8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Given) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act. - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 6 of 1921.- Australian Postal Electricians Union.
No. 7 of 1921 (Travelling Time).- Commonwealth Public Service Artisans Association, Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association, Professional Officers Association, Line Inspectors Association, Australian Postal Linemen’s Union, and Australian Postal Electricians Union.
No. 8 of 1921. - Australian Postal Linemen’s Union.
No. 9 of 1921. - Line Inspectors Association.
No. 10 of . 1921__ Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 11 of 1921. - Australian Telegraphists Union.
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act. - RegulationsStatutory Rules 1921, No. 207.
Proclamation, dated 5th October, 1921, revoking previous proclamation relating to the exportation of butter and prohibiting the exportation of butter unless certain conditions be complied with.
Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 208.
Defence Act.- Royal Military College of Australia Report for 1920-1921.
Excise Act. - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 194.
High Courtp rocedure Act. - Rule of CourtDated5th October, 1921.
Nauru and Ocean Island. - Their Phosphate Deposits and Workings - Paper by Harold B. Pope, Commissioner for Australia.
New Guinea. - Ordinances for 1921 -
No. 18. - Petroleum Storage.
No. 19.- Native Taxes.
No. 20.- Customs.
Northern Territory. - Ordinances of 1921 -
No. 11. - Darwin Town Council (No. 4).
No. 13. - Observation of Law.
Public Service Act-
Appointments. - G. H. Brandis and L. P. Brent, Department of Health.
Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 198.
Railways Act. - By-law No. 20.
Taxation. - First Report of Royal Commission, together with appendices.
Territory for the Seat of Government. - Ordinance No. 3 of 1921 - City Leases, together with Regulations thereunder.
War Precautions Act Repeal Act. - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 39.
War Service Homes Act. - Land acquired in New South Wales . at Balmain, Hamilton, Weston.
Informal Votes, West Sydney Election
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whether he is in a position to give me any information as to the informal votes recorded at the recent byeelection for West Sydney?
– Honorable senators will remember that Senator Thomas brought this matter under notice some ‘time ago. I have now obtained from the Chief Electoral Officer the following statement in reference thereto : -
The accompanying statement -relating to the rejection of ballot-papers at the scrutiny in the West Sydney bye-election, held on the 3rd September, 1921, is submitted for the Minister’s information in connexion with the inquiry of Senator Millen, dated 9th September, 1921. The data from which the statement has been prepared was obtained from the officers who actually conducted- the scrutiny, and for all practical purposes may be taken to be correct. It will, of course, be understood that the law does not permit of scaled and indorsed parcels containing ballot-papers rejected in an election being opened unless the election is disputed, and then only by an order of the Court. The election was contested by four candidates, and it, therefore, became necessary for the voters to indicate the order of their preference ‘for the whole of the candidates, by the use of consecutive numbers. Large posters, setting forth the requirements of the law, were exhibited in the polling booths for the information of voters, whose attention was also specially drawn to the printed directions on the ballotpapers.
Statement showing total number of ballotpapers rejected at the scrutiny in the West Sydney bye-election, held on 3rd September, 1921, the reason for rejection, and the approximate number rejected under each head.
– By way -of personal explanation, I desire to make a slight correction in connexion with remarks I made in connexion with the War Appropriations Pensions Bill as they appear at page 11934 of Hansard. I had not an opportunity of correcting the proof of my speech. I was reported . to have said that of my own knowledge the administration of the Repatriation Department by its officials was as fair as the latter could make it. Obviously I was referring to the Pensions Department, as the Bill under consideration dealt with pensions. I should like to make it quite clear that the remarks I made were directed to the Pensions Department.
Senator PLAIN, on behalf of the Joint Committee of Public Works, presented a report, together with minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed erection of offices for the Taxation and other Commonwealth Departments in Sydney.
Purchase of Land
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether it is a fact that the War Service Homes Commission, is still buying estates; and whether it would not be advisable to take stock of the land so far available and not built upon before the policy is continued?
– The honoriable senator asks a question and founds an affirmation on an assumed answer to it. As to whether the War Service Homes Commissioner, who is an independent officer, is -buying land, I ask the honorable senator to give notice of his question. As to the rest of the honorable senator’s question, he has suggested a policy which, so far as the Minister for Repatriation is concerned, is that which is being carried out.
– I ask the Min ister representing the Minister for Home and Territories -
– The answers are as follow: -
International Conference at Switzerland.
– Will the Minister representing the Prime Minister inform the Senate whether the Government were represented at the International Conference recently held in Switzerland to consider the effects of alcohol, and, if so, have they yet received a report?
– I must ask the honorable senator to accept my answer with some reservation. A report may have come to hand within the last few days. As far as I am aware, a report has not yet been received, but one is expected in due course. If the honorable senator will remember the date of the Conference, he will understand that there has been hardly time yet to obtain a report.
– The Government, then, were represented at the Conference ?
Commonwealth Steamships : Internal Combustion Engines.
– I have received an intimation from Senator Foster that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate in order to call attention to a matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The need for considering the equipping of the Commonwealth steamers with internal combustion engines.”
– I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 2.30 p.m. to-morrow.
Four honorable senators having risen in their places in support of the motion,
– It is possible that my formal motion conveys a somewhat vague impression to honorable senators. In common with others who, during, the past few months, have been considering the question of ocean freights as they affect our primary producers, I am wondering if -the Commonwealth Shipping Line, which is owned by the people of Australia, is being conducted in the best interests of the shareholders; but I should like to preface my remarks by stating that any criticism I may indulge in should not be regarded as criticism of the Government or those who are responsible for the running of our steamships. I understand that the latter have been - considering the question of motor ships and oil engines for some time. The file of correspondence between the High Commissioner’s Office in London and one of the largest firms in England, eighteen months or so ago, indicate ithat certain suggestions were made to the company, and quotations were asked for in regard to the equipment of a certain class of ship. I believe there is amongst our experts a consensus of opinion, perhaps npt expressed openly for obvious reasons, that the time is more than ripe for the Government to reconsider their policy in regard to the equipment of their vessels. They say, I understand, some of them at least, that the motor ship is the only satisfactory and efficient vessel for present day freightage, but they are unable to say more because the Government have not yet decided what their policy is to be. I believe the Government made a statement about twelve months ago, though I am unable to fmd any trace of it, and indicated then that they were going to consider the whole question. I admit that the position is fraught with many difficulties due, in part, to the very great depression in the industry. At present, I believe that, despite the heavy losses sustained during the war, the world’s shipping is about 11,000,000 tons in excess of the figures for 1914, and that about 8,000,000 tons of shipping is lying idle in the various ports of the world. Of this idle tonnage no less than 5,000,000 tons is idle at present within the British Empire.
– And probably there is less sea-borne trade to-day.
– There is, as I have said, very great depression in the shipping industry altogether, and in view of this fact the question which is the best class of ship to run in order to show profits is an important one. Some of the largest shipping companies on the other side of the world, notably the Johnson Line, of Sweden, are displacing coal-fired steamships with motor ships, because the latter are able to show a profit which is not possible with steamdriven vessels. We have to consider, also, the great difference in freight to our primary producers to-day as compared with pre-war rates. The honorable senators who represent Tasmania are particularly interested in the carriage of fruit. Prior to the war the freight to England was from 2s. 5d. to 3s. per case, whereas to-day the companies are asking 8s. per case, and they say that it is not worth their while to go to Tasmania for the fruit unless they have certain other privileges. To a great extent, therefore, Tasmania will be dependent on three or four vessels of the Commonwealth Line for the carriage of fruit this season.
During the past few months I have had supplied to me copies of the Motor
Ship, a journal dealing with the shipping position throughout the world, and I have been particularly impressed at the interest displayed in Germany in the shipbuilding industry. We have to admit that prior to the war they built up a fine ocean service, and in common with others seem to be well seized of the benefits to be derived from motor ships. One firm had ordered eight vessels of a standard size of 6,000 horse-power, and another twenty-five ships of a total dead-weight capacity of 175,000 tons. The advantages to be derived had been brought before the controllers of the Johnson Line, of Sweden, who are going in wholly for motor ships, and other prominent shipping firms in other countries, including America, whilst we in Australia do not appear to have commenced to grapple with the question.
– Are not our wooden vessels equipped with Diesel engines ?
– Only as auxiliary power. I have had handed to me a copy of some correspondence which passed between the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) and a representative of one of the firms in Australia, and whilst I am indebted to the representative of this firm for the information with which I have been supplied, I wish it to be distinctly understood that I am not in any way associated with this gentleman or the firm he represents. Much of the information I have received has been obtained from journals published from time to time, and some of the figures which are in my possession have already been placed before the Department. These figures are, I think, unchallengeable, and cannot be disproved. In March last a representative of this firm communicated with the Minister for Home and Territories, when it was suggested by the Department that the possibilities of internal combustion engines were limited to about 5,000 horsepower, and that for the larger type of vessel - those of 12,500 tons which we are now constructing - it was doubtful whether engines of the necessary size and horse-power could be constructed. The representative who communicated with the Minister said -
The past few months have entirely altered the shipping position. The intensity of the depression has, however, demonstrate’d the phenomenal strides made in the ‘ application of
Diesel engines for marine propulsion, andhas, further, given convincing proof of their reliability and economy of operation -
Significant is the fact that of the, approximately, 5,000,000 of tons of ships now laid up there is no instance of a single Diesel ship having been withdrawn from service.
Of the thousands of tons of shipping orders which have been cancelled with the shipbuilders, none were to be equipped with Diesel engines.
The new shipping orders during the past few months have practically all been with Diesel propelling equipment.
Many owners have arranged for the steam propelling equipment of their ships being gutted out and replaced by Diesel equipment. Still more noteworthy is the fact that the bulk of these orders are for single-screw ships, and placed with Messrs. Sulzer Brothers and their licensees.
The above features are of world-wide and general import, but quite sufficient in themselves to warrant the reconsideration asked for.
I refer to that matter for this reason : I understand that ships we are building at present are being supplied with their engine equipment by Thompson Brothers, of Victoria, and I believe the Department said at the time that as they had spent approximately . £100,000 on engine equipment it was not considered wise to cancel the order and install Diesel engines. It seems to me, and I am to some extent governed by the figures supplied, that it would be good business, even at the present juncture, to remove the present coalfire reciprocating engines and install Diesel engines. If the figures supplied to me are unchallengeable, such a policy should be adopted. I have asked that the estimates be made on a conservative basis, and, if they are unchallengeable, it is the duty of the Government and the Parliament to see that the people of Australia obtain the very best for the Commonwealth steamers if the line is to continue in operation. I know there are persons, probably some honorable senators, who think that the operations of the line should be discontinued, and the whole of the Commonwealth shipping business handled by private enterprise; but I do not agree with that view, as I believe we are, to some extent, in the hands of a shipping combine. If the Government control the whole business there is a possibility of the primary producers of Australia deriving some advantage, either by means of rebates or reduced freights. I desire to place on record a table which has been compiled, showing a comparison between the vessels of 12,500 tons deadweight capacity operating between London, via Suez, Fremantle, Adelaide Melbourne, Brisbane, and vice versâ - the total distance is 24,420 nautical miles - with various types of propelling equipment. The time of the voyage at sea is 125 to 135 days, 79 of which are spent at sea and 46 to 56 in port.
– That is for the round trip.
– Yes, it is necessary to take the round trip, because it may be an easy matter to obtain back cargo during certain months, but it is not always practicable to secure a full cargo when coming, out, and that is where a saving can be made with motor vessels. The table which has been compiled for the purpose of making- a comparison is as follows : -
It is claimed that an immense saving is effected in the cost of operating motor - ships in consequence of the space required for fuel - the fuel bill is also smaller - because the bunker space for coal can be dispensed -with. In a great many instances motor-driven vessels have double bottoms in which the oil is carried either as cargo or as fuel. The stokehold crew, which often causes a good deal of trouble, can also be dispensed with, and the accom. modation which they occupy can be utilized for cargo carrying. The average speed of a 6,000-ton tramp steamer is thirteen knots per hour, and it was suggested that it would be necessary to increase the speed of a vessel in a passenger service; but the ships which are being built will be used as cargo carriers, and so the question of speed does not enter into consideration. The above table shows that the total gain in revenue and savings by the motor-ship over other types is £38,251 per trip in the case of the geared steam turbine (oil fired), and £87,543 in the case of the steam reciprocating engine (coal fired).
– What is the difference in speed ?
– The same speed, and the same type of ship. If these figures are absolutely unchallengeable, as the compiler says they are, it is a very strong argument to put forward in favour of having motor-ships.
– Have you any figures showing the probable cost of converting a steam-ship into a motor-ship?
SenatorFOSTER. - I cannot say that, but I believe the difference in the cost of equipping such ships as we are building here with the Sulzer engines, in place of the engines being built at Maryborough, is, roughly, £60,000. Let us say it would cost £80,000 more for the motorship than for the old-fashioned steamship. I have no comparison of the difference in cost of the motor-ship as against the oil-fired reciprocating steam turbine.
– If we were cut off from oil supplies, what would be the use of oil ships?
– We might also ask what would happen if we were cut off from coal supplies? There are such things as coal strikes.
– Coal is in Australia, but oil is not.
– Yes, it is.
– Only a small quantity. Other countries are in a position similar to Australia.
– Great Britain, for instance, converted ships so that they could be oil driven, and now those ships are being converted back, because Great Britain has no oil supplies.
– I think the honorable senator is confounding the position. A number of ships were converted, not to motor-ships, but to oil-fired ships, which is quite a different proposition.
– But you have to get the fuel.
– Quite so.
– All our submarines are motor-ships.
– Yes. The majority of the ships in the Navy are oil fired. If we are to wait here in Australia . upon any developments along these lines, if we mark time until we get oil in this country, or if we do nothing until another war has developed and embroiled us, we will be left in the rear. I could cite, for example, the countries of South America. They are, to some extent, comparable with ourselves on account of their distance from the European market; but their shipping companies, trading from that continent to the East, are now all going in for motor propulsion.
– All are nearer to oil supplies.
– I grant that. I do not know whether I would be justified, however, in going into the matter of oil.
– It really governs the whole issue.
– I can only repeat that if the position is such that development along the lines I advocate must wait upon the discovery of payable petroleum in Australia, we shall probably wait a very long while. I believe that in Tasmania, very shortly, we shall be drawing on plentiful supplies of oil from shale. I do not know whether we shall get very much motor spirit, but I understand that from the shale any amount of crude oil can be obtained ; and that is the sort used by the Diesel engine. I recently placed myself in touch with the manager of the Western Australian Government Shipping Service, which has a motor ship named the Kangaroo. The gentleman in question is evidently very favorable to the project of motor-driven vessels. He has given me figures with respect to the running of the Kangaroo, which leads me to hope, at any. rate, that Senator DrakeBrockman will not advise the Commonwealth authorities to be behind those of his own State in equipping their ships in the same way.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.
– May I move for an extension of time?
– That could only be provided by way of a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders.
.-The thanks of the Senate are due to Senator Foster for having initiated a most interesting discussion. But the kernel of the whole matter is contained in the cost of. fuel. It is this which governs freight rates. Cheap freight is such an absolute necessity in relation to the conveyance of our primary products to markets on the other side of the world that Australia naturally takes the deepest interest in the subject. So far this country has not been favoured by the discovery of petroleum oil deposits. All our requirements of the kind must be imported ; and, to Australia, at any rate, oil is the most expensive fuel. The internal combustion engine is one of the greatest discoveries of the age. It has come to stay. But for that type of engine those two great arms of warfare - the flying machine and the submarine - would not have been practicable. I question whether there would even have been motor cars but for the internal combustion engine. There might have been some improvement on the steam engine adapted for road traffic purposes, but the outcome would only have been an approximation to slow motor service. Altogether, the subject is a very big and important one to Australia, and it must be approached and considered from the Australian stand-point. I repeat that Australia is unfortunate in its lack of oil wells; but there are fields in the Kimberley area of north-west Australia which may yet provide us with our own sources of supply. I believe that there is no better field for discovery than in our far northern and north-western areas. I have come to the conclusion that neither in the’ south nor in the centre of Australia can there be said to be good chances of such discoveries. I was born and reared in an oil district, so that the subject has always interested and, indeed, fascinated me. We have an unlimited supply of shale oil in Australia. The question is, can we produce shale oil at a commercial figure and of such a nature as will make the running Of oil-driven engines a practical business proposition? I am very doubtful. Even in the United States of America, which is the great centre of oil production - between 70 and 80 per cent, of the world’s output comes from America - there are not very ‘ many units in its mercantile marine which are equipped for burning oil fuel. Everywhere oil is so scarce, compared with the demand, and is so dear, while coal is so plentiful and so cheap, that those comparisons between the two fuels entirely govern the situation. I am not in a position,, on the spur of the moment, to question any of Senator Foster’s figures. If they are correct, he has made out an excellent case in favour of the use of fuel-oil engines. But we cannot shut our eyes to what has been happening in other parts of the world. We cannot ignore the fact that in those countries where oil is cheap there are very few vessels equipped with internal combustion engines.
– The honorable senator is incorrect in that statement if he means that in such countries as America there are not many vessels with internal combustion engines; if he refers to oilfired engines, that is quite a diffei’ent matter.
– If the honorable senator can furnish proof that oil as a fuel for ships can compete commercially with coal, then he will have solved the whole problem. That is the kernel of the whole thing. I admit that I find it a difficult subject to discuss. The solution of it rests with scientific, engineering, and commercial men rather than with politicians. I think we, in this Senate, cannot advance the solution of it to any great extent. I am just as anxious as is Senator Foster to see our shale deposits developed. In the past they have been neglected, although they are superior to the shale deposits of most other countries. Their utilization has been dependent upon commercial considerations. The oil produced from shale has had to compete with cheap oil from the oil wells of America, but the industry, nevertheless, has been established for many years, notably in New South “Wales. It has not been able to compete successfully with the mineral ell produced in America. To what extent can we look for success in the development of the shale oil industry in the future? It has been pointed out by competent authorities in America that the oil wells of that country are gradually becoming exhausted. The head of the Biological Department of the United States of America, Dr. Smith, has fixed a period of time for the exhaustion of the supply. In a report” presented to his Government,, he said’ that in- from seventeen to twenty years the oil supplies of America would be exhausted. 3i that be so, then we in Australia must look elsewhere than to America for oil fuel in the future. Incidentally, this country maj come into its own by die utilization of its rich- shale deposits, and we may be able to congratulate ourselves that such a dangerous competitor as the United States of America has been removed. Apart from that fact, we have to remember that the shale deposits of Australia are practically in their virgin condition. We must work them to reap the benefit that Ave might reasonably expect from them. At the same time, we must not forget that this country is also rich in coal deposits. We have been able to supply coal in the past as cheaply as most countries of the world. Some of our steam-ship companies, notably the mail-carrying companies, have taken’ the lion’s share of their coal requirements from Australia. They have done so because Australian coal was cheaper than British .coal. The coal supplies of Australia are good and cheap, and therefore it may be a mistake to attempt to supplant coal by oil. AH these facts must be taken into consideration if we are going to deal with this subject in a proper manner. They are all important. Australia has enormous coal deposits, cheap and of high quality ; and for us to attempt to lead the world in installing internal combustion engines, in lieu of steam engines, would be very drastic and very courageous. Personally, I thank Senator Foster for having brought the subject forward. It is one that is worthy of our consideration. According to figures quoted by the Minister for the Navy
Senator dc Largie. (Mr. Laird Smith), the Commonwealth Government is” paying a very high price for the- fuel oil used by the Australian Navy. Senator Pearce quo-fed figures some time ago showing that in year 1910 the Navy Department paid lOd. per gallon’ for fuel oil, and that in the year 1920 the price was 2s. 9d. per gallon. That is a very high price to pay, and it represents an enormous increase.
– How does the increase in the price of coal compare with the increase in the price of oil in the same period ?
– I admit that coal -has also increased in price, but not to such an extent ae- oil.
’. -The subject* raised by Senator Foster is interesting. That goes without saying, 6ut I submit that it is so highly technical that few members of this Chamber would care to dogmatize regarding it. I take it that the honorable senator’s purpose was to direct attention to the steady development of internal combustion engines with a view to suggesting that they should be employed by the Commonwealth Government in substitution’ for the steamdriven engines in use at the present time. If that be so, I can only say that I will see that the statement made by him this afternoon’ is placed before the technical advisers of the Government. I have no doubt that the advisers of the Government are keeping themselves well posted on the subject, but I think the statement made by the honorable senator is of such an important character that I am entitled to ask them to consider it in all its detail’s. It is impossible, certainly for me, to venture ail opinion on the subject. There are innumerable factors which we have to balance one against another - original cost, space occupied to the detriment of cargo, cost of fuel supplies, and the matter of efficiency. Whatever may be the prices of fuel oil to-day, the indications seem to be that they are going to harden. That appears to be the tendency. A cablegram received the other day from the American oil people, who are not without influence in determining the price of oil in Australia, stated that it had been decided to raise the selling price of oil. This was an announcement of a further increase in price when we were reasonably entitled’ to expect a decrease^ I admit that it is not competent for me to- approach, the subject with any profit to myself or to this Chamber. All that I oan do with any advantage is to furnish a copy of the honorable senator’s statement to those whose responsibility it is to advise the Government.
I offer my congratulations to Senator Foster upon the introduction of this subject and the lucid manner in which he placed the information at his disposal before the Senate. I regret that he had not time in which to complete the speech which he had prepared, but I think that he has accomplished his purpose, inasmuch as he has received from Senator E. D. Millen, representing the Government, a recognition of the importance of the question he has raised, and a promise that his remarks will be brought before the attention of the experts responsible for advising the Government on this question. That is about all that Senator Foster could have hoped to achieve by a discussion of the question at the present time, since there is noi member of the Senate in possession of the necessary knowledge to pronounce a definite decision on the matter.
I join with Senator Foster in impressing upon the Government the great importance to Australia, of the cheap transit of goods overseas. As a representative of the island State of Tasmania, I feel very keenly the need for satisfactory means of communication between that State and the mainland, and the importance to the people of the Commonwealth generally of efficient and satisfactory communication between Australia and the rest of the world. Some ‘ of the interjections during Senator Foster’s speech were made in a hopeless sort of tone. If we are to refuse to do anything in this matter because the supply of oil might be interfered with by a future war, we shall have to stay our hand in regard to many things. We must take some risk. We firmly hope: that we are not going to have any more wars such as that which only lately interfered with the development of Australia and, indeed, of the world a’t large. But it is of no use for us to- refuse to advance merely because we may receive a set-back by the occurrence of war. During a period in which I had some responsibility for the gO’vernment of Tasmania an attempt was. made to develop the shale deposits of the State for the distillation of oil fuel. I witnessed a trial of the oil at Hornsby’s machinery warehouse, in Bourke-street, Melbourne, and I had the assurance of the manager that the oil distilled from the Tasmanian shale was equal to any fuel oil in the world. I believe that there are deposits of shale on the mainland that may be as good as the Tasmanian deposit, but I was assured by experts that an enormous percentage of oil might be distilled from the Tasmanian deposits. I was looking forward to the time’ when we would distil our own oil from the shale deposits at Latrobe for use on our own motor-driven steamers between Tasmania and the mainland. I am sorry that that policy was not persisted in and carried into effect. I believe that if it had been we should to-day be in possession of a permanent supply of fuel- oil - so far as such things can be said to be permanent, because all these deposits have, of course, only a certain life - with which to carry on our own ] shipping.
Although Senator Foster does not accept personal responsibility for the1 correctness of the figures he has given, he has told us that those responsible for them pronounce them unchallengeable. If they are correct, the extra cost of installing oil machinery in our boats would be paid for in a couple of trips.
– Not quite so fast as that.
– Yes. Senator Foster told us that the saving in fuel by an oil-fuel ship in the round trip would amount to £46,000. According to the honorable senator, the extra cost of installing oil-fuel engines would be £80,000. So that in two round trips the whole of the extra cost of installing the new machinery would be paid.
– That is exactly what the experts say.
– This is a question which cannot be lightly regarded. The Government must force it upon the attention of their experts, who should bo directed to advise them whether Senator Foster’s figures are correct. If it is proved that they are, there is only one thing for a progressive Government to do. and that is to get to work at once and’ establish a system of motor-driven ships.
No one can question the importance of efficient sea-carriage for goods. A.11 the States own their own railways, which bring the produce of the primary producers to the different ports. When they reach the ports they are at the mercy of the Shipping Combine. That is a ridiculous position, and those who advocate the withdrawal of the Commonwealth from the shipping enterprise are, in my opinion, very short-sighted indeed. We must supply the missing link between the railway termini and the markets of the world for our produce, otherwise we cannot expect to be a successful exporting nation. Assuming that the information supplied by Senator Foster is reliable, the honorable senator has indicated one way in which the Government may do something to make their name memorable in the history of Australia.
.- I wish to make a few remarks, particularly in reply to Senator de Largie, who suggested that I desired that Australia should lead the world in this particular matter. The fact is that the world is leading Australia, and we are very much behind. The people who are leading the world in this matter at the present time are the Germans and Scandinavians. It is not a question of proving whether what I have suggested can be done, because it has been, and is being, proved in almost every shipbuilding yard in other parts of the world.
– Where do they get their oil supplies?
– At present, they obtain them largely at Aden, where the Anglo-Persian Oil Company has installed some of the biggest oil containers in the world, and where the oil is pumped from the wharf into the vessels.
– The oil supply is not at Aden.
– No ; it comes from wells in Mesopotamia, aud other wells that were the subject of considerable trouble in the finalization of the PeaceTreaty.
– I should say that supplies obtainable at Aden are merely for British-owned vessels. . I do not think that the Germans or Scandinavians would get much oil there.
– I am not prepared to discuss that. Although I have no love for the Germans, I am not inclined to believe that they are fitting ships with oil engines without knowing where they canget oil. Senator de Largie asked me to make some comparison between the use of steam coal and of oil fuel as a commercial proposition.
When my time had expired, I was about to read a communication on this subject which I received from Mr. Glyde, the manager of the State Shipping Service at Fremantle. He deals with the matter in these terms -
The saving in fuel cost is more or less according to the cost of oil or coal. On this coast we are asked to pay ?3 a ton for Kew South Wales coal delivered in hunkers; whereas oil fuel is ?6 5s. per ton ex tanks at Fremantle, and if the vessel is running near the oil supply the oil can be purchased for ?4 per ton at Borneo and ?5 at Singapore. In the case of the Kangaroo, with a dead-weight capacity of 6,700 tons, the quantity of oil fuel used per steaming day is an average of 6 tons at a sea-speed of approximately 10 knots; whereas a similar vessel, using coal under boilers, would require 40 tons of fuel per day for all engines. This gives, say, ?40 per day for oil fuel, against ?120 per day for coal.
There is the commercial proposition as it appears in Western Australia. Mr. Glyde is fair enough to say -
If a vessel can bunker at a coaling port, say, Newcastle, and obtain coal at ?1 5s. per ton, the saving in cost of fuel is not so apparent, being only ?10 per day greater for the coal user.
Mr. Glyde, in his report, refers also to the saving in labour in the use of oil engines; arid writing as a man managing a steam-ship line, using one of the oil-driven boats, he makes the following very significant statement: -
Whereas a coal-fired vessel requires 800 tonsof fuel for a 5,000-mile run, a similar vessel with internal-combustion engines would require about 150 tons of fuel, thus giving the latter an increased cargo capacity of 650 tons. This, put into money, say, with a cargo of wheat to England at ?3 per ton freight, would mean, assuming the vessels each bunkered at South Africa on the way, that the internalcombustion driven vessel would be able to pay for fuel for the whole run out of the extra freight that it could carry.
Mr. Glyde quotes another significant statement ;
In one of the English shipping papers recently was the report of the annual meetingof an English shipping company, wherein the chairman was reported to have said that, totest the efficiency of the internal-combustion engine vessel, the company had a vessel built similar in design, size, dic, to steam vessels: in their fleet, but engined with internalcombustion engines, and had run her for twelve, months in the same trade against the steam, vessels, with the result that the net return of the former was 66 per cent, greater for the; twelve months than the steam-driven vessel.
I say that figures like that are astounding. It is scarcely to be wondered that people do not pay much attention to them, because they cannot believe that they are correct.
Senator de Largie dealt with the matter of shale oil, which should be given far more attention by the Commonwealth Government. The present bounty of 2d. per gallon is trifling for the development of the shale oil industry. A company was endeavouring to carry on the industry for some years in Tasmania, and suffered many reverses. Recently it sold out to another company that is hoping to do big things. They are putting in a 7-mile pipe to the wharf at Devonport, where they propose to erect a large container. Senator de Largie also expressed a doubt as to whether America was interested in this problem. On this point the Motor Ship for July last stated that a paper had been read recently on the subject before the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, ‘and that the figures quoted show that while coal-driven steamships earned a profit of 10 per cent, on the investment, the motor-driven ship earned a profit of 16.65 per cent, after allowing for the extra expenditure in the equipment of vessels with internalcombustion engines. I cannot attempt to dogmatize on this subject as if I were a mechanical expert. I can only repeat that I was so astounded at the figures in favour of motor-driven vessels that I felt it my duty to bring the matter before the Senate. I hope - in fact, I am confident - that if the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) gives effect to his promise and submits this question to the technical experts of the Department, we shall have a favorable reply from them; and that if the policy of the Government regarding motor ships depends on that reply, we shall have this class of ship in the very near future. I desire to,withdraw my motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Case of Captain Strasburg
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The reply is as follows: -
Motion (by Senator E. D. Millen) agreed to: -
That, unless otherwise ordered, Tuesday shall cease to bc a sitting day of the Senate, and that, unless otherwise ordered, the Senate shall meet at 3 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator E. D. Millen) read a first time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 8th July, vide page 9858) : -
Clause 37 -
Except as hereinafter provided, every person admitted to the Commonwealth Service shall in the first instance be appointed by the Board on probation only, and may be continued in such probationary position for a. period ofsix months, but his services may be dispensed with by the Board at any time during that period.
After the period of six months on probation has expired, the Board may, upon a report from the Chief Officer, confirm or annul the appointment, or extend the period of probation for a further period, provided that the whole term of probation shall not in any case extend beyond twelve months.
No probationer whose appointment has been annulled shall be eligible as a probationer at any time within twelve months from the date of the annulment.
Upon which Senator Russell had moved, by way of amendment -
That in sub-clause (1) the words “ in sueh probationary position “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ on probation.”
.- I should like to raise the question whether it would not be better for the Committee to deal with the Public Service Bill concurrently with the Superannuation Bill which, I understand, the Government intend to introduce ? It must, I think, be obvious that honorable senators will be better able to visualize every part aud aspect of the’ Public Service if they have before them the Bill to which I refer. The measure now under consideration deals with conditions of employment ini the Public
Service, and I contend that as the Superannuation Bill will have an important effect on these conditions of employment, it should be before honorable senators.
.- The Public Service Bill and the Superannuation Bill deal with entirely different subjects. Before we can consider the superannuation scheme, we must know the conditions of employment and salaries paid in the Public Service. Therefore consideration of this Bill necessarily precedes consideration of the superannuation scheme, though it may be possible at a later stage to make an announcement as to the attitude of the Government in regard to superannuation. This Bill deals with wages, classification, and conditions of employment in the Public Service. It does not touch superannuation in any shape or form.
– My argument is that the two subjects are correlated.
– They aro entirely different. Another reason why honorable senators cannot have the Superannuation Bill is that its details have not yet been finalized by the Government, but I will suggest to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that he might make a statement at the earliest possible date dealing with superannuation. This, no doubt, would be helpful to honorable senators.
– In my judgment, the two subjects are correlated. As the Minister himself explains, this Bill sets up certain conditions of employment in the Public Service throughout the Commonwealth. It is obvious, I think, that if there is to be no superannuation scheme, the conditions in the Public Service should be better than if there is to be a scheme. The conditions of employment must be governed, to some extent, . by what is contained in the Superannuation Bill.
-Would not the Superannuation Bill be based upon the conditions of service as laid down in this Bill ? Having decided what are to be the conditions of service, we can then consider the Superannuation Bill.
– So long as we know the lines upon which the Superannuation Bill will be cast when finalized.
– That will depend on the conditions of employment.
– Do I understand, then, that in dealing with this Bill we may act on the supposition that a Superannuation Bill will be brought in, and that necessarily it will be a corollary of this measure?
– The Government are pledged to introduce a Superannuation Bill, and I assume they will honour the pledge.
– I understand the Government are pledged to bring in a Superannuation Bill, and if the Minister can assure the Committee that it is receiving consideration in Cabinet, I shall be satisfied. I see very little to object to in the Bill, but I should like it to be clear that we are considering the Bill with a view to laying down the basis for a superannuation scheme.
.- I think Senator Pratten has, to some extent, misunderstood the object of this Bill, which, I take it, is to lay down the conditions of employment and promotion in the Public Service. It has nothing whatever to do with a superannuation scheme. It is a machinery measure pure and simple. I have understood for some time that the Government have promised to establish a Superannuation Fund, and that a measure for that purpose will be submitted for our consideration later in the session. I cannot see that any good will accrue from the postponement of consideration of this . Bill, because we have a. promise that a Superannuation Fund is to be created.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Senator Russell) agreed to -
That the words “ extend beyond “ in subclause (2) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ exceed.”
That the following new sub-clause be inserted after sub-clause (2)- (2a) Upon the expiration of any extended period- of probation the Board shall, upon a report from the Chief Officer, confirm or annul the appointment.
.- I move-
That before the words, “ No probationer ‘ in sub-clause (3) the words “Unless otherwise determined by the Board” be inserted.
There may be instances in which a probationer may not, at first, come quite up to expectations, and where he gives pro- anise: of succeeding the amendment will give tha Board discretionary power to grant a further extension.”
. –If the probationer is to have a further chance, why should the Board first annul the appointment and then stultify itself by giving bom a further opportunity?
– It is to prevent an appointment being annulled. The capabilities of a lad- may bo somewhat in doubt after he has served a period of six months, and it is proposed to give the Board discretionary power to grant a further extension for a few months to see if the longer period will ‘produce the results which they anticipate.
– That will dispense with the proviso that the whole term shall not exceed .twelve months.
– A probationer would be on trial for six months, and if he were unsuitable he would not be permanently appointed; but there ma-y be instances where his capabilities were somewhat in doubt, and -this amendment will enable him to have a further opportunity.
– It is provided in sub-clause 2 that the period may be extended, but not beyond twelve months.
– There must be some limit.
– By the proposed amendment that limitation is annulled by giving the Board the option of further extending the period.
– That is the maximum. A probationer in a professional branch may pass his examinations with credit, but may not have made sufficient progress on the technical side.
– Does not the Minister think that the discretionary power to extend the term for twelve months meets the case?
– A probationer may be laid aside with typhoid or some other fever, and, in such a case, the Board must have discretionary power.
.- The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) is asking the Committee to agree to a wise provision, because the clause, as at present framed, is absolutely arbitrary. When an engagement was annulled after a certain, period, as provided in sub-clause 2, there would be no opportunity for a youth to again enter’ the Service as a probationer for twelve months, and many things over which he had no control might occur to prevent him from obtaining an appointment in twelve months. We should not lay down a. hard and fast rule, an& the object of the amendment moved by the Minister is to give the. Board the opportunity of reviewing the matter when circumstances arise over which a probationer has no control.
.- Will the Minister (Senator Russell) explain whether the amendment gives, the Board power to extend the period beyond the twelve months mentioned in subclause 2, or does it give it power to extend the time to any probationer who has served six months?
– A probationer, after rendering satisfactory service for eleven months, may be taken ill, and in such a case the Board will have the power to extend the time to cover the period of his illness-. A probationer may have had a brilliant University career, and alt-hough his progress may be somewhat slow, he may be a promising officer, and the Board may be desirous of extending the period in order to ascertain if he possesses the necessary qualifications. .
– It really extends the period beyond twelve months.
– Only in special cases. It is not to grant any special privileges, bub to prevent injustice. It would be decidedly unfair bo a father who had spent a good deal on his son’s education if his prospects in the Service were interfered with or wholly destroyed because his progress in some particular branch of his work had not been as rapid as was anticipated. In. such cases it is desirable to give a probationer the fullest opportunity of proving his worth.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 38 -
Any person not more than fifty years of age, who has served in the permanent Naval Forces of the Commonwealth for the full period for which he enlisted or engaged, and has a satisfactory record, shall be eligible for appointment by the Board, without examination, to any office in the fourth division in the Department of Trade and Customs.
– Whilst I favour the clause, I think its provisions should be somewhat extended. I <:lo_ not see why the clause should be limited to the Department of Trade and Customs. There is no rush at present of entrants into the Naval Forces. I am not asking that because a man has served his full time in the Navy he should be eligible to go into the Civil Service, but I simply say that he should not be turned down.- I move -
That the words “ in the fourth division in the Department of Trade and Customs “ be left out.
– In this case the persons eligible are limited to the fourth class, because, as a rule, it is not intended to cover officers. Some officers continue in the Service to fairly old age, if they are good men, but the ordinary working men in the Navy have one stretch of service, and some of them do not renew it. It is difficult to get men for the Naval Service in Australia. They can join up to the age of fifty years, but the average working man cannot be persuaded to begin re-educating himself at that age, and it is not necessary to have an education test, because there are many occupations for which ex-naval men are suitable, particularly at quarantine stations. I intend to ask the Committee to insert “ Health Department.” A man who can manage a boat is useful. There is a good deal of this work in connexion with lights and harbors, and we ought to give preference to men who have worked in the Navy. We are not contemplating making special provision for officers discharged from the Navy to be given positions in the Public Service, but we have in mind other men who are turned adrift at a comparatively early age.
– Then we might make the clause terminate with the words “ any office in the fourth division.”
– We might want men for repairing or caulking boats; but the honorable senator thinks the operation of the clause is too limited.
– I think it is a very good clause, but I do not want to see it limited to the Department of Trade and Customs. Canvas bags are made in the Postal Department. If a person discharged from the Navy was a good hand at making bags, because of his service in the Navy, as the clause stands that man could go only into the Department of Trade and
Customs. My contention is that he should be permitted to go into the Department in which he is most eligible for service, and where the Board thinks he can do best work. I ask leave to amend my amendment to read -
That the words “ in the Department of Trade and Customs “ be left out.
Amendment, by leave, amended accordingly.
.- A deliberate attempt is made in this clause to be kind to those who have served this country well. The fourth division embraces all trades and many skilled trades; but men discharged from the Navy do not, as a rule, have skilled trades. They may have been engineers’ assistants, or they may have been in the engine-room; but we do not want to insist that they should get absolute, preference throughout the fourth division, which includes such trades as plumbing and building.
– There is no mention of preference in the clause.
– If a man could not be found work in the Customs Department, would that debar him from being given employment in another Department?
– We do not wish to send men to Departments where the work is unsuitable for them. They may not be fit to be engineers in the fourth division, but they may be suitable for other positions. There will not be a great number of men seeking employment under this clause, and I believe we shall be able to place them in the harbors and other sections. If the clause is allowed to go, I shall reconsider whether we can give a further guarantee.
– What was the idea of this clause?
– It was largely sentimental. The Acting Public Service Commissioner pointed out that quite a lot of men terminated their service in the Navy, and, although they had no special trade or occupation, they had a general experience which made their services invaluable, say, at quarantine work, where there is a good deal of boating and shipping, and at work connected with harbors and lights. All this work is embraced under the Customs Department, and we naturally said that these men ought to be given preference in the class of work for which they are most suitable. We might say the same thing with regard to the engineers in the Army.
– Are the engineers in the fourth division?
– All these general trades will be. . I shall get further information on the matter; my only desire is to help these men. If the clause is passed, I will have the matter again reviewed, and will be quite prepared to recommit the clause at the request of any honorable senator.
– I cannot follow the Minister (Senator Russell) in his opposition to the amendment of Senator Thomas. I understand that by the amendment it is merely proposed to eliminate the words ‘ in the Department of Trade and Customs.” That would throw any position in the whole of the Public Service open to any person who had served in the permanent Naval Forces of the Commonwealth for the full period of his enlistment, provided only that he was considered suitable by the Board, without examination.
– You cannot enforce preference.
– This is not preference at all. The word “preference” is not used.
– It ought to be open to all the members of the Australian Imperial Force.
– That is another issue.
– Men who have seen active service in the Navy or Army already have a preference, and are provided for in the Bill; but the men contemplated under this clause are not necessarily men with active service.
– I am confining my attention to clause 38, which says nothing at all about preference. It simply says that, if a man in the Naval Forces of the Commonwealth has a satisfactory record, he shall be eligible for appointment by the Board, without examination, to any office in the fourth division of the Trade and Customs Department; and I understand one may add to that - “for which he may be suitable.”
– That is covered by clauses 39 and 40.
– We are now discussing clause 38, and I wish to confine my attention to that particular clause. The whole issue seems to be as to whether ex-naval men shall be eligible for appointment under certain conditions, if considered suitable by the Board, throughout the whole gamut of the Public Service, or whether their eligibility shall be confined to one Department,. I would point out that in the whole of the Departments of the Public Service there are positions which could probably be very suitably filled by service-expired naval men. If the clause remains as it stands, the Board will not be able to appoint an ex-naval man to any position in the Public Service except in the Department of Trade and Customs. We wish these men to be put into positions for which they are suitable, and for which they are recommended by the Board. The Minister has intimated that he intends to extend the ambit of the clause to the Quarantine and Harbor services, which include the work of attending to lightships and other similar nautical duties. May I suggest that these ex-naval men are equally suitable for the position of watchmen on Government steamers?
– They are all under the Customs.
– It is news to me that the Commonwealth Shipping Line is under the Customs.
– We are dealing with public servants. Employees of the Commonwealth Shipping Line are not public servants. They do not come under this Bill; it is treated as a commercial line, and is under independent management.
– I am glad to get that admission. I hope the Shipping Line will always be treated as a commercial proposition, and stand or fall on its profits or losses. The amendment is simple, and I support it because such a clause should not be limited to one particular Department.
– Members of the Australian Imperial Force who were on active service have a preference to employment. Are you going to give men who have not had active service preference? I am willing to defer this matter and make further inquiries regarding it.
– There is no complexity or abstruseness about the amendment. Neither is it loaded.
– But it may be the thin end of the wedge in splitting the principle of preference to soldiers.
– The whole construction of the clause is based on the principle of discretion being given to the Commissioner or the Board.
– It does not say that work must be found for these men.
– It does not. And I would like to see the discretion enlarged by the amendment being incorporated in the Bill. To mention an example, if there is any canvas bag-making to be done for the Postal Service surely an ex-sailor would possess qualifications for the work over and above those of other citizens.
– Why not make the preference apply also to an ex-soldier?
– I invite the honorable senator to give his reasons; he may receive unexpected support. The amendment is clear, and it completes the intention of the clause.
– I shall support the amendment. I cannot understand why it should not be acceptable to the Government. Its purpose is in the direction of amplification, which the clause requires. I would favour an even wider amplification. I would like to see inserted in this measure the provisions of the South Australian Act. The application of the preference contained here should be not only with respect to all members of the Naval Forces, but also to the Australian Imperial Force. Clauses 38 to 42 are in a category by themselves, and if the Minister (Senator Russell) is willing that the Committee should give later consideration ‘to the clause immediately under discussion I suggest that those associated with it should1 also be postponed. Clauses 38 to 42 provide simply for the appointment by the Board of certain persons, upon satisfaction being given in respect of eligibility, and without examination. Section 11 of the South Australian Public Service Act 1919 reads -
Notwithstanding anything contained in the principal Act, the Governor may appoint to any office in the Public Service any person who has been on active service and who has been temporarily employed for a period of not less than six months in any Department of the Public Service, subject to the following conditions : -
In this section “ active service “ means service outside Australia in the war with Germany, which commenced on the 4th day of August, 1914, and with any of the Alliesof Germany in that war, as a member of -
The Government would be well advised to embody that provision in the Bill in preference to these related clauses, seeing that the latter propose to admit to the Service, without examination, only persons in the Permanent Naval Forces. Why should not members of the Australian Imperial Force be similarly admitted, in certain cases?
– Upon reading clause 38 I gained the impression that there was a very serious omission, inasmuch as it provides for preference to members of the Naval Forces only. I agree, to a great extent, with the arguments of Senator Thomas. There should be provision for returned soldiers also.
– There is such provision.
– This clause, which specifically provides preference for sailors, does not mention soldiers. Rather than that there should be any looseness or vagueness upon this question the Government should be careful to specify the nature and scope of the preference. Unfortunately, the ; policy , of preference to returned soldiers has proved a farce in many directions. So far as Commonwealth parliamentary officers are concerned, for example, preference has been afforded only in respect of the General Division. Are not the bettereducated men who were members of the Australian Imperial Force just as much entitled to enter the Public Service as those who -can qualify only for the General Division?
– The intention of the amendment is to open all the Departments.
– But not all the divisions.
– All, up to the fourth.
– That is not so. In clause 79 there is provision for preference to returned soldiers.
– With the qualification of their passing an examination.
– That is so. If clause 38 were the only one in the Bill wherein the subject of preference was dealt with, I would be against the measure altogether.
– This clause does not even specify returned sailors.
– Do not those who are serving in the Permanent Naval Forces include returned sailors? The Committee will be well advised to accept the proposal of the Minister to postpone further consideration of the clause.
– Senator Thomas has taken up the attitude that the Navy does not present many attractions to young Australians nowadays. The amendment amounts to an attempt to let those who have joined the Naval Forces, and those who may join them in the future, know that, after their full terms have expired, all the divisions of the Public Service will be open to them, subject to their applications receiving the approval of tha Board.
– All divisions will, not be open to them. I can see a possibility that the clause, if passed, may bring in preference to members of every trade union organization in Australia.
– If a member of any mechanical trade union has joined the Navy, and is able to follow an occupation in the fourth division of the Public Service, he should be granted a preference.
– Yes, preference for positions for which he is suitable. But what is the use of an ex -sailor as a bricklayer or a plumber? He might make a good painter.
– I think the proposal contained in the clause is desirable. It will encourage recruiting for the Navy.
– To that end the throwing open to ex-Navy men of positions in the fourth division of the Public Service would be desirable. I hope the Minister will re-arrange the clause so as to incorporate that idea. All the Bill proposes is that the ex-Navy man shall be eligible for appointment without a qualifying examination, and that is all the preference he will receive. It will rest with the Board to decide whether he is fit for the position.
– I want to say quite candidly that prior to this debate I did not under-, stand exactly how far-reaching this clause might be. We are in a generous spirit to those who served in the Navy, but I do not think we can carry out the proposal. It does not include returned members of the Australian Imperial Force. and the Government is pledged to give preference to these, as well as to those who were on active service in the Navy. I did not know that I was fathering a proposal which might have the effect of giving to Navy men a preference which is denied to ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force. Now I find that it puts the returned sailor in a different position from the returned soldier. When any question is before this Senate I am not in the habit of asserting that I know all about it when in reality I do not. If the Senate is not going to be generous, and grant my request for a postponement of the clause, when honorable senators want time to consider something, I will stand against it. The proposal goes further than I thought. There is a contradiction in it unless it is limited to those who have had active service either, in, the Army or in’ the Navy, and it will also be a contradiction to give preference to naval men who have not had active service.
– How does this interfere with the preference given to returned soldiers and naval men in the other part of the Bill?
– I have discussed the matter with the Acting Public Service Commissioner, and have ascertained that it was intended to give these men a preference in certain Departments. That was the intention, and that would be the effect of the administration.
– I have no objection to the Minister being allowed to postpone the clause for a day or two, but I would remind him that honorable senators from the other States have to come a long way every week to attend the sittings of Parliament, and when we do come here we ought to be allowed to get through some work. If the clause gives preference in the way in which the Minister says it does, I am opposed to it, but it does not give that preference. I will explain what I mean by preference. A few days ago a case came under my notice in Sydney, where a married man had been employed as a temporary hand in the post-office for fourteen months. His position is now being advertised as a permanent position, and he is afraid that he will lose it. The present Act says that if there is a capable returned soldier available he must be given preference over a person who is not a returned soldier. Consequently, the man I have referred to, although he is eligible for the position and can pass the examination, cannot receive it because there is a returned soldier available who is capable of’ doing the work. The clause nowunder discussion does not give any such preference. It says that if a person has been in the Navy for the full period for which he enlisted he shall not be debarred from applying for certain positions in the Public Service. The temporary hand I have referred to knows that if there is a returned soldier capable of doing the work that man will get the appointment. That is what I mean by preference. The clause does not say that the Government will find a job for any man after he has left the Navy.
– I told the Committee that the effect of the clause was not clear to me. In discussing it with the Acting Public Service Commissioner and with other experts, I found that they spoke of it as preference, and that they intended it to be preference.
– If the Minister says that this clause has not been properly drafted, and that he does not intend it to be what it is, but something else, then he is entitled, to take it back to get it properly drafted. Perhaps the Minister wants to give preference, but he only speaks of eligibility. If the clause gives preference to a man over everybody else because he has been in the Navy I will not support it; but I maintain that it does not do that. As it stands it does not give preference to any one. It simply says that a man who has served in the Navy shall be eligible to apply for a position without examination.
– Surely that is preference.
– Yes, but not preference in appointment. There is a great deal of difference’ between that kind of preference and saying that because a man has served a certain, time in the Navy he shall have preference in appointment over a civilian. In this particular case preference and eligibility are two quite distinct things. The Public Service inspector told me that there was no chance for the permanent appointment of the temporary man I have referred to, because a returned soldier ‘who was eligible and fit for the appointment was available. He told, me, in fact, that the returned soldier’s name had already been gazetted. The present proposal says that if a man has been in the Navy for a certain length of time he can apply on equal terms with another man who has not been in the Navy.
– One will not be examined, but the other will. That is a preference.
– Yes, to that extent; but it is not a preference in appointment. The civilian has to pass his examination, and when he has passed it he is on exactly the same level as the man who has served in the Navy. In the case I have mentioned both the returned soldier and the temporary employee can pass the examination, but the returned soldier will get the appointment.
– Once you have settled the question of eligibility, have you not then to consider the question of suitability ?
– Exactly so; and in the case I am referring to the Acting Public Service Commissioner has no choice but to give the appointment to the returned soldier.
– But only if the returned soldier is suitable.
– In the clause we are considering it does not say that appointments shall be given to ex-Navy men. It simply says that they shall not be debarred from applying for positions. Five or six years’ service in the Navy will count in a man’s favour as though he had passed an examination. If the Minister says that the clause aims at doing something different from what it states, I do not object to the postponement.
– I said that it was possible that the clause might have an effect different from what was intended, and I wanted to have another look at it. That is surely a reasonable request.
– If the Navy man is going to have preference over the civilian, then I would put some limitations on the proposal. But merely to say that a man shall not be debarred from applying for a position is quite a different thing.
– My reading of this clause leads me to believe that it was drafted with one object, and one only, and that was in order that the Department of Trade and Customs mightbe given an opportunity to secure the services of expert men, without those men being required to go through an examination. I cannot understand why there should be any difference of opinion as to the intention of the clause, or any objection to the suggestion of the Minister that it might be postponed, in order that further consideration might be given to it.
– Who ‘has objected to its postponement?
– I understand that its postponement is objected to. I can see no objection to giving a man. who has served his time in the Permanent Naval Forces an opportunity, without having to go through an examination for admission to the Service, to come to the assistance of a Department in which his expert knowledge would be of use.
-Would the honorable senator object to such men being appointed to the Postmaster-General’s Department to make canvas bags?
– It is for the reason suggested by the honorable senator that the Minister (Senator Russell) has proposed the postponement of the clause. Although he did so twenty-five minutes ago, it is only now that Senator Thomas appears to be prepared to accept his suggestion.
– The honorable senator does not contend that the Minister’s offer to postpone the clause should block discussion on it?
– No; but I cannot understand why, in discussing the matter with which the clause deals, ‘honorable senators should wander from clause 33 to clause 79, when there is no connexion between the two. I am prepared to accept the suggestion of the Minister, and have the clause postponed, with a view to seeing whether it may be extended to embrace other portions of the fourth division.
– I have no objection to the postponement of the clause, in order that the Minister- (Senator Russell) may give consideration to the suggestions that have been made. The gist of the clause is that certain men who have served in the Navy for a specified time shall be eligible, without examination, for appointment to certain positions. The Minister has promised to reconsider the clause, and I have risen to ask him, when doing so, to look into the provisions of the South Australian Public Service Act of 1919, which deals with the matter of examinations. When that measure was under consideration in the South Australian Parliament representations were made to the State Government that certain returned soldiers, who had seen active service, were eligible for positions in the Public Service, but, owing to disabilities, due to their war service, could not concentrate their minds upon the subjects of an examination paper, and were, therefore, placed at a disadvantage in seeking admission to the Service. In order that consideration should be given to the case of these men, the State Government inserted certain provisions in the State Act which the Minister might look into in giving further consideration to this clause.
– I indicated that I was prepared to move the postponement of this clause; and I think it would be well, at the same time, to postpone clauses 39 and 40, because they are closely related. I move -
That clause 38 be postponed.
Motion agreed to; clause postponed.
Clause 39 - (Appointment without examination to fourth division).
Motion (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That the clause be postponed.
– I have no objection to the motion; but I should like to know what is the Minister’s idea in postponing this clause.
– Because these clauses are related.
– I should like to know in what way these clauses are related. It is true that clause 39 provides that under certain conditions there need be no examination, but I am one of those who think that we should be very careful about granting powers to the Government to permit of persons being admitted to the Public Service without examination.
– Clause 39 is limited to the fourth division. That is what the honorable member’s fight was about.
SenatorFoster. - What sort of an examination would be set for a man who was to be employed in making mail bags ?
– That is what I want to know. The fourth division includes a very large number of persons.
– The honorable senator must not discuss the clause on the motion now before the Committee. He may discuss only the propriety or otherwise of postponing its consideration.
– I desire to obtain some information to enable me to decide whether the clause should be postponed or not. The clause provides that persons may be appointed without examination ‘ ‘ under such conditions as are prescribed.” I admit that that may be a safeguard. Will the conditions’” to be prescribed be submitted to Parliament for approval ?
– Yes, as regulations.
– So that no one will be able, without examination, to get into the Public Service under clause 39 without Parliament knowing the conditions under which the admission is allowed .
– That is so. All regulations have to be reported to Parliament.
– I am satisfied with that information, and will raise no further objection to the postponement of the clause.
– I am not satisfied that this clause is needed at all.
– The honorable senator will be- out of order in discussing the merits or demerits of the clause. The question before the Committee is the propriety or otherwise of postponing the clause. On that question the honorable senator will not be in order in proceeding to analyze the clause.
– It is not very clear where I can start and where I can leave off. I see no reason for postponing this clause. I am more inclined to suggest that it should be deleted.
– I am asking for the postponement of. the clause because its operation is limited to the fourth division.
– I believe that under this clause the Public Service Commissioner might make appointments by virtue of influence and not by virtue of eligibility or suitability. There is great objection taken to this clause, and the high council of the Commonwealth Public Service organizations has suggested its deletion in order to do away with backdoor influence of any sort.
– I cannot allow the honorable senator to proceed further on those lines.
– At this stage I shall not object to the postponement of the clause, but when it comes up for consideration again, if it is not ‘accompanied by a provision against back-door influence, I may find it necessary to submit an amendment upon it.
Motion agreed to; clause postponed.
Clause 40 postponed.
Clause 41 -
Honorable senators- should give their attention to the wording of this clause and the possibility of an amendment which would be useful to lads employed as telegraph messengers. 1 should like to have a statement showing the number of telegraph messengers whose services are dispensed with year by year. I believe that in Melbourne and suburbs there are some 200 odd who work as telegraph messengers. They cannot all be admitted into the Public Service of the Commonwealth.
– That is, if they do not pass a very simple examination.
– Even if they do, vacancies cannot be found for all of them. Legislation throughout Australia for some years past has made the position very difficult for boys who must cease the occupation in which they are engaged when they reach eighteen years of age. The limitations now placed on juvenile labour, and especially the awards made requiring wages to be paid according to agc, and not according to ability, annually prevent hundreds of boys in every State following occupations in which they would be useful to the community and might make a success of life to themselves. I raise the question whether it would not be -wise to consider the reduction of the age to seventeen years. If a lad in the service of the Post and Telegraph Department as a telegraph messenger reaches the age of eighteen years, and has not been able to pass an examination, or there is no position in the Service open to him, he is thrown on the world, and even in the big city of Melbourne I make bold to say that the chances are 100 to 1 that he will not then be able to find an occupation in which he can learn a trade which will be useful to him and to the country. The reason is that no employer will take the lad on because of the restrictions placed upon his employment, and especially those fixing wages according to age.
– The Bill does not say that the lad will be dismissed. If he passes an examination he will not be dismissed. Can the honorable senator mention one case in which a lad who passed the examination was dismissed?
– I find that on this subject the statement that in Victoria there are 700 telegraph messengers and, from my knowledge of the operations of the Postal Department, I should say that a very fair proportion of these lads will never become permanent employees in the Public Service.
– If they do not attempt to improve themselves. I do not know of one lad who, having passed the simple examination set, has not been appointed to the Public Service.
– If, as the Minister says, every lad must pass an examination to secure appointment to the. Public Service, I am sure a great proportion of the lads would not pass the examination, and that might not be their own fault.
– Then you think it is better to turn the lads adrift in a cold and cruel world a year earlier?
– They would then have a better opportunity of engaging in some other occupation likely to be useful to them in later life.
– Perhaps the honorable senator would say it would be better still for the lads if they were not admitted to the Public Service at all ?
– Perhaps it would be better for them, but it seems to me that some system should be adopted by which the capabilities of a lad may be gauged more effectively than at present, before he reaches the age of eighteen years. He would then have an opportunity of seeking other employment.
– Would it not be better to have the examination at seventeen years instead of eighteen years ?
– This question is well worthy of consideration. The avenues of outside employment for skilled workmen are being closed more and more each year owing to the attitude, of the trade unions towards apprenticeship, and to the wage now being fixed according: to age and not to the ability of workmen. Consequently, employers always prefer to start a lad at fourteen or fifteen years of age rather than at eighteen years.
, - I have had a very wide experience in the administration of the Public Service Act, and I know that any failure on the part of boys employed as telegraph messengers to pass the examination at the age of eighteen years, mav be traced to their neglect of their opportunities. In some cases the boys did not know that to pass an examination was a condition precedent to their further employment in the Service. Therefore, I suggested to the Public Service Commissioner that the lads should be directly informed on the point. When parents have approached me on the subject, I have always advised them to send their lads to some night school in order that they might qualify for permanent positions.
– Is there any limit in regard to the age at which they can sit for the examination?
– They may sit practically at any time. In the case of those lads who, at the age of seventeen or eighteen years, enlisted, and went to the war, we have been able to dispense with the examinations. They have all been placed in permanent positions. Honorable senators will agree, of course, that it is not desirable to fill the Public Service with non-triers. The examination is so simple that any lad of average intelligence can pass it. I do not know of any lad who has been put out of the Department after having passed the examination.
– I think you will find they have been put off because there have not been sufficient vacancies.
– Well, I do not know of one case.
– Can the Minister say what percentage of lads remain in the Service after reaching the age of eighteen years.
-Can you state howmany lads between the ages of seventeen years and eighteen years are in the Service? If this clause is passed they will be dismissed.
– I do not know, but I shall endeavour to get the information for the honorable senators.
– I have considerable sympathy with the issue as stated by Senator Payne. If boys employed as telegraph messengers are not to be retained in the Service after they reach the age of eighteen years, it would be better for them to get out into “ a cold and cruel world,” as Senator Foster puts it, at the age of seventeen years, because they would then have an opportunity of doing something else a year earlier. I understood there is no possibility of all the telegraph messengers, when they arrive at the age of eighteen years, being drafted into the Public Service, irrespective of any examination.
– They can be kept on as telegraph messengers till they, reach the age of twenty years.
– In, Victoria alone there are about 700 telegraph messengers. I believe that there is no chance of all of these lads being -placed in permanent positions.
– That is the position in, every State.
– I am glad to have that indorsement from my honorable friend. I understand that is the position in every State. But the Minister has raised another issue. He says that if these telegraph messengers pass an examination they can and will be absorbed in the Public Service.
– The proportion, of those who pass the examination has never yet been too high.
– The Minister’s statement cuts right across the facts given to) me, and indorsed by Senator Henderson. He says definitely that if the telegraph messengers pass a simple examination when they reach the age of eighteen years, they will be drafted into the Public Service.
– In time.
– If, however, they do not pass a simple examination,” they are to be thrown out into a cold and cruel world. -
– And they are up against astone wall.
– As a matter of fact, I believe they are. A large number of these young men, when they reach the age of eighteen years, have to seek other employment outside the Public Service. “ If the position is as stated by the Minister, I have nothing, or very little, more to say; but if the lads, when they reach the age of eighteen years, cannot be further employed,,- whether they pass an examination or not, it would be better to reduce the age to seventeen years, because there would then be a better prospect of a lad learning some other trade.
– And likelier still at sixteen years.
– I agree with my honorable friend. It would be better to let these lads know at sixteen years of age rather than, eighteen! years, that there is nothing further in the Service for them. This is the issue that has been raised by Senator Payne. I am sympathetic with, his view-point, because, unfortunately, owing, in my opinion, to the misguided - policy of some trade unions, the Commonwealth is lamentably short of apprentices and good artisans and tradesmen. Therefore, the less the Government do to force unskilled labour upon the market the better it will be for the Commonwealth. If the Public Service cannot absorb the telegraph messengers, irrespective of their qualifications, the age should be seventeen, and not eighteen, because at the younger age they would be more likely to take up a trade, or some employment in which they might be successful.
– I was very surprised to hear Senator Payne suggest a reduction in. the age, because I expected him to submit an amendment in the other direction. I was also surprised to hear the Minister (Senator Russell) say that every youth who had passed the necessary examination had been admitted to the Service. It would be very interesting to learn the number of boys who had passed the examination, and who have not been absorbed in the Post and Telegraph Department. In times of prosperity, when the work of the Department is increasing, doubtless the services of a large number of youths could be utilized, but when, the reverse is the case, it is more than probable that employment cannot be found for those who have- qualified. I have always been under the impression that it has been difficult to find employment for a number of telegraph messengers when they reach the age of eighteen years. We have also to consider the suggested amendment from the stand-point of the interests of the community. There are at present in Sydney a number of telegraph messengers who are too young to do the work efficiently, and, in consequence, a large number of messages do not reach their destination. Only to-day I have received a communication from a friend who has been endeavouring to ascertain why a telegram he despatched has not been delivered, and the only information he has received from the Department was a notification expressing regret because the messenger had failed to deliver it. Quite recently two telegrams despatched by members of my own family were not delivered, and the reply from the Department, in one case, was that the messenger had been reprimanded, and in the other that he had been dismissed. If one individual can submit several instances of non-delivery, we are right in assuming that the total number must be very large. Telegraphic messages do not reach their destination in many instances because those employed in delivering them are too young, and if an amendment similar to that suggested were adopted the position would be worse. When the age limit was sixteen, the late Public Service Commissioner, Mr. McLachlan, endeavoured to have it increased, because, in his opinion, it was undesirable to dismiss messengers at an early age.
– It has been eighteen since 1909.
– At any rate, it has been lower than it is at present, and if it is allowed to remain at eighteen it will give messengers twelve months’ longer in which to qualify. In these circumstances I am in favour of the provision remaining as at present.
– Recently honorable senators, and I believe members of another place, received a circular from returned soldiers employed as temporary assistants in the Post and Telegraph Department, complaining that their services have been dispensed with in order to provide employment for telegraph messengers who have reached the age of eighteen. These men appear to have a just grievance, and have said that the policy of the Post and Telegraph Department in this direction is seriously interfering with the principle of preference to returned soldiers. As we have a large number of returned men who have lost an arm, but who are quite capable of delivering telegrams, work of this .character should be available to them. I quite agree with Senator Thomas that many telegrams are delivered later than they should be, and in some cases are not delivered at all. If this work cannot be efficiently performed by youths of eighteen, it is surely suitable employment for returned soldiers who have lost an arm, and who are consequently prevented from performing other duties. , . .,
– In. that case they would have to receive a higher wage than ordinary messengers.
– Yes ; and it would be worth while. The work could be undertaken by men such as I have mentioned; and, if it were, it would release others, who are not in any way incapacitated, to undertake duties that could not be performed by maimed men.
– Have these complaints been made by maimed soldiers ?
– They may have been made by maimed men; but we should rely upon heads of Departments to see that returned soldiers with only one arm are found employment such as this.
– I should feel inclined to vote for the suggested amendment if discretionary power was given to the Public Service Commissioner to enable the employment of a lad to continue should he, through unforeseen circumstances that could not be attributed to his own conduct, be prevented from sitting for an. examination before he reached the age of seventeen. There must be a number of boys in the Service who have not reached the age of eighteen, and who, if an amendment in the direction suggested were carried, would be dismissed from the Service.
– That point could be covered in another sub-clause.
– An amendment such as that suggested might be carried, and a subsequent sub-clause might not, with the result that some youths would be unfairly treated. If there is one section of the community more than another that we should seek to protect it is that which comprises those who cannot help themselves. These lads are not electors, and it is our duty to give them some special consideration, particularly as we have agreed in past legislation that they shall be retained until they reach the age of eighteen. By reducing the period by one year it may make a great difference to a number of youths, and we should not do anything that would inflict a hardship on any boy in the community. I can quite understand that it is not wise to turn a number of young men on to the labour market without any trade or any commercial training.
– I understand that examinations are held every six months, and if they started at seventeen they would have three opportunities of submitting ‘themselves for examination.
– Yes, but a lad might become ill and miss his examination, and in an exceptional case might be indisposed when the next examination was held.
– A lad could sit for an examination at seventeen, at seventeen and a half, or at eighteen.
– That is the law at present; but, if Senator Payne’s suggestion is . adopted, the examination would have to be passed before they reached seventeen; and if, through ill-health or some other unforeseen cause, they could not sit, they would be dismissed from the Service, although they might be very keen “ to remain in its employment. I do not think any advantage can be gained by reducing the period of service, and I trust the clause will pass in its present form.
SenatorREID (Queensland) [6.14].- The statement of the Minister (Senator Russell) to the effect that every boy who passed the examination had been absorbed astonished me.
– I said that I did not remember having heard of a complaint as to any boy being dismissed after having passed the examination.
– That is an official statement, but the facts are otherwise. Boys who pass the examination have their names put on- the list, but quite a number of the lads get tired of waiting, and take up other pursuits. Some of the boys are put into the telephone service.
– There is a proposed amendment on the file which’ would make the clause read -
Every person appointed as a telegraph messenger shall cease to be employed in the Commonwealth Service on attaining, the age of eighteen years, unless he has before reaching that age passed the examination prescribed for promotion.
– Girls who have goneup for the examination and have their names on the list are kept out of positions because message boys have been given appointments. I would like the Minister to inquire as to the number of boys who have been used in the telephone’ office, and the number of girls who have; been, kept waiting for the. positions held by boys. There is a great deal to be said in favour of the suggested amendment to reduce the age from eighteen to seventeen years. We all desire to see capable telegraph messengers, but we must realize that, owing to the position the unions take up to-day, and also because of the wages fixed by the Arbitration Courts, it is difficult to get really good men. That is the universal complaint to-day from those who employ mechanics. If lads are kept on as telegraph messengers until they are eighteen years of age, they are then too old to pick up a trade, because of the wage their age demands, and so they are thrown on the unskilled labour market, which is already quite big enough in Australia.
– There is plenty of room for them in the country. The fanners of Australia are waiting for them.
– I am speaking of the average boy.
– If we keep them on until eighteen years of age it is difficult to get them to go to country work.
– They are brought up under certain conditions which make life in the town attractive to them. If the examination were held at the ago of seventeen the boy would have time to look for another job instead of remaining in the Department until he was eighteen. The average Australian boy of sixteen or seventeen years is quite equal to the responsibility of delivering telegrams, but judging by the size and appearance of some of the lads they are utterly unfitted for that work. After attaining the age of seventeen, however, a young man should be given more important work to do.
.- I direct attention to the wording of the clause. It states -
Every person appointed as a telegraph messenger shall cease to be employed in the Commonwealth . Service on attaining, the age of eighteen years, unless he has previously been transferred or promoted to some other position.
There ‘is nothing in that clause about examinations.
– There is an amendment on the file by which it is proposed to leave out “ previously been transferred or promoted” to some other position,” and insert “ before reaching that age, passed the examination prescribed for promotion.”
– I move-
That the word “ eighteen “ be left out, with a -view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ seventeen.”
Senate adjourned at 6.24 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 November 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1921/19211102_senate_8_97/>.