8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator theHon. T. Givens)took the chair at 3p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Northern Territory. - Ordinances of 1921 -
No. 10.- Jury.
No. 12. -Examination of Engine-drivers.
No. 14. - Liquor.
Papua. - Ordinances of 1921 -
No.8.- Supply (No. 1), 1921-1922.
No.10.-Supply (No. 2)., 1921-1922.
Public Service Act__ Promotion of W. D. Taylor, Department of Trade andCustoms.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General if itis a fact that the post-officeat Yanko, the irrigation settlement in New South Wales, is a disgrace tothe Federal Government’!
Tha PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) . -Order! The honorable senator’s question is so worded that it is not inorder.
– I am asking only if it ‘is a. fact thatthe Yanko post-office is asIhave described it. I am not saying that it is so.
– The honorable senator has insinuated that it is a disgrace, and that is not a proper expression to use in his question.
– I am asking only if it is a foot. It may not be.
– But the honorable senatorthinks that it is.
– I do not say whether it is or is not. I am asking for information.
– It is easy forthe honorable ; senator to secure the . information he desires . without wording his question . in thatway.
– The information I want toobtain is, Will the Government patupanew post-office at Yanko?
– I must askthe honorable senator togive notice ofhis question.
asked the Minister representing the Ministerfor Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice - 1.What is the total loss (if any) in which the ‘Commonwealthhas been involved in consequence cif its acquisition of the wooden steamers (including loss in operation, if any)? 2, How many of such steamers have been disposed of?
– This matter is to be dealt with in a statement by the Prime Minister . at a later date, during the course ‘of which the questions asked by. the honorable. senator will be. answered.
askedthe Minister forRepatriation, upon-notice-
– The answers are: -
asked the Minister representing’ the Attorney-General’, upon notice -
– The answers are: - l.The question of appointing a permanent, shorthand staff has been under the consideration of the Department for some years.
Appointment of Wireless Officers
asked the. Minister representing the Prime Minister; upon notice -
– The answers are: -
– I move -
That this Bill be now: read a second- time.
The object of thismeasure isto give authority to the Government to borrow the sum of £5,000,000, but, apart from the payment of the- expenses of flotation, it will give the Government no authority to spend’ any money. A Loan Appropriation Bill, which will be introduced’ later will be necessary to enable the Treasurer to use the net amount raised. As in the case of all Commonwealth loans, the rate of interest, price of issue, date of maturity, and other conditions will be fixed by the Governor-General in Council. Under the powers to. be conferred bythe Bill, it is intended bo raise £3,000,000 for the redemption of Treasury bills and. £2,000,000 towardsthe works programme for 1921.-1922. No money,, however, can be actually expended until the Loan’ Appropriation. Billto be introduced; later has been passed.
– The times are not so easy asthey once were, and, consequently, I think it is the duty of the Senate to know exactly where we are before passing this Bill. I do not rise to opposethe passing of the measure,though we have been given but scanty information bythe Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) in movingthe second reading. We have heard, first of all,that the terms, rate of interest, and so on will be fixed, as usual, by the Governor-General in Council. We have been told, also, that ofthe £5,000,000 which the Government seeks the authority of the Senate to borrow £3,000,000 will be spent in the redemption of Treasury bills, and it is intended that £2,000,000 shall be spent on works. A Budget statement was brought down by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) a few weeks ago, wherein he intimated that the public debt of the Commonwealth waa so many hundreds of millions sterling gross, and so many hundreds of millions net. I should like to know if the Treasury bills which are to be redeemed from money borrowed under this Bill are included in this statement.
– The Senate is not being asked to vote to redeem those bills now. The money having been raised under the authority of this Bill it will be necessary for the Government, in the exercise of their authority, to spend £3,000,000 of the total of £5,000,000 in redeeming the Treasury bills.
– I do not think that the Minister has quite gob my point. This is a proposal bo aubhorize bhe Governmenb to borrow £5,000,000 for the purpose of redeeming £3,000,000 worth of Treasury bills, and to spend £2,000,000 on new works. I wanb bo know whether the Treasury bills which are to be redeemed out of the proceeds of this loan, were taken in as a liability by the Treasurer when he delivered his Budget recently.
– I am informed that they were included in the country’s total indebtedness.
– I. am glad to have that assurance from the Minister. It means then,thatthis is practically a bookkeeping entry.
– It means one set of debbors baking bhe place of another set. The country’s indebtedness is not increased by the process.
– That is the information I wanted to get. This proposal, therefore, seems to be largely formal. But there is one other point. This Bill authorizes the raising of a loan in London, not locally, because recently a local loan of £10,000,000 was raised for repatriation purposes under an authorization given by Parliament last year for a larger amount than was borrowed at that time.
– This loan has already been floated, has it not?
– I am not aware that it has been floated, butthat was another point that was in my mind. I should like the Minisber to say if this loan proposal has any relation whatsoever bo bhe loan of £5,000,000 arranged by him when he was in London last year.
– None at all.
– I take it, then, that the loan has not been raised yet, bub bhab ib is the intention of the Government to place it on bhe market at a convenient date, and, I presume, in England.
– The Bill is silent on bhab poinb. Ib gives aubhoriby bo borrow wherever bhe Government likes to place the loan, but it is bhe intention of the Government bo borrow in London.
– There was a statement in the press the other day to. the effect that the loan had already been floated?
– That could not be so, becausethe Government have not yet received the authorization.
– The Government may be merely coming to the Senate as a matter of form.
– We ought to have the matter cleared up, and know whether bhe loan has already been floated or nob. So far as I am aware, ib has nob yet been placed on the market. The terms upon which bhe loan will be floated, and bhe rate of interest to be paid, would be extremely interesting to the Senate. Under no circumstances do I think the Government ought bo go bo America bo obtain the money.
– If the loan has already been floated, what you are saying is beside the purpose.
– But bhe Minister for Repatriation has indicatedthat bhe loan has nob been floated yet.
– The Bill is not yet law.
Senabor PRATTEN.- Quite so. I take ib that if the Government dared to float a loan before having received authorization from bhis Parliament they would be committing a serious breach of bhe law.
– Breach of the law ?
– The law which provides that no expenditure shall be incurred and no loan shall be raked without the approval of Parliament. Australia is, bo some extent, at the parting of the ways with regard to raising loan, moneys. Three options arebefore the Commonwealth and State Parliaments; (1) to raise money internally,
– What is the matter with American dollars, anyhow ?
– The matter is that we cannot buy as many of them for our good British money as we ought to. Consequently, to that extent, American loans are not advantageous from our point of view.
– It is to be hoped that the honorable senator will use that argument when the Anti-Dumping Bill is before the Senate.
– I shall be governed by the circumstances of the case. At present I am talking about the advisableness, or otherwise, of the Commonwealth borrowing outside Australia; and if so, of borrowing outside of the Empire. Again, on the question of the terms and conditions of this proposed loan. Heretofore the Government, by good luck or good judgment, have obtained money on favorable terms, and therefore I hope they will wait until they are reasonably sure of a satisfactory result in connexion with this proposal. The loan raised by the Minister for Repatriation early in the year was, I think, placed on terms as favorable as could have been obtained at that time. I am one of those who think that money is going to be cheaper rather than dearer. New York loans to prominent American institutions are being issued to-day at 1 per cent, less than six months ago. In other words, the average rate of interest obtained, from New York loans to public institutions in the United States of America six months ago was about 6¾ to 7¼ per cent., whereas loans to similar institutions to-day are not averaging more than about 6 per cent.
– What you are saying is a good argument for the restriction of public borrowing as far as possible at the present time.
– It is. I do not think the Commonwealth Government should pay an excessive rate for any money borrowed abroad because, after all, we do not actually get the money. It is quite an hallucination to think that large sums are exchanged in payment for goods, because I do not suppose that more than 1 per cent, of all commercial and exchange transactions are paid for in coin. When we speak of money we really mean credit, and if we borrow from America it means more American goods, and if we borrow in Great Britain, more British goods.
I desire to direct attention to the very great importance of legislating, as far as we possibly can, in the direction of encouraging a favorable balance of trade, because our total indebtedness now to Great Britain means an annual interest . bill of approximately £20,000,000, which has to be sent out of the country. That can only be sent out in the form of goods, and, consequently, if our balance of exports over imports does not amount, approximately, to £20,000,000 annually, governmentally, commercially, and privately, we are running into further debt. I am glad to have the Minister’s assurance that this loan will not increase our public indebtedness if £3,000,000 more is borrowed in Britain for the redemption of floating Treasury bills, because it is really a book entry.
– In answer to the point raised by Senator Pratten, I may explain that our public indebtedness will be increased by £2,000,000. The Bill authorizes the borrowing of £5,000,000, £3,000,000 of which, will be devoted to redeeming existing debts, and, therefore, the increase in our public indebtedness will be £2,000,000.
– But we will have extra assets.
– The money, will be devoted to public works.
– Quite so.
– I heard an interjection that circumstances existing at the moment should be a warning against further public borrowing. No one likes to borrow; but I venture to say that in a country such as Australia borrowing is inevitable unless we desire to remain stationary. I do not wish to suggest that we should launch out into lavish borrowing, even if that were possible; but it would be extreme folly to shut down, on borrowing in a country clamouring for development in almost every districtWhen we speak of our public indebtedness we ought to remember the valuable asset we have against our liabilities. Take’ our railways as a case in point. Whether or not they would to-day realize the amount of money which has been borrowed to construct them, no one would suggest that Australia has not benefited by carrying such a debt for the. construction of railways, which have really been our life-blood and one of our main aids to progress. Unless more private money is available for developmental work than there appears to be, it becomes essential for the State to borrow for this, purpose.
– Then the more we owe the: wealthier we are !
– If. every £1 we borrow returns more than £1 in assets, the more we borrow the richer we become. It is not a question of whether borrowing is right or wrong,, or advisable or inadvisable, but whether the money we borrow is wisely expended. Every honorable senator at some time or other has asked for increased postal facilities ; and it is absurd to ask the taxpayers this year to pay for postal facilities which will last for fifty years. Therefore, if many works of this kind are wisely undertaken and proper supervision exercised over the expenditure of the money, we are helping ourselves by expending it on reproductive works’.
Senator Pratten referred to the question of raising money outside the Empire. I doubt whether any one in Australia wishes to do that ; certainly the Government do not. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has very accurately voicedthe sentiments of the Government in deprecating borrowing from any country outside the Empire; but I would not like to let loose the idea that, in consequence of the demands which may be made on private capital for investment within Australia, we ought not to borrow outside the Commonwealth. If that policy were to be adopted, and it should happen that the
London, market were closed to us,, a veryawkward position might arise;
– America might lend the money at a lower rate.
– Apart from the question of terms, I submit that if Australian financiers find it more profitable to invest capital in developing, pastoral properties, factories, and other such undertakings, instead of lending it to the Government, and’ at the same time London is unable or unwilling, we might be confronted with the position of asking ourselves whether we should not borrow outside the Empire. But no. one wants that.
– I am not quite sure whether it may not. pay to adopt the inevitable.
– That can be considered should the necessity arise. Whilst I am . disinclined to favour borrowing outside the Empire, circumstances may arise which might make it desirable. It is safe to say that in existing circumstances it is not.
– Something may arise to necessitate it.
– A hundred things might arise; but at present I am totally opposed to such- a proposal. This loan will be floated within the Empire.
– What rate of interest was paid on the Treasury bills being redeemed by the flotation of this loan ?
– These bills were floated at different rates of interest. They are not permanent investments, and have been taken up largely, by the balances arising from revenue accounts which have to be repaid. It has been a. means of utilizing unexpended balances and getting money at a comparatively low rate of interest. The time has now arrived when these balances have to be paid back with the money authorized by this Bill.
Senator Pratten must be aware that it has never been the practice to include the rates of interest in a Bill,, and the reason is obvious. If we go to London, and negotiate with financiers as to the terms and conditions it might be. found impossible to float a loan, at the rate specified in the measure. On the other hand, if the rates stated were- more favorable than the market demanded, financiers would insist on securing the maximum rates. In the past, this has always been left to the Government and their financial advisers to secure the best terms possible in the circumstances. This measure merely follows the established practice, which, I venture to say, experience has justified.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
The Treasurer may from time to time, under theprovisions of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911-1918, . or under the provisions of any Act authorizing the issue of Treasury bills, borrow moneys not exceeding in the whole the sum of £5,000,000.
.- This is not a very extensive Bill, but I am naturally interested to know what the prospects would be of raising money at this particular juncture in London. It gave me a good deal of gratification when I read a statement in the press, dated 23rd October, from London, to the effect that the loan had been completely underwritten. The terms of the loan were stated to be that the stock was to be issued at £96, and was to carry interest at the rate of 6 per cent. A day or two afterwards I read in the same journal that the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook)’ had expressed his gratification at the successful flotation of the loan, especially as the underwriting expenses were something like 20 per cent, less than for previous loans. Inaturally connected that paragraph with the present Loan Bill. Am I right in doing so?
– You are certainly not.
– I realize that this Bill is necessary, so that we may renew our existing liabilities. At any rate, it is, to a very great extent, for that purpose; but I wish to know whether the money has been arranged for already or not.
– I know of no other loan of £5,000,000 but this one that is likely ‘to have been placed onthe market, either thismonth orlast month. I read the paragraph in the press, . and I am asking the Minister for information.
– The honorable senator cannot ask me to explain every thing that appears in any section of the press.
– But I want to know if the flotation mentioned in the press had reference to the present Loan Bill.
– I have said “No” three times.
– If the paragraph I have read is meant to convey the meaning that the money can be made available in London for the redemption of these Treasury bills on the terms stated I am very gratified. I am aware that preliminary arrangements have to be made; the market has to be felt before the negotiations are finalized. If theGovernment have been able to get the information in London that the money necessary to enable us to meet our obligations’ can be raised there at the rates quoted, I am very pleased, and I. ato glad the Commonwealth has not had to go outside the British Empire to obtain the accommodation.
Clause agreed to.
Clause3 and preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 2nd November, vide page 12309) :
Clause 41 -
1 ) 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. ,
Upon which Senator Payne lad moved -
That the word “ eighteen “ be left . out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ seventeen.”
– I promised yesterday to obtain information in reply to inquiries by certain honorable senators. Senator Vardon asked me what percentage of telegraph messengers . remained in the Service after attaining the age of eighteen years. The answer is that for the year ended 30’th June, 1921, only seven out of 2,327 telegraph messengers retired, not having passed the examination. The . number who remained is; therefore, roughly 99 percent. Senator Duncan wished to, know how many lads between the ages of seventeen and eighteen years are in the Service. The number between sixteen and eighteen years is 949 ; it would take some days to ascertain the number between seventeen and eighteen. Senator Pratten said he understood there was no possibility of all the telegraph messengers, when they reached the age of eighteen years, being drafted into the Public Service, irrespective of any examination. The. reply is that no difficulty is found in providing positions for telegraph messengers who have qualified: Senator Thomas remarked that it would be very interesting to learn the number of boys who had passed the examination and had not been absorbed in the Department. I would refer him to the answer previously given, that no difficulty is experienced in finding positions for telegraph messengers who qualify. Senator B.eid wished to know the number of boys who had been used in the telephone office, and the number of girls who had been kept waiting for positions held by boys. The answer is, “ None.” A certain number of boys are appointed as male telephonists for night work to relieve girls,as it is undesirable for girls to work night shifts. 1 think the foregoing record wi’l show that the Department has been particularly considerate. Take the last instance I. have mentioned. In seven years I have never seen cause for complaint in that regard in the. Department, and I am sure that it would have come under my notice if there had been any ground for complaint. “We find that nobody has been put out of the Service. » One honorable senator - I believe, my friend, Senator Henderson - said he knew of hundreds of cases, but we find that in one year only seven lads have left the Service on reaching the age of eighteen years. This reveals a splendid record of care and attention in the interests of the boys themselves. The departmental statement, from which I have been quoting, continues : -
At the present time, the number of telegraph messengers in the Public Service between the ages of sixteen and eighteen is 949. The amendment proposed by Senator Payne, namely, to make the age limit .seventeen years, would thus affect a large number of boys who at the present time expect to obtain permanent positions. It is probable that, under the provisions of the existing Act and the Bill, if amended in accordance with the Government proposal, all those boys will be absorbed in the Service.
For the year ending the 30th June, 1921, only seven telegraph messengers out of 2,327 retired on account of their not passing the examination. All the others will be absorbed in the Public Service, as difficulty has never been experienced in providing positions for telegraph messengers who are qualified.
That is a wonderful record. It is my intention to propose an amendment which will make it. quite clear that the Government will not dispense with the services of returned soldiers who have been temporarily employed. The postal and telegraphic services are such that- they will require very much larger staffs when material and necessary new offices are available. Owing to the war activities were considerably hampered. The demand for telephones is far and away above the available supply of material. I might mention, as an example of this shortage, that a prominent solicitor residing at Brighton had made repeated applications for telephone connexion. I took the matter up, but the Department had to intimate once more that it would be impossible to provide the connexion for the reason that the Brighton exchange was already full.
– There are 5,000 people in Australia who would gladly pay for telephones if they could get them.
– Quite so; and when the material comes to hand there will be greatly enhanced activities, calling for additions to staffs. Meanwhile, I repeat that no returned soldier temporarily employed1 will be dismissed “ merely to provide a permanent position which may be filled by the promotion of any telegraph messenger.” There is no question of the Government creating an army of unemployed men. The Government have under consideration the whole question of appointing temporary employees as permanent members of the various staffs. It had’ been decided to suspend the making of permanent appointments while so many young and eligible Australians were away fighting for their country. Now, however, our men have come back. There are too many temporary employees in the Service. It is high time that the temporary labour was done away with and the individuals concerned, in every instance possible, appointed to permanent positions.
– Will not that policy entail an amendment of the Act?
– It will be provided for in this measure. As for the question of examination, it would be unfair to ask returned men, who have practically lost several years of their lives, to undergo long and extensive preparations for qualification tests. Of course, if a returned soldier is aiming to secure a higher positionhe must necessarily be qualified to take it, and he must be prepared to undergo an examination, if necessary. It is essential that a certain standard of efficiency should be maintained. But I repeat that special consideration will be given to ex-soldiers in every instance, and there “will be circumstances in which, at the discretion of the Board, no examination will be required.
– I know of cases where temporary employees in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department have applied for permanent positions, but have been informed that there is no power under the Act to appoint them.
– I repeat that provision is being made in this measure. Altogether, I think that yesterday’s debate has had a good effect, in that it has cleared away many misconceptions.
– Honorable senators are indebted to the Minister (Senator Russell) for the information which he has given to the Committee in reply to questions raised during the debate yesterday. I am glad to know that the Service is now so well balanced that it is able to absorb all the young people, male and female, who are taken into it. It is only lately, however, that that has been so. One thing that has to be borne in mind is that the highwages earned by the young people outside the Service is an inducement to them to remain outside. For this reason there may not be such a rush as there used to be to get into the Service.
. -I desire to say a word or two on the amendment moved by me yesterday. I am very , pleased that the Minister in charge of the Bill (Senator Russell) has been able to elicit the information which he has given to the Senate to-day. No one is more gratified than I to hear that the lads employed as telegraph messengers in the Postal Department can be entirely absorbed in the Public Service. In view of the Minister’s statement I have no option but to withdraw my amendment - with the permission of the
Senate. My object in moving it was to protect lads who might otherwise be forced out of the Service by failing to pass the prescribed examination.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move-
That the following words be left out : - “ previously been transferred or promoted to some other position “, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ before reaching that age, pass the examination prescribed for promotion “.
That will obviate the dismissal of boys who have passed their examination.
– The Minister has proposed a very important amendment. Its spirit appears to me to be quite contrary to that of the Public Service Act we are now working under. It is evident that those who drafted the Bill were determined, with the concurrence of the Government, to make it impossible for every lad employed as a telegraph messenger to look forward with certainty to becoming a public servant. If the amendment is accepted it will mean that, willy nilly, the Government must find positions for every telegraph messenger who passes the prescribed examination. On the second reading of the Bill honorable senators will remember that the majority of the members of this Chamber gave expression to the view that the Civil Service ought not to be looked upon as a certainty for life to every lad who enters it. The exigencies of the Service may require fewer persons to be employed in certain Departments in the future than have been employed in the past. Under the present Act there is no possibility, as far as I can see, of dispensing with the services of a public servant unless he breaks the law and is disobedient to his superiors.
– If a Department is overstaffed, the staff can be reduced.
– The Minister has not stated why it. has been thought necessary to bring down this amendment. The clause is deliberately worded in contradistinction to the clause governing telegraph messengers in the old Act. The clause in the old Act reads as the clause in this Bill will read if the amendment is accepted. The clause in the Bill, instead of providing that every person employed as a telegraph messenger shall cease to be employed on his attaining the
Age of eighteen, years .unless he has pre viously passed the .examination, provides that he shall cease to be employed on his reaching that age unless he has previously been transferred or promoted to some other position. That is a very wide distinction. Personally, I think the Government were wise in having the clause drafted as printed in the Bill, which provides that unless a position is available for a lad employed as a telegraph messenger he shall cease to be employed. If the amendment is carried we must find a position for every1 lad who passes the examination. At the present juncture I am certainly opposed to the amendment. If honorable senators accept it they will be going back on the attitude taken up by -them on the second reading.
– The expansion of the Post Office will be as rapid in the future as the supply of materials will permit. I think Senator Payne has overlooked the fact that the Bill does not deal with persons outside the Public .Service, but with employees df the Postal Department. It refers to boys who have served for four or five years in the Department. Surely it cannot be said that the Government has a right to take the best years of a boy’s life .and then to throw him out on the street. One of the biggest curses of Australia to-day is not the natural, but the artificial limitation of apprentices and junior workers. I believe it has been computed that -there -ought to be about one apprentice or junior worker to three male adult workers, but in some trades the Wages Boards or the Arbitration Courts have fixed a minimum of five seniors to one apprentice. This re- striction of apprentices is .forcing the boy who has no trade into the labour market as an unskilled worker. The Government very much regrets this condition, and will do what it can to remedy it by seeing that the proper proportion of boys to adult workers are trained in its own Departments. It has become a practice in some of the best trades in Australia to limit the number of ‘apprentices as much as possible.
– ‘What is *he annual demand of the Public .Service for new appointments? .’Does the number of telegraph messengers ‘annually reaching, the age of eighteen years equal .the annual demand of the Public Service for new appointments f
– No; nothing like it. If we could secure the necessary material, we might at least increase the Post and Telegraph Service by 20 per cent., and so give a more efficient service to the people. I am glad to say that material is now being received more rapidly, and in the course of twelve months I anticipate that there will not be nearly so many complaints about the Post and Telegraph Department as there are to-day. I have not the figures for which Senator Bolton has asked, but I will obtain them for him.
Senator PRATTEN (New South Wales ; [4.2]. - As the position with regard to telegraph messenger boys develops, it becomes more obtuse. The original Bill provided that a telegraph messenger should cease to be employed as such on reaching the age of eighteen years, unless he had been previously transferred or promoted to another position. Yesterday there were some fairly strong opinions expressed in this chamber that the age at which a boy should cease to be a telegraph messenger should be seventeen, and not eighteen, years.
– I heard only Senator Payne support that suggestion.
– I could mention four or five honorable ‘senators who subscribed to that idea. One honorable senator went so far as to suggest, by interjection, that the age should be sixteen years.
– All gave the reason that the boys, when turned off, became labourers; but that has been disproved.
– I want to define the second position that was set up yesterday, and it was that there was a fairly strong opinion that the age at which a boy should cease to be a telegraph messenger should be seventeen, and not eighteen, years, for the reason that if there were no further career open to these lads in the Post and Telegraph Department, it would be very much better for them that they should know it at the age of seventeen, rather than at the age of eighteen. I am not ‘clear as to whether the whole of -the ‘telegraph messengers employed by the Commonwealth can, as they reach the age of .eighteen years, be absorbed- into ‘the . Service. There is a conflict of opinion on this point; but 1 am informed . that not anything like all of those who annually reach the age of eighteen years can be found positions in the Service.
– I am informed that the number of appointments made in a normal year is 1,500, and there are about 500 of these telegraph messenger iboys. That number would represent 33 per cent, of the normal annual appointments.
– Senator Henderson, who, I am in a position to say, has given some attention to this subject, says that nothing like- all the boys cam be absorbed, in the Service.
– The honorable senator was. not present when I gave the Commiittee some facts and figures, upon which Senator Payne withdrew his amendment, and Senator Henderson withdrew his statement..
– The force of my argument depends upon whether these boys can be absorbed in the Service afterthey reach the ‘age of eighteen years or not. Here is the statement made by the high council of the Commonwealth Public Service organizations -
In Victoria there ore, approximately, 700 telegraph messengers, and there are not positions to promote this number of lads to. In the other States’ a similar state of affairs exists.
– The 700 range over a number of years’.
– I do not think that matters for the purpose of my argument. The statement made is that there are not sufficient positions to which to promote these lads as they arrive at. the age of eighteen years.
– That might have been so in. bad. times, when practically the only permanent employment was in the Public Service,, but nowadays the boys are given better, opportunities and higher wages outside.
– I wish to be clear as to the actual position. If it is a fact that there is a considerable number of telegraph messenger boys who, when they arrive at the age of eighteen years, examination or no examination, cannot be placed in the Service, it would be better for them that they should be retired at the age of seventeen years.
– In 192.1. all were absorbed, with the- exception of seven who did not pass, or did not go up for the examination.
– Then I am. to understand that there will be sufficient openings for these lads in the Service in the future.
– Yes. Of the last batch 99 per cent, passed the examination and have been drafted, into the Public Service;
– Senator- Pratten has now no more, argument.
– Yes, I have.I am coming now to- the third position set up by the amendment which the Minister has moved. If it be passed-, every boy who passes the prescribed- examination, irrespective of the wants of the Postal Service, must be- passed’ into the Service.
– They are already public servants- as- telegraph messengers.
– That is not so, and it is a matter of some complaint that, irrespective of the duties- which they perform, they rank only as telegraph mesv sengers- until they arrive at the- age of eighteen years. The effect of the amendment would be that the ‘Government would be morally bound, after a telegraph messenger had passed the prescribed examination, to find1 him a position iin the Service, irrespective of its require>ment’s. If”, as the Minister has- said, the Service can absorb all these boys as they arrive at the age of eighteen years, then the. effect of the amendment will be merely to prescribe that, before they are aibsorbed by the Service, they must pass an examination. But if the Service cannot absorb all. these boys,, year after year, as they arrive at the agei of eighteen years - and I am informed that, so far,, it has been unable to do so - by passing the amendment we shall be committing ourselves to a moral obligation to every boy who passes the prescribed, examination, to find him a position in the Service, irrespective of its. requirements.
– Might not the honorable senator put it that the obligation already exists, but the Government will not honour it unless the boy passes an examination ?
– No, the obligation does not at present exist. I have it on several authorities that there are injustices perpetrated, in connexion with these boys at the present time. The complaint is. made that a boy, after serving three or four years as a- telegraph messenger, is very often dumped out into the world when he reaches the age of eighteen years, irrespective of his qualifications for promotion in the Service, because he is not wanted.
– That is not imperative. A boy may not be taken on at the moment he reaches the age of eighteen years, but he may be absorbed before he reaches the age of twenty years.
– He still remains a telegraph messenger?
– Not necessarily.
– What occurs in the interval between the time at which he reaches the age of eighteen years and the time when he passes into the Service?
– They may remain until a vacancy occurs in the Department. They will then get preference.
– But they could not if this Bill is passed as drafted.
– Ifthey pass the examination.
– A lad may remain in the Service until he is twenty years of age.
– If he passes the examination. I am not out to create difficulties, but I think it would be a domestic tragedy if a bright boy, say, belonging to a large family, entered the Post and Telegraph Department as a telegraph messenger at the age of fourteen or fifteen years, and after serving three or four years were informed that the Department had no further use for him.
– What is your remedy for a case of that kind ?
– The remedy was suggested yesterday, namely, that the maximum age should be reduced. If a boy had to leave the Service ultimately through circumstances beyond his control, it would be better for him to start again in some other avenue of employment at the age of seventeen years than at eighteen years of age.
– That is not much of a remedy.
– One of my honorable friends suggested yesterday that it would be better to make the maximum age sixteen years .
– I saw representatives of the whole of the Service, also the central executive of the Returned Soldiers’ Association, and I had a perfect agreement with them on this point.
– May I suggest that this is not a matter for the Returned Soldiers’ Association at all. It ia a national issue - what we shall do with our boys.
– Up to the present the Minister (Senator Russell) has not given any explanation, nor has he attempted to explain why the clause was drafted in its original form. There must have been some object.
-It was drafted to catch the boys, of course.
– No. The Minister, in introducing the Bill, and also last year when dealing with this matter, clearly laid it down that the policy of the Government was to reorganize the Public Service, so far as possible, with the object of securing more efficiency, and avoiding the possibility of overmanning in the various Departments. Notwithstanding that fact, he now brings down an amendment that will necessitate the continued employment as public servants of every telegraph messenger who reaches the age of eighteen years if he can pass a certain examination, irrespective of whether Departments want additional assistance or riot. That is quite contrary to the whole principle underlying the measure.
– Why do you not read the whole of the Bill? There is provision in clause 18 for the Board to reduce the personnel of any Department if necessary.
– That does not get away from the fact that the Minister has admitted that telegraph messengers may be kept on the pay-sheet of the Department until they reach the age of twenty years, and that if they pass the examination they must be paid, even if they cannot be absorbed by any Department.
– Do you suggest that they must be paid whether they work or not.
– I do not say so, butthatcould happen if this amendment is carried. Honorable senators who have taken the trouble to read the AuditorGeneral’s report will remember that he instances the case of one public servant who drew over £600 in hard cash after his furlough had expired, without giving any services in return.
– He was not a telegraph messenger.
– No; but cannot the honorable senator see the analogy]
– No, I cannot.
– Well, suppose 200 telegraph messengers reach the age of eighteen years this year and they pass the examination. There may be no vacancies in the Post and Telegraph Department or any other Commonwealth Department, but if this amendment is carried, those lads will, have to kept on and paid.
– We can absorb three times that number.
– That is in accordance with the present Act.
– It is not in accordance with the principles of the Bill now under consideration. I shall be prepared to withdraw my opposition absolutely if the Minister can explain why in the drafting of the Bill, and also in the drafting of the measure we dealt with last year, the provision as to the employment of telegraph messengers was totally different. There must have been some reason.
– What is the difference?
– The Act provides what the Minister is now seeking to include in this Bill by his amendment.
– They may be kept on in employment until they reach the age of twenty years.
– That is if they pass the examination. The clause as originally drafted provided that their employment should cease unless they had previously been transferred or promoted to some other position, clearly indicating that the lads would not remain in the Public Service unless there was employment for them, whereas, if we agree to the amendment, we shall be adopting the principle that they must be employed and paid, even if there is no employment for them.
– Through the operation of our Standing Orders I was unable to complete my observations a few moments ago. I want now to summarize the position as I see it. In the Bill as drafted there is no responsibility on the part of the Post and Telegraph Department, or any other branch of the Service, with regard to these boys, the only qualification being, if a lad had been previously transferred or promoted to some other position, it was mandatory on the Department to employ him. That responsibility will be very materially altered by the amendment submitted by the Minister. If adopted, it will be mandatory on the Postal Department, provided the lads pass a prescribed examination, to appoint them all to the Public Service when they reach the age of eighteen years. Is there room for the whole of these lads ?
– Our experience is that we do not get a sufficient number of these lads now, although at one time there were too many.
– It is advisable that we should consider the possibility of. bad times recurring.
– Under clause 18, the Board will have power to reduce the number of employees in any Department if necessary.
– That power is very necessary. It occurs to me that we shall be building up a great deal of trouble for ourselves in the future if we guarantee, in this Bill, continued permanent employment to every boy who enters the Post Office0 as a telegraph messenger. That is what the amendment means.
– Do you think it is fair that, after four years of service, a boy should have to start afresh? And is it any fairer to tell him so at the age of seventeen years rather than eighteen years ?
– It would be fairer, because a lad of seventeen years of age has a better chance, by one year at all events, to enter other employment. The Government have already admitted this by, I believe, bringing down the age, in the case of telegraph messengers, from twenty years to eighteen years. I should prefer the clause to be so drafted as to provide that when a telegraph messenger reached the age of seventeen years he should know definitely whether or not he was to continue in the Service. I should like an_ elastic provision whereby the authorities of the Postal Department would not be obliged to employ the whole of the telegraph messengers who may pass the examination, unless the exigencies of the Service permitted of this being done.
Already Senator Elliott has given notice of an amendment which suggests that returned soldiers are being, displaced in the Department by telegraph messengers. I am not at all satisfied that the Minister’s amendment will improve the Bill;.
– I am.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move-
That sub-clause (2) be left out.
This provision was inserted to assist the young men of seventeen or eighteen years of age who, when acting as telegraph messengers, enlisted for active service, and, as it was thought that they would be unable to study when abroad, it was decided’ that. when, they returned they should be) appointed to the permanent staff without examination. I am glad to say that all of those youths who went away have returned,, and, as they axe now permanent members of the Service, this provision is unnecessary.
Amendment agreed to.
.- It is my intention to. move for the. insertion of. a new sub-clause. (2) to assist, returned soldiers temporarily employed in the Post and Telegraph Department. Prom inquiries made, I. understand that there, are from 250 to 270 maimed men in the Post and Telegraph. Department who have been compelled to take up this occupation, as the work is comparatively light. Their positions were not interfered with for some time until, the Acting Public Service Commissioner was faced with the difficulty of providing employment for telegraph messengers who had attained the age of eighteen years, and had passed the necessary examination.
– I have an amendment to clause 78 to cover that, and, as I am informed by the draftsman that that is the proper place in which to insert it, perhaps the honorable senator will withdraw his amendment.
– In those circumstances I shall not press the amendment at this juncture.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 42 -
Amendment (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That after the word “ Service.;” line 5, the words “or the Commonwealth Railway Service” be inserted.
– Will the Minister (Senator Russell) explain what is meant by the “Territorial Service”?
– Probably the reference is to the Mandated Terri tories, the Northern Territory, and the Federal Territory..
– I understand’ that under this clause an officer in the Territorial Service can be transferred1 to the Commonwealth Public Service without examination.
– Officers are not eligible for appointment unless they have passed the required examination.
– But the clause provides that if the Board is. satisfied that it is desirable, in the interests of the Commonwealth, that the appointment be made, the Board may appoint,, without examination or probation, any officer of the Territorial Service-
– That is without an additional examination.
SenatorDuncan. - Officers serving in Papua -have not passed an examination.
– Some have ‘been sent to the Mandated Territories, and, af ter serving twelve mouths or two years, have been transferred without further examination.
– Some time ago there was some doubt concerning the status of officers transferred from the Commonwealth Service to the Service of the Northern Territory, and when I was in that Territory I promised to assist in getting the Act amended, so that a public servant would not losehis rights in the event of being transferred.
– He will not lose any rights under this Bill.
– That is quite a different matter. I -believe the Minister for Home and Territories can appoint whom he. likes.
– On the recommendation of the Board.
– That has nothing to do with it, because the Board can appoint officers without examination, and under this provision a person could enter the Service by the back door.
– That is so; ‘but consideration must be givento those who are working in the outposts of civilization. They cannot be transferred from . the Territorial . ‘Service to similar positions in the Public -Serviceof the ‘Commonwealth.
– I made some appointments myself in the Northern Territory, and some of . those men could ‘be brought intothe Public Service. . I ‘have one case in particular in my mind. I -was the Minister responsible for the appointment.
– You spoiled a lot of them. I know men who objected to going up there on second-class tickets. .
– Did you give them first-class tickets ?
– No. Why does the Minister say I spoiled . them?
– You did ‘very well in your time.
– Appointments have been madeto the Territorial Service without examination, and, under this clause, men so appointed would beeligible to serve by the side of men who have passed an examination. A person might go ito Papua, and, becauseof that, he might fee able to [get into the Public Service here.Letus know what we are about.
– There is no likelihood . of undesirable men , getting into the Commonwealth Public Service. The Board provides as good a safeguard as onecan wish. We must make the Service elastic to some extent, or otherwise . divide itinto watertight compartments. The Board will comprise responsible men, and the clause meets a grievance that has existed altogether too long. We have Been instances of men remaining in one Department . while other officers not comparable with them in ability have obtained promotion. “The power proposed to be given to the Board isveryreasonable, and it should be willingly extended.
– The Board will be aresponsible body, specially selected to re-organize and stabilize the Service. “I might mention the case of an officer in ‘Papua, who, for seventeen or eighteen ‘years, was ‘secretary to the . Executixe . Council at -Port Moresby. I belieiwe that, mainly for health reasons, on account «of . his long and continuous period of service there, he asked . to be ‘transferred to Melbourne. He was sent back to the Home and Territories Department, and ‘he is in that Department now. He was a competent officer, and . had held a most responsible position in Papua. A man with a record like that does not need to be examined before being given a position here. He had proved his ability, because the Executive Council in Papua controls practically all the operations of . government there. I hope that we shall be more generous in future . to men who go to ‘these outposts of civilization. I have visited New Guinea, and I do not know why officers should not serve for a certain period there. Qn the occasion of my visit, we had a party of about eighteen, and not one aS us suffered the . slightest illness. Certainly we made the trip at a favorable time. ‘ We did not experience the monsoonal gales. Every . one of us voted the climate a splendid one, although -we’ travelled many miles, and slept inland. Officers there need <a good holiday once in two years, in order to preserve average health, and be fit . to do their work. Some ‘of the officers there . have been without a good spell for a long period, and it is time some of them had a twelve months’ rest to recuperate, or were transferred. I do not think any man should be kept in a place like Papua all his life, but the work there should be reasonably distributed among suitable officers. If a person knew that the maximum period of service there would be two years, no doubt single men would be quite willing to go.
– You can only get good men by making the Service attractive.
– Yes. I do not believe for a moment that a Board such as is proposed would play a joke on this Parliament by recommending the appointment of unsuitable persons. If men who are not of the right type are recommended by the Board, other people who feel that an injustice has been done to them oan appeal against the appointments within six months, and thus every protection is afforded. No officer can be appointed to any position except on probation for six months.
– You have had some men on probation for three or four years, and then you have appointed other men.
– If the honorable senator gives specific cases, I shall look into them. The Department has nothing to hide.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Senator Russell) agreed to -
That the words in sub-clause ( 1 ) “ corresponding Division of the “ be left out.
That sub-clause (2) be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following new sub-clause : - “ Where the service, in the Territorial, or Commonwealth Railways Service, of an officer who is appointed to the Commonwealth Service in pursuance of this section, is continuous with his service in the Commonwealth Service, his service in the Territorial, or Commonwealth Railways Service, shall, for the purposes of this Act, be reckoned as service in the Commonwealth Service.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Russell) agreed to -
That the word “ may,” line 1, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof “upon the recommendation of the Board.”
– I move -
That the words in sub-clause 2 “ as regards payment in addition to salary “ be left out.
The desire is to give the Board wider discretion. An officer may be temporarily transferred to a locality, or under conditions, in regard to which the subject of living allowance is involved. If the cost of living were to fall there should be provision to adjust the allowance. Hence the proposed deletion of the reference to “payment in addition to salary.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 44 -
– I move -
That the following words be left out : - “ or transferred by the Board without examination, and if the Board thinks fit, without probation, to a position in the corresponding division inthe Commonwealth Service,” and that the following words be inserted in lieu thereof : - “ to the Commonwealth Service by the Board without examination and, if the Board thinksfit, without probation or compliance with the life assurance provisions of this Act.”
The reference to non-compliance with the life assurance provisions of the Act isspecifically intended to benefit former soldiers who may have been so maimed or their health so injured by war servicethat insurance companies will not do business with them except under conditions, which actually impose a penalty upon the unfortunate men. On behalf of such employees the Government act, in effect, as an insurance concern. That is to say, a certain proportion of their pay is regularly set aside and devoted to a form of ultimate retiring allowance.
– ‘When speaking in the course of the second-reading debate, I urged the advisableness of the Government doing their own insurance. In the case of these men to whom the Minister (Senator Russell) has alluded, this policy has been forced upon the Government. Has the Minister any information concerning what is intended generally in respect of insuring members of the Public Service? ‘
– This matter will probably arise in connexion with the proposed Superannuation Bill. As for the policy of the Government conducting their own insurance business regarding all forms of risk, I* would remind honorable senators of the success which attended the insurance of Commonwealth vessels during the war period. As for the system of insurance of officials in the Mandated Territories, I am free to say that that also is paying handsomely. I feel confident that the same could be said if the Government were to take over the insurance of the personnel of the Public Service generally.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 45 -
Amendments (by Senator Russell) agreed to -
That, after the word “ Public,” the words “ Railway or other “ be inserted.
That sub-clause (2) be left out.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 46 -
Sub-clause 1 amended (on motion by Senator Russell) to read -
Amendment (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That the word “ person “ in sub-clause (2) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof “ officer.”
– This clause seems to me to be an improvement on the provisions of the existing Act. I take it that it provides that the Board can appoint a person from outside the Service if it is of opinion that he can do the work more capably than any one inside the Service. I would like to ask whether that is also the case under the present Act, or whether the prevailing practice is that a person from outside can be appointed only if there is no one inside the Service capable of doing the work ?
– Yes, that is so.
– I take it that a person might be capable of doing the work, but not “ as capable “ as a man from outside the Service. If a man from outside could be obtained who was more capable, I take it that he would, under the clause we are discussing, be appointed in preference to a man inside the Service.
– I think that is fair.
– The difficulty under the present Act has been that the permanent head of a Department sometimes does not care to certify that there is no one in his Department capable of filling a vacant position. There is a difference between “ dragging through “ and “ doing the job.”
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Russell) agreed to -
That the- word “ seven “ first occurring- in subclause (2) be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof. “ fourteen.”
.- I want to. bring under the notice of the Committee the possible necessity that may exist for adding a new clause to clause 46. It is felt in the Public- Service that if this clause is passed as amended,, it will not. give an. officer in. the Service a fair opportunity of. obtaining a position for- which he: may be qualified, because bhe Board may have certified that there is no officer in the S’ervice as capable as an outside applicant of filling the. ‘position. The contention of. the Public Service Association is that- it would be. almost impossible for any Board to give a certificate of that kind on really first-hand knowledge, unless the officers of the Service had ah opportunity of demonstrating their capabilities for the position.
– They are only appointed on probation for a six-months” period, during which time any employee can appeal, against their appointment.
– The Council of the Public Service Association suggests that applications should be invited for a position, so as to give an opportunity to every officer of the Service to apply.
– I have seen the document that the honorable senator is quoting, and I can inform him that the council of the Association has withdrawn quite a number of things- stated therein. I spent three hours with, them the other, day discussing the subject.
– I will read the reasons which they advance for the suggestion that there should be a sub-clause 3 inserted : ‘ ‘ This sub-clause is necessary in order to preyent the Board from appointing some outsider to a Commonwealth position without giving the officers already in the Service an opportunity of demonstrating that they are quite capable of filling the position in question.”’
– The Government ought to exhaust the possibilities of the Service before appointing persons from outside.
– That is intended.
– An injury may be done to an officer of the Public Service if he is not given an opportunity of lodging an application.
– The Board must exhaust the Public Service and’ certify that there is no one in the Service capable of filling the vacancy.
– The Council of the Public Service Association contends- that more opportunity would be given to- public servants- to demonstrate their efficiency for a position if they had an opportunity of applying in the ordinary way and entering, into competition with outside applicants;
– I do nob think that the honorable senator is quite fair in saying that the Council of the Public Service Association holds the opinion he has quoted. The Government has reached a common agreement with the Council. Since the pamphlet from which the honorable senator has quoted was published, six months ago, much of it has, for some better reason, been withdrawn.
– If there is a more capable man outside the Service, why should he not be brought in ?
– I quite agree: but I donot want to see the possibility of an injustice being inflicted upon a member of the Public Service who may be just as capable as a person outside, but who, through not having an opportunity of making an application, is not able- to demonstrate his capabilities- If the Minister assures me that the Council of the Association is not pressing this point, I will not persist in it.
Clause, as amended., agreed to.
SenatorRUSSELL(Victoria- VicePresident of the ExecutiveCouncil) [5.25]. - I move-
That the following new clause be inserted: - “46a. If an officer of theRoyal Australian Naval Radio Service be appointed to theCom- monwealth Service, eitherbefore or after the commencement of this Act, his service in the Royal AustralianNaval Radio Service shall, for the purposes of this Act, be deemed to be service in the Commonwealth Service.”
We want to make the employment of the men referred to in this proposed new clausecontinuous for the purposes of superannuation and the like. War Service will count as ordinary civil service.
. -I appreciate the desire of the Minister to provide that the war service put in by the men referred to shall stand to their credit after theyhave entered the Public Service for the purpose of superannuation, if that eventuates, and -for other purposes. I addressed a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister to-day, and received a reply from him in connexion with the appointment of radio-telegraphic officers. It appears that, so far as the Commonwealth ships are concerned, the appointment of such officers does not rest with the Commonwealth Government at all, but with some outside company, organization, or body. There are wireless operators who served on the various fronts during the war on land and sea.
– All the wireless operators at sea during the war went through the submarine danger zones. The Commonwealth line has a contract with the Marconi Company covering a limited number ofyears. The Common wealth Government employs the Marconi Company.
– I think the Minister is not stating the facts quite correctly. There are men who served Australia and the Empire on the various fronts during the war who did not receive, and could not possibly have received, their training from this organization, company, or body with whom the Commonwealthhas now made an arrangement. For the purpose of filling the positions of wireless operators on Commonwealth ships this company, organization, or body was resorted to, and it is only the trainees of that company, organization,or body who are appointed to those vessels.Therearemenwho,beforethat company, organization, or body was in existence, qualified themselvesandwent abroad, and rendered valuable -services on land and sea to the Commonwealth and the Empire. Many ofthem are nowback in Australia, and they are seeing menappointed to Commonwealth vessels who did no servicefor Australia or the Empire. The agreement that has been entered into is absolutely wrong. I have no objection to an agreement to insurethat theCommonwealth Governmentshall be supplied with qualified men, but itought to contain some provisionforcompliance with theCommonwealth policy of preference to returned men. It is a very poor thing for men who have served inthe Mediterranean - “ can fishing,” chasing submarines - or who have served in the Atlantic or on the Mesopotamian, Palestine, or Western Fronts as ‘wireless men, to come back to Australia and be told that they cannot be appointed to Commonwealth ships because some company or organization has a right of appointment, and that it appoints only its own trainees. If atrainee who has not seen active service is appointed, the company’s explanation is that he’ was not old enough at the ‘time of the war to be on service. Men who rendered service during the war to Australia, the Empire, and the Allies,should have the first claim to appointment to these positions. I do not suppose that the clause under consideration could be modifiedto give effect to what I desire, but I am thankful for the opportunity it has afforded me to discuss the question I asked to-day, and the reply I received to it. I ask Senator Russellto take a note, of what I have said,’ and to see that the policy of the Government and their supporters, which has been indorsed by the country, shall be carried out. I think that in all great emergencies at sea where there has been danger of shipwreck and loss of life, the history of Britishshipping has so far revealed the fact that, like the captain on the bridge, the wireless operator has invariably stood to his post. These men risked their lives time and again, and now, when they return to Australia, find that they are ineligible for appointment because theywere not trained by a company or organization that has some arrangement with theGovernment in connexion with Commonwealth ships. That is a preposterous thing, and thecountrywill not stand for it. I trust that the Minister will see that some provision is made by which those who have served Australia, the Empire, the. Allies, and the cause of civilization, may receive recognition in appointments to positions on Commonwealth vessels.
– I am thankful for the suggestions which Senator Keating has made, andI am sure that we all agree with the spirit of his remarks. It is my intention to postpone the consideration of the proposed new clause in order that I may look into the matter. I believe that the machines that are operated are the property of the Marconi Company, and, under a contract for a royalty with the company, we are using them on the leasehold system. I am at present under the impression . that the contract was entered into about eighteen months before we had determined on the policy of preference to returned men. It will be remembered that comparatively few soldiers returned within the first twelve months of the war, and that it’ was only when they began to come back in considerable numbers that the policy of preference to returned men was adopted. If the contract was entered into after that period, it should contain a clause giving preference to these men. I propose to make inquiries and, as I am in charge of the business, if there is such a condition in the contract I shall insist upon its enforcement. If there is no such condition, whilst we cannot of course break the contract, I shall confer with the company and it should not be difficult to induce them to give effect to our policy. I am in full sympathy with what Senator Keating has said. If there is no condition in the contract giving preference to the men referred to, there should be such a condition, and I shall do my best to have it embodied in the contract.
– Will the Minister also have inquiries made as to the wages paid to these men ? I do not think they are under any Arbitration Court award, and we should see that they are given a living wage.
– I do not know what the conditions of the contract are with regard to wages. We have entered into a contract for a certain number of years on a royalty, and I question at the moment whether we could now alter the wages conditions of the contract. I remember that the terms of the contract were sent out by Mr. Larkin, and I had an opportunity of looking over them. I approved of ithe contract as the best course to be followed in the circumstances as we were not building wireless in Australia at the time. I shall look into both the matters to which reference has been made, and for that purpose will ask for the postponement of the consideration of the proposed new clause 46a.
– I should like to say that I thank the Minister (Senator Russell) sincerely for the course he has expressed his intention to take. He has indicated that the Government are fully in accordance with the sentiments I have expressed, and I think that honorable senators generally are agreed that recognition should be given to returned men in connexion with these as in connexion with other positions in the Commonwealth Service. I am not quite sure whether these wireless operators are employees of the Commonwealth or of the organization or body that has contracted with the Commonwealth for the supply of wireless services for Commonwealth vessels. Whatever the position is, I think the Minister is well advised in taking the course he proposes, and I have risen now merely to acknowledge his courtesy and to thank him for his promise to give attention to the matters I have submitted.
Proposed new clause postponed.
Clause 47 agreed to.
Clause 48 -
Any promotion made in pursuance of this section shall be provisional, and shall be notified in the prescribedmanner, and shall be subject to the right of appeal, in such manner and within such time as are prescribed, by any officer who considers that he is more entitled to promotion for the vacant office than the officer provisionally promoted, on the ground of -
Provided that, in the case of promotions in or to the Second Division, the Minister may, if he thinks fit, refer the matter to the GovernorGeneral, who may confirm or disallow the determination of the Board.
– I am not in favour of this clause as it stands. I desire that it should be deleted, and that something else should take its place. I may state the two different principles of promotion. Under the existing Act all promotions in every division of the Service are made by the Public Service Commissioner, of course after consultation with the heads of Departments. Under this Bill the Government propose a different system, and that promotions should be made by chief officers or heads of Departments.
– I propose to substitute the “ Permanent Head “ for the “ Chief Officer.”
– Then it is proposed that in future the permanent head of a Department, and not the Public Service Commissioner, shall make necessary promotions. I desire that the Commissioner, or in his place the Public Service Board, should be responsible for all promotions: Under the existing practice, if an opportunity is afforded for a promotion the Commissioner advertises for applicants for the position, and no matter in what part of Australia, or in what division an officer may be, he can send in an application for the position. The Commissioner consults with the head of the Department concerned, and the promotion is then made by the Commissioner. The Minister may, of course, object, and in such a case the matter is laid before Parliament, but I do not think that a single instance of that kind has so far occurred. If the clause under discussion is agreed to, the permanent head of a Department will make promotions, and any person aggrieved by his decision may appeal to the Board. If, for instance, there is an opportunity of promotion in the Treasury, an accountant in any other Department of the Public Service may apply for the position, and if he is not given it, may appeal to the Board, who can turn down the recommendation of the permanent head and appoint the appellant to the position. To my mind this clause will have the effect of making the different Departments more watertight than they are now. It will mean that there will be very few transfers from one Department to another, and that a man once employed in a particular Department will remain in it during the whole of his service. Another effect of the clause will, in all probability, be that promotions will in future be according to seniority or to the nearness of particular officers to the permanent heads of the Departments in which they take place. Under the existing system a man in another Department is given a better chance of promotion than he will have under this clause if it is passed. The clause practically proposes going back to the system of political appointments. We cannot get away from the fact that if the permanent head of a Department has the right to make promotions political influence will be used. Pressure will be brought to bear on the Minister in charge of the Department, because ‘members of Parliament knowing that promotions will practically depend on the heads of Departments will use their influence to secure .the promotion of particular persons. In these circumstances, it is clear that those near the Minister or the permanent head will have a better chance of promotion than those farther away.
– That is the .present position.
– It is to some extent, but the -difficulty will be intensified under this clause. I was very pleased a little time ago to come across an officer holding a .somewhat important position in Sydney, who was at one time a telegraph messenger at Broken Hill, where as youngster he said he remembered me as the representative of that district. He had worked his way up to an importantposition in the Clerical Division. All credit to him, and to the system under which that was possible.
– There are not many avenues of that kind open to men in the more remote districts.
– Their opportunities for promotion will be reduced under this clause. I was talking some time ago to a man who has left the Commonwealth Public Service. He rose to a prominent position, and subsequently retired. A little while ago I met him, and in conversation with me he contrasted the Public Service of to-day with the Public Service as he knew it. He thought the conditions of to-day were better than in former years. He said, “ I happened to be in the Post Office in New South Wales, and was stationed right out in the country. I knew very well that unless I could get into Sydney, where I would be nearer the heads of the Department, I would have no chance of promotion. Those were the days of political influence. I approached a friend of mine, who happened to be the member for the district, and a3 a result of his representations I was brought into Sydney. I believe I made good.” This gentleman, of course, did make good, but if he had not been transferred to Sydney he would never have had a chance of rising. The Act> so far as -possible, eliminates political influence, but this Bill (encourages the use of outside influence.
– How does the present Act prevent political influence 1
– Because the Public Service Commissioner, -who is responsible for promotions .and transfers, is too far away from Parliament. I do not think that Mr. McLachlan was ever influenced in this way, .and I do not think that Mr. Edwards, the Acting Commissioner, is likely to be.
– But the Commissioner does -not make the appointments now. They are really made by the Heads of the Departments.
– And those officers who are nearest to the Minister get a chance for all the plums.
– Under the Act the Public Service Commissioner advertises when new appointments are .to be made, and consults the head of a Department.
– He consults the head of a Department, but there are times when their opinions clash.
– Not very often.
– Probably not, but they do clash sometimes. I know this of my own personal knowledge because formerly I administered one of the Departments, and if the Commissioner stands by his own opinion he makes the appointment. Sometimes, of course, he gives way to the head of the Department, because no doubt he thinks the latter has put up a good case. Under this Bill appointments will be made by the permanent heads of Departments. It is true that there is provision for appeal against their decisions, but what chance would a young officer in the country have in any appeal to the Board ? At present, if there is a difference of opinion between the Commissioner and the head of a Department, an officer in the country who may be interested knows that he has the Public Service Commissioner fighting his case for him-; but in future, if this Bill is passed in its .present form, he will have no one. The head of the Department will make the appointment. I admit that at present our Departments are to some extent watertight in the matter .of appointments and promotions, and that amongst certain classes of clerks there is a good deal of dissatisfaction. This is especially noticeable when new Departments are created. Young, men who are fortunate enough to join a new Department rise rapidly with it, and in a. short time are in receipt of a considerably higher salary than is paid to other officers, equally capable, and who have seen much longer service in other Departments of the Service. Honorable senators have only to contrast the Taxation Department with the Post Office Department to realize this.
– And the young men who have risen with the new Departments are a credit to Australia.
– I am not saying they are not. I am merely pointing to. the disability which officers in, say, the Post Office suffer’ as compared with officers of new Departments.
– Take the case of Mr. Box. He started in the Post Office, and subsequently, was appointed to the highest position in the High Commissioner’s Office in London.
– That is so. The Minister is quite right.
– And nobody questions his ability, I suppose-.
– Mr. Box happened’ to be extremely lucky, in my opinion. The Minister has quoted a very strong case for my argument. I like Mr. Box very much;, but I think that if he had nob been sent over to the Prime Minister’s Department and had thus come into contact with Mr.. Fisher, his position to-day might have been very different. He was my private secretary when I was administering the Post and Telegraph Department. I found ‘ him a very capable young fellow, and I recommended his transfer to the Prime Minister’s Department.
– You are not sorry, are you?
– Not at all. The Minister has cited the very case I wanted. I had not thought of mentioningMr. Box’s name. When I- was at the Post Office he came to me asd. said to me that Mr. Fisher wanted him as an assistant. He asked me if I had any objection to his going over to the Prime Minister’s Department. I replied- that I had not the. slightest objection if it would help him in any way. He hesi bated at first. If he had remained- in the- Post Office he might have been occupying some responsible position, no doubt, but certainly would not have been where he is. to-day. lt is only fair that officers who have been many years in the Public Service should have an opportunity of transferring to new Departments, as they are created, and rising with them.. I was impressed a little while ago with the statement made by Senator Drake-Brockman with regard to the conditions in the Australian Imperial Force during the war.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Honorable senators will agree, that the Board to be constituted under this Bill will be unable to attend to all the detail work in connexion with appointments and transfers. We do not want to overload the Board. Hitherto the Public Service Commissioner has beenimmersed in a great deal of this work from one end of Australia to the other-, with the. result that the Acting Commissioner disavowed any responsibility for lack of economy in his Department.
– When didhe say that?
– In his evidence before the Economies. Commission.
– It is only fair to him. to say that he has denied that statement again and again, and that I have mentioned it twice in the Senate.
– If the Acting Commissioner has denied the statement, then, of course, I am sorry I mentioned’ the matter.
– If. the Minister has read his reply to the report submitted by the Economies Commission he will find his denial of the statement. It was a private conversation between him and’ Mr. Templeton, one of the members of the Commission.
– I have too much respect for the Acting Public Service Commissioner to attribute to him any statement that may be doubtful, and,, therefore, I withdraw it absolutely. My experience is that the permanent head of a Department is. the best judge in the matter of promotion. The Board will not be- sufficiently in- touch with all the detail work of a Department to discharge this duty satisfactorily.
– Not with their inspectors?
– I do not know just what form the inspection will take, but I presume it will be more or less specialized, and in this matter the Board will have a power of delegation. However, the head of the Department will not make permanent promotions. There will be promotion on probation for six months, during which time any officer of the PUb.die Service will have the right of appeal to the Board on the ground that he is better fitted for the position.
– Is that in the Bill?
– Then all officers promoted will be acting for six months?
– Not necessarily. They will be performing the duties of their new office, but for a period of six months it will be open for any officer of the Public Service to appeal to the Board if he thinks that he possesses higher qualifications.
– If you think that will lead to greater efficiency, well and good. I do not.
– I think it will. A common complaint, and one indorsed by Senator Thomas, has been that officers in the Post Office, equally capable of discharging important duties in other Departments, have been unable to secure transfers. They feel that they are at a dead end. We want the Service to be treated as a whole. If, in the Post Office, there are men capable of filling vacancies in the Department of the Prime Minister, or any other Department, they should have the opportunity of applying for them.
– Under- the Act they can do so; otherwise how did Mr. Box transfer from the Post Office to the Prime Minister’s Department?
– If the head of a Department thinks that in another Department there is an officer more .fitted for a vacancy in his Department he should have the right to ask for that officer’s transfer.
– So he can now, under the Act. There was the case of Mr. Whitton, who was transferred from the Auditor-General’s Department to the Customs.
– Hitherto transfers have been allowed only in exceptional cases. When positions become vacant every eligible officer in the Public Service should have an opportunity of applying. Senator Thomas referred to Mr. Box and Mr. Percy Whitton, and I think it will be admitted that the latter gentleman is one of the most capable men in the Service. These and other instances could be quoted to prove the necessity of some freedom being allowed in the selection of officers.
– That is possible under the present Act; but this Bill curtails the rights of officers in that direction.
– It does not. The honorable senator, when PostmasterGeneral, was, apparently, quite prepared to allow Mr. Box to be transferred to the Prime Minister’s Department.
– I could have prevented it.
– Possibly, so. Ministers should have secretaries whose ability is undoubted. My secretary has had more to do with the commercial activities of the Government than, possibly, any other public servant, and, although the Defence Department would like him to be transferred to that branch where he was previously employed, I cannot consent, because he has had special training in connexion with wheat, wool, and metals. Exceptional opportunities may sometimes present themselves; but certain officers should not be appointed without the claims of others possessing similar qualifications being considered. Senator Thomas complained of lh,e present “water-tight” system: but this Bill is framed with the idea of improving it, and an appeal can be made to the Board against what may be considered an unfair appointment. . It has been the practice in the past for appeals to be made to the Public Service Commissioner who was responsible for the appointments, and, although the work may have been conscientiously performed, it is undesirable for a man to consider an appeal against his own decision. Under the proposed system appeals will be made to an independent body, which should result in more contentment and increased efficiency in the Service. The provisions of this measure have been perused by the Acting Public Service Commissioner, representatives of returned soldiers’ organizations, and of the public servants, and the measure is considered to be one that will give general satisfaction. It is not contended that the Bill is perfect, but a sincere attempt has been made to remove some of. the difficulties which at present exist.
– I am afraid the Minister (Senator Russell) has misunderstood me, because I am totally opposed to what have been termed “ water-tight compartments.” When a man joins the Service he should have- the opportunity of being promoted or transferred to any other branch in which he can perform efficient service. Under the existing Act that is possible.
– Sometimes officers are penalized because their services are valuable, and the heads of Departments do not wish to lose them.
– That will happen under this provision.
– If an officer in a Department is refused permission to apply for a position he is capable of filling he can appeal.
– Under the present Act the appeal would be made to the Public Service Commissioner.
– The appointment would be made by the Public . Service Commissioner.
– Decidedly. When the head of a Department has an able officer under his control he does not wish to lose him. Under the present system an ‘ officer in a Department could submit an application to the Public Service Commissioner, and if he thought that he was qualified a transfer would be made, irrespective of the wish of the permanenthead.
– I believe good work has been done in that direction, but I do not think the Public Service Commissioner should be called upon to hear appeals against his own decision.
– If a public servant, in an outlying centre, unsuccessfully appeals against the decision of the permanent head his promotion may he interfered with. This measure will make the Departments more water-tight than ever.
– I do not think so.
– If I thought the proposal was an improvement I would support it, but I do not think it is.
– What does the honorable senator suggest?
– I had framed an amendment somewhat on these lines -
Whenever a vacancy occurs in any office, and it is expedient to fill such vacancy by the promotion of any officer, the GovernorGeneral may, on the recommendation - of the Commissioner-
– On the recommendation of the Board.
– Yes. My amendment was framed before the appointment of the Board was suggested. Do the permanent heads favour the new proposal? I presume they do, because they wish to retain their officers.
– I have received vigorous protests from some permanent heads against the provision. ‘
– I am rather surprised to hear that, because heads of Departments always prefer to deal with promotions and appointments. They say they should be responsible for the selection of the officers who have to carry out the work in their Departments. Some time ago a Bill was introduced to give the Auditor-General the right that is being sought in this measure, and Senator Keating and others opposed it. Is not Mr. Ewing fighting for this?
– He has not been fighting for it, but officers were objecting to him being given the power. He did not ask for it; but we decided to give it to him, because of the importance of his work.
– When the measure to which I have referred was under discussion public servants said that if it were passed there would be little likelihood of officers being transferred from any other Department to that under the control of the Auditor-General. If this provision is adopted heads of Departments will naturally wish to retain the services of the efficient men under their control, and there will be little likelihood of them being promoted to other Departments where progress may be more rapid. The Minister said that the Public Service Commissioner did not know anything of the capabilities of officers in outlying centres, but the Commissioner, through his inspectors, has an opportunity of becoming acquainted with their work.
– I did not say that. I said it was impossible for the members of the Board to know every public servant.
– It would be impossible, for the Board to know, unless there are inspectors.
– The inspectors and the assistants of the Board would have the fullest powers.
– Under the present system, the Public Service Commissioner has a better knowledge of the whole of the members of the Public Service than any permanent head of a Department can possibly have ; but under the proposed system the work of transferring officials from one Department to another would be left to a very great extent to the heads of Departments. The Minister has said that it would be impossible for the Board to make itself acquainted with all the ramifications of the Service. Of course it would, unless there were inspectors, as under the present system. Dealing with the question of the promotion of officers in the Australian Imperial Force during the -war, Senator DrakeBrockman recently stated in this Chamber -
It was therefore found that, on account of the rapid decrease of officers, there -would be left very often only a junior and inexperienced officer in a battalion. It was deemed necessary, therefore, to bring in officers from other units, who were experienced, and in other respects also qualified, to take command of the battalions in question. So the principle became established - and I think rightly so - that the whole of the officers of the Australian Imperial Force should be regarded as being upon one regimental list.
– That is a military matter. Does the honorable senator intend to connect his remarks with the clause under discussion ?
– Yes. The position that obtained in connexion with the Australian Imperial Force during the war is analogous to the present situation in the Public Service. There should be no water-tight compartments. “When a battalion went into battle and was deci-. mated, young officers were rapidly promoted to positions of command.
– They were only appointed to take charge temporarily.
– The result was that a young man, who started as a lieutenant, might quickly become a general; while a lieutenant in another battalion might only rise to be a major or a lieutenant-colonel. The Health Department is a new one, and I venture to say that, in eighteen months or two years, there will probably be some young officers who will have risen so rapidly in that Department that they will be getting a good deal more salary than other officers who were originally on the same level as themselves. The present clause would have the effect of intensifying that inequality.
– They could not take a. man from, say, the Post and Telegraph Department, and transfer him to the. Health Department, because scientific men will be required.
– Clerks are’ wanted in the Health Department.
– I ‘ must remind the honorable senator that the time allowed him under the Standing Orders has expired.
Amendment (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That after the words “ by the “ in line 3, subclause 1, the following words be inserted: - “ transfer or “.
– I do not realize for the moment what the effect of the amendment will be. I had hoped that the Minister would make some reply to the remarks of Senator Thomas. The point Senator Thomas has taken up is a very important one, and it opens up the whole question of whether or not the Departments of the Public Service are to be watertight.
– The same point has been taken half-a-dozen times. I cannot keep on replying.
– There was a very strong fight on this question in connexion with the Audit Department. Are the Departments “water-tight” or not?
– I think they are to-day, but I have said several times that the policy of the Government is to enable every man in the Service, no matter what branch he is in, to apply for any position for which he is qualified.
– Does the clause provide that ?
– The whole of the argument of Senator Thomas was that the clause has the opposite effect.
– That is not my opinion.
– I have not heard one word in reply to the criticism advanced by Senator Thomas.
– He has said it all before, and I have already replied.
– From every part of the Commonwealth the claim is coming forward that public servants - no matter where they are located - should have better recognition. As Senator Thomas pointed out, those officers who are in closest contact with Ministers necessarily receive the greatest recognition.
– It will be seen that the very amendment before the Committee provides for transfers or promotions to other Departments.
-Those honorable senators whose constituents are not residents of Melbourne know how often grievances arise.
– Can you show me a case where there has been interference by a Minister?
– No; but complaints come from members of the Service who have not the advantage of being officers of the Central Administration, and under the observation of the permanent head of the Department and of the Minister. This is a very vital clause, and one deserving of a little more consideration than the Minister seems disposed to give it. I do not blame the Minister, ‘ because he has not had the experience of honorable senators who come from the more remote parts of the Commonwealth, where most of the grievances arise. Those of us who come from States removed from the seat of administration have, as constituents, officers of the Public Service whose claims we recognise, and whose ability and integrity we know to be not second to that of some of the most exalted officers of the Central Administration.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 12th October (vide page 11863), on motion by Senator. Thomas -
That, in the opinion of this Senate, His Majesty’s Ministers of State for the Commonwealth should, after the prorogation of the present session of this Parliament, advise His Excellency the Governor-General to summon the next session to be held at Canberra, the Federal Capital.
– I have beenat some trouble to read carefully the speech of Senator Thomas in support of this motion. I want to say, in the kindest possible way, that the proposition he put before the Senate is quite impracticable. All public works to cost over £25,000 have to be referred to the Public Works Committee. I trust that the work at the future Federal Capital city will not be slummed, and that a full and complete inquiry will be held by the Committee before it makes tts recommendations to the Government.
– The motion simply urges that Parliament should meet there next session.
– That is so; but I do not think it is intended that Parliament shall meet in tents or lean-to’s. Although the accommodation will probably be of a temporary character, Senator Thomas, no doubt, intends that it should be reasonably comfortable. I do not think that it is possible for the Public Works Committee to complete the inquiry in the time desired. I have a very able report by the Federal Capital Advisory Committee, which says that the minimum of time required to provide a minimum of accommodation with anything like reasonable comfort will be three years. This Committee has done very good work, judging by an analysis of its report. It was asked to report on the time required for construction, and it stated - -
The period of three years assigned by the Committee for the first stage is the minimum that the resources in materials and labour would permit without unduly increasing costs.
The Committee held a long inquiry, practically without restrictions by the Government.
– Did the Hon. William Webster give evidence before fhat Committee ?
– I do not think so. It was a scientific Committee, which investigated architectural and other features connected with the provision of buildings for the temporary transfer of Parliament.
– Why was the Committee appointed ?
– Generally to advise Parliament.
– Will the Minister read the instructions to the Committee?
– The following is extracted from the Order in Council appointing the Committee : -
With a view to enabling the Federal Parliament to meet, and the Central Administration of the Commonwealth Government to be carried on as early as practicable at Canberra, and on the basis of the acceptance of the plan of lay-out of the Federal Capital city by Mr. W. B. Griffin, it was recommended to His Excellency the Governor-General in Council, and approved, that -
T. H. Goodwin, Esq., Commonwealth Surveyor-General ; be appointed members of a Committee to inquire into and advise upon the following matters in relation to the construction of the said city : -
Senator Thomas is asking that Parliament shall sit at Canberra next session. It is impossible to do that. The Committee says that it will be impossible to make the arrangements in less than three years, except at very heavy cost, particularly in view of the labour shortage and the high price of materials. ‘The Committee’s report also states -
It is proposed that the Departments taking up duty, either before or at the time Parliament sits, should be as follows: - The Parliament.
The Department of the Treasury.
As far as I know, the report is the free expression of the minds of the members of the Committee. They were not biased in any way. A number of them were exNew South Welshmen, and some of them still live in that State.
SenatorRUSSELL-Yes. They presented a careful and valuable report, showing the various proposed stages of development of the Capital. To accomplish the transfer, even in three years, there must be steady progress with the works. Certain precautions in’ the interests of health have to be taken. People cannot be dumped there as into a camp. The place has to be sewered, and proper provision made for cleanliness and health.
– Arrangements have to be made to link up the sewer with the buildings. The construction of an outfall sewer does not complete the work, and to finish it will take a considerable time. It is impossible for the Government to accept the motion, because they do not think it is practicable. The Government does not want to baulk the natural aspirations of the representatives of New SouthWales, or of the people of that State. Instead of the motion that has been submitted, I suggest that a motion on the following lines should be moved: -
That, in the opinion of this Senate, His Majesty’s Ministersof State for the Commonwealth should take effective steps to insure the meeting of the Federal Parliament at Canberra at the earliest practicable date.
Such a motion might be acceptable to the Senate, and to Senator Thomas; it would certainly be acceptable to the Government. I would suggest that somebody should move it, and, in that event, the
Government would accept it. The Government does not regard this subject as a joke. It is in earnest in its desire that Parliament should move to Canberra, but the move must be made with reasonable discretion. If the accommodation is temporary, at least it should be comfortable for both members of Parliament and officials. Reference has been made to what was done in America ISO years ago, but life was simple and sweet in those days, and not subject to the bustle and1 pressure of present-day existence.
– I shall be glad to move an amendment to the motion in the terms suggested by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) ; but I should like to add to the words he has suggested the words “but not later than ten yeaTS hence.”
– Wiry not add the words “ in accordance with the Commission’s report”?
– New South Wales senators, when they cannot secure all that they want, desire to obtain -the next best thing; and, no doubt, that is quite right for them. A number of statements, has been made by the Hon. Wm. Webster, to which Senator Earle referred, and to which probably some honorable senators from New South Wales may reply in the course of the debate. Some allegations have been made by Mr. Webster in regard to what has been done, and what he fears may be done in the future. In dealing with the work that has been done, and the arrangements that were made when Mr. Griffin was brought out to Australia to undertake the building of the Capital city, Mr. Webster, uses some rather strong language in regard to the officials of the Department, whom he charges with responsibility for the position in which Canberra is to-day, which, in his opinion, means a loss of .£500,000 of the money which has so far been spent upon it.
– ‘And which the Advisory Committee have just declared has been well spent*
– Mr. Webster also has something to say with regard to the personnel of the Committee referred to.
– He has a good deal to say about everything.
– My honorable friend can reply to him; but I am somewhat astonished that there should be so much difference of opinion on this subject between present and exrepresentatives of New South Wales. .Mr. Webster describes the position as being “ whitewashed.” He says that the<= Advisory Committee, part of whose report has been read by the Minister, was a. biased Committee. He says that it was composed either of officers of the Department, who set out to deliberately contravene tb* instructions of Mr. Griffin, or of nominees of Colonel Owen. I do not know Colonel Owen, or anything about him.
– Would the honorable senator suggest that Mr. de Burgh was a nominee of Colonel Owen?
– I suggest nothing. I am quoting from a circular letter forwarded, I understand, to every member of the Senate by Mr. Webster.
– Is every circular letter received here to be regarded as an authority ?
– No. But surely the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) will not say that a letter from a late colleague of his own may be lightly regarded?
– Some people are prepared to accept Mr. Webster as an authority now that he has ceased to be a member of the Government, who discredited him when he was a member s? it.
– I am not asserting anything in regard to what Mr. Webster said; but I consider that the .statements he makes in his letter should be replied to by such gentlemen as the Minister for Repatriation, who is a representative of the .State of New South Wales.
– Was not Mr. Webster a representative of New ‘South Wales’?
– Precisely; and that is why I am surprised to find such, a difference of opinion between New South Wales representatives on this matter. Mr.. Webster says -
Colonel Owen, the culprit, occupies a seat on the bench. He sits on the jury, and supplies the evidence, and finally passes’ judgment on his own handiwork, and signs the verdict. His colleagues, whom, I. fear, are also hia nominees, also sign. This tribunal consists of Colonel Owen, one of his junior officers, ‘a State officer, and apparently one outsider, virtually a departmental tribunal. It reminds me of a packed bench and jury, except that I have never known the accused to be a member of either bench or jury. Mr. Webster writes a lot more to the same effect, with which I will not weary’ honorable senators. The idea put forward by Senator Thomas, that the work of the building of the Capital should be so expedited that this Parliament may be able to meet there within a. few months, requires very careful consideration. My reason for agreeing to submit the proposed amendment to Senator Thomas’s motion is one which, I think, the Advisory Committee has acted upon, and it is that it would be wise to make haste slowly in this matter. That, I am sure, will be Senator Thomas’s view of the amendment.
– Very slowly.
– The allegations made in regard to the expenditure of money up to the present at Canberra concern us particularly when we are asked to spend at the present time a great deal of money to build a makeshift capital which will need to .be practically removed later on to make room for the Federal Capital as we hope it will be same day.
Apart from the fact that we must carry out the constitutional compact, I fail to see that there is any great need of urgency at present in this regard. Considering the financial position of the Commonwealth, and the fact that some members of this Parliament, even amongst those who represent New South Wales, realize the necessity for economy, we should not be asked to spend such a. big sum of money within a few months. I am not one of those who, it was suggested by Senator Thomas in submitting his motion, say that the constitutional compact is one which we can lightly regard.
– I never said that the honorable senator could lightly regard it.
– I understood the honorable senator to say that some members of the Senate were prepared even to repudiate it. I want to say that I have no idea of repudiation. Whatever may be the circumstances which brought about that particular section of the Constitution, it is there, and it must be observed. But at the present time, burdened as we are, facing a deficit, and with a falling revenue, as disclosed by figures issued within the last twenty-four hours, there is need that we should go very slowly.
We have been treated, particularly so far as the use of this Parliament House is concerned, very well by the people of Victoria. We have received many kindnesses from the Victorian Government. Whilst I agree with other honorable senators that we should, if we can, remove this Parliament from the sphere of any particular State influence, I am. not prepared to say that on that account alone we should immediately embark upon such a huge expenditure on the Federal Capital as has been suggested.
– Victoria has treated this Parliament well, but Ministerial corridors are clustered with Victorians.
– I agree that the other States have much less attention given to them by the Commonwealth Government than is given to the people1 of Victoria.
– That is not the fault of the Commonwealth Government, but is due to the pressure of Victorians upon them.
– I do not know that it is the fault of the Government or of Victorians, but it seems to me that it is a case of finding the man next door nearer than the man in the next street. When -people on the spot can approach the Commonwealth Government and Parliament , we may expect them to do it. Senator Keating knows that recently we had a delegation from Tasmania coming here to interview a Commonwealth Minister on a matter concerning that State, and I expect that some members of the Government are ready to thank God that Tasmania is not closer to them than Melbourne is, because they would, doubtless, have as much pressure put upon them by Tasmania as they are now subjected to from Victoria.
– If Tasmania were a little closer the effect might be to relieve Ministers of some of the Victorian pressure.
– Before Senator Foster came here seven gentlemen came from Tasmania as a deputation to the then Acting. Prime Minister. They were received for seven minutes, and they had to put in seven days of quarantine to meet him.
– It is to be hoped they got something for coming. Despite the fact that Ministers and members of Parliament receive a great dealof pressure from people in this State, they will agree that wherever the Seat of Government is established that kind of thing may be expected. Probably when we get to Canberra the pressure will be from those who are provided with gold passes, or who have plenty of money to spend on railway fares. With all the difficulties that have arisen, and despite the pressure brought to bear, we must still admit that the Commonwealth Parliament and Government have been very well treated in Victoria, and in view of the present financial stringency and the great expenditure during the last year, we ought to be very thankful that, as a Parliament, we are not put to much greater expense than we have to meet at the present time. I move -
That all the words after the word “ should “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ take effective steps to insure the meeting of the Federal Parliament at Canberra at. the earliest practicable date.”
. -I second the amendment, not because I am opposed to the motion proposed by Senator Thomas, but in order to meet ‘the wishes of the Minister (Senator Russell), who, I take it, lis acting on behalf of the Government, who, I feel, would not suggest an amendment of this sort unless they were in earnest in making it, and prepared to carry it out. I have consulted with Senator Thomas, and, in view of the attitude of the Government, he, in common with the rest of my colleagues from New South Wales, is prepared to accept the compromise the Government have offered. It has been suggested by Senator Foster that there is no real urgency for the removal of the Seat of Government from Melbourne to Canberra. That statement is in keeping with the attitude adopted by Senators Wilson and Vardon when this matter was last under our consideration. Those honorable senators, like all intelligent people in the Commonwealth, pay an occasional pilgrimage to the queen city of the south - the city of Sydney - for the purpose, no doubt of enlightening their minds as to the most recent improvements in Australia, and educating themselves as to how things should be done. They visited
Sydney and stayed there for several hours. They spoke to a number of persons, heaven knows where or under what circumstances, but they came away with the idea that Sydney and - because of their experience there. - New South Wales also had no real interest in this matter of the Federal Capital, that the people do not want the Seat of Government transferred, and are satisfied that it should remain in Melbourne.
– All except the politicians.
– Senator Wilson said that the only persons in the Commonwealth whom he knows who desire that the great obligation which the other States entered into with New South Wales shall be honoured are a few politicians from New South Wales, who for some reason or other have a political axe to grind. Fortunately for those of us who represent New South Wales in the Senate and in another place, a fully representative body in New South Wales has had an opportunity of considering this very matter since it was last under consideration in the Senate.
– That was a political organization.
– It was an organization representative of organizations established all over New South Wales.
– Which indorses my remarks.
– It was representative of all sections of the community, employers, farmers, merchants, workers, and, therefore, representatives of every shade of political opinion. I have here a copy of the resolution carried at that Conference,’ and which, I believe, has been supplied to all honorable senators. The resolution reads -
That the Nationalist members of New South Wales demand-
– Read the former portion of the circular. It would be more interesting to the public.
– Well, I will read the lot -
Dear Sir, - I have the honour, by direction of the annual conference, to forward for your kind attention the following motion, which was unanimously and enthusiastically carried: -
That the Nationalist members of New South ‘Wales demand that the contract entered into between the people of Australia and New South Wales, re the Federal Capital being in New South Wales- be carried out by the transfer of the Parliament to Canberra, at a no later date than the- opening’ of the next Federal Parliament, (Signed) Archdale Parkhill,
– It will sound very much more familiar to the honorable senator before this matter’ is finally settled, no doubt. To my mind it is a complete answer to the statements of my honorable friends who say that the people of New South Wales are not in earnest. They are very much in earnest in seeing that the obligations entered into by the Commonwealth are fully discharged.
– Can the honorable senator say that the course suggested in. that resolution is practicable?
– So far as the assembly of the next Federal Parliament at Canberra is concerned, I do not think it is, but I believe the Conference had in view the desirability of pointing out to certain honorable senators what their attitude as representatives of the people of the Commonwealth should be. I cannot understand the view of honorable senators from Souths Australia. The Commonwealth Government entered into a certain obligation with the State of South Australia, and a very considerable portion of that obligation has been discharged. The Government took over a white elephant in the Northern Territory that was costing South Australia tens of thousands, of pounds, every year, audi which, would have practically bankrupted that! State long, before now if. it had continued to “ nurse the baby.” The Commonwealth,, I repeat, took it over, and. has continued to administer its affairs at; an enormous loss every year, entirely in the interest of the people’ of South Australia.
– But why indulge in these recriminations? Why not rest your case;on yaur constitutional rights’?
– Well, I thought I might mention one obligation which the Commonwealthhas discharged towards the. people, of South Australia in order that I might emphasize the need for the fnlfalment of a prior, and I may add, a mace important; obligation, because it is constitutional - which the other was not - entered into between the Commonwealth and the people of New South Wales. So far it has not been fulfilled. We know, of course, that- because of the intervention of the war,, it was, not possible to continue with the building of the Capital city. But the war has- been over now for several years, and we should no longer hesitate. The cost of building is tumbling. Timber has fallen, and labour costs are coming down. In addition, there are enormous stacks of well-seasoned timber at Canberra. It is also possible to turn o.ut bricks, cheaper and better than in Tasmania or South Australia, and hundreds of thousands are ready. Where, then, is the need for all this quibbling about the cost of building? The. Advisory Committee which was appointed by the Government to inquire into- the position has advised that about, three years will elapse before the Federal Parliament can meet at Canberra. I do, not believe the necessary works could be completed earlier, but I am satisfied that if the Government enter into this business in the proper spirit it will be possible for the Federal Parliament to meet at Canberra in three years’ time. As I have already pointed out, the cost of building is falling, and labour costs are also coming down. All over Australia thousands of returned soldiers are looking for employment. In what better way could they be engaged than in the construction of this great national work - the building of our Federal Capital? There need be no difficulty so far as labour is concerned.
– The Government missed the “ bus “ when our returned soldiers came home.
– Of course- they did. The Government have since then trained thousands of returned soldiers, who are- now finding it difficult to secure employment in the, ordinary avenues of the building trade. They could have been, trained, and put to work on the Federal Capital scheme. Indeed, I think it is’ not too late even now to do something in that direction.
SenatorKeating. - They builtup a fine sentiment abroad,- and after they came back they could have built up a fine Australian’ sentiment at home.
– Quite so. I thank the honorable senator for his suggestion. It is one that ought to appeal to every soldier senator in this chamber
Something has been said about the circular letter sent to honorable senators by the Hon. William Webster, an exPostmasterGeneral, known to fame for his poetry, and altogether a very estimable gentleman. But, unfortunately, Mr. Webster thinks if things are not done in just the way he wants them to be done they cannot be right. He had certain ideas concerning the building of the Federal Capital, and, as a member of the Cabinet, he attempted to have them carried out. Some were adopted, while others were not. Where the work was not done quite in accordance with his own ddeas, in his opinion it has not been done properly at all. But he is not alone in such egotism. I know other honorable gentlemen who, if they cannot get things all their own way, are firmlyconvinced that everything is not right. . It must be remembered, however, that Mr. Webster had nothing to say against the immediate construction of the Federal Capital. The most ‘that he has said in his circular letter is that certain things have not been done properly, according to his point of view. But Mr. Webster is not a trained critic. He is not a builder. Neither is he an architect nor a constructional expert. Therefore he has no technical knowledge.
-He was a builder by trade.
– That must have been a long time ago, I think. I do not know that he has any particular claim to” prominence as a builder of a capital city, and as against his inexperienced opinion, due, no doubt, to lack of knowledge, we may place the opinion ‘of the gentlemen constituting the Advisory Committee that has been intrusted with the work of . building the city. All of them are trained in their several professions.
– Mr, Webster denies that so far as Colonel Owen is concerned.
– Colonel Owenis only associated with theCommittee ‘as a departmental officer, ‘and for the purpose of co-ordinating the work of the Government Departments with the building schemes authorized by the Committee, the principal member of which is a man who has had very wide experience in other parts of the world. He has had ample opportunities in America to study just the class of work that is to be carried out at Canberra. He is a man with a very full knowledge of all details in connexion with -city building, and, with, his colleagues on the Committee, he is satisfied that the work already done at Canberra has been well done. The sewerage is ready, there is a magnificent water supply now available, the electrical and brickmaking plants are ready, and the roads havebeen constructed. In fact, everything is clear for the actual construction of the city itself, and New South Wales is now asking - I think I know the opinion of my State - that . the work . shall be proceeded wilh definitely. Do honorable senators think that we who represent New South Wales would concern ourselves in this matter to such an extent, and fight as we havebeen ‘fighting of late, if we were not fully convinced that the people in New ‘Soufi Wales were behind the -movement? We believethat at the next election they will he behind the party that is sincere in this matter, even if that party ‘be the Labour party. It has been suggested that the Capital -city will never be built until a Labour ‘Govemment gets into office. Sometimes I am almost afraidthere may be something in that suggestion. At all events, ‘the people of my ‘State are determined that thisconstitutionalobligation shallbecarried -out, and Ibelieve that they are prepared to do what they can to put in office, and continue to support, a ‘Government that will do it. ‘This is one of the biggest things, so far as our State is concerned, ihat we have ‘had to face.
– I thought the people of . New South Wales put Australia first.
SenatorDUNCAN. - And so, they do. They believe that this is a national undertaking, and that’, as part of the constitutional contract, it should be completed. I believe that the people of South Australia., top, put Australia ifirst, and “thai;, as true Australians, they will indorse our attitude in the matter. I believe that the amendment, which I have ithe honour “to second, and which has been moved by Senator Foster at the request of the Go: vernment, will meet the wishes of the people of New South Wales, as it provides that the . Senate is of the opinion that the Government should take effective steps - not half-hearted ones - to insure ‘ the meeting of the Federal Parliament at Canberra at the earliest practicable date. If this is observed in the spirit as well as in the letter, there is no doubt that the Federal Capital will be established at Canberra within a very few years. In view of the attitude of the Government, and the support given to that attitude by Senator Foster, who has hitherto been a bitter opponent of the Federal Capital, I look forward with every confidence to taking part in a grand opening ceremony at the first meeting of the Parliament there before my time of office as a senator has expired.
– Then the honorable senator is of the opinion that he will not be re-elected ?
– No ; I have another four years to serve before I have to face the electors. I trust the honorable senator will be successful in being returned, and that I shall have the pleasure of being associated with him in the palatial hall to be erected at Canberra.
– I intend to support the amendment, not because I like it, but because I am opposed to the proposition submitted by Senator Thomas. When speak ing to the motion I suggested to the honorable senator that the time in which to complete the construction of the Federal Capital should be limited to ten years, and I am amazed to find how complacent New South Wales senators are in agreeing to an amendment of this character. It is absolutely indefinite; and, if they had agreed to the suggestion I submitted, the Capital would have to be established within a fixed period, whereas under this amendment it may be thirty years. What is the “ earliest practicable date “ ?
– I should say six months.
– That is because the honorable senator is an impracticable man. Money is urgently required for important public works and an extension of our present developmental policy.
– Even for the North-South railway?
– “ King Charles’ head “ bobs up again. At present, we are needing money for many important Commonwealth public works ; and I have been informed in regard to telephonic . connexions that, after all the money allocated to the Postal Department this financial year has been spent, there will, still be 5,000 people waiting, for telephones. That is scandalous. When important public undertakings are being retarded, “ patriotic “ senators from New South Wales are urging the Government to expedite the establishment of a Federal Capital which is not required. In spite of the demand for increased postal, telephonic, and telegraphic facilities, these honorable senators are endeavouring to expedite this work, and £200,000 has been placed on the Estimates this year for that purpose. Senator Duncan, in referring to South Australia, dealt with the question of the Northern Territory, and spoke as if the taking over of that Territory was a compact with South Australia; but the Commonwealth was anxious to take over the Northern Territory.
– Does the honorable senator seriously suggest that?
– Of course I do.
– I was a member of the Government when the Northern Territory was taken over, and it was the South Australian members in the House of Representatives who strongly advocated it.
– The arrangement made when the Territory was taken over was that a direct railway would be built from Oodnadatta to Port Darwin.
– Those who voted for the taking over of the Northern Territory did not commit a crime.
– I am not suggesting that they did.
– I am proud of having voted for it in the national interest.
– Some honorable senators have suggested that South Australia’s administration of the Northern Territory was defective; but it must be remembered that the overland telegraph line was constructed by South Australia at her own expense, and that line was a distinct benefit to the whole of Australia.
– And South Australia was paid for every message sent over the line.
– The South Australian Government also constructed the line from Port Darwin to Pine Creek.
– South Australia never spent a penny on the Northern Territory.
– Who constructed the Darwin to Pine Creek line?
– It was built on money raised abroad, and the liability was taken over by the Commonwealth. It never cost South Australia a penny.
– South Australia undertook to build a line from Port Darwin to Pine Creek, and also constructed the railway from Adelaide to Oodnadatta.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bakhap). - Order! The honorable senator will be in order in making a brief reference to the action of the South Australian Government in connexion with certain public works ; but he cannot enter into a lengthy discussion on that point in debating the motion before the Chair.
– I was merely referring to points raised by Senator Duncan. In regard to the debt taken over by the Commonwealth, it is interesting to recall that it represents only 2d. per acre, which is not very great. I intend to support the amendment; but I would have preferred a definite date to have been fixed for the reasons stated.
– Because it would have been done quicker.
– I do not mind if the work is completed in less than ten years provided money can be found without jeopardizing the interests of our developmental and works policy.
– As a senator representing New South Wales, I approach ‘ this matter from a broad national stand-point, and I hope to always approach all questions that come before this Senate in a similar spirit. During the four years I have been a member of the Senate, 1 have, from a broad national stand-point, recorded my vote to help the State of Tasmania, and my assistance will always be given to help a sister State when I think it is in the interest of the Australian nation. My vote has been recorded in favour of defraying out of Consolidated Revenue a yearly deficit of nearly £500,000 on the transcontinental railway, which links Western Australia with the eastern part of the continent. My vote has also been recorded in favour of paying out of Consolidated Revenue the money to meet the very heavy deficit in connexion with the Commonwealth’s administration of the Northern Territory; and I have also supported proposals for taxing the whole of the people of Australia in order to preserve the Queensland sugar industry. Probably next week I shall be on the horns of a dilemma in deciding whether I shall support an import duty of1d. per lb. on bananas in order to preserve another Australian State industry.
– Are not bananas grown in New South Wales?
– New South Wales is peopled by at least 40 per cent, of the total population of the Commonwealth, who pay 42 per cent, of all the taxation derived in the Commonwealth, and that State does most to fill the overflowing coffers that the Commonwealth Government have had during the last few years. In view of this, the people of New South Wales regard any permanent dispossession of the Capital city, provided for in the Constitution, as a breach of faith, and it may be considered more than that in the not distant future. It may be a casus belli against the rest of the Commonwealth. As I have said, I desire to approach this question from the broad national stand-point.
– If that is so, why should the honorable senator issue a threat?
– I merely mentioned something that may occur without my assistance if the strong feeling which exists in the mother State is consistently ignored and flouted. I believe one of the many reasons why the people of New South Wales are united in this connexion is because of the disabilities under which they labour owing to the Seat of Government being in Melbourne. It can readily be seen that if a State in which nearly one-half of the population of the Commonwealth reside is treated indifferently in consequence of the administrative Departments being centralized in Melbourne, that dissatisfaction will prevail and increase. That centralization results, too, in the corridors being filled by the inhabitants of this fair State. We see evidences in the Melbourne press every day of the unfairness with which Federal matters are treated. Seeing that the time is now fully ripe to take into serious consideration, not only the construction, but the completion, of the Federal Capital, I ask myself what judgment one should come to on the matter. I am with the Minister in believing that the suggestion of my colleague, Senator Thomas, to go to Canberra in the next session is impracticable. A practical problem has been suggested by the report recently issued by the Advisory Committee. On that report, and apropos of the remarks of Senator Foster, and the criticism of an ex-Minister, I am not altogether satisfied with the personnel of that Committee. From its inception I was of the opinion that no officers of the Department concerned should have been appointed, to it.. It should have been an independent body, representative to an even, greater extent than, it is now of outside opinion and experience. No departmental officers should be placed! in the invidious position of sitting in judgment on their own work. The Commonwealth owns in the Federal Territory an area of nearly 1,000 square miles - not the minimum of 100 square miles, as provided for by the Constitution. Our proposition is to obtain revenue to balance the expenditure, as far as possible. We shall get no revenue- by the present dilettante methods which so often lead to- report after report, and embroglio after embroglio. For four years I have been in this Parliament, and after oceans of reports, and all sorts of recriminations Between the parties concerned, professional jealousies, and piquant personalities, .we have arrived at the stage,. T think, when this Parliament is unanimous, anc) will be unanimous, in- insisting that we get en with the work of establishing- the Capital at- a reasonable rate. While doing so we should have value for the money expended; and within a minimum, certainly, of three years, and perhaps a maximum of five, we should be able to legislate in our own hall, free and un-. trammelled by any of the sectional State interests by which we are at present surrounded.
– I suppose you will agree that the Capital should be built out of revenue, and not out of loan money ?
– I disagree entirely to that suggestion. If the work progresses at a reasonable rate, some return on the money already expended should begin to come in within a year. I am not satisfied with the rate of progress made at the Capital site during the last twelve months. Honorable senators will remember that, after a good deal of argument, a majority was obtained in both Houses, on division, to re-start the Federal Capital works, and to spend for the then current financial year, which ended on the 30th June last, the sum of £150,000.
– What argument was there?
– There was some opposition, and there was a division, and those in favour of going on with the building of the Capital forthwith were in a handsome majority in both Houses. Following on the vote for £150,000, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was good enough to interest himself personally in connexion with the continuation of the building of the Capital. I was one of a party that went there with the Prime Minister, the Minister for Home and Territories, and the Minister for Works and Railways, for the express purpose of deciding on some plan by which the £150,000 could be best expended in the financial year: I think it was fairly unanimously decided by all of us, including the Works Director, the Commonwealth SurveyorGeneral, and one or two experts who accompanied us, that the money should be spent in the erection of a Convention Hall, a Hostel, and a number of workmen’s cottages, and by making miles of roads, doing a good deal of tree-planting, and also by purchasing from the Imperial Government, the internment camp at Molonglo for the temporary housing accommodation, for a few years at all events, of the many hundreds of workmen intended to be employed.
– You are not yet assured of the Convention.
– That is what was fairly unanimously decided nearly twelve months ago. What has been done since?
– May we take it that the Senate will approve of the Convention?
– I do not wish to be side-tracked into an argument with the honorable senator. I wish to deal with what has actually occurred in connexion with the proposal for the erection of the Federal Capital. All those things were decided last November, and were acquiesced in and approved by the Director of Works, and the Commonwealth Surveyor-General, but I do not believe the roofs are on ten out of the many cottages that were to be built. Certainly a little rood-making has been, done, and a little tree-planting. But I believe a great number of trees had to be burnt, because there was no use for them. It is true that the internment camp has been bought, and the money paid to the British Government, but I understand that not even the plans and the designs for the Convention Hall and the Hostel are completed.
– Will you give us an assurance that you: will support a Convention ?
– I remind my friend that a Convention Hall need not necessarily house a Constitutional Convention. There are other Conventions, and the Senate itself might well sit in the Hall.
– But the suggestion for a Convention Hall was based on the probability of a Constitutional Convention.
– I believe it was, and I say unhesitatingly that, should a Convention be called in the not distant future, the most spectacular and most reasonable place to hold it would be in a hall built in the Federal Territory, and there only should we be away from, the sectional influences which so often affect the deliberations of the National Parliament. Now we are in the year of our Lord 1921, and it is the month of November, which is the last month but one of the year. In spite of all the talk and efforts of the last three years, and in spite of the decision of Parliament itself, if the work at Canberra does not progress any faster than it has up to the present we shall not be there for twenty years. I believe the whole control of the erection of the Capital city will have to be reorganized. The present position is exceedingly unsatisfactory, so far as the representatives from New South Wales are concerned. There appears to me to be the mailed fist, the cloven foot, or the clutching hand still overshadowing the proposition. I would like to see some business men in control of the whole enterprise, with instructions from this Parliament to carry on the work to the extent of the money voted, and on the basis of the plan decided by Mr. Walter Burley Griffin.
– What do you mean by business men?
– Men who are not Government officials, men who have no vested interests whatsoever which would interfere with their giving patriotic and experienced service. There is a very strong feeling indeed in Sydney amongst architects in connexion with Government work. Does the honorable senator realize that the Commonwealth is spending millions of money on buildings to-day, and there is not one competitive architectural design called f or ? The whole of the work is done in the Department by an attenuated staff. The same conditions may obtain in connexion with the work at Canberra. We know what human nature is. The only hope for Canberra is to get more outside business assistance than it has today.
– If we had a few Melbourne business men concerned in it, it would be a long time . before you would see Canberra.
– Perhaps so, but I do not think the New South Wales representatives would be satisfied to leave the matter to the business men of Melbourne. I am altogether dissatisfied with the laboured results of Canberra up to date. I am sure that it is not the fault of the Prime Minister. Parliament has voted the money. There is a hitch somewhere, and a hitch will not do for New South Wales. I want to say quite frankly that Parliament will do the fair thing this year in the present state of the finance if it votes for Canberra the £200,000 which is on the Estimates. I believe it. did the fair thing last year in voting £150,000 proposed by the Government, but I would like to see something substantial obtained for the money that is spent. The longer the time the works are spread over the greater the amount of money that is frittered away. The land ordinances have been issued; they provide for an immediate revenue if the devlopment of the Capital is attractive enough, to bring people there to build on their own account, and to lease land from the Commonwealth. It has been stated, I believe, with much proof, that when the Capital is. well advanced we shall receive a very substantial sum indeed in rents from the land - a sum that will go a long way towards meeting the interest on the money that will be spent there. I support the amendment, and I hope that my honorable colleague from New South Wales will accept it. I hope it will be unanimously carried by the Senate, .in the national spirit in which these deliberations ought to be conducted.
– Will the honorable senator tell u’s whether he agrees with the alleged hotch-potch methods of building now employed, or whether he thinks there ought to be a complete building design ?
– I believe that we cannot commit ourselves to any speculative expenditure just now. Our attitude towards the Capital, in post-war days, must of- necessity be quite different from our attitude before the war. I believe that the people of New South Wales will be satisfied if they see that there is not merely an earnest and sincere desire to proceed with the Capital, but that the work is actually going on. I want to remind my colleagues? that not only has a resolution been placed before honorable senators from a National Conference, but that a large public meeting was held not long ago in the Sydney Town Hall for the purpose of urging upon the Government the necessity of expediting the erection of the Federal Capital. At that meeting the principal speaker was our late friend, the honorable Mr. T. J. Ryan, who spoke for, and on behalf of, the Labour party. The town hall was packed. At the meeting a resolution was passed, and indorsed by the Labour leaders of New South Wales, that the Government should be urged to complete the Federal Capital quickly. It is an obligation which this Parliament owes to the whole of the people of New South Wales. Not only the honorable senators who represent New South Wales, but the representative organizations of that State expect that the compact will be kept ; but it is not asked that it shall be more than reasonably kept. The definition of “ reasonable “ in this matter is a “steady, solid, real progress towards the ultimate completion of the Capital,” and a progress accelerated in certain directions to enable members of the National Parliament to meet at Canberra at a reasonably early date.
– I think I have already defined my position fully, but I want to emphasize again that we have got to make haste slowly with regard to the building of the Capital. I want it to be distinctly understood that, in voting for Senator Foster’s amendment, I put emphasis on the words “earliest practicable date.” Like all members of the Senate, I have no desire, when the time becomes opportune, not to carry out the obligation that Australia has entered into. As I stated when speaking on this matter on the last occasion, when Australia entered into this compact it was only burdened with a debt of £9,000,000 ; it is now burdened with a debt which saddles the community with £60,000,000 of taxation annually. With the markets for our products depressed, is this not a time for honorable senators to stop and think seriously before voting large sums of money for works which can be put aside for the present, at all events? I take very strong exception to the action of the Association in New South Wales that has addressed honorable senators in a “stand and deliver” attitude. Unfortunately, I am not a member of the Association. I am rather, sorry for the Association.
– The Association does not request anything of the honorable senator. It refers to- the New South Wales representatives, who are members of it.
– I take exception to being addressed by an outside organization in that manner. The Constitution provides that there shall be six senators representing each of the six different States of Australia, and that they shall act on behalf of the whole Commonwealth.
– What have you to say of the Premiers’ Conference?
– I have not a voice in it, or I would say a lot. I take exception to a great deal that is done in State matters when senators representing the States are completely overlooked. ‘
– Does not the honorable senator ever get abused 1
– I would almost be lonely without it. Honorable senators are not carrying out their duty or function if they look at this matter from a parochial stand-point. My friends take exception to my saying that it is a political move, but here is a political organization in New South Wales taking the liberty of addressing senators and telling them what they ought to do. The statement made by me has been justified and amplified by the documents which honorable senators have received.
– The document merely “ advises “ the honorable senator. He is misinterpreting it.
– It says that the Nationalist members of New South Wales “ demand “ certain things.
– We are “ demanding,” and we shall keep on “ demanding.”
– No Government can govern Australia without the support of New South Wales.
– I am well aware of that. I am very pleased that the community had the foresight to ‘ provide a Senate. New South Wales is the largest factor in the Commonwealth from the population point of view. I am certain that no representative from any State is anxious to dishonour the compact that was entered into, but exception is taken that the present time is not opportune. Senator Thomas, in his opening speech, said nothing to justify this expenditure now.
– The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the amendment. He -has already spoken on the main question.
– In the event of my not calling for a division on the amendment, I wish it to be distinctly understood that I base my vote on the last words of the amendment. I believe it will be in the best interests of Australia - when Australia can afford the expenditure, when labour is more plentiful, and when building materials are cheaper - to proceed with the scheme.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out - resolved in the affirmative.
– I am very glad to have had the opportunity of bringing my motion before the Senate. I. desire to thank Senator Bakhap, whose motion had precedence of mine on the business-paper, for being good enough to give way to me this evening, in order that the debate on my motion might be concluded. I have accepted the amendment for a reason somewhat different from that which has commended it to Senator Vardon. Senator Vardon has accepted it because he is not in favour of my motion. I have accepted it because I do not think I could carry my motion, and it is’ wise, in the circumstances, that I should accept the next best thing. I am prepared to admit that if work3 to be carried out at Canberra must undergo investigation by the Public Works Committee, it would be impossible for us to call the next session of Parliament at the Federal Capital. I shall not further refer to the Public Works Committee now, as I have a separate motion on the paper dealing with it.
The main objection raised to my motion to-night and when it was first discussed is that we have not the mo. “j now to give it effect. It is somewhat comical, when we come to consider where this objection comes from. Of all the money which will be spent at Canberra, 43 per cent, will come from the people of New South Wales, and 37 “‘per cent, from the people of Victoria. I will say this to the honour of the Victorians, that during the debate on my motion not a single word has been uttered by a Victorian senator against our going to Canberra. One member of the Ministry who spoke today is a representative of Victoria, and said that he is in. f avour of going there as soon as possible. Not one word of protest against expenditure at Canberra has come from Victorian senators.
– That shows a very generous spirit.
– Yes, a very generous spirit, especially in view of what is being said by the Victorian press. As a matter of fact, then, not a single word against my motion on the ground of expense has been uttered by honorable senators who represent States that will have to bear 80 per cent, of the expense. Poor little South Australia is the only State whose representatives have kicked up a row, and have said that we cannot go to
Canberra because of the expense. How much of the expense will South Australia have to pay ? She may have to pay 2½ or 1¾ per cent.
– Oh, make it bank interest.
– One cannot but be amused at the source of the objection to the motion on the ground of expense. Let me remind honorable senators that last year we had to meet a loss of £500,000 on the East-West railway. Western Australia and South Australia derive most benefit from that railway, yet New South Wales has to pay 43 per cent, of the annual loss upon it. The representatives of South Australia come along and say, “We cannot go to Canberra yet because of the expense.” Four or five men in Adelaide have not yet had their telephones installed, and until they are supplied with telephones we cannot raise money for expenditure on the Federal Capital.
– It is proposed to build a Convention Hall as one of the first buildings to be erected’ in . Canberra. What would the honorable senator think if the Convention considered the desirableness of amending the section of the Constitution which fixes the Federal Capital in New South Wales?
– I , say that I would not approve of it, because I am. not in favour of any Constitutional Convention at present.
– I hope the honorable senator will not digress into a discussion of the Convention.
– You willadmit, sir, that it was not my fault that the matter was referred to. I want to say that 982 square miles have been handed over by New South Wales for the Federal Territory when, under the Constitution, that State need not have handed over more than 100 square miles.
– But they are not much good.
– Yes, they are. This area was handed over, not merely because of the necessity for a watershed, but because it was asked for for the Federal Capital. A certain amount of revenue is coming from the Territory now, and a good deal more will be derived from it in the future. I have it on the authority of Mr. Holman, who was Premier, and Mr. Cann, who was Minister of Works in New South Wales” at the time when the Federal Territorywas handed over to the Commonwealth - and I am justified in using their names,, because I have their authority to do so - that, had they known that it would be twenty years before the Seat of Government would be transferred to Canberra, they, as members of the New South Wales Government, would never have agreed to hand over that area.
– It was open toother persons to reply that they would not have a Federal Capital without a Court.
– That may be but the fact remains that for twenty years we have had the land which the State Government might have developed, and,, like the dog in the manger, we have done nothing with it. I do not wish to takeup any further time. I have been lookingup the exact definition of the words”early” and “practicable.” I find that. the dictionary meaning of “ early “ is”soon, betimes,” and. ‘‘practicable”” means “capable of being put into practice, done, or accomplished.” I thereforeasume that the expression “ the earliest, practicable time “ means the earliest time that it is possible to be done. I have said that I am glad that the discussion has taken place, and I trust that the motion, as amended, will be carried unanimously, because it will definitely commit the Senate to the resolution that every practical effort will be made to get to Canberra at the. earliest possible time.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted - resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment, agreed to.
Original question, as amended, resolved, in the affirmative.
Representation of Australia
– Important to my mind though the motion which I will submit to the Senate may be, it is not my intention to occupy very much time in adducing arguments in support of it, because I venture to say that its merit is so self-evident that it is unnecessary for me to labour a question in regard to which the Senate, individually and collectively, must have arrived at a determined opinion. The motion, which I will read, and which I now formally move, consists of three clauses or sections in the following terms: -
This motion is merely a sequence of a policy which I have numbly, but I venture to say persistently, advocated as worthy of adoption by the Australian people. Honorable senators will remember how particularly solicitous I have been for some years past to indicate to the Australian people how desirable it is that they should orient themselves, so to speak, towards the people of the United States of America, with whom we were on the best possible terms, and in regard to whom- we stood in the most satisfactory relationship. There have been, unfortunately, occasions of friction between the Great Republic of the West and the people of the United Kingdom, but nothing of the’ sort has ever taken place between the Australian people and the people of the United States of America. Whilst we have the most friendly feelings towards the people of America, we have, of course, a full and implicit allegiance to the people of the United Kingdom, from which the great majority of the inhabitants of the Australian ‘Commonwealth derive their ancestry. We can, so to speak, while extending the hand of sympathy and support to- the Mother Country in her trials, extend the other hand of fellowship and fraternity to the people of ‘the United States of America, and on all occasions can be a most influential factor in removing causes of acerbity which perhaps may arise through circumstances of time and chance, between the1 people of the United Kingdam and those of the United States of America.
I do not, of course, wish to go outside the limits of my somewhat voluminous motion,- but it will be remembered that even before the war I was particularly insistent upon this policy of a good understanding between the people of the Commonwealth and the people of the Republic of the West. I have been particularly solicitous because long before she was given that diplomatic status which was accorded to her by the Peace Conference, when she was made one of the1 signatories to the Peace Treaty, I foresaw that the importance of Australia in the world was such that she should be accorded, and should secure for herself,” diplomatic representation at Washington. I have from time to time delivered myself in this chamber on subjects of great importance to- Australia, which might be characterized by the .general term of Pacific questions. The unfortunate world-wide war took place, and although we have come out of it victors, the economic condition of the world is such that we may say, as was said of Napoleon’s army after the battle of Borodino, “ Fate had fixed upon the victor half undone.” All the nations’ of the -world associated with us in the last great victory are economically half undone. In consequence of this the present President of the United States of America, seeing that .perhaps the attitude of the ‘great Republic had not altogether commended itself to the peoples of the civilized world, has determined to take time and occasion by the forelock, and has convened a Conference which, has for its avowed object the averting of what I have had, unfortunately, to tell honorable senators and the people of Australia was to be regarded as present in the offing, namely, another war. No higher and no more practical objective in the interests of humanity could be held in view than that which is to be placed before the Conference which will meet at “Washington on 11th November, namely, the securing by some practical means to the harassed and tried people of the world that peace which is necessary for us to prosecute those ideals of civilization which undoubtedly are dear to the hearts of most of the nations of the earth.
I have privately and publicly been supporting the action of the Government in Bending Senator Pearce to Washington. Australia ought to be represented there. It is being represented in a somewhat indirect method, for which I do not intend to blame the United States Government. Were we the governing authority in America, we would probably have taken the same stand, and regarded the British Empire as a diplomatic entity, although in other respects it may Be considered as a society of nations. But, internationally it is a diplomatic entity, excepting that the Dominions were allowed to become independent signatories to the Peace Treaty. America, no doubt, desires to clarify the position. Evidently the view is held that separate representation of the British Dominions at the Conference’ would be regarded as a source of friction. It is to make a dignified declaration as to the rights of the people of Australia, but in a full sense of friendship with the people of th.e United States of America, that I desire the Senate to support the motion. Its indorsement will enable our delegate to convey to the Conference a correct and dignified expression of the sentiments of the Australian people as recorded by this, the highest Chamber of the highest Parliament in ‘the Commonwealth.
The importance of this matter can be gauged by public deliverances within the past few days. In the press of to-day there appears an important statement from General Smuts, who expresses, as I do, the most earnest hopes as Ito the outcome of the deliberations at Washington. He declares that the British Dominions should have been directly represented at the Conference, particularly in view of the fact that they were given separate diplomatic representation, so to speak, in the signing of the Peace Treaty. I myself would have preferred that to be clone, but I have already indicated what I think are possibly the reasons, and what, I believe, is possibly the stand-point of the United States Government in the matter. These questions of diplomacy are very intricate and many sided. Important though the Dominions may be to the British Empire, if they were accorded separate diplomatic representation at the Washington Conference, beyond all doubt there would be protests from some of the minor nations that would be ‘ represented there by one, two, or possibly three, delegates.
– But surely we are as much concerned in the settlement of these Pacific problems as the minor nations of the old world?
– I agree with the honorable senator. I am simply indicating, the difficulties confronting the President of the United States of America in this important matter.
– But the answer to the* honorable senator’s suggested case is that we are as important as many of the nations that will have direct representation at the Conference.
– We are more important. That is the basis of General Smuts’ argument.
– It has to be remembered, however, thai) the nation that convenes the Conference has the right to invite whom it pleases.
– The Minister has anticipated the very argument I was about to use, and he has put the position very clearly. All the delegates will attend in their respective capacity, in response to an invitation from the United States Government, which stands in the relation of an influential and powerful host to his friends. The rules of etiquette governing the matter are precisely those which would govern an invitation issued by a hospitable and wealthy man to his friends from far and near.
Whatever may be urged against it, this Senate is, I venture to say, the foremost body in Australian politics. In regard to i every important question demanding consideration by a legislative body, the Senate has never failed. to indicate to the nation’ the right course to be taken. This Chamber, years ago, by a resolution, passed without a dissenting voice, affirmed the necessity for the separate diplomatic representation of Australia at Washington. In that matter it received very little support from the press of the Commonwealth. The debates of this influential Chamber were hardly reported. Yet when the President of the United States convened “the Conference, shortly to be held at Washington, there was a general “chorus of journalistic approval of the suggestion for separate representation at the place which, for the moment, is regarded as the hub of the diplomatic universe, so to speak. This Chamber was the first legislative body to recognise the serious nature of the war in which Australia, as one of the Dominions of the Empire, was engaged. This Chamber realized, earlier than the legislative authorities in Great Britain, the possibilities of that great struggle. Many measures which Great Britain had to adopt in order to secure victory and avoid defeat, which was only narrowly averted, were first suggested in this Chamber. Prior to the meeting of the Imperial Conference a few months ago, the Treaty agreement existing between Great Britain and Japan, so far as concerns its relationship to Australian interests, was very substantially queried in this Chamber. We debated here the question whether its renewal was desirable or necessary. Although the opinions of honorable senators on this subject have not been fully conveyed to the Australian people by the important journals of the Commonwealth, we find now that some of the most influential Dominions of the Empire are in favour of the abrogation of the Treaty. Indeed, we have a journalist, a Peer of the Realm, going right up the coasts of Australia and out on the eastern coast of Asia, proclaiming in all his newspapers in the thunder tones of international journalism that it is desirable to abrogate the Treaty. All I say is that I hope the forthcoming Conference will result in a wider, more comprehensive, and -more humane understanding than at present exists between the British Empire, America, and Japan. I believe that is one pf the objects which Senator Harding had in view when he issued the invitation. I ask no more than to see this continent, which is only thinly peopled by less than 6,000,000 of people, endowed by fate and by the wit of man with a long period of peace, during which we may be able to develop, satisfactorily to ourselves and with admiration from the rest of the world, those resources which we in no small measure possess. No jingoistic policy do I advocate. I am not one of those who desire to see the people of Australia marching, like the ancient people of Rome, to extend their deadly might over all the nations of the earth. . No. I ask only that our politics, both external and internal, shall be such that we may be able to prosecute our industries and our current economic life in peace; that we may be able to hold all we possess for the purpose of developing those national ideals which, notwithstanding anything that may be said against them, have inherently in them much that is practical, much that is valuable, and a great deal of that which is very noble.
Senator Pearce has not yet reached the shores of America. I hope that before he participates in the deliberations of the Conference, this resolution, or something like it, will be passed in order that he may announce to the people of thS United States of America what our feelings are on this important subject. Outside the people of the Mother Country, we are on greater terms of affection with, and we have a more fraternal feeling towards, the people of the United States of America than any other nation in the world. Their Democracy is like ours. I believe those Americans who are most competent to judge, acclaim us as having a better and more democratic constitution and legislative system than they themselves possess.
– Their policy of peaceful penetration is very real, too.
– I do not see any harm in that. If we are to have international, commercial, and financial relationships with any people of the world, outside those of the United Kingdom, what other people can the honorable senator indicate as more worthy of our collective national suffrages?
Long ago the United States of America, by an unfortunate combination of circumstances, so far as our Mother Country is concerned, erected themselves into what is known as the American Republic, and’ though the Constitution under which the economic and legislative life of the United States of America has developed was framed nearly a century and a half ago, it was selected as the model for the Australian Commonwealth, and a very good model it is. It has enabled the 3,500,000 people who constituted the thirteen States, or the revolting colonies as they were termed, to become the most influential and powerful nation in the world. That being so, very little, I think, can be said against the Constitution. It cannot be said, for instance, that it has hampered or restricted the energies of its people. And the Constitution which we have adopted has served us very well indeed up to the present time.
The first clause of my motion is an affirmation of approval of the United States of America, through its President, for having convened the Conference, and it differentiates, as honorable senators will understand, slightly - I think it is wise thus to differentiate - between the feelings we entertain for the American people, and our feelings of friendliness towards the other nations that will be represented at Washington. Other nations are, of course, composed of human beings with whom we wish to be on the most friendly terms; but the people of the United States are, to a large extent, our own kith and kin, bone of our bone, blood of our blood, and flesh of our flesh. Although it is true - and this is admitted by a number of the American people - that there is a large percentage of blood of foreign peoples in . that of the people of tha United States of America, this fact cannot be gainsaid, that the governing strain is decidedly that which has been derived from the people, of the United Kingdom before and since the days of severance. There have been only two American Presidents with foreign names. The names of the Presidents from the beginning to the present day, with the exception of two, have been distinctly English or Anglo-Saxon, or whatever we may call the people of the British Isles. (So it is only right and seemly in every respect that we should differentiate between our feeling for and attitude towards the people of the United States of America and those of other nations of the earth. Consequently, I have endeavoured to express that particular shade of difference by saying that the Senate of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, expresses the most fraternal feelings towards the President, Congress, and the people of the United States of America, and full friendship for all nations which are to be represented at the Conference.
I need hardly say that we are also interested in the welfare of all those nations which may not be directly represented. I wish to indicate to the United States of America that the people of Australia, through their Senate, have a very keen appreciation of their importance in regard to this matter, and of the importance of an ^ decisions -in connexion with the problems to be considered. Paragraph 2 of the motion reads -
That, while observing that representation at the Conference a deliberative entity has not been accorded to the Australian Commonwealth, the Senate declares its keen and full consciousness of the fact that the interests of Australia in the questions to be discussed at the Conference, particularly those affecting land south of the equator, is not inferior in degree and importance to that of any nation which will be represented by a special delegation.
That, I venture to assume, as far as my knowledge of the English language will permit, is a keen, pertinent, and dignified expression of the attitude, of the people of Australia in respect of special representation at the Conference. I desire also to express my sense of appreciation of the attitude of the British Government in this regard. When it discovered that the Dominions of the Empire were not to be accorded separate representation, it extended an invitation to the Commonwealth, New Zealand, South Africa, and Canada to be represented on the delegation which would represent the British Empire as a whole. Notwithstanding that I would have preferred - and I wish the American people to understand this so far as my utterances may reach them - that Australia had been invited by the United- States of America to send a delegation, just as she was permitted to be a special signatory to the Peace Treaty. Paragraph 3 of the motion reads -
That the Senate will carefully consider the result of the deliberations at the Conference
We would be indeed foolish if we did not - and, if it deems any action indicated by the participants at the Conference as conducive to the attainment of the great objective of world peace and more friendly international intercourse, will accord its full support.
We, the representatives of the Australian people in the Senate, tender to the American people that expression of opinion, which will be a very ample commendation of the objective of the Conference, if such happens to be necessary; but we reserve to ourselves, as the representatives of the people of the Australian Commonwealth, the power of confirmation or of rejection of any of the decisions that may be arrived at. The Australian people and their representatives, notwithstanding anything that may be said in derogation of such representation, are not fools, and can easily discriminate between decisions conducive to the world’s peace and those which may be fruitful of that discord which we all hope may be averted.
If the Senate, in its wisdom, sees fit to agree to this motion, I think we ought to accord another place the courtesy of its concurrence. In a moment of forgetfulness I did not add to the motion a paragraph to that effect, and I shall ask the Senate to grant me permission to make that addition at a proper time and in a proper way.
I prefaced my remarks by saying that I believed honorable senators individually and collectively have already formed opinions in regard to this great question, and, that being so, it is unnecessary for mo to labour it. The hour is late. I have explained the motives which have inspired me in submitting the motion to the ‘Senate, the principal of which are to express to the American people our fraternal regards towards them, our admiration for the motives which inspired their Government in calling this Conference, and an indication of our full determination to support our representative in the direction that will tend to secure the high objective of the Conference to bring about what may well be termed a true and holy alliance in the interests of the world’s peace, and in the general welfare of mankind.
– I second the motion. On a point of procedure, Mr.President, I ask whether it is competent for me to address myself to the motion on a subsequent date? If that is permissible, I desire to move the adjournment of the debate.
The . PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. T. Givens). - The honorable senator will be quite in order in formally seconding the motion, and in doing so will not forfeit his right to speak later.
– May I be permitted, Mr. President, to amend the motion in order to provide that it be sent to another place for its concurrence?
– The honorable senator will perceive that the motion is worded in such a way that that cannot be done if it is allowed to remain in its present form, as it commences with the words, “That the Senate of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia.” The honorable senator may, at a later stage, submit an amendment to the effect that the House of Representatives be asked to adopt a similar motion.
Debate (on motion by Senator Keating) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 November 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1921/19211103_senate_8_97/>.