8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Transmission of Senate’s Resolutions to Senator Harding
– I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether the terms of the resolution carried by the Senate on the 24th ultimo, embodying good wishes to the President of the United States of America in connexion with the work now being done at Washington, have been transmitted to Senator Harding, and, if so, whether .any reply has been received from that gentleman?
– I shall make inquiries, and will try to supply an answer to the honorable senator’s question later in the day.
– I should like to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, in connexion with .our attitude towards the United States of America and the Disarmament Conference now being held at “Washington, if, when investigating the matter of the transmission of the resolution carried on the motion of Senator Lynch, he will also take into consideration the comprehensive terms of the resolution carried at my instigation, and will find out whether it may be transmitted at least to Senator Pearce for presentation to the President of the United States of America ?
– I shall undertake the duty with pleasure.
– In view of the discussion likely to take place on the Defence Estimates, I ask the Vice-President “ of the Executive Council whether some arrangement cannot be made to secure the presence in this Chamber of the Acting Minister for Defence to supply honorable senators with any information they may desire in connexion with the work of the Defence .Department ?
Alleged Repudiation by the Government.
– I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council if he is aware of any circumstance which would justify a Minister of the Crown in making a statement that the Commonwealth Government evidently intended to a large extent to repudiate their obligations to returned soldiers? Is there any justification for such a statement? Is the Minister aware of any reasons arising from the relations between the Government of South Australia and the Commonwealth Government to justify a Minister of the Crown in making such a sweeping assertion?
– I do not believe that there is any justification for the statement, but I should like the honorable senator to give notice of his question, in order that it might be more fully replied to.
Prospecting at Rabaul.
– Arising out of a question I asked last week, I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether his attention has been directed to a paragraph which appeared in yesterday’s Age, in which it was announced that a certain company had, through its representatives, pegged out certain mining claims at Rabaul, although the Minister assured us that until the policy of the Government in connexion with prospecting in New Guinea was announced no one would be permitted to carry out prospecting operations there.
– I am as deeply interested in the subject of his question as is Senator Elliott himself. I feel sure that no one has received a permit from the Department to carry out prospecting work in New Guinea. I hope that the Territory will be open to prospecting by all Britishers within a very short time. I have sent for the newspaper, in order to acquaint myself with the terms of the paragraph referred to, and I shall follow itup by ascertaining what has been done in the matter. It will take a few days to find out whether such a company as is referred to is in existence, and is working in New Guinea, as it will be necessary to send a wireless message to the Administrator. The settlement of the matter will not be delayed a moment longer than can be avoided.
SenatorFOLL. - I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether he is aware of the fact that a number of returned soldier settlers in Queensland have recently had to abandon their farms; or are talking of doing so, because they are unaible to make a living on them? Does the honorable senator know that the Queensland Minister of Lands has made an announcement that no further applications for land will be received from returned soldiers ? Is this in accordance’ with the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Queensland ? Will the Commonwealth Government endeavour, by some means or other, before making money available to the State Governments, to see that lands allotted to returned soldiers are more suitable for soldier settlement than some of the land thrown open to them in the past?
– I believe that at the recent Premiers’ Conference some modifications of the original agreement with the State Governments were made, but I am not in a position to say what they were. If the honorable senator will give notice of his question, I will see whether it is possible to supply an official statement showing what are the terms of the present contract between the Commonwealth and State Governments in connexion with the land settlement of returned soldiers.
Charges by Messrs. Ashworth and Caldwell.
– I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council, in view of the controversy which is being carried on in the press between Mr. Ashworth and the War Service’ Homes Commission relating to the Caldwell case, would it be possible to have the whole of the file placed on the table of the Senate, so that honorable senators may have an opportunity of looting into it for themselves? I understand that some inquiry was made by the Public Accounts Committee, but Mr. Caldwell claims that he was not allowed to crossexamine witnesses.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) . - Order ! The honorable senator should not make a statement of that kind in asking a. question.
– I wished to explain the reason for my request.
– The honorable senator offered more than an explanation. He repeated a statement by Mr. Caldwell. The honorable senator should know that he is not entitled to make a statement in asking a question, and, that being so, it is quite clear that an outsider like Mr. Caldwell should not be allowed to make a statement through the honorable senator.
– It will serve my purpose if the Minister will undertake to lay on the table of the Senate the file dealing with the matter, including the correspondence between Mr. Caldwell and the Minister for Repatriation.
– I ask the honorable senator to give notice of his question.
Dismissal of Returned Soldiers
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
SenatorFOLL asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are - 1 and 2. Action had been taken to dispense with a certain number of temporary employees, but such action has now been suspended in accordance with the statement made by the right honorable the Prime Minister yesterday in reply to a question by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) in the House of Representatives. As a result of such dismissals, the Department would be in some difficulty to provide adequate protection for their stores.
Powers of Inquiry
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers are -
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 11th November, vide page 12694) :
Postponed clause 38 -
Any person not more than fifty years of age, who has served in the Permanent Naval Forces of the Commonwealth for the full period for which he enlisted or engaged, and has a satisfactory record, shall be eligible for appointment by the Board, without examination, to any office in the Fourth Division in the Department of Trade and Customs.
Upon which Senator Thomas had moved, by way of amendment -
That all the words after the word “Division” be left out.
– Honorable senators will remember that this clause was postponed because there was some doubt as to whether it made it quite clear that preference was to be given to naval men who had seen active service, and not to men who bad served only in the naval depots and had never left Australia. That is the intention, and I have an amendment to submit which will extend the operation of the clause to the Health Department. I believe that this will be in accordance with the desire of honorable senators.
– The purpose of my amendment is to enable persons who have been in the Permanent Naval Forces in the Commonwealth, and are not more than fifty years of age, to become eligible for appointment in any Division of the Public Service. The clause limits their eligibility for appointment by the Board without examination to any office in. the Fourth Division of the Department of Trade and Customs. Why should appointments be limited to that Division? Why should not such persons be eligible for appointment to any Division of the Public Service?
– The persons referred to are eligible for appointment to any position they may be capable of filling. The purpose of my amendment is to give them special privileges in Departments that are related. In sub-clause 2 of clause 79 there is provision that in making any appointment under clause 39 preference shall, subject to competency, be given to returned soldiers.
– But the clause we are discussing does not deal with returned soldiers at ‘all. It relates to members of the Permanent Naval Forces of the Commonwealth’.
– Sailors and nurses come under the definition of returned soldiers.
– If clause 79 covers clause 38, plus something more, where is the necessity for clause 38 at all?
– Suppose two men, one from the Permanent Naval Forces and the other a returned soldier, apply for a position. Under clause 38 the returned soldier would get the preference.
– A man who has seen active service in the Navy will get preference over men of the Permanent Naval Forces serving in Australian depots.
– Clause 38 deals with the eligibility of persons who have not been, to the war.. Clause 79 is a preference clause.
– I am afraid I cannot see any light. As I understand it, clause 38 simply means that certain persons who have served in the Permanent Naval Forces for a stated period will be eligible for appointment without examination to any office in the Fourth Division of the Department of Trade and Customs. Why this limitation? In the Post Office, for instance, sailors who are sail makers may be employed on the mail bags. They may have served their full time in the Navy, ‘and whilst they would be eligible for appointment without examination to the Fourth Division of the Department of Trade and Customs under this clause, they would not be eligible without examination for appointment to the Fourth Division of the Post and Telegraph Department.
– They would be eligible for any position they are capable of filling in the Service.
– Not under clause 38, because they may not have gone to the war.
– The men who went to the war will get preference.
– I am afraid I cannot understand the position; but I suppose I shall have to be satisfied with the Minister’s statement. I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Senator Russell) agreed to -
That the following words be added to the clause : - “ or in the Department of Health.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Postponed clause 39 -
Where the Board reports to the GovernorGeneral that it is not desirable that the examination system shall be applied in relation to an appointment to a specified position, or in relation to appointments to a specified class of positions, in the Fourth Division, the Board may appoint ‘a person without examination to that position, or to a position in that class, under such conditions as are prescribed.
Amendment (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That the words “under such conditions as are prescribed “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ and if the Board so orders, that person shall be exempt from compliance with the life assurance provisions of this Act.”
.- The deletion of the words suggested by the Minister (Senator Russell) may result in certain members of the Public Service being unfairly treated by appointments being made to the Fourth Division without examination. I may mention the case of an officer in the Fifth Division who was temporarily appointed to the Fourth Division, and then transferred into the Third Division over the heads of other officers who had served a longer period.
– Was he a capable officer ?
– His capacity would be tested by examination. If the clause is amended in the manner suggested it will give the Board power to promote officers to higher positions without examination, and to overlook officers in a lower grade.
– If promotions are made according to merit, are they not justified ?
– Favoritism is sometimes shown. It can operate in another way. A public servant may prove his capabilities by passing an examination, but if appointments are made without his knowledge he has no opportunity ot applying.
– There must be an initial qualification.
– Quite so; but an officer may be compelled to remain in a position until he persuades some one to recommend his promotion. It is only bv examination that the capabilities of officers can be ascertained. An engineer connected with the Post and Telegraph Department may possess considerable practical experience, and if tested by examination could prove his worth, whilst another man who has had little experience might be placed over his head-. Should there not be an examination to test the capabilities of such officers? If the clause is amended in the manner suggested it will enable preference to be shown, and, although in this instance I shall be acting contrary to my usual practice, I intend to vote for the retention of the words.
– This clause deals with the appointment of officers” without examination, and the retention of the words. “ under such conditions as are prescribed” would lead to unnecessary inconvenience. It mav be necessary to appoint an officer to a certain Division, but unless one possessed the knowledge of a prophet it would be impossible to prescribe the conditions for an examination.
– Senator Senior seems to have misunderstood the position. The object of the preceding clause is to give absolute preference to members of the Naval Forces who have seen active service during the war, and is limited to the Fourth Division. It refers solely to new appointments, and has nothing whatever to do with promotions. It would be unreasonable to suggest that a man of fortyeight or forty-nine years of age should sit for an. examination before being appointed as a warder, or a watchman in the Quarantine Department. A man may have lost his fingers when on active service, and, although unsuited for certain classes of work, would be quite capable of acting as a watchman.
– But the clause is not limited to such cases.
– Those employed in the Fourth Division are generally mechanics, warders, carpenters, labourers, or watchmen, and it is unnecessary for them to pass an examination before being appointed.
– There are others, apart from those mentioned by the Minister, employed in the Fourth Division.
– Men who have seen active service in the Naval Forces would be peculiarly suited for service in the Quarantine Department.
– It will also affect engineers.
– An engineer has a certificate which is a sufficient guarantee of his capabilities.
– That is so.
– I do not wish to see this clause amended in such a way that appointments can be made on any other basis than that of ability. If the different classes of work were specified in the clause I would withdraw my objection to the amendment; but the provision is so wide that there is a possibility of promotions being made on other than merit.
– A similar provision has been in the Commonwealth Public Service Act for seventeen or eighteen years, and now, when an effort is being made to give preference to those who have been on active service with the Naval Forces, Senator Senior raises an objection.
– It is unfair of the Minister to say that I am showing any opposition to their appointment.
– The honorable senator wishes to compel men fifty years of age to pass an examination whereas that has never been the practice in connexion with appointments to the Fourth Division.
– Does the Fourth Division consist entirely of ex-service men ?
– No; it comprises these following such occupations as those I have mentioned.
– Under the Minister’s proposal they could be appointed without examination.
– They are all to be taken on their merits, in the Fourth Division.
– Yes, they are mostly tradesmen. We say that a mau. who has served in the Navy would be particularly handy for work, say, a.t a quarantine station. Any soldier, sailor, or nurse, with the necessary qualifications, is to be eligible for any position in the (Civil Service.
– There is no mention in the clause of returned soldiers or sailors. The clause deals with anybody.
– Clause 79, which has to be read in conjunction with clause 39, provides for preference to returned soldiers, and ‘ ‘ returned soldier ‘ ‘ is defined as including nurses and sailors who have been on active service.
– Turning to clause 2-2, we find that the Fourth Division includes all officers who are not included in the First, Second, or Third Divisions. It embraces nearly all the postal sorters, a large number of officers in the Customs Department, and men who in status are just below the clerical stait. Able men may be in the Service for forty years, and still be in the Fourth Division. Clause 39 makes no mention of naval men or returned soldiers, but says that any person may be appointed to the Fourth. Division without examination. I object to the door to the Civil Service being opened so wide that anybody may be appointed to it, irrespective of his suitability, whereas in ordinary cases an examination has to be passed.
– Under the present law, there is power to make appointments without examination. Clause 34 D (1) of the Commonwealth Public Service Act states’ -
Where the Commissioner reports to the GovernorGeneral that it is desirable Hint the system of examination should be applied in relation to an appointment to a specified position, or appointments to a specified class of positions, in the General Division, there may be appointed to that position, or to a position in that class, a person who has not passed the prescribed examination.
The object of the present provision is to give pos-tiona to the men who most serve them. Men who are already in the Service cannot be applicants for new appointments. They cannot occupy two positions at the same time.
– If positions were open without examination, it would be possible for the Board to give -preference to their friends.
– Soldiers have not previously had to pass examinations for appointment in the Fourth Division. Has that provision done any harm to Australia? Senator Senior, seems to be suspicious that the door will be opened too wide. The object is to give preference to those who have served their country well. and I ask the honorable senator to have confidence in the Administration.
Senator SENIOR (South Australia) have confidence in him, but I would point out that he is unable to give a promise as to what policy may be adopted by any of his successors in office. The clause does not limit the choice to returned soldiers, sailors and nurses, but it says that the Fourth Division can be filled anyhow and from anywhere.
– Absolutely no.
.- How will this provision agree with clause 33, which distinctly says that there shall be an examination for appointment to the Fourth Division, although the educational examination shall be of an elementary character? If we accept the amendment, it means that, notwithstanding clause 33, the Board may appoint persona to the Fourth Division, whether they are returned soldiers or not.
– All applicants have had to pass an examination, so we have had to make special provision for soldiers. Some soldiers have been gassed, and the insurance companies charge an extra 10 per cent.on account of their physical condition.
– Soldiers and sailors have nothing to do with this clause.
– If they have war injuries, and cannot obtain insurance at ordinary rates, we wish to exempt them from examination. Are we going to compel them to pay 10 per cent. or 15 per cent, extra? Surely an effort to do a good turn to ease the position of these men, whether sailors or soldiers, ought to be appreciated.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Postponed clause 40 agreed to.
Postponed new clause 46a -
If an officer of the Royal Australian Naval Radio Service be appointed to the Commonwealth Service, either before or after the commencement of this Act, his service in the Royal Australian Naval Radio Service shall, for the purposes of this Act, be deemed to be service in the Commonwealth Service.
. -When the war broke out the aerial service was transferred to the Navy Department. The employees who were transferred with it from the Postal Department were permanent men, and they retained their permanency. When the Navy took over the business they were enlisted under the Navy Act. The proposal provides that their service with the Navy Department shall count as part of their period of Commonwealth service. I think that is fair, because a man could not be better employed than as a wireless operator during the war. These men will probably all pass back to the Postal service now that that Department has taken over the aerialservices.
Clause agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Russell) agreed to-
That the following new clause be inserted: - “46b. For the purposes of this Act, temporary service in the Commonwealth Service, if continuous with permanent service, shall, in the case of persons appointed without examination, be reckoned as service in the Commonwealth Service.”
Postponed clause 69 (Leave for military or naval purposes).
– I regret that there was a misunderstanding in reference to this clause. Some members who raised an objection . have since changed their minds. Some of the men engaged in the Defence Department during the war dug themselves into snug positions as permanent hands, sometimes at an increased rate of pay. The proposal is that the longest period of local leave that can be granted to them shall be twelve months. They are not to transfer from one Department to another for the purpose of getting an increase in salary. This does not affect members of the Australian Imperial Force. They get leave for war service, but the home service men can only get leave from the Department when an acting man has been called in for a period of twelve months. Exceptions may be made by the Board. A man like the Secretary of the Defence Department, who may be an ex-military man liable to be called up, may be exempted and given an extension. Senator Drake-Brockman wanted to know why the leave was restricted to twelve months. He was under a wrong impression as to the way in which the clause would affect officers of an Expeditionary Force serving overseas.
He has since admitted that, and has assented to the proposal.
Clause agreed to.
Postponed clause 78 (Temporary employment of returned soldiers).
– In connexion with this clause, Senator Elliott desired to stipulate that temporary employees should not he dismissed merely for the purpose of providing permanent positions for boys who had been in the Telegraph Department. I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added: - “ (4) The employment of a returned soldier shall not be terminated for the purpose only of creating an office to be filled by the promotion of a telegraph messenger.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Schedules agreed to.
– I desire to move for the insertion of a Fifth Schedule. Originally it was proposed in the Bill to appoint a civil servant as chairman of the Appeal Board. There was a little confusion in the minds of honorable senators, and a feeling that he might be subject to the control of the head of a Department. The civil servants appealed to the Senate to appoint an outsider as chairman. The determination of the Appeal Board is final, and, therefore, it is not under the control of anybody. In order to leave no possibility of doubt on this point, the insertion of a Fifth Schedule is proposed in order to require an oath from members of the Board that they will give their decision free of bias. This will protect them from interference by heads of Departments. I move -
That the following new schedule be inserted: -
I, A.B., do swear that I will well and truly servo our Sovereign Lord the King as a member of the Appeal Board constituted under the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1921,. for the purpose of the appeal made by (here insert name of appellant) [or, in case of the Chairman, or elected representative of the Division to which the appellant belongs, as a member of any Appeal Board constituted under the Commonwealth Public Sen-ice Act 1921 of which I may be a member], and that I will perform the duties and exercise the powers imposed or conferred upon me as such member without fear or favour, affection, or ill-will. So help me God.
I, A.B, do solemnly and sincerely affirm and declare that I will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lord the King as a member of the Appeal Board constituted under the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1921, for the purpose of the appeal made by (here insert name of appellant) [or, in the case of the Chairman or elected representative of the Division to which the appellant belongs, as a member of any Appeal Board constituted under the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1921 of which I may be a member], and that I will perform the duties and exercise the powers imposed or conferred upon me as such member without fear or favour, affection, or ill-will.
If the head of a Department tries to interfere with a Board acting under such an oath or affirmation, it will be bad for that head of a Department.
Proposed new schedule agreed to.
– I should like to know whether, before the Bill is finally passed, honorable senators will have a fair copy of it, as amended, placed in their hands. I have tried this afternoon to follow the alterations made,but have been unable to do so owing to the multitude of amendments proposed. I should like to see a fair print of the Bill as amended before it is read a third time. Perhaps the Minister will say whether honorable senators will be supplied with it.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Senator E. D. Millen) proposed -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
– If the Standing Orders are suspended, and the Bill is passed through its remaining stages, we shall not have a clear copy of it, as amended, placed before us, and will not be in a position to correct any obvious mistakes which we may have made.
– It is my intention to recommit several clauses.
– The Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) is asking that the Standing and Sessional Orders shall be suspended, to enable the remaining stages of the Bill to be passed without delay. 1 should like to know the object of submitting that motion.
– It i9 necessary to carry such a motion to enable us to proceed to-day with the recommittal of the Bill. “We should otherwise have to give notice of its recommittal for tomorrow.
– I think that no honorable senator will object to the recommittal of the Bill; but if the motion is agreed to the Government will be able to go further with the measure if they so desire.
– They will be able to do so; but they will not do so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator E. D. Millen) proposed -
That the report be now adopted.
Amendment (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That the Bill be recommitted for the purpose of reconsidering clauses 5, C, 7, proposed new clause 7a, clauses 14, 22, 23, 51. 53,62, 65, 71, 77, and 96, and the second schedule and the third schedule.
Amendment of the amendment (by Senator Payne) agreed to -
That after the figures “23” the figures “48” be inserted.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
In Committee (Recommittal) :
Clause 5 -
Amendment (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That the words “ and employees appointed permanently or temporarily “ be left out, with a view to insert the word “ appointed “.
– I am inclined to accept this amendment very greedily.
– The intention is to continue temporary men in the Service.
– There is something in it for which I have been fighting all along.
– The thin end of the wedge.
– It is more than that. The amendment will cover persons appointed, whether permanently or temporarily, under or by virtue of any Act repealed by this measure.
– They will remain.
– In view of decisions given recently, I do not wish anything better than what the Minister proposes by his amendment. It represents a very big opening.
– I should like to know the object the Minister has in proposing the leaving out of the words “ and employees appointed permanently or temporarily”. The effect of the amendment will be that permanent officers and also temporary officers employed under or by virtue of any Act repealed by this measure will remain in office as if it had been in force at the time they were appointed. The idea is to give permanancy to temporary officers.
– No ; but to continue them in their present positions when they come under the provisions of this Bill.
– But that is in the clause as it stands.
– I understand it is merely a drafting amendment.
– It is all very well to say that.What is the effect of the amendment? That is the question.
– The effect is to secure them under this Bill in their employment as temporary employees.
– But that is what the clause specifically provides at present. It says that officers and employees appointed permanently or temporarily under or by virtue of any Act repealed by this Act and holding office at the commencement of this Act shall remainin office as if the Act had been in force at the time of their appointment. How can the Minister by striking out the words continue that right?
– It is believed that my amendment more adequately expresses the intention of the Bill. It specifically states that any persons temporarily employed under or by virtue of any Act repealed by this Bill shall remain in such employment subject to the provisions of the Bill.
– -I do not understand why this “ riddle-me-re “ system should have been adopted if the effect is as the Minister indicates. Once this Parliament had a reputation for turning out Statutes that could be read by the people affected, and understood by them, but it seems that the longer we continue the worse our Statutes become.
– The object of the amendment is to make it perfectly clear that temporary employees will not be transferred as permanent employees under the provisions of this Bill. I am advised that there is some ambiguity in the drafting of the existing clause, hence the need for this amendment. There is no alteration in the principle of the measure, I understand.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Russell) agreed to -
That the following new sub-clause be inserted - “ (1a) Any persons who, at the commencement of this Act, are temporarily employed under or by virtue of any Act repealed by this Act, shall remain in such employment subject to the provisions of this Act which shall apply to them accordingly.”
Clause, as further amended, agreed to.
Clause 6 -
In this Act unless the contrary intention appears - “Returned soldier” means any person who (whether before or after the commencement of this Act) has served with satisfactory record in any Expeditionary Force raised under the provisions of the Defence Act 1903-1918, and includes-
a member of the Army Medical Corps Nursing Service who is accepted or appointed by the Director-General of Medical Services for service outside Australia;
any member of the Naval Forces who has been on active service outside Australia or on a ship of war;
any person who, during any war, has been employed in the transport service in connexion with any such Expeditionary Force, and who, while so employed, served in the zone of war; and
any person who was born in Aus tralia, or resident in Australia within six months prior to enlistment, and who, at any time during any war, served with satisfactory record in an Expeditionary Force raised in the United Kingdom or in any British Dominion.
– I have a number of amendments, the purpose of which is to make clear that in the definition of “ returned soldier ‘ ‘ any of the references will mean the late great war and not any wars preceding it, and that preference under this Act will mean preference to those who took part in the war in any of its theatres of operations. I move -
That in the definition of “ Returned soldier “ the word “ has “ (first occurring) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “enlisted prior to’ the 11th day of November, 1918, and.”
That after the word “ served “ (first occurring) the words, “ in the war “ be inserted .
That the word “is,” paragraph (a), be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “was”;
That after the word “Australia,” paragraph (a), the words, “during the war” be inserted;
That after the word “ Naval Forces,” paragraph (b), the words, “of the Commonwealth “ be inserted.
Amendments agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That after the word “has,” in paragraph (b), the words “ during the war “ be inserted.
– It is exceedingly difficult to follow the amendments being moved by the Minister (Senator Russell), because they are not amendments to the Bill, but to amendments previously made. Many amendments were circulated by the Minister when the measure was previously before the Committee, and it appears that we are now further amending them. What is the purpose of this amendment? Is “ the war “ defined in the Bill ? Senator Russell. -Yes ; and the intention of these amendments is to make it perfectly clear that all references to “ the war” are to the war which commenced on 4th August, 1914.
– Is “the war” to be defined ?
– Yes; it is defined in a later amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Senator Russell) agreed to -
That the word “any” (second occurring) in paragraph (c) he left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “the”.
That the word “ any “ (third occurring) in paragraph (d) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ the “.
That the word “an” in paragraph(d) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “a naval or military”.
That the following definition be added at the end of the clause: - “ ‘ The war ‘ means the war which commenced on the fourth day of August, One thousand nine hundred and fourteen.”
Clause, as further amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 (Act not to apply to certain officers).
– I move -
That the words “ a Chairman of an Appeal Board” be left out.
When the measure was previously before the Committee, it was decided to include a chairman of an Appeal Board in the list of persons to whom the Act would not apply. It is now proposed to strike out the words indicated, and thus exclude the chairman of an Appeal Board.
– Those words are not in the clause.
– For the information of the Committee, I may explain that those words were inserted when the clause was previously before the Committee, and the effect of the present amendment is to rescind a previous one.
– Unless we specially provide, this measure will apply to a chairman of an Appeal Board.
– It is the desire of a majority of public servants that this Bill shall apply to the chairman of an Appeal Board. It is unlikely that there will be more than, say, twenty appeals during a year, and,- under the clause as previously amended, it would have been impossible to appoint officers from the Attorney-General’s Department, such as Mr. Knowles or Mr. Bonniwell, who have a thorough knowledge of the Service, to the position of chairman of an Appeal Board. When the representatives of the Public Service were informed that such officers could not be appointed, they were anxious that an amendment in this direction should be made. They expressed their willingness for the clause to be amended, so that Mr. Knowles could be appointed, because he is an officer in whom they have every confidence. An officer in the Attorney-General’s Department could, without difficulty, obtain the necessary leave to act as chairman of an Appeal Board. I think he would be a more suitable man, because he would have qualifications equal or superior to those of a police magistrate.
– Is it desirable that this Bill should apply to the Chairman of the Appeal Board, and, if so, why ? If that is not desirable, I also ask why?
– We desire to appoint a civil- servant. The Chairman would lose his privileges under the Act if he were exempted. We wish him to retain his rights in the Service. If consideration of the clause is postponed, I shall have it re-drafted.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “7a. (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act -
all appointments or promotions of officers of the Senate shall be made by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the President of the Senate;
all appointments or promotions of officers of the House of Representatives shall be made by the GovernorGeneral on the recommendation of the Speaker;
all appointments or promotions of officers of both Houses of Parliament shall be made by the GovernorGeneral on the joint recommendation of the President and the Speaker; and
the President or the Speaker or the President and the Speaker, as the case may be, may from time to time fix the periods of recreation leave which may be granted to officers of the Parliament. “ (2) Subject to this section, unless inconsistent with the context, any action or approval required by this Act or the regulations thereunder to be taken or given by the Board may, so far as officers of the Parliament are concerned, be taken or given by the President or the Speaker or the President and the Speaker (as the case may be) in substitution for the Board, and any action required or authorized by this Act or the regulations thereunder to be taken by a permanent head or chief officer shall or may be taken by the Clerk of the Senate so far as relates to officers of the Senate, and by the Clerk of the House of Representatives so far as relates to officers of that House, and by the- Parliamentary Librarian so far as relates to officers of the Parliamentary Library, and by the Principal v Parliamentary Reporter so far as relates to officers of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff, and by- the Secretary of the Joint House Department so far as relates to officers of that Department. “ (3) Any reference in this Act or the regulations thereunder to the Minister shall, so far as the Departments of the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Parliamentary Library, the Parliamentary Reporting Staff, and the Joint House Department are concerned, be read as a reference to the President or the Speaker or the President and the Speaker (as the case may be).
a regulation is made under the last preceding ‘ sub-section inconsistent with, or prescribing matters dealt with in, that first-mentioned regulation ; or
My object in moving the insertion of this new clause is to meet what I believe to be the almost unanimous desire of the Senate, and of Parliament generally, that Parliament should have control of its own officers. It is my belief that that is a correct and proper thing. I have consulted with Mr. Speaker in the matter, and the clause has been prepared by the Parliamentary Draftsman for the pur pose of giving effect to what is believed to be the express wish of Parliament. Of course it is for Parliament to say whether the clause meets with its approval or not. It largely follows the provisions of the old Act, except as to one or two matters where experience has shown that some alterations are necessary, but these alterations are of a very minor character. As the clause is a very long one, and somewhat complicated, I suggest that discussion would be facilitated, and the Committee would be enabled to arrive at a more accurate decision, if the various parts of it were put separately.
– As the clause is somewhat complicated I shall put each sub-clause separately, as suggested.
– I desire to give notice of an, amendment ta this clause. At present the officers of Parliament are controlled by the President of the Senate, so far as Senate officers are concerned, by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, so far as officers in that branch of the Legislature are concerned, and in some cases officers are under the joint control of the President and the Speaker. I propose to include with the President and the Speaker the members of the House Committee, so far as that Committee controls officers, and also the Library Committee, so far as it exercises similar powers. I think my reasons for this action are fairly well known to honorable senators, because the matter has been discussed before. Senator Givens has just informed the Committee that it is his opinion that Parliament should have authority over its own officers. There can scarcely be two opinions on that point. All Parliaments retain control over their own officers, for obvious reasons. There should be no power higher than the Parliament. If we allowed our officers to be under an outside authority, we should practically lose the control of Parliament. If the House and Library Committees are brought in to work in, conjunction with the President and the Speaker, we shall be reverting to the position which existed when the Commonwealth was established. Very many honorable senators who have sat on the House Committee have wondered why it is in existence. It is practically without authority. When a meeting is called - and that only happens at very wide intervals - there is really no -work to do. Anything of consequence that the House Committee controlled in former years has been taken away from it. If the Committee had some power and authority, honorable senators would be proud to be members of it; but what satisfaction is there in being a member of a Committee that has no power?
– “We corrected a few abuses that existed in Sydney.
– I am glad to hear that; but as far as the officers of the Senate are concerned, I hold that the House Committee has no power whatever. There is a Public Service Act which places the control of public servants generally in the hands of several Boards. If breaches of the regulations are committed, or if officers desire to appeal against injustices, the Boards come into operation. “We have safeguarded the interests of the public servants outside Parliament - in the Post Office, the Customs Department, and other Departments. Public servants have many ways in. which they may ventilate their grievances and get their case heard, but officers of the Senate have no means of being heard. They have no Appeal Board, or Board of Inquiry. Members of Parliament know very little of what goes on in connexion with the control of officers. No report is published, such as is issued in relation to the Post Office and the Customs Department. Still, honorable senators keep representing that Parliament ought to control its own officers. Parliament does not control its officers, and it is in order to give some control into the hands of the Committee that I move my amendment. I hope honorable senators will see the reason and necessity for it. Unless the amendment is carried officers of the Senate can have no protection, and Parliament can have no effective control over them. It is an absolute necessity that the House Committee should be given that power. I move -
That at the end of paragraph (a) of subclause 1 the words, “ and House Committee “ be inserted.
If the amendment is carried, subsequent alterations will have to be made throughout the clause. The Library Committee and the Joint House Committee will have to be included in the proposal.
. -The sub-clause with which the Committee is now dealing is on all-fours with the provisions of the present Act. Practically no alteration is proposed in the law as is stands at present. Senator de Largie proposes to make a very drastic alteration, and I submit that the reasons he has put forward in support of his proposal are entirely inadequate. He says it has been demonstrated in the past that Parliament has had no control of its officers, and he asserts that it will have no control in the future unless the Joint House Committee act with the Speaker or President, as the case may be. I want to point out that if the amendment is carried Parliament will not have any more control over its officers than it -has now. It has absolute control of the President and the Speaker; both are responsible to Parliament, and can be removed by a simple vote of either House. Parliament would not have any more control if it brought in a Committee, because the Committee would be no more responsible to Parliament than is the President. Senator de Largie contended that this thing was not done until recently. It never has been done by this Parliament, or by any Presiding Officer of it. It would be utterly impracticable to do it, because Parliament does not usually sit for more than five months in the year. For the remaining seven months of the year the Committee could not be got together, and there would be no one available capable of dealing with any matter that might arise. I think it is generally conceded, and it has been embodied in all the Public Service Acts, that officers of the Public Service should not have recourse to political influence or be subjected to political control. I venture to say that if we had a Committee acting in conjunction with the President there would be nothing but political wire-pulling from end to end of the Service in the Senate.
– Would not that statement apply equally to the President personally as to the Committee?
– Certainly ; but the evil would be multiplied a hundredfold if there were a dozen individuals concerned instead of one.
– The chances of influencing the individual would be greater than the chances of influencing the Committee.
– I do not think so. My experience is quite the opposite. I know, of my own knowledge, at least twenty members of Parliament, including some Ministers, who have tried to influence me.
– Is the honorable senator in order in making that statement?
– I am in order. The statement is not only in order, but it is a fact.
– The honorable senator has either said too much, or too little. Having made that statement, he ought to give the names of the members concerned.
– The Committee ought to be informed of the names.
– Senator de Largie was one of them. I have been spoken to by various members. In addition to the difficulty that would arise owing to the Committee not being available for twothirds of the year, there is the further difficulty that there is no Committee constituted to deal with the Senate, and no Committee constituted to deal with the House of Representatives. There is a Joint House Committee, which was created to deal with matters that do not come under the separate jurisdiction, of either House. Senator de Largie says that the House Committee is of no importance. I say that many important things come before that Committee, and many important decisions are registered by the Committee. As far as I am concerned, every opportunity has been given to the Committee to deal with all the matters that properly come before it, and, as far as I have been able to ascertain, it has exercised as much influence during the last few years as ever it did. Even if the amendment is incorporated in the clause, there will still be a Department which will be outside the control of the Committee, namely, Hansard. The position will then be anomalous. Personally, I think any President would like to be relieved of the duty, and of the abuse that is poured upon him when he acts independently in carrying out his duties.
– Is the honorable senator not taking up a peculiar position when he says that any President would be glad to get rid of the duty, while he still advocates, that the President should retain it?
– It is a responsibility that properly belongs to the President’s position. I say that emphatically. No President would have any control over a staff if members of the staff could go to a Committee .which had power to override his decisions. If it is desired to maintain discipline and good order, thelaw, which has acted so well in the past, should be continued in the future. It is a question whether we should have one head of a Department or a dozen. Good service is not likely to be obtained if there are a dozen bosses on the same job. As for Senator de Largie’s contention that members of the staff have no means of appealing against the President’s decisions, honorable senators will remember that in this session very much has been heard of the grievances of servants of the Senate. Officers always have a right i appeal through senators, who can shoulder the responsibility upon one man.
– If the President deals with the staff asdrasticallly as he has dealt with me, I pity them. The> Standing Orders give me the right to make a statement, and he refused me that right.
– The honorable senator, I think, is introducing a matter which, does not belong properly to this discussion. I ask honorable senators to judge this amendment, not from my stand-point or that of Mr. Speaker or any other individual, but from the standpoint of the good of the Service generally. I may pass away to-morrow ; another President may be here. Probably there will be another President in a very short time, and then Senator Gardiner may be more satisfied. I ask honorable senators to come to a decision entirely irrespective of any individual, and with regard only to what is best for the Service. Unless the responsibility is placed upon one person, good service will not be obtained, and discipline will be destroyed. I ask the Committee to reject the amendment, and to pass the clause as it stands. The sub-clause is an exact copy of the law which has proved satisfactory in the past, and has, I maintain, fulfilled every requirement of the Service to the full satisfaction of Parliament and its officers.
– I am sorry that Senator Givens should have introduced the personal note.
– The honorable senator should set him a good example by leaving it out.
– I left it out, but I shall not do so any’ longer. When I am singled out for attack” in the way I have been, I should be but a poor type of man if I did not at least take my own part.
– The honorable senator might offer the other cheek.
– I have not been brought up to practice that Christian precept. We have been told that political influence has been used. Senator Givens has said that it was used by twenty members of this Parliament and by some Ministers. I got that statement from the honorable senator in evidence given before the Select Committee of which. I was Chairman. The honorable senator evidently expected that it would be given greater publicity than it can receive from the publication of the minutes of evidence taken before the Select Committee, and consequently he desired today to get it out first. When I asked the honorable senator whether I was one of the twenty members of Parliament to whom he referred he said I was not.
-Not at that particular time.
– I said that we should have the names of the twenty members of Parliament referred to, and Senator Givens now says that I am one of them. That is a contradiction of the statement he made before the Select Committee, when he said that I was not one of the twenty.
– Not at that particular time.
– I had to drag information out of the honorable senator when he appeared as a witness before the Select Committee. He told the Committee that twenty members had come to him and had tried to use political influence to have a fourth class clerk appointed. When I asked him if I was one of them he said, “No.” So that I am perfectly right in what I said, and what
Senator Givens said in reply to me waa wrong. I had to go on questioning the honorable senator. I had to ask nine questions to drag out of him what he was privately circulating about me amongst members of this Parliament. I had to “ fossick it “ out by asking question after question. If I had been ashamed of anything I had done, I should not have tried to drag out of the honorable senator what I knew he was privately circulating about me. This is the manly person who is able to withstand political influence. When, it came to a question of how long ago the matter to which the honorable senator referred had occurred, he said it was six or seven years ago. This will show honorable senators how long Senator Givens can carry a grudge, and also that he can make use of private conversations when it suits him. It should be a warning to honorable senators who go to his private room, as to how guarded and careful they should be in their attitude towards a man of that kind. So far as political influence is concerned, we have it in the words of Senator Givens himself, that that influence is being used now. In order that an end might be put to it, Senator Givens sometime ago proposed that the control of the officers or Parliament should be taken out of the. hands of Parliament. Why did he do such a thing if he believes; in the amendments he has proposed to this Bill ?
– I never proposed anything of the kind.
– Some time ago the honorable senator, without consulting Parliament, sent a memorandum to the Government in which he suggested the handing over of the servants of this House into the hands of the Public Service Commissioner. In other words, he proposed stultifying the power of Parliament over its own officers.
– On a point of order, which I raise merely to avoid unnecessary debate, I direct your attention, sir, to the fact that the matter to which Senator de Largie is now referring can come on properly for discussion later. If you will look at sub-clause 5 of the proposed new clause, you will find that I am submitting a definite proposal upon which the matter which Senator de Largie is now raising can be properly discussed. My point of order is that the honorable senator is anticipating the discussion of a matter which may be more appropriately discussed on sub-clause 5.
– What is before the Committee is really one clause; and, whilst for convenience sake we are taking the discussion of the sub-clauses separately, I can hardly assume the responsibility, under the Standing Orders, of ruling Senator de Largie out of order. I may appeal to the honorable senator’s good sense to confine his discussion, for convenience sake, to the different sub-clauses as we come to them.
– I am surprised at the trivial nature of the point of order which Senator Givens has raised. I should have thought that a gentleman who had studied the Standing Orders and professed to be conversant with them would not have raised a point of order with so little in it. I was referring to a memorandum concerning the officers of Parliament; and, if this matter is to be intelligently discussed, that memorandum should not be left out of our consideration. We are now dealing with the control of officers of the Parliament, and the memorandum to which I have referred embodies a proposition which Senator Givens made without consulting Parliament, without consulting the House Committee, and apparently without consulting any one but Mr. Speaker, and I question if he even consulted Mr. Speaker. He certainly did not consult Parliament, as he should have -done, because this is not a Government matter. Why should the honorable senator have sent his memorandum to the Government? The Government have no right to control the officers of Parliament. It is Parliament that should have been consulted. By all its legislation, and by the precedents laid down by practice, Parliament has always asserted its right to control its own officers. Why should Senator Givens go behind the back of Parliament to give away a right which Parliament has in its own hands, and without even consulting it? There was a bit of funny work connected with that action which ought to be revealed, and I hope that Senator Givens will be sufficiently candid to let us know what was behind it all. The honorable senator swallowed that proposition, and he now comes along with an other. He now proposes that Parliament should exercise control, whereas before he contended that it should not. He gives as one of his reasons that political influence is exercised.
– Did not Senator Thomas make a most convincing speech, which may have shown- Senator Givens that he was wrong?
– He may have done so. I suppose that Senator Thomas, like myself, occasionally makes convincing speeches. Senator Givens has contended that Parliament would be given no greater control of its officers by the adoption of my amendment. I hold that if the House Committee were included as I propose, consisting as it does of a number of members of this Parliament, it would provide, a wider control over the officers of Parliament than the one-man control that we have at the present time. This has broken down in the hands of Senator Givens. I am sure that any one who examines impartially cases that were recently before Parliament will admit that there should be a change, and that the control of the officers of Parliament should be vested in more than one man. I hold that Senator Givens is not a man who can be left coldly in control of any one else. He has not the necessary temperament.
– I think the honorable senator had better not discuss the matter so particularly from the personal point of view. The Committee is dealing with paragraph a of sub -clause 1 of the proposed new clause and the amendment, which the honorable senator has moved, is to add to it the words “ and House Committee.” The Presidency of the Senate is, as every honorable senator knows, a dignified position, and should, I think, be discussed impersonally.
– We have to remember that there may be many changes in 4he occupancy of the position of President of the Senate. Future Presidents may go wrong, and act in the same way as the present President has done, and then the Senate will be in the same unhappy position that we find ourselves in to-day. Under the Bill we have given the right to members of the Public Service to appeal to a Board, and I say that officers of Parliament should have same Committee to whom they may ap peal. I am, suggesting that the House Committee should take the place of the Appeal Board or Board of Inquiry provided for public servants generally. I hold that the House Committee is the proper body to take up this work. Sena- 1 tor Givens has said that the House Committee has never done the work I propose to hand over to it. The honorable senator is speaking of things concerning which he has had no opportunity to obtain, an inside knowledge. I was a member of the first Library Committee of this Parliament. There are members still in the House of Representatives who were on that Committee. There is a member in this chamber at the present time who was on that Committee. I was a member of the second House Committee appointed, and I oan speak with authority of the work which was done by those two Committees. I can say that during the first and second Parliaments those Committees were consulted in every instance by the President or the Speaker, as the case might be, when amy staff matter came forward. I quite well remember Sir Richard Baker, the first President of the Senate, making a statement to the House Committee after the first Public Service Act was passed. He said that now that the Act was passed it was necessary to recognise it in some way or another. He said that he saw very great difficulty in the way of administering his Department and. at the same time applying the provisions of the Public Service Act. He further said that, consequently, he intended to exercise control through the House Committee. He said, “ This House Committee will take the place of the Appeal Board, or the Board of Inquiry, as the case may be, and we shall go on in the future as we have done in the past.” These are things on. which I can. speak from personal knowledge. I can say, further, that only very recently, when the matter was brought up in the Library, Mr. McDonald, a member of another place, practically substantiated what I am saying here to-day. Now, as to the statement that officers may bring any grievances they have before the Senate, let me say that that may be a very unpleasant task. Honorable senators will not desire to challenge the Presiding Officer in that way when they could have things put right before a Com- mittee. Time and again I have gone to tha President in connexion with staff matters of which I was informed to have grievances put right. Sometimes I succeeded, and sometimes I did not. I say that honorable senators should not have to do that sort of thing. The House Committee should be the body to deal with staff grievances. I do not think it right that an honorable’ senator should have to appeal to the President to do something out of compliment to him, for this or that officer. These things must be taken in hand by some one. If they are ignored the result will be that what ia every one’s business will become nobody’s business. Looked at from every point of view, it will he seen that there will be an advantage in giving the House Committee the ‘power I propose. I am surprised that politicians should repeat the dirty insinuations of the press with regard to the exercise of political influence’. I am surprised that a gentleman holding the dignified office of President of the Senate should be a party to passing on such wretched, untruthful suggestions about political influence. .
– Order ! I think ‘ the honorable senator will see that it is necessary for me to protect the dignity of the Presiding Officer of this Chamber. Therefore I must ask him to desist from making any further statements of that nature.
– I object, Mr. Chair.man. to any consideration being shown to me in Committee by virtue of my position as President, and which may not be given to any other honorable gentleman of this Chamber.
– Certain duties are “confided to me by virtue of my position as the second officer of this Chamber, and my conception, of the matter is that the occupant of the presidential chair is the custodian of the dignity and power of this Chamber, and should be protected.
– He is not President now.
– The President at all times is President. Such is my view of the position; and, notwithstanding what the President himself has said, I feel it my duty to protect the occupant of that office from any imputation which I think is improper. Therefore I must ask Senator de Largie not to make use of such expressions as “ untruthful “ in regard to statements that may emanate from the President. Honorable senators will see that, in regard to this matter, I am in the first place considering the dignity of this Chamber and not the individual occupant of the presidential chair.
– I think, Mr. Chairman, you misunderstood my use of the word. I was applying it to those accusations which are made by all and sundry, and I said I waa surprised that the President should be a party to passing on statements of that kind, which were untrue.
– I have no desire, by reason of my official position, to deprive any honorable senator of his right in a discussion in Committee. The statement made by Senator de Largie is not in accordance with facts. He said that I went behind the back of Parliament to make this recommendation with regard to the officers pf Parliament, and that I went behind the Speaker also. Either that is true or it is not true. The facts may be simply stated: It was within the knowledge of Mr. Speaker and myself that after a very full inquiry into the Public Service, the late Public Service Commissioner (Mr. McLachlan) recommended to the Government certain lines upon which the Public Service should be organized, and expressed the view that there was no reason why officers of the Parliament should be treated as distinct and separate from, other members of the Public Service. That came within the knowledge of Mr. Speaker and myself. We had a consultation about the matter, and deemed it our duty to report to the Government that the classification of officers in both Houses, of all parliamentary officers in fact, should be made by the Public Service Commissioner or the Board, and that the appropriate salaries belonging to their classification should be determined thus, but that Parliament should, as hitherto, retain the sole control over its employees. That is what I am now proposing. I am prepared to defend my action anywhere. Instead of going behind the back of Parliament we took Parliament into our confidence.
– Yes, months later, and after I had moved for the appointment of a Select Committee.
– I do not think that is so.
– I am sure of it.
– So far from trying to take away the control from Parliament, we protested against the Government bringing in the Bill in its present form, making the officers of Parliament subservient to the Public Service Commissioner or the Board.
– Why was not your memorandum addressed to the Parliament rather than to the Government?
– Because the Government, and not Parliament, was drafting the Bill, and in our memorandum to the Government we made representations as to what the Bill should contain. The Government ignored our representations, with the result that the Bill which this Committee has passed through its hands takes control of the parliamentary officers away from Parliament and places them under the Board.
– -You are ignoring Parliament in your present proposition.
– On the contrary, my amendment is intended to rectify what I consider is a mistake. All this discussion has arisen simply because I am trying to improve the Bill in the direction I have indicated, and restore to Parliament that control over its parliamentary officers which the Government propose to take away from Parliament. I may say that after our representations had been made, the Government consented to my moving these amendments in Committee. I have no desire to labour the question. I have nut the facts before the Committee, and I am content to leave the matter in honorable senators’ hands.
– I think the strongest argument for Senator de Largie’s amendment has been supplied by the President himself. He has stated that he has been called Upon to withstand political influence on twenty different occasions.
– Where are those twenty politicians that he speaks of?
– It is, I think, undignified that the debate should proceed on the lines it has taken. The President has intimated that he felt obliged to submit these amendments to the Bill. In my view, the House Committee should have greater powers of control. The President, of course, should, ex officio, be Chairman of the Committee ; and, although he may be charged with the obligation of performing certain duties, he should report in detail to the Committee at regular intervals.
– But if we provide that certain matters must be done by the House Committee, we shall exclude the President altogether.
– No President would take the responsibility under such conditions.
– The chairman of the Australian Mutual Provident Society discharges all the functions of the Board and reports to that body.
– That is because the regulations governing the society provide that he may do so.
– Well, that is the kind of administration we want in regard to our parliamentary officers. At present there is too, much duplication altogether. It cannot be said that there is contentment throughout’ this building, because there is not. That, at all events, is my experience. The President of to-morrow may be a man who would not treat men exactly as they should be treated and I contend that the House Committee should have authority and be held responsible. I can give honorable senators a case in point. I have had two or three letters, and several officers of the Parliament have seen me, asking why the House Committee fail to do certain things. So far as I am concerned, there was no political influence about that. The House Committee, in my opinion, is wrongly named. Its powers are too circumscribed, and should be extended. The President will admit that practically little interest is taken in the work submitted to the meetings of the House Committee.
– The honorable senator has taken a great deal of interest in it on several occasions.
– There may have been two or three occasions on which the business before the Committee was of interest to me. The President should be ex-officio Chairman of the House Committee, and that Committee should have greater powers in dealing with the officers of Parliament. If such a suggestion were adopted, what would be the result? Trivial matters, such as those which have been discussed in the Senate during the last few months, would not have arisen and the dignity of the Senate would not have been lowered. If the
House Committee had power to deal with the grievances of those employed in the parliamentary buildings, many of the difficulties which now prevail would be removed. If the Committee decide to give the President full authority we shall have to stand behind him..
– What is done in other Parliaments?
– This is the first Parliament of which I have been a mem ber.
SenatorFoster. - In some States the officers of Parliament are under the control of the Chief Secretary.
– That is so. I am merely endeavouring to show what I think the duties of such Committees should be.
– The most important Committee appointed by the Senate has never had anything to do. The Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications must be appointed, but it is only in exceptional circumstances that it is called upon to act.
– That is merely a
Bafety valve, and the services of such a Committee may be required at any time. I have suggested the direction in which I think an alteration could be made to advantage, but if the amendment is adopted I shall be prepared to bow to the will of the Committee. We must, however, remember that Presidents come and go, and I am not prepared to hand over such powers while we have a House Committee which should carry out the work.
– The amendment appears to be somewhat irrelevant to the Bill. It is the duty of Parliament to control its officers; but it must be remembered that parliamentary authority is quite distinct from Government authority. In this instance the power is in the hands of Parliament and not of the Government. Interference on the part of the Government in matters which should be controlled absolutely by Parliament would never be tolerated. I have endeavoured to ascertain the wishes of honorable senators in regard to the provisions of this measure, which apply to the officers of Parliament, and I am determined not to assist in handing over to the Government, or to any other authority, the powers and privileges which should be in the hands of Parliament. This House has a right to control its own business. Some honorable senators have said that they do not know the functions of the different Committees, and have suggested extended powers, but I do not think it is the duty of honorable senators to become members of an appeal board to consider the grievances of parliamentary employees.
– Why not?
– I do not think it desirable.
– They have not any other authority to whom to appeal.
– Is the Minister providing anything else?
– The real trouble seems to be that the members of the Committees do not know what their duties are. There are five Committees, excluding the two joint Committees, appointed by the Senate, and if the Government were to introduce a measure defining the powers of the Committees there would be justifiable opposition because that is the duty of the Parliament. I have no power as a Minister, apart from my right as a senator, to suggest alterations in the method of conducting the Library, but I naturally wish to exercise my rights as a senator in common with other honorable senators when the occasion arises. I do not think the amendment submitted is relevant to the Bill, and I am, therefore, not prepared to accept it. One of the last duties I would desire to perform would be that of fixing wages and hours. I am in favour of arbitration for the settlement of disputes but if a Minister were called upon to settlethem, his task would be an unenviable one.
– The Minister is not asked to do it. Such matters should be brought before the House Committee.
– Does not the Minister’s argument concerning the inability of a Minister to deal with such matters apply with equal force to the President ?
– No. It might bo said that the President has despotic powers.
– And he uses them despotically.
– The President is elected by a majority of the Senate, and if his actions at any time do not meet with the approval of honorable senators he can be removed from office. The business of Parliament is not entirely in the hands of Ministers. We are elected by the people to do what we consider right according to our intelligence and judgment.
– You often do things and advise Parliament afterwards.
– No. All the proceedings of Cabinet are reported to Parliament.
– I direct the Minister’s attention to the fact that there is not the slightest suggestion in the amendment of authority being exercised by the Government or by a Minister.
– Members of Parliament should not be members of a Committee controlling parliamentary employees.
– In the early stages of the debate on this amendment, I endeavoured to secure the call, and, after unsuccessful attempts, I was assured by one honorable senator that this was not any business of mine, as it concerned only Senator de Largie and the President. When Senator Givens said that at least twenty honorable senators had endeavoured to influence him, I interjected that that ought not to have been said, because the manner in which the statement was uttered would lead to the belief that Ministers or honorable senators had been endeavouring to use undue influence. I do not think that could be said of any honorable senator. I can quite understand that Senator Givens is unaccustomed to speaking on the floor of the Senate and may have said more than he intended, or unintentionally conveyed a wrong impression. But the point is clear, and, in my mind, no honorable senator has the right to make charges by imputation or innuendo. If an endeavour has been made to use undue influence, let the names be mentioned, and those responsible answer for themselves. At present, the charge rests upon every one, because we cannot divorce the utterances of Senator Givens from those of the President.
– Has the honorable senator “put a word in” for any one?
– No; but if I did I would be merely doing my duty as a citizen and as a representative of the people. If I knew of a good man, who could render satisfactory service as an officer of Parliament, I should have the right to inform the President that he was an excellent man for a certain position.
– At various times I have received written recommendationsconcerning applicants for employment. There is nothing improper about that, but when, in addition, an honorable senator endeavours to induce me to give undue consideration to an applicant for a position, it is highly improper.
– Who were the twenty ?
– Let us get away from that aspect of the question. When Senator Givens considers the position, and ‘reads his utterances in cold type, he will .find that his remarks have left a nasty impression in the minds of honorable senators. I am quite satisfied that I am putting the case fairly in saying that honorable senators will never go to the extent of endeavouring to use undue influence. One of my interjections was to this effect, “ I pitied the officers of this House under the despotic dictatorship cf the President, judging by my own experience.” I feel, however, .that in pursuing this course I am joining in the scandal which’ has been the means of lowering the dignity of the Senate. I also said that despotic powers had been used despotically by the President. If the President carried out his duties’ in the way his conscience dictates, he is guilty; but that is for others to judge. My conscience is clear on everything I have done. I shall give a few illustrations to show that 1 have been treated in a drastically despotic manner1. I have been subjected to indignities to which I would not ask anybody to submit. On one occasion I was called upon to withdraw a statement. Our Standing Orders provide that, before an honorable senator is removed, he should be given an opportunity to make a statement or to offer an apology. I rose a dozen times to make a statement, and I was ordered by the President to sit down. If I live to be a hundred years old, the indignity to which I was submitted by this gentleman will never be forgotten.
– I do not think the honorable senator should introduce that matter.
– I think I am perfectly in order in showing the type of man to whom it is proposed to give these powers. i The CHAIRMAN. - I am very loath at any time to impose any restriction upon debate, but the honorable senator is referring to something which took place in this chamber, and, he is criticising a decision of the Senate in connexion wilh its ordinary legislative proceedings. I can see no relation whatever between that matter and the question now under consideration. If the honorable senator will pardon me, may I delicately suggest that he abandon that argument for the time being, and reserve it for some other occasion ?
– Delicate suggestions are of no use at all. I am within my rights in referring to this matter.
– The honorable senator is not within his rights.
– I think the Chairman will see that we are discussing the question of whether this President shall have, and shall continue to exercise, certain powers over certain persons, and I am merely trying to show how this same President has exercised his powers in the past. If I can demonstrate that he is absolutely a tyrant in the exercise of his powers, I am presenting a good argument–
– I understand that the matter to which the honorable senator refers was ratified by the Senate, and, therefore, he is out of order in introducing a discussion of that matter in considering the present Bill.
– I am sorry I have not been permitted to carry my remarks sufficiently far to enable the Chairman to appreciate my argument. The President was supported, on the occasion to which I have referred, by the whole of the Senate, but my contention is that a moderate-minded gentleman in such circumstances would never have placed the Senate in the position of supporting him in doing an injustice.
– -That is a reflection! on the Senate. °
-If that is your ruling, Mr. Chairman, I shall leave that point, and pass on to another reason why the proposed powers should not be conferred on the President. On another occasion! I was speaking on the Electoral Bill. Nothing could be more important than the legislation under which members of Parliament are .returned. The
Bill in question was introduced after ten o’clock at night. I began to speak. The supper hour passed, and from a quarter to one until twenty minutes to eleven o’clock the next morning I was refused an opportunity of procuring necessary refreshment.
– I allowed the honorable senator to proceed sufficiently far to enable me clearly to determine what matter it was to which he was alluding. Beyond all doubt he is referring to a proceeding in this Senate, and to actions of the President in his presidential capacity, and he has introduced an ordinary parliamentary matter, which is foreign to the present Bill. I rule that any action taken by the President, or taken by the Senate in indorsement of any action, of the President, ia quite irrelevant to the subject-matter of the Bill before the Committee. I now ask the honorable senator to refrain from continuing along those lines.
– I ask you, Mr. Chairman, in justice to yourself, to hear the conclusion I am going to draw, lest by cutting me off in the middle of my remarks you may ‘be giving a wrong ruling.
– In connexion with this Bill the honorable senator must nob refer to a proceeding in the Senate, to which no objection was taken by the Senate at the time.
– I am not discussing the Bill, but a proposed new clause dealing with the question of whether this Senate, or the President, shall have certain powers. As soon as I have finished my reference to what the President has done, I shall try to show that the House Committeeis the most incompetent that has ever sat here. After standing for more than ten hours at a stretch at the table of the Senate, and after being subjected to the inhuman treatment which I received from the gentleman to whom it is proposed to give these powers-
– If the honorable senator persists in his remarks along those lines I shall have to take other steps. I rule thathe is out of order in now referring to those proceedings, which arc well within the cognisance of many honorable senators.
The following paper was presented:-
Public Service Act-Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1921,Nos.214 and 215.
Motion (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- Will the Minister (Senator Russell) be good enough to allow me to submit the motion standing in my name for the appointment of a Select Committee f
– I desire first to confer with the Leader of the Senate (Senator E. D. Millen), who has been busily engaged elsewhere throughout the day. I shall see him this evening, and ascertain if the honorable senator’s motion can be put through to-morrow. T understand that there is no objection to it. .
– I am very anxious to have the Committee appointed. I hope tha Government will realize the advantage of meeting on Monday morning in order to give us a chance to complete our business next week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 6.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 December 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1921/19211201_senate_8_98/>.