the Board of Management - men who have reputations at stake, and who are anxious, not merely to draw their pay, but to justify their appointment. In my opinion, no man prominent in the business world will accept a position on the Board unless he knows the powers with which it is to be invested under the main Bill which the Government intend shortly to introduce.
If the Government are determined to go on with the consideration of this. Bill, I must rest content with entering my protest against the adoption of that course. If the Board is appointed before it is known what powers and functions it will have under the main measure, its appointment, instead of being a benefit to the Commonwealth, will represent only a waste of public money. It will be more expensive than the Public Service Commissioner, and will be able to do noi more than he can do under the existing Act.
In his report on the Public Service the ex-Public Service Commissioner, Mr. McLachlan, rightly points out that the work of the Public Service Commissioner at the present time is more than one man can effectively ,perform. The Public Service Commissioner was appointed twenty years, ago, when numerically the Service was not anything like so large us it is to-day. Mr. McLachlan points out that, in order that the Public Service Commissioner should be enabled to do his work efficiently, it is necessary that he should have the help of an Assistant Commissioner. This means that, in the opinion of Mr. McLachlan, two persons are required to do the work which the Public Service Commissioner is called upon to do to-day, without the added responsibility which the Government propose to impose upon the Board of Management. I am very anxious that an efficient Board that will be able to do something shall be appointed. If it is to accomplish what the Government desire, it must consist of men who are abler than those they will be called upon to criticise. It would be a peculiar position to have the men now running the Government Departments subjected to the criticism of members of a Board who would not to be as competent as themselves. I repeat that we cannot expect to secure the type of men we require, unless we set out clearly and distinctly the powers and functions of the Board.
– I think that Senator Thomas is unduly nervous about the position of intending applicants for appointment to the Board of Management. It is obvious that these positions will be very important, and it is also pretty obvious what the duties of the members of the Board will be. Clause 11 of this Bill sets out a large number of the powers with which the Board is to be invested, and no one can say that they are not of the most important character. In addition to that, if honorable members will refer to the Public Service Act, they will see what are the duties at present imposed upon the Public Service Commissioner and his inspectors. These are epitomized on pages 30 and 31 of Mr. McLachlan’s report. If honorable senators will consult the report, they will see that they include a large number of very important duties. I say at once on behalf of the Government that it is not their intention in any Bill which they propose to introduce to amend the Public Service Act to whittle away any of the powers now vested in the Public Service Commissioner.
– I quite understand that.
– Therefore any intending applicant for a position on the Board of Management will at least know that the Board will have all the powers which the Public Service Commissioner now has, and, in addition, the powers contained in clause 11 of this Bill, which the Public Service Commissioner has not.
– The power to recommend.
– There is more than the power of recommendation. The honorable senator might as well say that the Auditor-General has only the power of recommendation. He has power when his recommendation is not acted upon to report to Parliament. He can follow to Parliament any recommendation he makes, and that is a very impor tant power. Senator Thomas must seethat no Bill likely to be introduced will< have the effect of discouraging men competent to exercise these powers from seeking appointment to the Board.
– I . do not imagine that it will propose that, the powers of the Board should be less than those enjoyed by the Public Service Commissioner.
– We feel that as soon as possible, we should put an end to the present condition of affairs under which the Service is controlled by an Acting Public Service Commissioner. I am sure that there has been no stronger advocate of that in the Senate than Senator Thomas.
– That is quite correct. That position should have been put an end to five years ago.
– We think it is advisable now to give effect to the report of the Economies Commission, but if before appointing a Board of Management we wait the passage of an amending Public Service Bill dealing with all manner of details, and probably taking a long time to get through Parliament, we must delay giving effect to recommendations to bring about economy. That is the reason why the Government put this* Bill forward at this juncture.
– I do not anticipate for a moment that any Bill yet to be introduced will confer upon .the Board of Management any less powers than are exercised by the Public Service Commissioner and his inspectors to-day. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) and I have been in accord as to the necessity for altering the present condition of affairs, under which the Public Service Commissioner has no power to dismiss any member of the Service for inefficiency. I should like to know whether, in the main Public Service Bill yet to be introduced, the Government intend to allow that state of affairs to continue. If they do, the Board to be appointed under this Bill will be unable to dismiss any member of the Service without going through the routine provided by the Public Service Act.
– The Board of Management could do so.
– No; it could not, unless the Public S ervice Act is amended to give the Board that power. How can any Board properly control the Public Service if it has not the power to dismiss a man for incompetence? If this Bill is passed, and granting that one of the three persons appointed to the Board of Management is the ablest man in the Public Service, and the other two are the ablest business men whose services money can secure, though the three may be unanimous in considering that a certain person in one of the Departments is inefficient, they would be unable to dismiss him under the Public Service Act as we have it to-day: All that they could do would be to suspend him. Then the question of incompetency has to be settled one way’ or the other, not by the Board of Management, but by three persons chosen from the Departments. These three must be employees in the Departments, and one of them must be in the very Division to which the suspended man belongs. Supposing that the three members of the Board of Management - the ablest men the Government can get for money to run the Departments- ^decide that a lettercarrier is inefficient. They cannot dismiss him, but they can suspend him. They send him to the Appeal Board, one member of which must be a letter-carrier ; and another, probably a clerical officer ot, it may be, a professional officer, must come from the Postal Department; while the third member is an employee of some other Department. Probably the three members of the Appeal Board, put together, are not receiving half the salary that one member of the Board of Management is paid, and yet two of those three may decide that the man is competent, and back he goes into the Service. I ask the Minister to state if that is so or not under the main Act? If it is so, then, unless the Government alter the main Act, the Board of Management will have to work under it. In those circumstances, where will the Government get business men of ability and reputation to attempt to bring efficiency into the Departments ?
– If the Board of Management have no power to dismiss for misbehaviour or incompetence, we cannot expect efficiency. I should like the Government to reconsider the question of allowing the great Public Service of the Commonwealth to nominate one member of the Board. If the Government expect the Board to work in harmony with the Public Service, as is essential, it is only right, in any mixed tribunal of that kind, to have all sides adequately represented. I urge the Government to reconsider that point seriously, and give the Service direct representation on the Board. Their representative need not necessarily be one of their own members, but the Government can safely leave it to a body of men like that to make their own choice. They are as anxious as we are to see the affairs of the Commonwealth managed efficiently. It is only just and fair that they should be allowed to nominate one member of the Board.
– I again ask the Minister to state whether the case I submitted is based on the actual facts, or is merely supposititious.
– I did not think it necessary to reply to Senator Thomas, because he correctly stated the position. I thought all honorable senators knew that under the Public Service Act as it exists- to-day the Public Service Commissioner has not the power to dismiss. He can suspend, and then there is a procedure by which dismissal may eventually be obtained. I have several times emphasized the fact that this Bill does not alter the Public Service Act in that regard in the slightest.
– That provision would remain?
– I said so before, in reply to the honorable senator, I stated that whatever powers are conferred on the Public Service Commissioner at present will be conferred on the Board of Management, so far as the Public Service is concerned, with, in addition, the powers outlined in clause 11. That, bowever, is not the only question that the Government will have to consider in dealing with the amendment of the Public Service Act. There are a hundred and one other matters of various kinds under consideration with a view to the general amendment of the Act to bring it up to date. But to say that that is a reason why we should not create the Board of Management at this juncture does not seem to me to be apt at all. We want the Board of Management, even if we do not extend the powers one iota.
– In view of your statement, that that provision will still exist in the Public Service Act, do you think any person of great business ability would accept a position on the Board of Management ?
– Yes. If the Board of Management had nothing to do with the powers of the Public Service Commissioner at all, there woud still be sufficient scope in clause 11 for any business man to thoroughly apply himself to and to well occupy all his time. We are dealing with a Service employing from 20,000 to 30,000 men and women, and with a public expenditure running up to £20,000,000 a year. .There is quite scope enough there for the energies and abilities of the best business men in this country.
Apparently, Senator J. P. Guthrie was not here when I dealt with the question of the Public Service being represented on the Board of Management. I said then that I did not think the Board was a body on which the Public Service should be represented at all. It is to be a Board of Management. I would welcome the adoption of the Whitley Committee idea, which has been carried out with considerable benefit in the United Kingdom, and which I hope to see extended to Australia. This provides for a system of advisory or consultative Boards, upon which the employers and the employees are represented in equal numbers. That is an excellent idea, but in England a consultative Board is not a Board of Management. I quoted on Friday from- the Whitley Committee’s report, which indicated that the Boards were consultative and advisory, and that the Public Service in England was managed by the Treasury Department.
– Will there be an Advisory Board here?
– I stated on Friday that under the first two sub-clauses of clause 11 it will be quite competent for the Board of Management to bring such a Board into existence, that I would welcome it, and use my influence in the Government to see that it was done. I have no doubt that if up-to-date men are chosen for positions on the Board of Management, they will see the advisable- ness of doing it. I would not make the consultative Board a Board of Management at all. The consultative Board would be of great value ; it would give the Public Service a good opportunity df ventilating their views, and bring about efficiency and good feeling in the Service.
– Do you not think the same argument applies to the Board of Management, and that if the Service were represented on it it would breed contentment ?
– I think it would breed discontent, because the Board of Management really stands as the guardian of the whole of the taxpayers. We should have one member of the Board there as the guardian, not of the taxpayers, but of one section of the community, and he would not be responsible in the same way as the other two members to the Government and Parliament, who represent the taxpayers. He would be responsible for his re-nomination and re-election to a section - and that section would be the employees with whom he has to deal. I cannot think of ‘ anything more likely to lead to discontent, because he would be expected to report to the Public Service associations why such-and-such a thing had or had not been done.
– I do not think that that is the intention of honorable senators.
– That would be the effect. In making that report, he would have to give away the business of the Board and bring himself into collision with the other members of the Board.
– If elected, he would not be responsible to the Public Service associations.
– He would, because the members of the Board are to be appointed for five, four, and three years respectively. A man who takes a position of that kind does so in the hope of reappointment at the end of his term. The re-nomination of this man would depend on how he pleased, not ‘the Parliament, the Government, or the taxpayers, but the Public Service associations.
– It depends on the class of man you are fortunate enough to get on the Board.
– Whatever the class of man, that would be the effect. The honorable senator, if he looks at the question dispassionately, will see that, as the man is responsible to the: Public Service associations for bis. re-nomination, and as the taxpayers do not control him, and he is not responsible to them, he must, in carrying out his duties as one of the Board of Management, have his eye on the public servants with a view to pleasing them, if he wishes to secure renomination.
– I, personally, do not advocate that ‘the Civil Service should nominate the man, but that the Government should make the appointment from the Civil Service.
– If that is the case, Senator Wilson and myself are in complete agreement. The Government would be extremely foolish in appointing a Board like this if they chose three who had no knowledge of the Service.
– That is not provided for in the Bill.
– It is not in the Bill; but I do not think it is necessary to put it there. Any Government exercising judgment would surely see the advisableness of having one, if not two, members of the existing Public Service on the Board, so as to have men who are familiar with Public Service work.
– The Public Service should have the right to suggest four or five names to the Government.
– It would not make any difference if they nominated one or five. The fact that the Public Service was the nominating body would make that person its nominee, and he would be responsible to it, recognising that he could not secure re-nomination at the end of three years unless he pleased the public servants.
– The proper constitution of the Board is the most important thing in the Bill; and, in relation to the Board, I should like to know if any provision is made for an appeal against its decisions ?
– Yes, to the Arbitrator.
– Then, is this Bill subsidiary to the Arbitration Bill? Who is the Arbitrator to be? Under the Queensland Railway Act an Appeal Board is provided to which the employees can ^appeal against wrongful dismissals or against the promotion over their heads of men who have no right to the positions. Sometimes men are put over others who have been much longer in the Service, and who consider ‘themselves more efficient. Will the Public Service under this Bill have the right of appeal against even the decisions of this Board, no matter how clever the Board may be?
– Under the Public Service Act there is constituted such an Appeal Board as the honorable senator mentions. Where a man feels that somebody has been wrongly promoted over his head, or that he has been given a transfer which he regards as unjust, he has an appeal. This Bill does not alter that provision. The other appeal that we are providing for is in the sister Bill, which was dealt with by the Senate last week. The Public Service Commissioner, or the Board of Management, fixes rates of salaries and conditions of service. If the Public Service associations are not satisfied, they can appeal under that Bill to the Public Service Arbitrator, and the matter becomes a question of arbitration, just as happens now with the Abitration Court.
– I asked only because I was not present last week. This Appeal Board is very important in the interests of the railway servants in Queensland, to prevent wrongful dismissal and promotions.
– I thank the Minister for his explanation, which is quite satisfactory so long as the public servants are well represented on a consultative Board. I would also express the wish that the Government, in making the three appointments to the Board of Management, should not choose all of them from the Civil Service.
.- Will it ‘be possible for an advisory Board to co-exist with the Public Service Arbitrator? That is the matter that has been puzzling me during the whole time we have been discussing the Bill. We are providing an Arbitrator and his Court to deal with disputes regarding wages and conditions in the Public Service, and I would like to know if it will be possible for a consultative Board to interfere in any way with an award made by the Arbitrator? I think it would be a simpler way out of the difficulty to have assessors drawn from the Public Service associated with the Arbitrator.
– The principle embodied in the Whitley Committee report is i that the consultative Board deals with questions other than salaries and conditions of labour. I have with me a document dealing with the conditions that apply to the Public Service in the United Kingdom, which reads -
The scope of the National Council shall comprise all matters which affect the conditions of service of the staff. The functions of the National Council shall include the following: - (1) Provision of the best means for utilizing the ideas and experience of the staff. (2) Means for securing to the staff a greater share in and responsibility for the determination and observance of the conditions under which their duties are carried out. (3) Determination of the general principles governing conditions of service, e.g., recruitment, hours, promotion, discipline, tenure, remuneration, and superannuation.
In the National Council, the discussion of promotion shall be restricted to the general aspects of the matter, and the principles for which promotions in general should rest. In no circumstances shall individual cases bo taken into consideration. It should be open to the National Council to discuss the general principles underlying disciplinary action; but there shall be no discussion of individual cases.
The encouragement of the further education of civil servants- and their training in higher administration and organization. (5) Improvements of office machinery and organization, and the provision of opportunities for the full consideration of suggestions by the staff on this subject. (6) Proposed legislation so far as it has a bearing upon the position of civil servants in relation to their employment.
None of these come within the functions of the Arbitrator, and those dealt with are for the improvement of the Service as a whole.
– Does it not deal with the question of wages?
– Only the general principle governing wages, and not the wages or salaries applied to any particular section of the Service. For instance, it does not deal with the salaries of heads of Departments, or the wages of lettercarriers, but with all the principles that govern wages, and in that sense the consultative and advisory Board possesses powers altogether different from those of the proposed Arbitrator.
.- When the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) introduced the Bill a few days ago, I understood him to say that the object of the Government was to obtain the maximum of efficiency for a minimum of expenditure. Senator Thomas raised the question of the Board’s powers in regard to the dismissal or retirement of any officer in the Government employ, and we have now to consider whether it would not be advisable to amend the Bill to give the Board more powers than the Government contemplate. Suppose the Board finds that the impression, which exists in every State in Australia, that certain Departments are overmanned, is a correct one, and as a result recommends that certain officers be transferred to other Departments. If that cannot be done profitably, what, is to become of such officers?
-r-The Public Service Commissioner has power to do that.
– But supposing it is found that these officers cannot be placed in any other Department.
– He can declare them surplus officers, and they can be discharged. That is in the present Public Service Act.
– I was not aware of that. Personally, I think the suggestion that we should have a man on the Board qualified to represent the Public Service Commissioner a good one, and we are pleased to have the assurance that it is the intention of the Government to appoint an officer who is well acquainted with the Service in all its ramifications. The question of whether this officer shall be selected by the Public Service Commissioner is one that can be discussed later.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 -
Sections 5 to 11 (inclusive) of the principal Act are repealed, and the following sections inserted in their stead: - “5. (1) For the purposes of this Act the Governor-General may appoint a Board of Management of three persons, and on the happening of any vacancy in the office of member of the Board the GovernorGeneral shall appoint a person to the vacant office.”
– The question now arises of whether the Board shall consist of three or more members. I have listened with interest to the explanation of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) ; but unless it is clearly stated in the Bill, we have no binding promise that after the expiration of three years the position will not be changed. If the intentions of the Government are to stand, it should be embodied in the Bill. I cannot see the force of the Minister’s argument that there should not be one nominee of the Civil Service, and the fact that, as he stated to-day, there are 20,’000 members of the Service surely entitles them to sympathetic and not indefinite consideration.
– There are 5,000,000 people outside.
– I admit that; but they have their representatives, and I, as one of the 5,000,000, have no strong objection to an appointment on the lines indicated. Ministerial atmosphere seems to surround the discussion on this particular Bill, but I trust that it will not be the means of preventing sympathetic consideration being given to the members of the Public Service. After the words “three persons,” I consider that the words “ one of whom shall be chosen by the civil servants “ should be inserted. If 20,000 persons have to be consulted it is not likely that one who may be considered by some as a firebrand would be selected, as a number of civil servants have as intimate a knowledge of the conditions of the Service as any Minister, particularly one who has been in office for only a few months. If it is not definitely stated in the Bill, the Minister’s promise, in the event of a change of Government, may ‘be entirely overlooked.
– I said that we should have a consultative Board associated with the Board of Management, and the proposal of the honorable senator is totally different.
– My proposal is that those who are directly interested should have a representative. Sub-clause 5 raises the question of accruing rights being preserved to the persons appointed from the Public Service. If accruing rights .are to be preserved to them, we should also provide that accruing rights shall be preserved to those who have been transferred from State services to that of the Commonwealth. In some instances, that means five years’ longer service than would otherwise be the case.
– We cannot embody that in this particular Bill.
– If we preserve the accruing and existing rights of the members of the Board of Management, we should do the same for those who have been transferred. The Constitution and the Public Service Act provide that that shall be done.
– If it is provided in the Constitution, what is there to prevent those concerned receiving the benefit?
- Senator Thomas knows that civil servants have been prevented from receiving benefits in that direction.
– Because the law was against them.
– If Senator Thomas makes that statement seriously, he is not conversant with the facts, because on the first occasion they were successful, but in others they failed. Even if they have failed ten times, it is still embodied in the Constitution. In this measure care is being taken to preserve the rights of certain public servants who are highly paid, while we are ignoring those rights which the Constitution binds us to give, and our Public Service legislation sets forth that we should provide, to the rank and file.
– That is a most unfair way of putting it.
– I do not think anything could be clearer. T could quote not only the Constitution, but the Public Service Act, and also the actual experience of transferred civil servants who have suffered.
– Will the honorable senator quote also any decision of the High Court in this matter?
– I know of the case of a man who had been in a State Service, and who, when in the Federal Service, was still hale and hearty at the retiring age of sixty-five years. Had he remained with the State he would have served another five years, without doubt. However, he had to go. At the time of his retirement he was receiving more than £200 per annum, so that in those five years which were compulsorily lost to him by the fact of his being in the Federal Service, he had to forgo more than £1,000 in salary. The result was that he had to apply for a pension. In his case, as in those of many others similarly situated, an actual covenant was broken. The arguments of the Minister are, in effect: “We have no confidence in a Board of Management of three, only two of whom would be our choice; the number is not sufficient. We must have the whole three.’’ The Minister says, further, “We must have a consultative Board.’’ There is no provision in this measure for the creation of a consultative Board. There should be words inserted in the clause to secure that one of the three persons chosen shall be selected from a number nominated by members of the Civil Service.
– I support the amendment. The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap). No specific amendment was moved by Senator Senior.
– Then, I move-
That after the word “persons” the following words be inserted : - “ one of whom shall bo selected from three persons nominated by the members of the Public Service.”
I have listened to the arguments of the Minister and agree with the criticisms of Senator Senior. There are three ideals which should be before us in regard to the Civil Service. Those are efficiency, contentment, and economy. We desire the Civil Service to be efficient, and economically managed, and happy in its activities. The proper way in which to bring those ideals to fruition is not to proceed as Senator J. D. Millen has suggested, namely, by appointing psychology experts and efficiency engineers, but to give the Public Service a share of responsibility for its effective management. It is all very well for the Minister (Senator Pearce) to say that employees should not have the right to dictate in the management of a great public concern. We are not now living in the Middle Ages, but in a new world, where we are seeking to bring about an idealistic state of general contentment by a mutual policy of give and take. Here is an opportunity to proceed towards fulfilment of that ideal.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment which would altogether destroy the intention of the Bill. I cannot help thinking that honorable senators do not yet grasp the essential principle behind this measure. The Board to be appointed will not be comparable with a Board of appeal. The intention is really to appoint trustees, who are to manage a huge concern. Those who are employed in that concern are but an infinitesimal proportion of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth; yet the amendment proposes to give them the right to select one of the three persons who will manage the Service. The, Board will not deal solely with questions affecting the Public Service. All sorts of matters will arise; such, for example, as questions of contracts. If the amendment were carried the Government would have to drop the Bill; it is a negation of the whole principle contained in the measure. The idea of giving to the Public ‘ Service, a voice in its affairs is good in its proper place. In the United Kingdom the outcome of the desire to bring about a new and idealistic world - such as Senator Benny has referred to - resulted in the appointment of -the Whitley Councils. But it has never been proposed in England that those Councils should have the management of, or a managerial voice in, the Public Service.
The Economies Commission, upon whose recommendations the Government is acting in introducing this measure, took a general survey of the Public Service. Its members were live and progressive men; they did not, in any recommendation, suggest such an innovation as is proposed by the amendment. I suggest that Senator Benny withdraw the amendment, and I assure him that the Government will give effect to the general desire that the Public Service shall have some such means of expression as is provided in the United Kingdom by the Whitley Councils. I am sympathetic with that objective, and, in saying so, I speak not only as a member of the Senate, but as a member of the Government.
– I do not see that my amendment involves a negation of the principle of the Bill.
– It does, because it seeks to take away from the Parliament and from taxpayers generally, not only the management of the Public Service, but also, to some extent, the control of public money, and to place that management and control very largely in the hands of an infinitesimal minority of the people.
– I agree with the views just expressed. Honorable senators would be wrong if they accepted the amendment. If the principle of giving the Public Service an important share in its own. management is right, then tie principle holds good also in respect of private affairs; it will be right and proper to have an employee in a lawyer’s office, or in a big pastoral concern, appointed by his fellowemployees to the Board of Management. However, I cannot imagine the Cover - ment agreeing to the creation of a Board of Management to control the Public Service without making sure that at least one of the persons appointed shall have been chosen from the Public Service, in order that, as an outcome of his experience, he may be able to assist his colleagues. They would naturally select a man who had risen pretty well to the top of the Service.
– Is not the amendment designed to facilitate the introduction of new ideas into the Service?
– Doubtless we should have new ideas introduced under it. But I should like to see the private employer who would be willing to try the experiment in connexion with his own business.
– I have tried it all my life.
– In what way?
– I have always aimed at getting my employees interested in the business.
– But the honorable senator still runs his own show in his own way.
– You ought to have sufficient knowledge of industrial matters to-day to recognise that an employer has not much say in them.
– At any rate, the honorable senator would not place an employee upon the Board of Management in connexion with his own business. If the amendment of Senator Benny be carried, one member of the proposed Board will be a nominee of the Public Service of the Commonwealth. The Government will most likely appoint to that body one member who possesses a good knowledge of that Service.
– Then the honorable senator’s argument narrows itself down to an objection that under the amendment the Government would not have the nomination of all the members of the Board 1
– The Government should have the right to select men whom they know to be competent to manage the affairs of our Public Service. I quite recognise that our public servants should be interested in the efficient conduct of the Service. In our Public Service Act we provided for the establishment of Appeal Boards, thereby making an honest effort to enlist the co-operation of our public servants in order that the Service might be made .an efficient and contented one. In that Statute it is practically laid down that without the consent of three members of an Appeal Board, no public servant, however incompetent, shall be dismissed. No Minister will deny that, however inefficient a public servant may be, he cannot be discharged.
– But under the proposed Board he may be dismissed.
– If a public servant is known to be inefficient, cannot the Board get rid of him?
– Then why appoint the Board ?
– Exactly. That has been the point which I have stressed from the beginning.
– If I agreed with the honorable senator on that point, I would vote against the Bill altogether.
– I am very glad that the honorable senator is beginning to see things in their proper perspective.
– If under subparagraph 7 of paragraph a pf proposed new section 11. the Board cannot get rid of men who do not earn their salaries, how is effect to be given to that particular provision ?
– That is what I wish to know. I asked the Minister if that provision were embodied in the principal Act. At first he did not reply, because he knew that it was there, and assumed that other honorable senators knew it.
– Why did the honorable senator not tell us that it was there ?
– It seems to me that this discussion has now resolved itself into one concerning the method of appointment of the proposed Board. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has practically admitted that a civil servant will be appointed to that body, aud Senator Thomas has agreed as to the wisdom of adopting that course. Consequently, the question becomes one of whether the Government shall select this member of the Board, or whether the Service shall indicate one of three of its members whom it thinks should be appointed. I agree with Senator Benny that we are living in a progressive age, and that this Parliament cannot expect to obtain a more contented Public Service unless drastic changes in its management are effected. I foresee difficulty in the way of selecting a representative of the Public Service on the proposed Board, because the members of that Service are distributed over practically every portion of Australia. Presumably, in order to make a selection, it would be necessary for them to take a ballot. I am heartily in accord with the object of the amendment. Only in this morning’s newspapers, the secretary of the Public Service Association in Victoria has taken the Minister for Defence to task over what he said the other day.
– I am replying to him.
– I do not say whether the statement made by the Minister was correct or not.
– Here is Mr. Maher ‘s statement, and honorable senators may peruse the Whitley Committee’s report.
– Unfortunately the Minister’s statement has not been given the publicity that has been given to Mr. Maher’s. However, that is the fault of the press, and riot of the Minister I have no doubt that the statement of the honorable gentleman was quite accurate. I am confident that the Commonwealth Public Service will be much better satisfied than it will otherwise be if it has a representative upon the proposed Board. To-day, industrial legislation is travelling in that direction. We know that some Governments in Australia have refused to allow their civil servants the right to come under the Arbitration Act. The Commonwealth, however, long ago conceded that right. The question which is now at issue is merely one of the method of selection. Senator Benny is only seeking to insure that our public servants shall be treated in the same way as persons in private employ are being treated.
– But the proposed Board of Management will really be the employers.
– No. The Government and the taxpayers of the Commonwealth are the employers. The proposed Board is merely one of management. .It will represent the taxpayers, and its function will be to get the best possible service from our public servants.
– Under the amendment, any of its members would represent 5,000,000 of people, whilst the third would represent only 20,000.
– That is the line of argument adopted by every honorable senator who is opposed to the amendment. It is based upon the assumption that the person who was selected by the 20,000 public servants would immediately set to work against the best interests of the community. The suggestion is a ridiculous one. As a matter of fact, there is no reason why the representative of the Public Service upon the Board should not be absolutely the keenest member of that body in seeking to safeguard the interests of the Commonwealth. Why should we assume that immediately a man is taken from the Service to represent the public servants on the Board of Management he will snap his fingers at the interests of the community and will feel that all he has to do is to please the men who selected him for appointment to the Board?
– The honorable senator should remember that it is not a life appointment that is proposed”, but an appointment for only three years.
– It is suggested that the interests of the country will not matter to him so long as he serves the interests of the public servants, but I say that so sure as he is a living man, when his term of office expires, if he is appointed a member of the Board he will have to fight opposition to secure his reelection.
– He will occupy the. position as Senator Thomas occupies his position. As a senator he represents New South Wales, and not merely the party behind him.
– Just so. I am satisfied that every member of the Senate does his best for the Commonwealth generally. The supposition that a member of the Board selected by the public servants would devote the whole of his attention to placating the employees of the Service is quite wrong. Senator Adamson referred to the Railway Appeal Board in Queensland, and I may inform honorable senators that I was for six years a representative of employees on the Railway Appeal Board in South Australia. I did not stand merely for the employees or for the Railway Commissioners, but I had to contest my seat every time an election came round. I am pleased to say that I was able to retain my seat on the Board. I have sufficient confidence in the members of the Public Service to believe that any man selected from the Service for appointment to the Board would do his best for the Commonwealth, as well as for the employees of the Service. I hope that, in justice to the Commonwealth employees, the amendment will be carried.
.- I intend to vote for the amendment. As Senator Newland has said, honorable senators should disabuse their minds of the suspicion that a man selected for appointment to the Board by a majority of the- employees of the Public Service would be likely to be a fire-eater or an undesirable person. Every member of the Senate .is constantly coming into contact with Commonwealth public servants, and whilst there may be exceptions, I think it can be said that, generally speaking, the men and women who are members of the Public Service are just as levelheaded as are any other members of the community. They are likely to make a good choice of a representative on the Board of Management. I feel sure that I am right in saying that the great majority of the members of the Service are as anxious as the general body of the taxpayers that it should be conducted economically and efficiently. My connexion with the Public Service has led me to form the opinion that the employees would be likely to make a wise selection for appointment to the Board. In the course of his able second-reading speech on the Bill Senator Pearce pointed out that it introduces no new principle. It merely proposes the establishment of a Board of three persons to take the place of the Public Service Commissioner under the existing Act. .
– I said that clause 11 of the Bill is new.
– Generally, the honorable senator stated that it was the purpose, of the Bill to appoint three men to replace the one man who now has control of the Public Service. If everything has worked smoothly in the past there should be no necessity for the appointment of a Board of three, but I venture to say that the reason underlying the introduction of this Bill is that things have not been satisfactory in the Public Service, and it is the desire of the Government to bring about a more satisfactory state of affairs in the future. As honorable senators who preceded me have said, and as I said last week, industrial reform is now tending in the direction of conciliation rather than of arbitration. If we are desirous of putting into operation the doctrines we are continually preaching as applicable te outside enterprises, we should do well to put our own house in order and apply those doctrines to the Public Service by giving the employees the right to nominate one of their number to the Board of Management.
.- I regret that I was unable, through absence, to hear the previous debate on this Bill. It appears to me that in the arguments which honorable senators have used in support of the amendment they have mixed up conciliation and arbitration with the management of the Public Service. I cannot see my way to support the amendment. I am strongly in favour of public servants being represented on any Appeal Board dealing with wages and conditions of their service. No one will go further on those lines than I am prepared to go to secure contentment in the Service. But in this Bill we are dealing with the management of the Public Service. The employees of a hank will not go to the shareholders and ask that they should be directly represented on the directorate that fixes contracts, wages, and everything else done by the bank.
– Do they not elect the directors ?
– No, the shareholders elect the directors. In this Bill the Senate is being asked to consent to the appointment of a Board of Directors to carry on the Public Service of the Commonwealth. , If the Board fixes conditions of service that are inequitable, the provisions of other measures with which we shall be called upon to deal will give the employees representation upon Appeal Boards which will be able to take those conditions into consideration. It seems to me that honorable senators are mixing up management with the conditions of the Service. I have, so. far, heard no argument to convince me that I should support the proposed innovation. If it could be shown that it would be in the interest of the country I should willingly vote for it, but I do not care to take a step in the dark. Any one who looks around him at the present time must see that there is some danger of a bureaucracy being created in the Commonwealth that will be a menace to the democracy of Australia.
– How could that happen when only one of the three members of the Board would, under the amend.ment, represent the employees of the Service?
– The amendment would initiate the precedent of giving employees a voice in the management of the Service.
– That is a precedent already introduced by the Government in the Industrial Peace Bill.
– Nothing of the kind. The honorable senator is mixing up Appeal Boards, and arbitration and conciliation, with management. This Bill proposes the form of management to be adopted for the Public Service. I, personally, should not mind if the whole of the members of the Board were selected from members of the Public Service, so long as they were able men.
– I should not vote for that.
– I think that the Government would do well to appoint men from outside the Service with business experience, but one of the members of the Board should be selected from those who have a long experience of work in the different Departments of the Public Service. A nominee from the Public Service on the Board would be absolutely the servant of the employees in the Service. He would be there to protect their interests. This is not the measure in which to make provision for such an appointment.
– Why should he not protect the interests of the Commonwealth, as well as of the public servants, on the Board of Management?
– I am not saying that he would not.
– The honorable senator is assuming that he would not.
– I am not assuming anything of the kind. I do not say that a man nominated from the Public Service would work against the interests of the public, but he would naturally try to voice the feelings of the members of the Service. The Service is now so organized that employees in every branch would be calling meetings to instruct the nominee of the Service on the Board as to what they required. He would become ‘merely the representative of the public servants. That would be an incongruous position for him to hold as a member of the Board of Management. How it would work I do not know, but I am not disposed to vote for a trial of the experiment. In private business an employer lays down the conditions of his service and, if they are unfair, resort may then be had to Arbitration Court, Conciliation Board, or Whitley Committee, but the employer must be allowed to manage his own business.
– The Board of Management will not be conducting its own business.
– The Board will really represent the employers of the Public Service. They will represent the Government. In the early days a Minister might entirely control a Department, but the Public Service has grown to such an extent that the Government must to-day have representatives to do the business which Ministers used to do. When we come to consider the constitution of Appeal Boards I shall be willing to give the employees full representation, but I cannot support the amendment which, in my view, is a proposal to introduce class interests into the management of the Public Service.
– Since I spoke on the second reading of the Bill I have received a good deal, of information from honorable senators on both sides in regard to this particular amendment. In the first place I should like to say that ‘the attitude of the Government is a little hard to understand, in view of the fact that Senator Russell, speaking upon another Bill, said that the Government, in proposing the appointment of the Director of the Bureau of Science and Industry, were of opinion that three men, if appointed, would be talking too much, and would not do the work. They proposed, therefore, in connexion with the Bureau of Science and Industry to vest all the powers in one man. In this Bill they have taken up a different attitude.
In my speech on the second reading of the Bill, I said that I desired to see business Boards appointed in connexion with the public Departments. In making a start with the Board of Management under this Bill, men should be appointed who will be able to deal with ,the matters within their control from a business stand-point. I understand that it is the intention of the Government that at least one of the three members of the Board shall be selected from members of the Public Service who have a knowledge of the working of the various Departments. I , am opposed to the amendment if it means that the public servants themselves are to nominate one of their own number for appointment to the Board.
– That is what it means.
– It does not say so. It does not limit their selection to members of the Public Service. They may nominate a person outside the Service.
– Can the honorable senator see them going outside to make a selection ?
– I cannot. I can understand that whilst under the amendment the employees of the Service might nominate some one outside, they would naturally desire to nominate one of themselves. It is obvious that the man who is likely to be most popular would be - shall we say ? - the best man on the stump, a man who can “ raise Cain “ when trouble arises, and pose as a friend of the worker. Such a man might succeed in getting the number of votes necessary to secure a nomination of this kind. If we are to have a member of the Civil Service on the Board to look after the interests of the employees, I say that, bearing in mind that it is the intention that this should be a business Board, the appointment should be left in the hands of the Government. They should be free to choose the man whom they consider the best man now in the Service possessing the qualifications necessary for a member of the Board. I cannot agree with the amendment, which would allow the employees of tie Public Service to nominate a member of the Board.
Speaking on behalf of the Government, the Minister for Defence stated that he was in favour of consultative Boards being established, and of the members of the Public Service being given the opportunity to put their claims before such Boards. It should be borne in mind that in another clause of the Bill powers are vested in the Board of Management in addition to those now vested in the Public Service Commissioner. If we are to constitute this business Board to liven up the Departments, and bring about economy and efficiency, we must have upon it the ablest’ men we can get. I have been rather amused at some honorable senators stressing strongly the matter of contentment in the Public Service. A new senator might imagine from what has been said that the Commonwealth Public Service has been seething with discontent for years. If .that be the case, it is quite time that there was new blood in the Senate to fix things up, as it is rather a reflection upon honorable senators who have sat in this chamber for many years and upon Governments that have been in power in the Commonwealth so long. With the establishment of a business Board, and the appointment of an Arbitrator, and with the addition of an Appeal Board and consultative Boards in the Departments) the civil servants will be at least more contented than they are to-day.
– I should like an assurance from the Government that they will select at least one member of the Board of Management from the Public Service. “When I spoke previously, I thought it only fair that the Public Service should be represented on the Board; but I quite see the danger of allowing them to nominate their man, because, unless he complied with the wishes of a majority, who might possibly desire what was not in the best interests of the management of the affairs of the country, he might be treated like some very able members of Parliament have been treated in the past at election times. If the Government give me their assurance, before I vote, that one member of the Board will be chosen from the Service, I shall be satisfied.
– Several honorable senators have expressed the fear that a member nominated by the Public Service will be stronger than the other two members of the Board, and do disastrous things. They argue that even if the Public Service nominates three men, of whom the Government choose one, it will lead to disaster. How will it lead to disaster? The representative of the Public Service will be in the minority all the time, because the other two members will be chosen by the Government. That meets Senator Pearce’s argument that this man will have to do what he is bidden to do. If that is so, then the other two men will have to do what they are bidden to do, because they also are to be subject to renomination and re-appointment. If this man is to be regarded as the creature of the Public Service, the other two men will be absolutely the creatures of the Government, and there will be two to one against him.
– One is to be appointed to do definite things,. and the other is not; their powers are laid down distinctly in the Bill.
– The functions of the Board are laid down for the Board as a whole,- and not for any individual member of it. This man will be appointed to do the Board’s work, and will no longer be the creature of anybody. If he is, then so are the nominees of the Government.
– “Why should not the waterside workers, or the wharf labourers, of Australia also have the right to appoint one man?
– “Why should not every elector of Australia come into Parliament? “We are not arguing for one representative for each Department. Those who oppose the amendment say that they do not object to the Government promising to select one member who has been a civil servant. Apparently, the argument is that they will ‘not accept a man if he is nominated or suggested by the Public Service, but that he will be nil right if the Government suggest him themselves. If the man is good enough to be selected by the Government, i3 he not also good enough to be selected by *ih** Public Service as one of their nominees?
– Tes, if they guaranteed that he would be the same man.
– Senator Benny’s amendment suggests that the Government should select one of three men nominated by the Public Service. Does Senator Thomas argue that it is impossible for the combined Public Service of Australia . to possess one ray of wisdom? The honorable senator presupposes that 20,000 people will be all cranks or idiots, but that four or five men in the Government will combine in their persons the wisdom of the whole Commonwealth. The more the question is examined, the more evident it seems that the Public Service have at least a strong claim to a representative. It is supposed by some that a man with the necessary -business ability cannot be found in the Public Service. The Public Service is the very place to bring out men’s business ability, and make them keen and alert. That applies particularly to some branches of the Service. The members of the Public Service are not likely to select a man who is not well known for his ability.
– How would they elect him ? By one man one vote ?
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the proposal is likely to fail because of the method of selection ?
– Would the honorable senator compel the Government to appoint a man selected by the Public Service?
– No. but one of the three suggested by the Public Service should be chosen as a member of the Board of Management.
– Then the honorable senator suggests that 20,000 public servants, spread over this vast continent,’ know more about the one, two, or three men they may nominate than do the Government, who are in touch with the most likely men in the Departments.
– Does the honorable senator argue that there are no men in the Public Service well enough known for the public servants to select from?
– I have not said so.
-The honorable senator’s objection presupposes that the public servants do not know their men, and that the Government do know them, or, at least the Government know them better. There is nothing harsh or unreasonable in the amendment, which concerns the whole of the public servants of the Commonwealth. I think they have a just claim to representation, and I am prepared to vote for it.
– Before the vote is taken, I should like to make my position clear. I have a great deal of sympathy with Senator Benny’s amendment.
– We want a vote, which is better than sympathy.
– I intend to vote as my reason directs me. I am in sympathy with the amendment, because it is in harmony with all that is going on in the world to-day, in the management of big businesses. In England and America, working men are being invited to take their places on Boards of Management, so that they may give the employers the benefit of their experience. One of the leading employers of England is saying to-day that the wage system is doomed, simply because these men are being asked to go on to the Boards of Management so that they may know the responsibilities of the business to which they belong, and that they may receive a fairer share of the profits of the business. The object of the movement is to create greater contentment among thewhole of the wage workers. While I am not prepared to say that I am in agreement with all that is being proposed in this particular matter, I say the tendency of the amendment is in that direction, and one of the ways to bring about contentment among the workers of the world is to give them more say so far as the business in which they are engaged is concerned. Still, I recognise that so far as the Board of Management of the Public Service is concerned, it should be as representative as possible, and I hope it will be. If the Minister in charge of the Bill could see his way clear to give some assurance that the claims of the Public Service will be fairly considered - I do not want him to make a promise of that kind, because no Minister can bind his Government in that way - it should meet the case. I know the danger of allowing public servants to appoint a man. I have seen cases where the men chosen by the workers have Been of the most extreme type. On this Board extremists and unreasonable men are not required. What is eminently desirable is that the Board shall consist of reasonable men. The community will have its representation, and the public servants, being deeply interested, should, I think, have their representative. In every way it seems to me to be desirable that an effort should be made to insure the Board being as representative as possible. If the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) is prepared to give some assurance- I do not expect a definite promise - that the members of the Civil Service will receive favorable and sympathetic consideration, I think that is as much as we can expect. I am not prepared to support the amendment, but I hope the Board will be made as representative as possible. The Government should be allowed to manage their own business; but I hope the Minister for Defence will consider what has been said this afternoon, and adopt a proposal which will be in the best interests of the Service and the Commonwealth generally. Senator Payne is moving in harmony with the times in saying that the Government must manage their own affairs; and, in view of all the circumstances, it is my intention on this occasion to support them.
– In reference to the point raised by Senator J. F. Guthrie, I am sure he will realize that it is impossible for me to say today that the Government will appoint a member of the Public Service. I could not bind my colleagues to that extent ; but I am confident that we will be practically forced to adopt such a course. In appointing a Board such as that proposed, which is to take over from the Public Service Commissioner the management of the Public ‘Service, in addition to other duties, the Government would be foolish if they did not appoint at least one man who had a thorough knowledge of the Service. If some of its members were not conversant with the conditions in the Service, the Board would be practically helpless for months. In my opinion, an ideal Board would consist of one man with a thorough knowledge of the Service, a good business accountant, and a competent business man. If we had a Board of that character, good results would naturally follow, and
I shall use my influence in the direction of having such a body appointed.
– This question is sure to be pressed to a division, and on the present appearance of the proposition, so far as I can understand it, it opens up a lot of new ground. I desire to see the Commonwealth Public Service contented, and I also wish to see another element in this country, the community outside, contented. Whilst it is possible that those who are inside the one preserve, and have all the safeguards which a body of men could reasonably expect, are contented, it is quite possible that there may be jealous eyes cast upon that section, on account of the privileges they enjoy, by those who are outside the charmed circle. I am not suggesting that the Public Service is pampered in any way; but this proposal is going dangerously near that position. The proposed Board is to supersede the Public Service Commissioner, and it will be divided into three parts, and the governing power will be speaking with three voices instead of one. The proposal is to acquire one voice exclusively for the benefit of 30,000 public servants in this’ country. It is a good old maxim that “the party that pays the piper should call the tune.” In this instance the party that pays the piper is the public of this country, and the public servants will, of course, contribute to an infinitesimal degree as the piper. But the Public Service Board as such has to regulate the price to be paid for the work done. When the Public Ser vice embarks upon this new territory, and expects one-third of the representation on the Board, I think, in proportion to their numbers, that their request is unreasonable, as they have ample security against any injustice being done to them. This Parliament consists of 111 members, who ostensibly are here to represent the people, and we are going to appoint as one of our instrumentalities of government a Board of Management which is to be the paymaster for the time being. When we find the Public Service, consisting of only 30,000 people, claiming one-third of the paymaster’s powers, and leaving the other two-thirds to the taxpayers, we have to consider where we are going to stop. We have also to consider whether we shall extend this principle to other governmental activities, and if we do we shall be establishing a mild form of Russian Soviet rule.
– Does the honorable senator infer that Senator Benny is a Bolshevik ?
– Nothing of the kind. I know that Senator Benny is sincere, and I can quite appreciate his intention. But if we allow the Commonwealth employees to take a hand in the duty of paying, I do not see that there is any great difference between such a position and that which exists in Russia, where the employees pay themselves. At all events, it is a wrong principle to allow a fractional element of the whole community to have one- third ofthe power.
– I am afraid the honorable senator is somewhat conservative.
– It depends entirely upon the viewpoint from which it is considered. A costermonger is a big man in his own kitchen, but he is of little importance in St. Paul’s Cathedral. I am endeavouring to uphold the position of civil servants of this country in such a way that a backward step will not be taken as the result of what is considered a forward one. If this principle is adopted now, it is quite clear that others will demand a similar privilege, and until we have proved that present methods are faulty it is undesirable to make a change. What is the position of the civil servants to-day? Let me draw the attention of my usually logical friend, Senator Senior, to the impracticability of his suggestion. This Parliament consists of so many members, and its mission is to represent the people in a constitutional and practical way. The Public Service will have as its paymasters three Commissioners, and the proposal is seriously submitted that the Public Service, which numbers 30,000 out of over 2,000,000 electors, should have one-third of the representation on the proposed Board. They might as well claim one-third of the representation in this Parliament, and be done with it.
– They are not the paymasters.
– Senator Senior is most illogical on. this occasion. As far as the rates and conditions of pay are concerned, ‘the Board will have almost unlimited powers, subject, of course, to the findings of the Arbitrator. We must remember that the public servant is in an entirely different position to that of the private employee outside, because if the Civil Service was badly treated by any particular party, it would resound from Cape Yorke to Cape Leeuwin, and the men supporting the party responsible would certainly suffer. If Senator Senior were a candidate he would probably be asked how he intended to treat the public servants of the Commonwealth, and he would naturally say that he would assist in legislating in their interests and remedying every just, grievance. Private employees have not public opinion on their side, and they have no means of redress unless they secure it through the Courts. Has Senator Senior considered the private employee, and does he realize that we have to hold the scales fairly between both?
– We have to consider the position of those in private employment. We should not talk so much about the public official and his alleged grievances. In the first place, he will always have public opinion on his side. We are living in an age when the Government has become a huge employer, and when it cannot live except by the goodwill of the people, and cannot live at all by injustice. If public opinion can be influenced against it, it goes out of office. Is not that sufficient safeguard ? There are about 240,000 agricultural employees in Australia, as against 30,000 Fede’ral public servants. Should not the former also be given a direct voice in the management of this country’s affairs? They outnumber the latter eight to one. The former pay, while the latter receive. If a public servant is badly treated he has two forms of remedy. First, he may appeal to public opinion, without the goodwill of which no Government can live; and, second, he may appeal to an Arbitrator. Those who pay the bill should have the control of the disbursements.
– The proposed creation of this Board is one of the most important matters which can occupy the attention of honorable senators. The chief objective with respect to the Civil Service is the maintenance of contentment in its ranks, and the securing of economy in general administration. The Minister (Senator Pearce) has already pointed out that one of the three persons to be selected - if not two of them - will, in alt probability, be a civil servant. The point arises whether that should be taken as sufficient or whether the Government should not agree to accept the cooperation of the Public Service in making the selection. I do not see why it should not do so. The creation of this Board will involve, perhaps, the most important appointments in the Civil Service, and it is necessary that the three most competent men available shall be secured. They will have certain powers, yet they will only be able to make recommendations, and will not have authority to act. The Board will not comprise the right class of men unless it is to be given power to act along the lines, if necessary, of either increasing or decreasing a civil servant’s pay, or even of disrating him. Where a public official has failed to give good service the Boa/rd should have the power to deal with him direct’. If the Board is to achieve something in the public interest it must be given some such power as I have indicated, and I will not support its creation otherwise. I cannot see why the Government should not agree to accept nominations from among .which to make its appointment to the’ Board.
Question - That thewords proposed to be inserted be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
– As there is to be an interesting engagement in the Queen’s Hall this evening, I think it would meet with the views of honorable senators if I were to move, as I do,
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I am quite in favour of the adjournment of theSenate to enable us to attend a dinner which is to be tendered to His Excellency the Governor-General this evening. But I think the Government should have informed us some time ago that such a function was to take place. Inter-State members of this Parliament do not undertake a weekly trip to New South Wale’s or South Australia for mere fun, and before this Chamber adjourned on Friday last the Government might have taken us into their confidence regarding this evening’s function in order that we might have made all necessary arrangements. The first official intimation that I received that any such gather- ing was to be held to-night was upon my arrival at the parliamentary buildings at 2 o’clock this afternoon. At such a late hour, I had no opportunity of replying to the invitation extended to me. This sort of thing is all very well for Ministers who reside in Melbourne, but they might have studied the convenience of Inter-State members by giving them ample notice of to-night’s function.
– I can only plead guilty to the charge against the Government which has been preferred by Senator Thomas, and throw myself and my colleagues upon the mercy of the Court. Obviously somebody has blundered, and I express my regret at the occurrence. I agree with Senator Thomas that he has a legitimate grievance. Incidentally, I may remark that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral has requested the Government to make it known that he hopes that the members of this Parliament will not feel under any obligation to appear at the dinner in evening dress. He recognises that there are quite a number of members who come from distant States, and he hopes that they will not absent themselves from the function because of any difficulty of the character which I have suggested.
– My remarks referred to other arrangements.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 6.9 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 August 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19200811_senate_8_92/>.