11th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands) took thechair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
DEATH OF THE HONORABLE JAMES HIERS McCOLL.
Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE (“Westtorn Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council) [3.1]. - (By leave.) - I move -
That the Senate expresses its sincere regret at the death of the late Honorable James Hiers McColl, a former member of the Senate, and places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service, and extends its profound sympathy to his widow and family in their sad bereavement.
There arc many honorable senators here to-day to whom ex-Senator McColl was a complete stranger, but those of us who came in contact with him and knew him well, were quick to appreciate his industry and his high sense of public duty. He was one of that older generation that commenced the hard battle of life at an early age. He went to work when he was thirteen years old, and, when quite a young man, began to take an interest in thepublic affairs of the colony of Victoria.
The deceased gentleman entered the Victorian Legislative Assembly in1886, and was a member of that chamber until 1901, in which year he was elected to the Commonwealth House of Representatives. He remained a member of that chamber until 1903. In 1906, and again in 1913, he was elected as a senator to represent the State of Victoria, and during 1913 and 1914 held office as Vice-President of theExecutive Council.
His vigorous and constant advocacy of irrigation and dry farming was an outstunding feature of his public career. In this respect, among others, he rendered great service to his country, the application of these methods having conferred great benefits not onlyupon Victoria, but also upon Australian production in general; Ex-Senator McColl lived to a great age, dying after a long and useful life. I think all honorable senators will join with me in this expression of our appreciation of the public service he rendered to Australia and of our regret at his demise.
SenatorNEEDHAM (Western Australia) [3.3]. - “When I first becamea member of the Senate I had the pleasure of meeting Senator McColl, and was closely associated with him for many years. I found him to be a man of strong character and sincerity of purpose. His life was long and useful, and he had the satisfaction of living to see the ultimate success of the irrigation scheme of which he was so strong an advocate in Victoria, and by which desert lands were converted into rich pastures and fruitful orchards. In public life the deceased gentleman, who was of a most lovable disposition, rendered yeoman service to the people, not only of Victoria, but also of this great Commonwealth of ours. Honorable senators sitting on your left, Mr. President, join with honorable senators on your right in expressing sincere and profound regret at the death of ex-Senator McColl, and in extending their sympathy to his widow and family in their bereavement.
Question resolved in theaffirmative, honorable senators standing in their places.
The following paper was presented : -
Quarantine Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1929, No. 17.
asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council, upon notice - 1.Is it a fact that the Government has provided £300,000 towards the cost of assisting migrants to come to Australia during the current financial year?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– ‘ The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The answers to the honorable senator’s questions Eire as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - ). Yes.
Bill (on motion by Senator McLachlan) read a third time.
Motion fob Disapproval
Debate resumed from 20th February (vida page 356), on motion by Senator Sir GEORGE Pearce -
That Determinations Nos. 33 to 36 (inclusive) of 1028 made by the Public Service Arbitrator under the Arbitration (Public Service) Act of 1020-1028 be disapproved.
– I listened very attentively yesterday to the speech of the Eight Honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Sir George Pearce) when he endeavoured to give reasons why determinations Nos. 33 to 36 of the Public Service Arbitrator should be disallowed. The Minister commenced by saying that he would give an historical survey of these determinations, but I think he should also have given us a survey of another situation which developed as the outcome of the notice of this motion, and which caused’ the Government and its supporters some anxiety and heart burnings. He did not tell the Senate that the motion we are now discussing was nearly flic means of bringing about the defeat of the Government, of which he” is such an eminent member, that a number of caucus meetings were held to determine exactly what action should be taken, or that some members of his party were hurriedly summoned to the party room to be disciplined for their absence from Parliament when this matter was the subject of discussion in another place. The whips were cracked and certain honorable members who were absent a week or two ago were summoned to attend. Travelling from the south with other members of the
Federal Parliament I was surprised, if not amazed, to see one honorable member who sometimes condescends to -attend this Parliament journeying to Canberra. I was asked who the gentleman was, and some one said, “That is “Willy Watt, the inventor.” I exclaimed “ inventor of what?” and was informed that he was the inventor of excuses for not attending school. The right honorable member appeared in another place yesterday and this motion is now before us. It was suggested that it should have been submitted in another place instead of in this branch of the legislature; but the Government has succeeded in keeping the battle ground in this chamber.
In moving the motion the Minister said that Parliament could not give to a body which it had created powers which were greater than those possessed by Parliament itself. The right honorable gentleman endeavoured to convince us that Parliament had never delegated its power to any other authority but I remind the Minister that in connexion, with industrial matters generally, it has delegated its authority and power to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, from the decisions of which there is no appeal to this Parliament. On a question of law an appeal from a decision of the Arbitration Court can be made to the High Court of Australia, but an award of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court cannot be brought before Parliament for its disallowance as is being done in this instance. When the Commonwealth Arbitration (Public Service) Bill was before us in 1911, we were informed that the principal reason for its introduction was to render it unnecessary for the time of the legislature to be occupied in discussing the wages and conditions of employment of its servants. On that occasion I believe Parliament was practically unanimous in its support of that contention. In 1920 the original measure of 1911 was amended, and a Public Service Arbitrator, in the person of Mr. Atlee Hunt, was appointed. Since his appointment the Arbitrator has made many awards in connexion with the Public Service of the Commonwealth; but only two of them
Lave been subjected to review by Parliament, his child endowment award, and r lie award before us to-day. Why has the Government on each occasion chosen the Senate rather than the House of Representatives to review the Arbitrator’s award? It is true that the act provides that a motion carried in either House of Parliament disapproving of an award nullifies it, but it is significant that on neither occasion when the Government lias seen fit to challenge an award has it chosen another place as the battle ground. That its majority there is not so overwhelming as it is in this chamber is the reason for the Government’s decision to bring the matter forward in the Senate. I- should be the last to suggest chat honorable senators sitting behind the Government are complacent, subservient or servile; but I submit that a question of this kind is a proper subject for discussion in the other branch of the national parliament.
The right honorable the Leader of the Senate, when referring yesterday to a postmaster who was transferred to Canberra from Coonamble, said that he is in a better position here than he was before his transfer. I shall show that that is not so. As postmaster at Coonamble his salary was £462 per annum, in addition to which he received a district allowance - not an allowance to meet the high cost of living - of £20, and a further £15 for acting as Common.monwealth Electoral Registrar. His total emoluments at Coonamble therefore amounted to £497 per annum., but because the Government provided him with quarters a deduction of £40 per annum was made from his salary, leaving his net remuneration £457 per annum. To use the right honorable gentleman’s words, this officer “was promoted to Canberra.” In his new position he received a salary of £516 per annum and an allowance of £24 per annum in lieu of rent. His rent and taxes at Canberra, however, amount to £127 Ss. per annum, so that his present net salary is £412 12s. per annum, or £44 8s. per annum less than he received at Coonamble. When, a further allowance payable to him is received he will still he in receipt of £23 3s. 3d. per annum less than he received before his “promotion.” Honorable senators will see that the present position of that postmaster is not quite so rosy as the right honorable gentleman would have us believe.
When introducing a bill for the appointment of a public service arbitrator in 1920 Senator Pearce said -
The Government thinks that as the conditions and nature of employment in the public service are different from private employment it is essential to establish a special tribunal for all matters in dispute.
Yesterday the right honorable gentleman referred to the powers Parliament had reserved to itself in these matters. It is true that Parliament has reserved to itself the right to review awards made by the arbitrator. The reason for doing so was given by the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) when he explained that in some instances awards of the court - he referred to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration - meant huge increases in wages. The right honorable gentleman had in mind an award given by the late Mr. Justice Higgins whereby increases in wages to seamen involved an annual increase of £100,000. lt is clear from the speech
Of Mr. Hughes and other utterances made at that time that the Parliament’s right to review awards was intended to be availed of only when huge sums of money were involved. That is not so in the case of the award which we are now considering, for the amount at stake is only about £.1,000.
– If this award is accepted, other Commonwealth employees will seek to be placed on the same basis.
– Now we are hearing a reason for the Government’s action. There is a principle at stake and I shall deal with it later. The Government was represented when this matter was before the Public Service Arbitrator and its representative failed to make good its claim. Now the Government seeks to ignore the decision of the Public Service Arbitrator, and fires its second shot. Let us consider what happens in similar proceedings conducted before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. There representatives of the employer and employees submit their case to the court and, when a decision is given hy it, the only appeal that can be made is on the question of jurisdiction, and it must be submitted to the High Court of Australia; but periodically, both parties to disputes apply to the Commonwealth Concilliation and’ Arbitration Court for interpretations and variations of awards. As the Government is dissatisfied with the determination of the Public Service Arbitrator in this instance it should have adopted the. more courageous course of instructing its representative to apply to that official for a variation of the award. Had that action been taken the representatives of the public service organization concerned would have had an opportunity to attend and give evidence in rebuttal of the claims submitted by the Government representative, and the matter would have resolved itself into a fair trial of strength. Instead, the Government seeks to constitute this Parliament a court of appeal before which the employees cannot be directly represented.
I claim that, on the grounds of common justice, the representatives of the various organizations concerned should have been empowered to appear at the bar of the chamber to give evidence before this singularly constituted court of ap>peal. The Government is making a cowardly attack on a vital principle of arbitration. It is, in cold blood, doing something which it condemns when done by anybody else. Not only is it evading the terms of an award made by a tribunal created by this Parliament, but it is seeking to defy and nullify the award in a manner that is not at all complimentary to the Public Service Arbitrator.
I shall deal with two aspects of the matter, the legal and the moral, taking first the legal aspect. When it became necessary to transfer the central administrations to the Federal Capital it was realized that the officers involved in the transfer would suffer inconvenience and monetary loss, and a regulation was passed by the Public Service Board granting concessions to those who were compulsorily transferred here. The board drew a line of demarcation between an officer compulsorily transferred to Canberra and one who came here voluntarily. I may very aptly describe the two categories as those of conscripts and volunteers. As was stated by the right honorable the Leader of the Senate yesterday, the conscripted officer was compelled either to .come to Canberra or to resign from the service. If he were married and rented a house he was granted an allowance of £39 a year plus 20 per cent, of the annual rental paid by him. If the volunteer officer were married and rented a house he received only 20 per cent, of the annual rental paid by him - and some of those officers have not yet received even, that concession. Besides having to pay high rentals, officers transferred to Canberra also have to pay taxes, whether uley rent or buy a house. That was clearly instanced in the case of a postmaster who was transferred from Coonamble to Canberra. So that these men suffer a double disability. I understand, further, that the Federal Capital Commissioner has issued an edict that unless officers pay their rates and taxes they will be subject to a fine. I think that honorable senators will’ agree with me that the position is an anomalous and unjust one, and that it is but fair that uniform treatment should be meted out to all transferred to Canberra,’ whether conscripts or volunteers.
But that does not get away from the important principle that is involved in the matter before us. The officers concerned submitted their case to a special tribunal, at which neither the Government nor its representative made any objection to the award.
– Oh, yes, they did.
– I am credibly informed that when the Public Service Arbitrator gave his decision neither the officer representing the Government nor the Public Service Board raised any objection.
– The plaint was opposed.
– But the jurisdiction was not contested.
– The honorable senator stated that there was no objection to the award, which is quite a different matter. Nobody questioned the jurisdiction of the Public Service Arbitrator.
– That official, despite the arguments presented by the representative of the Government, granted the claimants an allowance of £34 a year, plus 17 per cent. of the annual rental paid, as against an allowance of £39, and 20 per cent. of the rent, for which they asked. That is what we are asked to disallow.
Let me now deal with the moral aspect of the situation. Recently we have heard, a good deal about the action of an industrial organization outside in declining to obey an award of the court. We have been told by Ministers of the Grown that the clear duty of the men concerned is to obey the award of the Arbitration Court. Why does not this Government practise what it preaches?
– The men have been told to obey the law.
– They have been told that they must obey the award of the Arbitration Court. Since Senator Ogden has seen fit to interject, I propose before I resume my seat, to quote briefly from a speech made by the honorable senator not so long ago during the debate on the Government’s proposal that the Senate should disallow the child endowment award. I intend, to ask him if he holds the same opinion to-day.
– I expected that the honorable senator would do that.
– In his policy speech the Prime Minister said -
The Government, during the last three years has consistently stood for the maintenance of the authority of the Arbitration Court and has insisted that its award should be obeyed.
The right honorable gentleman, speaking on the subject again on the 12th of this month, said -
If one side refused to accept the conditions laid down by the Arbitration. Court, the system would come into such public contempt that its obliteration would -become necessary. He thought it would be tragic if they had to give up the arbitration system.
The Government’s action in moving to disallow these determinations by the Public Service Arbitrator is conclusive evidence that instead of doing something to preserve arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes it is prepared to go a long way to . destroy the system. The Leader of the Senate in a speech a few days ago on the same subject said that the present violations of the arbitration awards were bringing the Arbitration Court into contempt, and would cause such a revulsion of public feeling that there would be a demand for its repeal. I wonder if behind these statements of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Senate there is a desire on the part of the Government for the repeal of the arbitration system? At least one employers’ organization has already declared its opposition to the continuance of this method for the settlement of industrial disputes.
– So have trade union organizations.
SenatorNEEDHAM. - We on this side stand for the system of arbitration.
– What about the Australasian Council of Trade Unions?
– We stand for arbitration and we deplore the action of the Government in this matter. We say that it is not calculated to encourage support in industrial quarters for the continuance of the system.
Let me now refer honorable senators to an extract from the speech of theRight Honorable W. M. Hughes when the Arbitration (Public Service) Bill was under discussion in another place. On that occasion Mr. Hughes said -
When Mr. Justice Higgins made an award in the Broken Hill case he prescribed a Tate of wage which was considered, by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, I think, to be such as could not be paid, having regard to the price which their ore was then fetching, and the company, therefore, declined to work the mine, and did not work it for some time. Clearly any employer has that option. If he carries on his enterprise, he must pay the rates fixed by the court, but he need not carry it on.
Mr. Hughes laid it down that it was open to an employer to close down his works and thus decline to obey the award of the court.
– Many establishments were closed down.
SenatorNEEDHAM.- Senator Kingsmill knows very well that the Government cannot cease its activities. It is not justified in objecting to this particular award, because, after all, only about £1,000 is at stake. The logical deduction from the remarks of Mr. Hughes is that if an employer, being dissatisfied with an award, has the option of closing his works - Senator Kingsmill, by way of interjection just now, said that many works were closed down - clearly it is the right of every employee to refuse to work if, in his opinion, the rate of wage fixed by an award is not enough for him a,nd hia dependents to live upon in reasonable comfort. But, as we all know, if an employee dares to disobey an award because the wage fixed may not be sufficient or because the hours of work are too long, he is at once described as a breaker of the law. Apparently an employer may do what an employee is not permitted to do, either in the Public Service or outside.
I turn now to the remarks made by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), who is largely responsible for the present perverted Arbitration Act, as amended recently. This law, as amended, is, I submit, the real cause of our present industrial troubles, because it takes control of industrial organizations out of the hands of trade unionists and places it in the hands of the court. Mr. Latham said -
Apart altogether from the provisions of the law, it is obvious that any party which appeals to the jurisdiction of the court by filing a plaint or which submits to the jurisdiction of the court by appearing as the respondent to a plaint is in honour bound to carry out the award made by the court…..
I am sure you admit that it is impossible to expect that awards of the court can always satisfy both sides. It is equally impossible and unreasonable to expect that all awards will conform to principles laid down by one side which upholds them. Arbitration is possible only upon the basis that both sides observe the awards of the court in all particulars.
I have shown that the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Senate, and Mr. Latham are agreed that all parties that come before the court, either as claimants or respondents, are in honour bound to obey the award or determination made by it. The Government, through its representative, was a party to the plaint on behalf of the postal workers and other public servants concerned, and I repeat that, if it was not satisfied with the determinations it had its remedy. It could have appealed to the Public Service Arbitrator to re-open the case.
– Under the act the only appeal permitted is to either House of Parliament. The Government is now appealing to the Senate to disallow the determinations.
– The course indicated by the Leader of the Senate is an appeal from Caesar unto Caesar.
– No; it is an appeal from the Arbitrator to Parliament.
– There is nothing in the act that would have prevented the Government from having the case reopened. The Public Service Arbitrator could have been asked to vary his award on the ground that it was against a Commonwealth law and regulation and was wrong. The members of the organization affected would then have had an opportunity to bring forward evidence to rebut the statements made. In a very airy fashion Senator Pearce said yesterday, “ We are the representatives of the people.” That is true, but when technical evidence is required, we should have experts here to advise us, just as the Minister always has experts available to advise him. At any rate it is wrong for this Parliament to be created a court of industrial appeal where the men affected are not given an opportunity to rebut any statements made against them.
– The honorable member’s party committed, the wrong, if it be a wrong, by passing this legislation.
– We agreed to this system of arbitration, but, as I said in my earlier remarks, Parliament was not desirous of becoming an industrial tribunal.
– It was the honorable member’s party which gave this Parliament power to review the determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator.
– That is quitetrue, but what I think was in the minds of members of Parliament at the timewas that before taking action in Parliament other means should be employed tocontest the determinations of the PublicService Arbitrator. I ask SenatorGreene now, if it would not be better to submit to the arbitrator an application for a variation of his determinations,. thus enabling expert evidence to be given rather than bring the matter forward here and not give the men affected an opportunity to speak. It was in 1927 that a determination of the Public Service Arbitrator was first challenged in this Parliament and among the Ministers today is Senator Ogden who, at that time, as a private member, strongly denounced the Government’s proposal. During the debate on the motion submitted by the Government for the disallowance of the Public Service Arbitrator’s award relating to child endowment, Senator Ogden said that he was much concerned about the reintroduction of political influence in the public service, and he made an appeal to his present leader whom he was then opposing. He then said ,that he would not be a member of any party, that the Senate was not a party chamber, and’ that he would not join in any caucus or party meeting ; but he has since managed to get into the Nationalist party, and not only attends the Nationalist party caucus but is also a member of the Nationalist Ministry. In 1927 he said -
What attitude would the Minister take up if another member of this chamber submitted a motion to disallow an award of the Public Service Arbitrator because the amount fixed was in his opinion insufficient? Obviously he would at once charge the mover of the motion with an attempt to break down the principle of arbitration. Is not the attitude of the Government to-day contrary to its action a few months ago, when it asked the people to endorse the principle of an all-powerful and dominant arbitration .court which should be above Parliament? [ quote the following from page 455, volume 115 of Hansard -
– The awards of the Public Service Arbitrator make provision for a payment for each child, and this is spoken of as “ child endowment.’ The Government asks the Senate to carry this motion pending the consideration of the matter by the Commonwealth and State Governments.
– The Government is asking Parliament to become a wage-fixing body.
There is no difference between the motion submitted by the Government for disapproval of the determination of the Arbitrator in regard to child endowment and the motion we are now considering for the disapproval of the determinations of the Arbitrator relating to the allowance to be paid to certain Commonwealth officers in Canberra. The same prin ciple is at stake in both. In the words of Senator Ogden, this Parliament is asked to become a wage-fixing tribunal. In 1927 the honorable senator voted against the Government.
– I have learned a few things since then.
– The honorable senator dare not vote against the Government to-day. He has two choices. He can vote for the motion and remain in the Ministry, or vote against it and retire from the Cabinet. But as he has just got into the “ tart shop “ he would not care to leave the sweets so soon. Further on in the debate of 3927 he repeated that Parliament was asked to become a wage-fixing tribunal. He said -
To-day the Government is, in effect, asking Parliament to fix wages. The Ministry should be consistent.
I wonder if the honorable senator will be consistent on this occasion. If he is, it will be something new for him. He went on to say -
By this motion the Government, so it appears to mo at all events, is attempting to repudiate an award of an authority constituted by this Parliament. I object to that. I do not wish to see the vicious principle of political influence re-introduced into the Public Service, I have always deprecated it. and I hope that we shall have no further evidence of it in this chamber.
I am waiting to see how he will act upon this occasion. I leave the matter to his conscience. When the late Senator Givens interjected -
Parliament reserves the right to disapprove any determination of the court.’
Senator Ogden said ;
That, I think, is a very wrong principle.
Scarcely eighteen months have elapsed since the honorable senator so strongly expressed the view that to ask Parliament to exercise its right to disapprove of a determination of the Public Service Arbitrator was a vicious and wrong principle. But circumstances alter cases. The honorable senator is now bound by something higher than a mere party caucus. I presume he is bound by the oath he has taken as a member of the Executive Council. Of course, he may abide by his former principles and resign from the Ministry. I would be the last man in the world to suggest that such a catastrophe should occur to Australia.
I have referred to the legal and moral aspect of this question and to the principle at stake. The Government has put up a very poor defence of its attitude on this question. I have heard the right honorable the Leader of the Senate on other occasions put up a far better case than he put up yesterday for the disapproval of these determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator. His speech reminded me very much of Shakespeare’s words -
The lady doth protest too much,methinks.
We have had the spectacle of the Government hoisting the white flag of truce, pending, not the decision of a trades hall or outside combination, but the assembling of a school at which the schoolmaster in the person of the Prime Minister would castigate certain absentees from their parliamentary duties. The school having duly assembled, this motion has now been moved. The Government did not have the moral courage to bring it forward in another branch of the legislature, where it would have met with a different fate from that which it is anticipated it will meet here. Honorable senators of the Opposition will vote against the motion, because the Government has other opportunities to contest the determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator on legal and moral grounds, while giving the men affected a chance to defend their position. I sincerely hope that honorable senators will see the great injustice that is proposed to be done to the members of certain organizations.
– I regret that in the opinion of Senator Needham a poor defence has been put up by the Government for the action it has taken, but as a matter of fact, the remarks to which the honorable senator has just given voice, do not call for a better defence. I cannot yet make out whether the honorable senator is objecting to the motion on legal or moral grounds. If on legal grounds, I do not think he has, so to speak, a leg to stand on ; if on moral grounds, the reasons he has endeavoured to bring to his aid do not seem to provide him with any better pretext for the action he has taken. He is slightly in error in attributing the presence of this motion on our notice paper to certain happenings in another place. As a matter of fact notice of this motion was on the notice paper of the Senate before any action was taken in. another place. Indeed, the action taken in another place was due to the presence of the notice of this motion on the Senate business paper. The reason for bringing it forward in the Senate is fairly obvious. This chamber is not as fully occupied in wasting time as is another place, and the fact that it is only necessary to secure the assent of one branch of the legislature to a motion for the disallowance of a determination by the Public Service Arbitrator is an admirable and acceptable explanation for the submission of the motion in the Senate. Honorable senators may recall the fact that it was the predecessors of the present champions of the Labour party who introduced the Arbitration (Public Service) Act: It was a Labour Government which expressly provided in this way that Parliament should have the right to disallow any award or determination made by the Public Service Arbitrator which was in contravention of any Commonwealth law or regulation. I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) was then a member of this Parliament.
– I was.
– Then why did not the honorable senator protest at the time? He should have been able to forsee that his party would not always be in power, and that “these oppressors of the poor,” as he terms us, might come into office and, from his point of view, misuse this power. Apparently, the Leader of the Opposition was silent. If he was not his protest appears to have had no effect. The Eight Honorable Member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who introduced the legislation under which these determinations were made, gave cogent reasons for the provision to which the Leader of the Opposition now so strongly objects. It was thought at the time that it would be possible for private employers to go out of business when an award was made against them and many instances of that kind are occurring and will occur if the present trend of affairs continues. What would happen if Parliament had not this opportunity to disallow such determinations? Let me remind the Leader of the Opposition of what happened in South Australia a little while ago. When an award was given in connexion with the railway service, the Premier of that State said - “Well, we have to go on; the railways have to be run. Our circumstances are such that only a certain amount can be spent upon the railways and if it will not go as far under the higher rates, the only course open to us is to reduce the efficiency of the railway service.”
– Did the Premier of South Australia make that statement?
– Yes, I read it in the newspapers.
– The Commonwealth Government went out of the shipping business.
– Yes ; it was forced out. It could not get value for the money it was expending, and it had to sell its ships. When the Labour Governnent was in office it very wisely recognized that some determinations in relation to the public service might be unsuitable and it therefore provided that they should be regarded only as provisional awards until Parliament had had mi opportunity to affirm or deny them. The opportunity is now being taken and I have no doubt what the result will be. The word “repudiation” has been used in this debate. This is not an act of repudiation on the part of the Government. It is merely a refusal to accept a determination as an award of the Arbitrator until Parliament has approved of it. Such determinations are purely provisional and if Parliament decides to disallow them they become null and void. A most peculiar position has been revealed, at all events to me, by the present situation. If these determinations were allowed to go through without being subject to the approval of Parliament, we should have, in the Public Service Arbitrator - a gentleman for whom, I may say, I have every respect, and whom I have known for many years - not only an arbitrator, but a legislator. He would have in his hands the power to legislate. He might amend existing legislation if his determinations in cer tain cases were allowed to become operative without first receiving the approval of Parliament.
– Only in respect to those matters that come within his jurisdiction.
– Exactly ; but it is a very important jurisdiction. He may make determinations contrary to an existing Commonwealth law or regulation, but these must be laid before Parliament. If they had not to come before Parliament for approval he would be, not only an arbitrator, but a legislator. If the Parliament did not retain thy power to disallow such determinations, the position would be most unsatisfactory. When this gentleman, who has done his work creditably and well, concludes his term of service - which I think will be within the next few months, as he was only reappointed last September for another year - I trust that some other expedient will be adopted to overcome difficulties of this sort which may arise.
This reveals the unnecessary multiplicity of bodies controlling the Public Service. If public servants are aggrieved by any decision of the Public Service Board, they have the right of appeal to an appeal board. That, surely, is sufficient to meet a case of this kind. I prefer it to the somewhat cumbersome machinery that is- now employed, and which has been objected to by honorable senators opposite, who, I suppose, feel that they are in duty bound to oppose any action taken by the Government. In my opinion, this action of the Government is in the best interests of the State. If it were not taken the financial result would be much more serious than the Leader of the Opposition suggests. We have not heard how serious it would be; but it is easy to believe, from the anomalies mentioned by the Minister, that it would involve many scores of thousands of pounds. In order to remove these anomalies, it would be necessary to provide for increases to some public servants and to make reductions in the case of others. That would lead to endless trouble and great expense, and in the end would possibly be ineffective. For these reasons I believe the Government is following the only course open to it in the interest of the State and the finances of the Commonwealth. I intend to support the motion for the disallowance of the determinations.
– I do not feel disposed to record a silent vote on this question. It is important, not so much because of the number of persons who will be affected if the Senate decides to disallow these determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator, but because of the principle involved in the action which the Leader of the Government invites us to take. Up to the present there have been two speeches from the Ministerial side and in both it has been urged with much emphasis that the party to which I have the honour to belong was responsible, when in office, for the introduction of the legislation in which Parliament retains the power to disallow determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator. That is quite true. Possibly the action of the Government of the day was necessary and in certain circumstances, probably, even the use of this right of appeal could be sustained. What we have to consider, however, is not the fact that Parliament has been created an appellate tribunal in certain matters, but rather the merits of the case upon which an appeal to this tribunal is made. That is a point upon which the Leader of the Government in the Senate has not satisfied me and one with which Senator Kingsmill has not endeavoured to deal. Senator Chapman, by interjection, supported Senator Kingsmill when he urged that although the amount involved in this instance might not be £1,000 per annum, we had to bear in mind that if the determinations which we are now asked to disallow became operative, other awards might be given which would involve the Commonwealth in a considerably greater expenditure. I ask honorable senators who subscribe to that view what becomes of the principle of arbitration. Either we believe or do not believe in the principle. If we believe in it, then it is obviously our duty to accept the awards of the Arbitrator subject to the right of appeal which is available in certain circumstances. The Government would have done better had it submitted this motion in another branch of the legislature. The House of Representatives is rightly styled the people’s House and is more representative of the democratic opinion of the Commonwealth than is this chamber.
– Why so ?
– Because itrepresents as nearly as is consistent with the requirement as to the minimum representation to be granted to certain States, an equal distribution of the voting strength of the Commonwealth. This chamber, on the other hand, is a States House. The intention of the framers of the Constitution was that it should bc the custodian of the rights of the States, and for that reason equal representation was given to each State irrespective of the distribution of population.
The second reason why this motion, should have been submitted in another place is that the members of that branch of the legislature were before their constituents in November last, and that, however the decision of the people at the recent election was arrived at, we must take it that they represent public opinion as then expressed. It is true that this chamber also represents the will of the people as recently expressed, but not to the same extent. However, the Government has decided that this proposal shall be dealt with in this chamber, and it is for us to discuss it on its merits. What are its merits? In explaining why, in his opinion, the Senate should disallow these determinations, the Leader of the Government attempted to show that there is a material difference between, a man compulsorily transferred to Canberra because of the removal of the Seat of ‘Government and a man transferred here by the head of his department after having failed to exercise his conditional option to refuse the transfer. 1 have had some experience, as a member of the House of Assembly in South Australia, of the methods and procedure governing the relations of public servants to their departments. While the public servant may have some option, either to accept or reject a transfer, there are circumstances associated with most transfers which are tantamount to compulsion. I believe that in that section of the Commonwealth Public Service affected by the determinations we are now asked to disallow, similar conditions exist. Senator Kingsmill referred to the action of the Premier of South Australia, who, in order to conform to an award of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, sacrificed the efficiency of the railway service of that. State. When a policy of retrenchment is being put into operation, the man who has protested against transfers, appealed against the decisions of his superior officers, and shown that he has a backbone and intends to stand up for his rights, is dismissed before his fellow worker who has accepted the decisions of his superiors without cavil.
– The services of permanent officials are seldom dispensed with.
– I can give many instances from my personal knowledge of men, particularly in the South Australian railway service, who have had either to break up their homes and transfer, in some instances hundreds of miles, or run the risk of being dismissed from the service. I have in mind a railway employee at Murray Bridge, who, because the railway department had vacant houses at the adjoining town of Tailem Bend, was asked to transfer to the latter town, notwithstanding that some years previously, when a scheme of railway re-organization was proposed, a definite promise was given to him and other railway employees similarly situated, that they would be allowed to continue to occupy their homes although members of the Tailem Bend division. When he. refused to transfer to Tailem Bend, he was instructed to proceed to Peterborough, another railway centre about 230 miles from his home town. Refusing to accept that transfer, he was dismissed from the service.
– That was not the postal service.
– That happened to an employee of the South Australian Railways Department. I mention it to show that employees have little or no option when asked by the heads of their departments to accept transfers to other. places. In some branches of the postal service considerable retrenchmenthas taken place during the last two years.
Some of the men who have been transferred to Canberra were not prepared to offer a vigorous protest for fear of the effect it might have on their future service. The Government has admitted its obligation to make some allowance to those ‘public Servants who were compulsorily transferred to Canberra. It has provided by regulation for a. cost of living allowance, which has be,en explained this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham), and also certain rental concessions. I have received a communication from the secretary of one of the organizations whose members are affected by these regulations, in which he sets out the position of one man who will be affected by the decision of the Senate in the matter now before us. The letter proves conclusively that employees other than those compulsorily transferred will be at a disadvantage if the Senate disapproves of the determinations. The man to whom reference is made in the letter was transferred to Canberra in 1927. Before his transfer he made inquiries as to the cost of living, rentals of houses, and other matters at Canberra, and was informed of the rentals then charged, and also that, there was a possibility of the cost of living allowance being extended to employees other than those compulsorily transferred. On arrival at the Federal Capital in June, 3927, he boarded at the Printers’ Quarters, as for domestic reasons he did not desire to acquire a house until towards the end of the year. Later, in reply to inquiries, he was informed that the rental of a four-roomed weatherboard cottage was then 22s. 6d. per week, for a five-roomed weatherboard cottage it was 24s. 6d. per week, and for a four-roomed brick residence, 25s. 6d. per week. In October, 1927, he asked that a four-roomed weatherboard cottage be made available to him in November. The Federal Capital Commission replied that a cottage of that description could be obtained at a rental of 35s. per week, in addition to rates, the amount of which he would be notified later. When he asked the reason for the rental charges being so much higher than had been quoted to him in the previous June, and which certain other officers of his department were then paying, he was informed that all public servants then being transferred to Canberra were receiving a living allowance and that the Federal Capital Commission was increasing ail rental charges. He pointed out to the Commission- that he received no such allowance, and should, therefore, be provided with n house at a reduced rental, but was told that that was a matter between himself and his department. The Commission also informed him that the rentals would be increased in the near future. This, I believe, has been done. Senator Pearce said yesterday that the question of rents ought not to be considered, in connexion with this motion. The secretary of one of the organizations concerned has informed me that although it is generally understood that all public servants covered by this regulation occupying commission houses in Canberra are to receive a 20 per cent, rental allowance, no such allowance has yet been made in the case of these employees, and that although two applications have been made to the Public Service Board in the matter, no decision has yet been reached. If it is intended that this allowance should be granted, why has nothing been done? Is the delay due to the desire of the Public Service Board to still further reduce the living conditions of these public servants? Are we to understand that if these determinations are not disallowed by the Senate, the Public Service Board might pass a new regulation depriving certain employees of the rent concession they have been led to believe they will receive? The Leader of the Government yesterday sought to prove that the cost of living at Canberra was approximately the same, and in some respects lower than it is in many other towns where servants of the Commonwealth have to work under similar conditions. I take it that that point was not overlooked when the matter was before the Arbitrator. That was the tribunal where it should have been brought forward. If, however, the Senate is to sit as a Court of Appeal in connexion with this award we should have before us the case of the employees as well as that of the employers’. I wonder whether the figures quoted by the right honorable the Leader of the
Senate were those upon which the Public Service Arbitrator came to his decision, because a very significant statement is contained in the explanation of that official as to the reasons which caused him to grant the claim. He states -
In the course of the hearing certain figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician were put in evidence. In my consideration of the matter I found that I needed further information from the Statistician, which was obtained. On the 4th September, I re-opened the case in Melbourne to give the parties an opportunity of commenting on this additional information if they so desired, but they did not consider it necessary to address me fur- ther
The Public Service Arbitrator, after the case had been practically concluded, found that certain additional figures were required. He obtained those figures and, after due consideration, made his award. We are to infer from his statement that he was influenced by those figures. I contend that, as its representatives were asked to attend to contest the figures, if they so desired, before the award was made, it was the duty of the Government to do that rather than to bring the matter into this chamber, where only one side of the case can be put.
The right honorable the Leader of the Senate referred to the difficulty which, he said, would arise in other districts if the award were accepted ; hut, in my opinion, as cases arise, they should be considered on their merits, if necessary, by the Public Service Arbitrator. If it is apparent to that official, after all the facta have been considered, that, because. of the existence of exceptional district conditions, sections of the Public Service are entitled to special consideration, they should receive such consideration or, in the alternative, we should revert to the payment of a flat rate, and discontinue district allowances entirely. Either the principle of allowances is right, or it is wrong, and I suggest that the Government considers the principle so far wrong that it is prepared to abolish the payment of all district allowances and similar concessions. On inquiry, one finds that there are many towns, even in New South Wales, where district allowances are paid to public servants. The various towns are divided into grades. The first of these grades embraces nineteen towns, in which married public servants receive a district allowance of £20, and single public servants an allowance of £10. Grade two covers twenty-four towns, where the respective payments are £30 and £15, while in grade three, in which there are seven towns, the payments are £40 to a married, and £20 to a single public servant. All that the. Public Service Arbitrator now seeks to do is to give to a small section of the same Public Service a district allowance to put them substantially on an equality with other public servants who have been compulsorily transferred to Canberra.
There is another matter to consider, and it has a very important bearing on the case. The right honorable the Leader of the Senate referred to the cost of living index numbers of various towns, and sought to prove that the men affected by these determinations would not be unduly prejudiced, if the allowances were not paid, when compared with public servants in other parts of Australia. I find that there is in existence in the Federal Capital Territory a special basic wage of £5 per week, which was gazetted on the Sth January of this year. That basic wage is approximately 16s. higher than that which obtains generally, and was obviously granted to cover the higher cost of living in this city. Yet the public servants affected by the determinations under discussion have their wages fixed upon the general Australian basic wage, which is not that which exists in Canberra, but one arrived at after a consideration of the weighted averages of the six capital cities of the Commonwealth and excluding Canberra. If the Senate accepts the advice of the Government, and disallows these determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator, men. who have given years of loyal anc! competent service in their departments will be compelled to accept a lower scale of remuneration than is given to temporary employees who are doing odd jobs about Canberra.
I am aware that, as a new member of the Senate, my interpretation of local conditions may not be correct, and I am open to correction, but I believe that another anomaly exists and needs ratification. Under regulation 976, a single man who is living in one of the Federal Capital Commission hostels is given a concession of 25 per cent of his board and lodging, provided that his allowance does not exceed £39 per annum, and I understand that allowance is paid a single man whether compulsorily or voluntarily transferred to Canberra. If these determinations are disallowed, that concession to single men will still continue, to the obvious disadvantage of married men affected by the determinations. Such an anomaly should be rectified. Obviously, married men are more entitled to special consideration than are single men, particularly in a city such as Canberra, where the cost of living is very high.
– The concession to single men living in hostels is the equivalent to the rental allowance to married men. The single man does not pay rent, so he receives a concession in the form of reduced board and lodging.
– I accept the statement of the right honorable the Leader of the Senate ; but I have already indicated that although married men have been led to believe that they will receive the rental concession, it has not yet been paid to them, whereas single men are enjoying this concession, and will continue to do so whether the determinations are disallowed or not. An inquiry would no doubt, reveal the fact that the single man is on a much better basis than the married man living in Canberra, even though the latter receives a rental concession.
There are many other reasons why we should not disallow these determinations. Besides the ‘arguments that I have advanced upon the merits of the case, there remains the vital question, are we to stand by the principle- of arbitration 1 The Leader of the Senate, when introducing an amendment of the Arbitration Public Service Act in 1920 said -
The Government thinks that as the conditions and nature of employment in the Public Service are different from private employment it is essential to establish a special tribunal for all matters in dispute.
I contend that this chamber, having heard only one side of the case, should not disallow these determinations, but should adopt the view expressed by Senator Pearce in 1920, that arbitration provides the only fair means of settling the conditions of employment and allowances.
– There are many angles from which this subject may he viewed. I desire honorable senators to regard it from the legal standpoint, and to determine whether what the Government is asking us to do is consistent with what we know to be a glorious heritage, the British law. Section 22 of the Arbitration Public Service Act, which was referred to by Senator Sir George Pearce yesterday, confers upon the Arbitrator two distinct jurisdictions: first, the power to make determinations which do not conflict with or contravene any Commonwealth law or regulation, and, secondly, the power to make others which do so conflict, subject to the condition that his determinations shall be laid before the Parliament. As I listened to the speeches of honorable senators supporting the Government I arrived at the conclusion that in their view the Public Service Arbitrator had no right to make a determination if it conflicted with any law or regulation of the Commonwealth. I remind them first of all that the act specifically confers upon him jurisdiction to make determinations on matters which do 1]ot conflict with any Commonwealth law or regulation. Parliament is not called upon to deal with determinations which do not conflict with a Commonwealth law or regulation; but where they do so conflict, they must be laid before both Houses, and either House may by resolution disallow them. The procedure is set out in the act.
I invite honorable senators to consider carefully the course to be followed on this occasion, and to lay down principles to govern our future action. The allowance or disallowance of this class of determination must be based upon some clearly defined principle. A perusal of the act makes it obvious that Parliament intended that this authority should be exercised with discretion. It should not be exercised arbitrarily at the instigation of a Government that suggests that if a determination that conflicted with any regulation or law of the Commonwealth were allowed it would be possible for Commonwealth employees in some distant portion of New South Wales to claim the same allowance that would be paid to them if they were compulsorily transferred to the Federal Capital Territory. We should not disallow the determinations on the ground suggested by one honorable senator: that nobody has compelled the postal workers concerned to come to Canberra. I suggest that public servants are in much the same position as members of Parliament. Nobody has compelled us to come here, but I ‘have often heard members of Parliament refer to Canberra in language far less parliamentary than profane, and I presume that we would not raise very serious objection if some other and more accessible capital city were suddenly to develop the idea that it would like to acquire us. The same line of reasoning may be applied to public servants who, in the course of their duties, are transferred to Canberra. The question of voluntary or compulsory transfer should not be a matter for consideration. The issue which we have to decide now is, should determinations made by an admittedly constitutional authority be disallowed, and, if so, upon what ground? It is necessary that we should agree upon the principle so that our action on this occasion may be a guide to the Public Service Arbitrator in future. The decision of the Senate upon this motion will be far-reaching in its effect. Accordingly this chamber should act with considered discretion. It should not use its authority arbitrarily. We should not lend ourselves to the suggestion that the Government was “ tossing “ public servants with a double-headed penny. The tribunal in question was constituted by Parliament for a definite purpose, and its determinations should be disallowed only in exceptional circumstances. It is definitely laid down in the act that in proper circumstances Parliament may disallow certain determinations. This duty is imposed upon honorable senators. In this matter we stand as the guardians of the interests of the people. We represent the community, and we should take action where such action is necessary in the public interest to disallow determinations of the Arbitrator. But what test is it possible to apply to the motion now before the Senate? The Leader of the Senate, in the course of his speech yesterday, pointed out that another tribunal, the Public Service
Board, has an indisputable right to fis allowances to be paid to public servants, and that in addition there is another authority, the Public Service Arbitrator, whose right to prescribe allowances to public servants is conditional. Should we not ask ourselves which is the more competent tribunal to fix the allowances in question, and what advice has been given by these respective tribunals ? The Leader of the Senate has told us that the claim of the postal workers was fully considered by the Public Service Arbitrator. Since the Senate is now being asked to disallow his determinations we are entitled to know on what grounds. After having gone to the trouble and expense of hearing the claims, the Public Service Arbitrator must be in a position to give certain advice. The Senate at the moment is not in a position to say whether or not the Arbitrator’s determinations are either anomalous or unjust, and therefore whether or not they should be approved. It is not sufficient for the Leader of the Senate to say that because the determinations conflict with some law or regulation of the Commonwealth, they should be disallowed, because the act specifically provides that the arbitrator may make such determinations and that Parliament shall have the right to allow or disallow them.
– That is the power which the Senate proposes now to exercise.
– I am glad that honorable senators supporting the Government agree with me up to this point. I say without hesitation that, if the circumstances warrant it, then whatever may be the consequences, Parliament should not hesitate to disallow a determination of the Public Service Arbitrator. I admit that in the absence of any guiding principles, it is extremely difficult for the Senate, in the exercise of its quasi judicial functions, to say whether these determinations should be disallowed. I appeal therefore to the Leader of the Senate to allow the debate on this motion to be adjourned, and to place on the cable the whole of the evidence given before the Public Service Arbitrator so that honorable senators may be so informed as to be able to properly decide the issue. Even though the motion before us is submitted by the Government, I am always hopeful that in a democratic country like Australia we can be sure of a fair deal to all the parties concerned in a matter like this. My desire is to do the right thing by the public servants and the people of this country. I do not wish to shirk my responsibilities. But the Arbitration Public Service Act imposes upon me, in common with honorable senators generally, the duty of exercising a discretion, and before it is possible for me to arrive at a conclusion satisfactory to myself, I should have an opportunity to study the whole of the material evidence given before the Public Service Arbitrator. We should not come to a decision until we are satisfied that the public servants concerned, and the community generally, have had a fair deal. Let it be said of the Senate that when dealing with this matter it gave to the parties a fair deal. When the Leader of the Senate was speaking yesterday, I asked if, during the hearing of the plaint, the Government had objected to the jurisdiction of the Public Service Arbitrator, and the right honorable gentleman replied in the negative. I should like to remind him again that the tribunal in question has conditional jurisdiction only in respect of matters that conflict with any Commonwealth law or regulation, and I venture to say that, if the Government had objected to the plaint being heard by the Public Service Arbitrator, and had suggested that the Public Service Board was the proper tribunal to fix the allowances, Mr. Atlee Hunt would not have proceeded with the hearing. Had that been done, the Government’s position would have been considerably strengthened and the Senate would have been in a better position to decide the issue. I trust that the Leader of the Senate will accept the suggestion which I have made, and allow honorable senators an opportunity to read the evidence. It will then be for us to say whether we should take this very serious step of disallowing the determination.
Senator DOOLEY (New South Wales) [5.4 1 . - I cannot allow the motion to pass without protesting against it on behalf of the postal workers concerned. As one who has been associated with the Australian “Workers’ Union for 30 years I claim that my organization has played an important part in building up the system of arbitration for the settlement of disputes. It appeal’s to me, if I may judge from the speeches made by honorable senators supporting the Government in the debate on the Address-in-Reply, that their one concern is to destroy our system of arbitration and to lower the standard of living. I can come to no other conclusion. Almost without exception honorable senators behind the Government declared that increased hours of labour and lower wages would mean the salvation of this country. I believe, therefore, that this is an attempt on the part of the Government to break down the conditions obtaining in the Public Service. I also see in the Government’s .action on this occasion a determination on its part to give an indication to arbitration judges not to increase wages, no matter what the merits of the case put up to them might be. The Government should be ideal employers, and it is an injustice to its employees to ask Parliament to upset an award under which they may benefit. In his policy speech the Prime Minister said that, in the opinion of his Government, the only hope for Australia and the British Empire was increased effort. He probably meant the speeding up of the workers. In my opinion the only hope for Australia is not to increase the hours of labour, but to give greater encouragement to the working class. Higher wages and reduced hours of labour are more likely to solve our problems than an increase in the hours of labour or a reduction in the rates of wages. From practical experience in the control of various works, I realize that better results are obtained from the employees by giving them encouragement and an incentive to work, than by oppressing them. Overhead charges may be reduced by giving the men something more than a living wage. I could say more on’ this question, but I realize that no matter what arguments may be used, the majority of honorable senators are determined to upset these determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator.
– Two facts have emerged from the discussion to-day. One is that any Government that happens to be in power in the Commonwealth is the victim of the sins of its predecessors. It is quite improper that an arbitrator should be empowered by statute to go outside the laws of the country. If the Public Service Arbitrator had given an award within the four corners of the Public Service Act the motion now under consideration would not have been moved. But, while a Labour Government was in office, Parliament evidently passed an act which permits the Public Service Arbitrator to go beyond the scope of the Public Service Act and then come along and tell Parliament that he has done so. I consider it the bounden. duty of the present Government to repeal the Arbitration (Public Service) Act as speedily as possible. Surely it is sufficient to have a Public Service Board, on which the employees of the Commonwealth are entitled to representation. Instead of having one individual fixing wages with a mind that is perhaps biassed, the Public Service Board should record its findings after hearing all the facts. But at present it is apparently open to a section of the employees dissatisfied with the finding of the board to appeal to the Public Service Arbitrator, and the latter has power to go beyond what is laid down in the Public Service Act, unless Parliament prevents him from doing so. In other words the Public Service Arbitrator is allowed to usurp the prerogative of the Parliament.
The next point that has emerged from the discussion is a minor one, but nevertheless it appeals strongly to me. Thu Commonwealth has calmly permitted itself for years to be made the dumping ground for excess and expensive officers from all the States. I think that it is our duty to see that this practice is discontinued.
It is useless for honorable senators opposite to argue that this Parliament should not be asked to disapprove of the determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator, because it was while Labour was in power that it was decided that these matters must be dealt with by
Parliament itself. We have no option in the matter, and should be failing in our duty if we did not deal with this motion.
– It seems to me that the principle of arbitration is at stake. The Government is, apparently, ready to preach arbitration to people outside, but if a decision of the Public Service Arbitrator does not suit it it is quite ready to disobey the award. I agree with Senator Daly that the evidence on which the Public Service Arbitrator’s findings are based should be laid on the table of the Senate so that honorable senators may be able to ascertain whether the Government is treating officers as they should be treated. According to the determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator certain officers in Canberra are to receive £34, plus an amount equal to 17 per cent. of the rental paid by married employees. The Minister (Senator Pearce) compared the cost of living in Canberra with the cost of living in certain towns of New South Wales and Victoria. In my opinion, if a public servant, who is transferred from Sydney to Goulburn is entitled to receive an allowance of £10 a year, a man who is transferred to Canberra should receive an extra £120 per annum. It was wrong for the Minister to say that these officers have not been compelled to come to Canberra. They knew perfectly well that they had either to come to Canberra to obtain a livelihood or stay where they were and be unemployed, so they were economically compelled to come to Canberra. In those circumstances their treatment here should be different from what it was, say, in Melbourne. I cannot see why the Minister should try to avoid the issue by instituting comparisons between Canberra and other places. The Government declares that honorable senators of the Opposition should endeavour to persuade the timber workers, the waterside workers and others who have come before the Arbitration Court to obey the awards given by the court whether they agree with them or not, and we say that they should do so; yet the Government will not obey a decision given by the Public Service Arbitrator. Its inconsistency is glaring. I presume that the men affected by the determination of the Public Service Arbitrator placed their grievances before him, and he was satisfied that their claim was just. If these determinations are set aside, there will be discontent among many people in Canberra. At any rate, if there is not there ought to be. I should not blame the officers concerned if they “ kicked over the traces. “ While the Government has given, an allowance which averages about £50 per annum to the men it has asked to work and live all the year round in Canberra, it has said in effect to the Governor-General, “Look here, old chap ; the ordinary working man in Canberra is compelled to stay here all the year round whether he likes it or not, and he gets £50; but you, being the Governor-General, will be here only three months in the year and there is £2,000 extra a year for you. “ Who was the arbitrator in that case?
– There was no court to fix that award.
SenatorHOARE. - The GovernorGeneral did not have to go before the Arbitration Court and say what the stockings worn by his lady cost.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - Order! The honorable senator is not in order in discussing the Governor-General.
– Well, I shall leave him out of the question, but I consider that he should have gone before the Arbitration Court.
ThePRESIDENT. - Order !
SenatorHOARE. - Is there any reason why the Minister should decline to lay upon the table of the Senate the evidence submitted to the Public Service Arbitrator by the postal employees? As it is impossible for honorable senators to record an intelligent vote in the absence of such evidence, I hope that the Government will postpone further consideration of the motion until we have been supplied with full particulars of the claim submitted to the Public Service Arbitrator.
.- It is rather amusing to hear honorable senators opposite endeavouring to make a mountain out of a mole hill.
– This motion was nearly responsible for the defeat of the Government in another place.
– It is not of the importance which the Leader of the Opposition imagines. Honorable senators opposite profess to believe in the principle of arbitration; but many of their supporters outside are at present definitely refusing to respect awards of the Arbitration Court. If the timber workers were not so prominently before the public, possibly very little would have been said concerning the motion. The Public Service Arbitrator has submitted his determinations to Parliament for consideration.
– The honorable senator does not understand the position. The determinations are submitted to Parliament by the Public Service Board and not by the Public Service Arbitrator.
– The determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator do not become effective until they have been before Parliament for the period prescribed in the act, during which time a motion for their disallowance may be moved. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber show more regard for the principle of arbitration than do honorable senators opposite, and many whom they represent. In this chamber Labour representatives advocate arbitration, but in the Botanic Park in Adelaide, the Domain in Sydney, or at the Trades Halls in various States’ capitals, many of their party denounce the principle. In this instance they are making a great deal of noise because it is proposed that a few public servants shall not receive certain benefits which the Public Service Arbitrator has provided for in the determinations under consideration.
– But a principle is involved.
– That is not so. The Government is merely giving effect to a law which has been on the statute-book for some time. It is time to take a definite stand in the matter of granting special allowances to public servants resident in the Federal Capital, as the granting of such allowances indiscriminately to meet the high cost of living and certain other disadvantages which are mentioned from time to time is detrimental to the progress of Canberra. The public servants compulsorily transferred with their departments from Melbourne have rightly been granted special allowances because they had to dispose of their houses; but the postal employees involved in this instance are not compelled to come to Canberra. They can remain where they are if they desire; but those who wish to transfer know the conditions obtaining here. As the Public Service Arbitrator in these determinations granted to postal employees coming to this territory concessions which are not enjoyed by other public servants, but which would have to be extended to them if the awards became operative, this motion has been submitted. Members of Parliament who are compelled to live in Canberra while Parliament is sitting have not asked for, and do not receive, any allowance to meet the extra cost of living. Parliament has to protect the interests of the whole of the taxpayers of Australia.
– Including those of public servants in Canberra.
– Yes, but there are others who must not be overlooked.
– Why should there be any objection to tabling the evidence?
– It would not be of much use to honorable senators. It would not affect the position if the evidence were tabled; but I have no objection to that proposal. If these concessions are to be given to certain public servants, others will be justly entitled to similar consideration. It is time that the Senate took a stand on behalf of the taxpayers of Australia. In no other capital city of Australia do public servants receive any cost of living allowance ; why should they receive an allowance here? We have reached the stage where concessions of this nature should end. Public servants scattered throughout the Commonwealth object to a special allowance being granted to their fellow workers who live at Canberra. If the Senate fails to agree to the motion more harm than good, will be done, because of the sense of injustice which will be engendered in the minds of other public servants. Men who are not prepared to transfer to Canberra without receiving special concessions should stay where they are. Honorable senators opposite will, no doubt, tell the electors that we on this side are opposed to arbitration; but I am prepared to accept the consequences of supporting the Government in the action it has taken in this matter.
.- It is pleasant sometimes to be able to say, “ I told you so.” When, some years ago, a bill to appoint a Public Service Arbitrator was before the Senate, I was one of four who voted against it. I did so because I believed that decisions of the arbitrator might nullify those of the Public Service Board. When, instead of one Public Service commissioner, a board of three commissioners was appointed, it was expected that any decisions made by that body would be more acceptable to the public servants than the decision of one man would be; but, scarcely had the board been appointed, than a bill was introduced to provide for a Public Service arbitrator to undo its work. I desire to quote from my speech as reported in Hansard on the 29th July, 1920-
Yesterday we dealt with a bill which provides for the appointment of a board of management for our Public Service. To-day, we are asked to sanction the appointment of an arbitrator, who will have power to overrule anything which may be done by that board. I wish to see both the Government and their employees represented upon the board.
When the bill reached the committee stage I said -
As the discussion progresses, and after listening attentively to the reply of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) to the second-reading debate, I am more than ever convinced that the bill will lead to endless confusion in the Public Service. Consequently, I intend to vote against the clause. Its defeat will practically mean the rejection of the bill. We have on the one hand a board of management to be appointed by the Government to control the Public Service in a businesslike manner, and yet practically the whole power to control the Service is to be taken out of their hands and placed in the hands of the arbitrator. This simply means that it will be impossible for the board to do satisfactory work for the country.
With the extensive powers we have given to the Public Service Board, on the one hand, arid to the Public Service Arbitrator, on the other, the Commonwealth is in an impossible position in its control of the Public Service. I support the motion for the disallowance of these regulations, and express the hope that, in the near future, steps will be taken to place the control of the Public Service on a more satisfactory basis.
– Many features of the proposal before us are both interesting and amusing. I ask those who are opposed to the motion what attitude they would adopt if an award of the Public Service Arbitrator placed public servants transferred to Canberra at a disadvantage compared with other servants of the Commonwealth doing similar work elsewhere, and the Government introduced a motion to put them on an equal footing with their fellows. It is clear. that the opposition to the motion is due to a desire that awards shall have only one effect, rather than to a determination that justice shall be done, whatever the consequences. A law or regulation to command respect must be just; there should be no “oneway traffic” about it. Honorable senators opposite who are so keen to save public servants from a threatened imposition should be equally alert to protect the interests of the taxpayers. A law which protects only one section of the community, or works iri only one direction, is unjust, and deserving of contempt. I am aware that the legislation providing for the appointment of a Public Service Arbitrator was introduced by a Labour Government and that its enactment was accompanied by the applause of the Labour supporters of that day. The measure was introduced as an experiment in the hope that at last public servants would be treated justly. Legislation which was right in 1911 and 1920 should be right to-day. I am forced to the conclusion that in the minds of honorable senators opposite a law which does not work always in the one direction should not be supported. We should not play with a proposal of this kind according to the temper of the hour or passing circumstances. In this case the passing circumstances are that some public servants have been, or are to be, transferred to Canberra. In dealing with matters of this kind we should not fail to recognize the difficulty of establishing a system whereby absolute justice can be meted out to one section of the community without there being some anomaly connected with it. The only thing that we mortals with our limitations can do is to adopt the course which will give rise to the least number of anomalies. In the view of the Government these awards of the Public Service Arbitrator create an anomaly. What would happen if the motion were defeated? As surely as the sun will rise to-morrow, other public servants throughout the Commonwealth would then regard themselves as suffering from unjust treatment. The removal of one anomaly would merely mean the creation of further anomalies, and our last position would be worse than the first. Honorable senators who now set out to see that justice is done to a handful of public servants at Canberra are starting rather late in the day. They have only to search, the records to find that there are many places in the Commonwealth where the cost of living is higher than it is in Canberra, yet no attempt has been made by them to remove the injustice under which public servants in those places labour.
– We believe that arbitration should determine such matters.
– The Arbitrator’s awards did not remove anomalies that already existed. It is the duty of Parliament to remove manifest anomalies. According to the Commonwealth Statistician the index number for Canberra is 1159. For Blackheath, that salubrious place in the mountains, the cost of living is much higher, for I find that its index number is 1239. Honorable senators opposite would treat public servants in Canberra better than those at Blackheath are treated. Is that not unjust to the men at Blackheath? Why do. those opposed to the motion not champion the cause of the men at Blackheath? Honorable senators opposite have condemned the Arbitration Court. One has to bo very careful in these matters, and must not act precipitately. The facts of the case must be examined from every point of view, and the right perspective obtained. Certain civil servants were compulsorily transferred to Canberra and it is only just that they should be compensated for any inconvenience and monetary loss sustained by them. But a time must come when these things must stop. We must have a reckoning day, otherwise those who are situated in fardistant places and who have much less chance to catch the eye of authority or to enjoy themselves, will suffer an even greater injustice than they do at the moment. And those individuals number thousands as compared with the few hundreds at Canberra that are now concerned. It is essential in these matters that we should possess a full vision. We must, so to speak,’ view matters from the top of Mount Everest, not from the base, where one sees only a bald and monotonous plain. Let us ascend its full 29,002 feet and from that height view the circumstances broadmindedly. It is generally conceded that the nearer one gets to the throne the greater is one’s chance of advancement. Those in Canberra are a privileged class, when compared with those far removed, and if they are conceded still greater privileges an injustice will be done to many. And how absurd it is to talk of doing injustice to the civil servants of this country. At least four or five barriers must be passed before the ordinary citizen of the community can reach their level of preferment. For instance, they are provided with a Public Service Board, from whose decision there, is an appeal. They have a special Arbitration Court, from which they can also appeal, and there is this Parliament, representative of the people, in which may be ventilated any acts of injustice to civil servants. Behind this Parliament again stands the body of democracy, which will see that fair play is measured out to its servants. Compare the private employee with the civil servant and the disadvantages of the former become strikingly apparent. It is ridiculous to say that our civil servants are being trodden underfoot or used unjustly. It is about time that our eyes were opened and that we realized whence we are drifting. Are not the interests of the taxpayer concerned? I venture to suggest that he has at least an incidental interest. The taxpayer has to keep his nose down to his job all the time. Fair play is bonny play, “ and we must endeavour to hold the scales of justice evenly, dispensing justice to the man who pays as well as to the man who receives. Is it not the duty of Parliament to safeguard the interests of the taxpayer? Who, if not Parliament, should have the right to pronounce upon the wisdom of spending the taxpayer’s money in certain directions? And if we have that right should we not exercise it? No one seeks to take away the rights of these men. All that is intended is to weigh out evenhanded justice to all, and not to create further anomalies. We can never remove all anomalies, but we can and must follow the sane and middle course of equity which leads to the creation of the least number of anomalies.
[5.58]. - My reply shall be brief. Honorable senators of the Opposition have endeavoured to make a mountain out of a mole hill. Senator O’Halloran expressed the view that certain public servants were badly treated, and he detailed a long history of alleged injustice. On examination, I find that the transfer of the persons referred to by him occurred in 1917, before the compulsory transfer to Canberra eventuated. A number of officers were then sent to the Federal Capital to make the preliminary arrangements. Obviously their position is not affected by these determinations. The honorable senator also referred to the high rentals which obtain .in Canberra. That problem has been dealt with, and officers who rent houses, whether they are compulsorily transferred or not, receive a special housing allowance equivalent to. 20 per cent, of the rents paid by them. There, again, no grievance exists. Further, officers who board at the different hostels, whether compulsorily transferred or not, receive a special reduction of 25 per cent, of their board and lodgings, with a maximum allowance of £39 per annum. Senator . O’Halloran harbours the impression that some officers do not receive any housing allowance, but if that is so, it is their own fault, as I am informed by the Public Service Board that all those who have applied have received it. Senators Needham and Daly appear to think that, when these determinations were made by the Arbitrator, the Government should have objected to his jurisdiction. There could be no successful objection to his jurisdiction, since it is conferred upon him by statute. But provision is also made in the act for objection to be taken in Parliament when the Public Service Arbitrator submits it with his certificate that it is contrary to a Commonwealth law or regulation. Senator Needham cited the case of a postal official who was transferred from Coonamble to Canberra. The Commonwealth Statistician has intimated that the cost of living index figure for Coonamble is 1214, and that of Canberra is 1159. There the advantage is with Canberra. This postmaster received £462 per annum when at Coonamble, and he receives £516 at Canberra. As he had also received a district allowance of £20 when at Coonamble, his total salary there was £482, or £34 less than he now receives. In addition he comes to a much better climate and now enjoys better conditions. At Coonamble he was provided with official quarters attached to the post office, for which he paid a rental of £42 per annum on the usual basis of 10 per cent, of his minimum salary. At Canberra no quarters are provided, but the officer receives the customary rental allowance, and is also entitled to a special allowance of £24 per annum, which is granted to all postmasters not provided with official quarters. That case was cited by Senator Needham as his best example of unjust treatment to a public servant. Actually this person, instead of suffering an injustive, benefited considerably by his transfer to Canberra.
Senator Dooley claimed that the issue raised by the Government is an attack on the principle of arbitration. The honorable senator has, no doubt, heard honorable senators on this side criticizing the policy of arbitration, because of the non-observance of awards, but he has never heard them advocate that an award of the Arbitration Court should be disobeyed, as was recently done by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr. Theodore), if the press report of his speech in the Sydney Town Hall is to be believed. The dissemination of such advice is the quickest and most effective way to destroy the principle of arbitration.
– Mr. Theodoresaid nothing of the sort.
– I also refer honorable senators opposite to page 17 of the Pan-Pacific Worker of the 2nd April, 1928,wherein is reported the following declaration by ex-Senator, and
Boon again to be Senator,Rae, one of their colleagues. He said -
It is impossible to estimate the moral harm which has been done to the Australian working class by its hasty and ill-considered acceptance of arbitration as the solution of labour’s problems.
What a remarkable statement to come from a colleague of honorable senators who claim that the Government now seeks to destroy the principle of arbitration! I shall not delay honorable senators any longer, but will commend the motion to their sense of equity.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
[6.9] . - I move -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
The purpose of this bill is to enable the representative of the Northern Territory in another place to take his seat at once. Under section 214 of the act it is impossible for him to do so until the writ had been returned, and some weeks must elapse before the mail from North Australia is delivered. The bill which has just been received from the House of Representatives provides that the returning officer may certify the result of the election by telegram. As there is nothing contentious in the measure it is thought desirable to ask the Senate to agree to the suspension of the Standing Orders and pass it through all stages without delay. If any honorable senator objects I shall not, of course, proceed with the motion.
– As a rule I do not approve of the suspension of the Standing and Sessional Orders of the Senate, particularly in the early stages of the session; but in view of the statement of the right honorable ‘the Leader of the Senate, and in view also of the urgency of the bill, I shall not object to the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill presented by Senator Sir William Glasgow and read a first time.
[6.12].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The necessity for the measure has been explained by the Leader of the Senate. The member representing the Northern Territory has been elected but is unable to take his seat until the writ has been returned to the Chief Electoral Officer by mail, which will not arrive until well into next month. The bill provides that if the writ for an election can not be returned within seven days of the date of the declaration of a poll, it may be returned by telegram.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
.- I move -
That a full inquiry be made into the position of the wheat-growing, fruit-growing^ dairying, and other allied primary industries in the Commonwealth in respect to -
The amount of capital employed in these industries,
The reward obtained on the capital invested,
The hours of labour worked in these industries,
The rate of pay per hour or per day now being paid,
The social conditions of the people engaged as compared with other sections of the community,
What room there is, if any, for the expansion of these industries under present conditions.
When I first drafted this motion and included other industries than wheatgrowing, dairying and fruit-growing, I felt that it was rather ambitious. I have since come to the conclusion that to spread the scope of the inquiry over allied industries would be too big a task, and might possibly cumber an otherwise worthy proposition. The object of my motion is to try to find out how the particular industries referred to in it stand to-day. The Constitution lays it down that it is the duty of the Government to secure, if it can, the peace, order and good government of the country. Peace, I think, at all times can be relied upon, although there may be occasions when there is a certain amount of doubt about it. Good order, of course, follows the preservation of peace, and good government, as I understand it, is an attempt to hold the scales evenly between every section of society, between all sections of society combined and the Government, and between individuals in the different sections.
Feeling as I do, that the wheat-growing, dairying and fruit-growing industries are labouring under certain disabilities as the result of public policy, I urge that an inquiry should be set on foot to ascertain the nature and cause of those disabilities and the remedies that should be applied. Since federation it has been the practice to inquire into quite a number of Australian industries. Very few have escaped the vigilant eye of the Central Government in its honest attempt to find out how they are conducted, and how they are affected by public policy. In the case of the secondary industries, the federation was not long established before an inquiry was set on foot which lasted for two years. Subsequently another commission inquired into the same set of industries, but not satisfied with these two inquiries, long, exhaustive and painstaking as they were, the Commonwealth Government has set up a permanent board, whose allotted task it is to inquire into their position. There is nointermission in the watchfulness of this tribunal. If it finds that an industry is suffering as a result of public policy, or that economic or local industrial conditions are arresting its progress, the board is charged with the responsibility, of reporting that fact to the Government. Nothing of the sort is done in the case of the three industries I have mentioned in my motion. It is true that some years ago an effort was made to find a better means of disposing of our surplus fruit. But I think I am safe in saying that the Central Government has caused no inquiry to be made in regard to the wheat-growing and dairying industries. It is time therefore for the Government to step in, if for no other reason than to show that it is quite impartial in its desire to see what is happening in the case of sister industries.
I do not want honorable senators to back me up in my request unless I give them something in the nature of chapter and verse. I do not want them to swallow this morsel blindly without knowing what kind of morsel it is, or without knowing what good is to be gained by setting up an inquiry of the kind I suggest. Nor have I any desire to ask the Government to embark on an inquiry unless I can advance some solid reason for it. But before I proceed to do this let me remind honorable senators of the way in which the Commonwealth Year-Book is framed. I find that in it the secondary industries of Australia get a very liberal share of attention. Pages and pages are devoted to a description of the several things that obtain in those industries. There is a fund of information about the value of the land upon which factories are erected, about the cost of the plant and the raw material employed, and about its value when turned into manufactured goods. It gives the number of males, females and children employed, as well as a whole host of similar information. Commonwealth research has been very close indeed in regard to what is happening in the case of secondary industries, but there is no corresponding information in respect of wheatgrowing, or other country industries. There are 400,000 people engaged in our secondary industries, whereas wheat-growing employs 250,000, and dairying 130,000 and* fruit-growing employs an even greater number. Broadly speaking, the three industries mentioned in my motion provide a kind of livelihood for half a million people, yet the Year-Book does not give, in regard to them, the detailed information it supplies in regard to secondary industries. Coming now to my main contention, I propose to make a slight incursion into the relative position of the two classes of industry, and the respective progress made by them since federation. I propose to speak of the number of people employed in the two classes of industry, and of the future prospects of both. The Commonwealth YearBook, although it has not all the detailed information I should like to find in it, shows that within the last twenty years primary production has doubled, whereas in a lesser period the value of the output of secondary industries has quadrupled. Surely that is ample justification for setting up an inquiry. It shows that there must be something wrong in the economic or industrial sphere, or that there must be some inherent defect in our rural life. Wheat-growing should be of vital concern to a new country. There is no reason why we should be lagging behind Canada, which produces 500,000,000 bushels compared with our 150,000,000. We know that wheatgrowing is an industry that is capable of rapid expansion if encouragement can be given to people who are willing to turn their backs on the cities and make the interior productive for the benefit of all. But our people seem to find it more profitable and perhaps more interesting to remain in cen tres of population, and the net result is that our countryside remain practically dormant whilst our secondary industries are progressing very rapidly. In the face of these facts, which cannot be set aside, can it be said that we have a wellbalanced public policy in Australia?
Two years ago a New South Wales Labour Government convened a conference of producers and consumers. It met at Bathurst and went into the intricate task of trying to discover some means of bridging the gap between the price received by the producers and the price paid by the consumers. The conference had at its command all the State departmental resources. It had the services of university men. The chairmen of the different organizations associated with primary production were in attendance, as also were representative citizens of Sydney, and the big towns of New South Wales. Committees were appointed to attend to various sections of primary production. There was hardly a branch of primary production in New South Wales that did not have its special committee of experts, composed of producers and consumers. And when I mention that consumers were sitting with producers on these committees it will be quite clear that the conference called by the Labour Government went about its work in a very thorough way. What were the conclusions reached by this impartial body in regard to the production of wheat? The information given by practical men disclosed that at that time it cost 5s. 6d. a bushel to deliver wheat at railway sidings in New South Wales, whilst the price quoted yesterday on railway sidings was 4s. 1½d. a bushel. With the cost of production as high as it is today it is clear that the Australian wheatgrowing industry is in anything but a flourishing condition. I regret that I have not been able to obtain ‘more recent data concerning the cost of production. The last authoritative information on this subject was supplied by a royal commission appointed by the New South Wales Government some 15 years ago. As it would be futile to quote to-day the findings of that commission, I have given those supplied by the committee which met at Bathurst, and which exhaustively reported on the wheatgrowing industry .of that State. Mr. O’Loughlin, who was Minister of Lands at the time, stated that owing to the absence of information he regretted his inability to deal with the cost of production. Honorable senators will see that on that occasion, as on others in the immediate past, sufficient data was not available to effectively determine the cost of production, and wo are not now able to obtain an authoritative statement. The most reliable information we have been able to obtain is that supplied by experienced men who acted in co-operation with consumers’ representatives at Bathurst. But it is quite clear from the meagre particulars at our disposal that a searching inquiry should be made into the wheat-growing industry in order to ascertain by what means it can be protected and developed.
In briefly referring to the dairying industry I wish to quote from the Tariff Board’s report on butter and cheese, presented to Parliament in November, 1927. On page four of that report John Rankin, the Chairman of the Australian Dairy Council, who was then actively engaged in the dairying industry in the Colac district of Victoria, is reported to have said that the capital required in an average dairying enterprise was about £5,220, that the working expenses were £669 per annum, and the receipts £708 15s., thus leaving only £39 15s., to cover the cost of the dairyman’s own labour, interest on capital, and provide sufficient for the maintenance of himself, his wife and family. Robert Crowe, the export superintendent of the Victorian Department of Agriculture, said that in 1920 dairymen were receiving 2s. 2d. per lb. for their butter, whilst last season the average price was about ls. 5£d. a lb. This witness further said -
A lot of people think we have had cows. Of course, we have many bad cows, but they are not aa bad as the disparity in yield (with Denmark) would indicate.
He also said that on a dairy farm the cost of which was £3,615, the expenses were £373 10s., and the returns £489 7s. 6d., thus leaving a balance of only £115 37s. 6d.
Mr. MacInnes, the dairy expert in the Department of Agriculture in New South “Wales, stated in evidence that -
Not only is .the farmer broken in purse, but lie is now being broken in spirit, which is far worse. Costs at present are computed at ls. Od. per lb. or over, while London values only showed a net return of lid., plus 3d., bounty under the Paterson scheme.
An authoritative statement shows that butter which cost ls. 9d. per lb. to .produce, returned, including the 3d. a lb. under the Paterson scheme, only ls. 2d. a lb. to the producer. I could go on quoting other similar instances, but they are available to honorable senators who care to peruse the report for themselves. The same witness quoted another example where only £219 remained after working a proposition which was capitalized to the extent of £10,000. I am sure that even from the meagre information I have supplied, honorable senators will realize that the dairying industry should be fully investigated.
I have not any information concerning the fruit-growing industry other than the reports of the progress of the industry in Victoria, where the chief canning business is carried on. That the industry is in a bad way is shown by the fact that at Shepparton, where there are the best canneries in the British Empire, the price paid for apricots last season was £5 a ton, and that after paying award rates the cost of picking alone was £4 10s. a ton, leaving the grower only 10s. a ton to meet the cost of other labour and interest on his capital, quite apart from putting anything aside for a rainy day. I have been informed by those engaged in the industry that it is in anything but a flourishing condition. On the contrary, there are very few apart from those owning old established properties who are able to carry on profitably. The difficulties of new settlers operating under present conditions are at times almost insurmountable. It would appear that the wheat-growing, dairying and fruit-producing industries are almost at a standstill. According to the Commonwealth Year-Booh, a larger area was under wheat in 1915-16 than last year, but that was due to the fact that in 1915-16, those who were not on active service endeavoured to produce the food for those who were, by considerably increasing the area under cultivation. During the war years, a million odd additional acres were put under crop; but that acreage has not since been maintained.
A special effort was made by the Fede fill Government to encourage vinegrowing, by granting a bounty of 4s. per gallon on “wine produced for export, but that bounty has since been reduced to ls. 9d. a gallon. The area under vines is less to-day than it was four years ago.
– The growers did not receive any of the bounty.
– When the Government passed the bill in which provision was made for the payment of a bounty, it was intended only to benefit the growers.
– They did not get the benefit.
-.- If that is correct there must have been manipulation somewhere.
– A stipulated price had to be paid for the grapes, otherwise the bounty would not be paid.
– It is difficult to estimate the area of land available here for the growing of grapes - an industry that should be attractive to settlers in a young country such as Australia. It is the duty of the Government to ascertain why the industry is not progressing.
Reverting to the dairying industry, I may state that in 1922 the number of dairy cows in Australia was 2,419,809, whereas in 1925 it had decreased to 2,382,002. From the figures I have given concerning the cost of the production of butter, and the prices realized, it is easy to imagine that very few would be foolish enough to enter upon the production of this essential article of diet under such unprofitable conditions. Why should people be forced, owing to the peculiar position of this industry, not only to work at a loss, but also to rear ignorant and stunted children in order that consumers may have cheap milk and butter? It is about time the right horse was saddled, and an effort made to ascertain why an industry which employs 140,000 adults is not on a better .basis. The reason why the countryside is not attracting young men and young women to-day is that it holds out to them no prospect comparable with that offered by the big cities. If there was any hope of reward they would be prepared to suffer the hardships inseparable from life on the land. I deplore the drift to the cities. Adelaide holds more than half the population of South Australia; Sydney is daily getting nearer to the same position so far as New South Wales is concerned, while things are not very different in Melbourne and Perth. There is something wrong with the public economy of this country, and we should see to it before the situation grows worse; Recently I obtained a price-list from a leading business house in Perth, and compared it with the prices ruling in the years preceding the war. In any country district of Australia a windmill is a necessary equipment of a farm. A windmill 8 feet in diameter with a 30-f t. tower could be obtained for £19 in prewar years; to-day it costs £47. In spite of the heavy duties imposed on imported windmills many of American manufacture may be seen throughout the country. The current price is 120 per cent, greater than it was fifteen years ago. Cylinder pumps 3 inches in diameter which before the war cost 35s. now cost 80s. An axe, although a small implement, is necessary on every farm. Before the war a Kelly axe could be obtained for 4s. 6d. ; to-day it costs Ils. Shovels, which in 1913 cost 4s. 6d., now cost 9s. 6d. each, an increase of over 100 per cent. For bags which could be bought before the war for 4s. 6d., 10s. 6d. is now asked. It required £75 to purchase a 5-f t. harvester before the war ; to-day £130 is required to purchase a similar machine. The price of a 6-ft. binder has risen from £32 to £75 during the same period and so on through the long list of farmers’ wants. For some years previous to the outbreak of war, wheat averaged about 3s. Id. per bushel; to-day it is about 4s. Id. per bushel, an increase of 32 per cent. Honorable senators will, therefore, see that the increase in the price of wheat does not compensate the farmer for the higher cost of almost everything he uses on his farm. The margin between the cost of production and the price he receives for his wheat in the world’s market is continually diminishing. Even now he pays his way only by reason of the unduly strenuous efforts of himself and the members of his household. These things cannot continue; an immediate and searching inquiry should be made. No intelligent citizen desires that one section of the community shall prosper by reason of the national fiscal policy, and other causes while another, and worthier, section suffers. The function of government is to hold the balance fairly between all sections of the community. On the football field should one player commit a breach of the rules to the detriment of another, the injured player is given a compensating advantage. A similar principle should apply in the administration of the affairs of the country; a government should see that there is no foul play in the field of industry, that no section of the community benefits at the expense of another section.
Some time ago the Government appointed a royal commission to inquire into the desirability of amending the Constitution. The commission called to its aid two eminent men in the persons of Professor Brigden, of the University of Tasmania, and the Deputy Commonwealth Statistician, Mr. Giblin. After a diligent and patient inquiry, they found that the wheat industry was taxed to the extent of 14 per cent, of the value of its output to maintain the protective policy of the country. The contribution to the country’s fiscal policy by the wheat-growers this year will amount to about £4,000,000, which is altogether an unfair proportion for them to bear.
Notwithstanding the advantages of proximity to the world’s markets, cheap power and machinery, and long experience, one of the most pressing problems of the United States of America is that of the farming industry. During the recent Presidential campaign, Mr. Hoover said that, if necessary, he would call a special meeting of Congress to deal with America’s most urgent of public problems - farm relief. The members of a farming community should not he called upon to occupy positions similar to those of beasts of burden ; they should be given a chance to breathe, to live and to prosper. In Washington, there is a Bureau of Agriculture, subsidized by Congress to the extent of about £300,000 annually, which collects data to enable the position of any industry in the country to be ascertained. In Australia very little assistance of that kind is given ; consequently we are hopelessly in the clark as to the real value of our industries. I should support any proposal which would enable us to ascertain where w& stand in connexion with our industries - how much capital is invested in them, what dividends they pay, the hours and conditions of labour, and the wages paid. At present we know no more about what is happening at our very door than we know of conditions in, say, central Europe, nor have we any means of acquainting ourselves with these matters. The bureau at Washington, United States of America, obtains its data first-hand from the farmers. The information collected from over 16,000 farmers shows that over the five-year period ended 1926 the returns from the farms did not pay the interest charged by the mortgagees, that the farmers did not make as much as they paid for ordinary hired labour on their farms. I do not use that information as conclusive evidence of the position in Australia, but it indicates a tendency to make the primary industries contribute an undue share of the expenses of government. I leave this matter in the hands of the Senate in the hope that it will realize that the time has come for a searching inquiry. To allow things to continue as they are is not fair to the industries themselves, to the Commonwealth as a whole, or to ourselves as legislators. We have no right to allow such a lopsided state of affairs to continue. There are persons in the community who believe that the function of a government is to conduct all sorts of enterprises; they advocate such things as State trawlers and fish shops. Others believe that a government should hold itself aloof from all industrial entanglements and let the people engaged in industry remain unhampered by any form of government control whatsoever. I confess that, in my young and callow days, I was strongly in favour of some form of government control; but, after having witnessed the awful results which have followed government interference in industry, I have altered my views. In “those old days I and those who thought with me drafted fine schemes, which promised well; but, when they were initiated and human nature was given an opportunity to prove itself, they were soon left high and dry, and involved the taxpayers of this country in no end of expense. I have in mind as an example the scheme sponsored by Mr. Thomas Bath, Minister for Lands in Western Australia, which was to return a profit of 20 per cent, and make available to the man on the land cheaper farming implements. Unfortunately, because of the dissension introduced by the human element, a spirit of anarchy and ill-will soon became prevalent amongst previously well-intentioned men, and the works quickly fell into a deplorable condition. Instead of making a profit the scheme involved the country in a heavy loss, and now the Government of Western Australia proposes to hand it over to private enterprise. The Labour Government of Queensland had a similar experience when it dabbled in socialistic enterprises. However, I realize that I am digressing slightly from the motion. I merely mentioned these enterprises in support of my view of government interference in industry. It has been wisely said, “Let the cobbler stick to his last,” and I suggest that the Government, on this occasion, should stick to its last. I urge, first, that these industries should be inquired into without further delay; secondly, that, as an integral portion of our industrial and economic life, they deserve generous treatment; thirdly, that it is incumbent upon this Government to see that every section of the community, employer and employee alike, gets a fair and square deal, and that the Government should not be subservient to any section of the community. With that, I leave the matter, with every confidence, in the hands of the Senate.
[8.50]. - I am sure that we have all listened attentively to the very informative and interesting speech which has just been delivered by Senator Lynch. I have not taken the usual course of moving the adjournment of the debate, because I propose to set out at once the views of the Government in regard to the honorable senator’s motion. Senator Lynch is not quite correct in saying that there has been no inquiry into the wheat industry, although he is correct if he means that there has not been a complete inquiry into it. I remind the honorable senator that the Tariff Board made a partial inquiry into one phase of the wheat industry in 1925, when it dealt with the prices of agricultural implements. That inquiry covered a considerable amount of ground as to the position of the industry, and resulted in the presentation of a / very interesting report. Subsequent inquiries made regarding several of our primary industries have revealed that, as Senator Lynch has said, the material necessary to a complete investigation is not available. If the motion of the honorable senator were carried now, those who were chosen to make the inquiry would have the tremendous task of collecting all the necessary information for itself as the work of the Bureau of Census and Statistics has not been extended over a sufficiently wide field to enable the collection of the data so essential to a full investigation. Some little time ago the Development and Migration Commission was asked to report upon the problem of unemployment, but found that the data available was insufficient to enable it to make an adequate inquiry into the subject. A similar difficulty has been apparent whenever the Tariff Board has inquired into our primary industries. These experiences have caused the Government to arrive at the conclusion that, if it is to tackle the problem in a scientific and businesslike fashion, the first thing to do is to extend the activities of the Bureau of Census and Statistics. The necessary data cannot be gathered by a royal commission or by a select committee of this Parliament. It must be done by a technical bureau week by week, month by month, and year by year.
– Did not the Tariff Board obtain the necessary particulars when inquiring into one phase of the wheat industry?
– It obtained only limited particulars. These are contained in its report, which I invite honorable senators to peruse. It called and examined a number of witnesses, and extracted all available information from the Commonwealth Year-Booh; but, as Senator Lynch explained, the information contained in that work is restricted in nature. The Government realizes that the analysis of data is something that has to be done scientifically, and intends, in the immediate future, to extend the scope of the Bureau of Census and Statistics and to inaugurate a bureau of economic research. Some little time ago the Government invited certain highly qualified gentlemen to examine our tariff problems and to give their views thereon. When those gentlemen began their task they thought they would be able in a few weeks to give some idea of what was the economic effect of our tariff.” But they had not proceeded far before they realized that the data available was entirely inadequate. Senator Lynch referred to the Agricultural Bureau of the United States of America. The Statistical Bureaux of that country not only collate facts and figures relating to every phase of industry, but carry the matter still further and make available to the student of economics the conclusions to be drawn from the data available. If one examines, as I did when I was younger and more energetic, the records of those bureaux, which are to be found in our library, one sees that in respect of the boot industry, for instance, there are not only statistics as to the number of pairs of boots produced in the United States of America and the number of men employed in the industry, but also an analysis showing the cost of each pair of boots produced. To determine whether our costs of production are excessive or otherwise, one needs more than a collection of facts or figures; he needs an analysis of those statistics.
– For how long did those experts inquire into our tariff before they experienced the difficulty to which the right honorable senator has referred.
– It was some four or five months before they were able to arrive at any conclusion.
– And that conclusion was that they could not proceed further.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Not with the data available. That impressed upon the Government the necessity to inaugurate a scientific machine capable of collecting such information, and it determined to extend the activities of the Bureau of Census and Statistics and to institute a bureau of economic research.
– Could not our existing machinery furnish an answer to the questions asked in Senator Lynch’s motion? They appear to be simple enough.
– Not adequately. The question “What is the conomic effect of our tariff upon Australia?” may appear simple enough, but if an honorable member strips his mind of any predilections that he may have towards freetrade or protection and proceeds to deal with the question on a scientific basis he will find that he cannot get very far. I suggest to Senator Lynch that as the bill to inaugurate a bureau of economic research will come before us this session, he will then have an opportunity to debate it and to hear the views of the Government on the subject.
– Is it a bill to originate such a body or to give an existing bureau wider powers?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.It is a bill to establish a bureau of economic “ research. The other proposal is to extend the scope of the Bureau of Census and Statistics so that data may be gathered over a wider area, and existing gaps in our collections may be filled. I am not in a position to explain fully the scope of the proposed Bureau of
Economic Research. It would be out of place for me to attempt to do so on this motion, and besides the bill will come before us at an early date. I suggest, therefore, that Senator Lynch should not press the motion to a division to-night. The debate should be postponed until he has had an opportunity to examine the Government’s proposals. At present we have not the machinery to conduct the inquiry suggested. Under our existing tariff legislation, the duty of the Tariff Board is to inquire into the effect of the tariff on primary and secondary industries. It is true, as the honorable senator has stated, that, up to the present, the Tariff Board has devoted nearly the whole of its time to a consideration of the effect of the tariff on our secondary industries, but there is no reason why it should give so much of its time to that phase of our industrial life in future. There is no reason why the board and the Bureau of Economic Research, which should be specially adapted for inquiries of this character, should not investigate the position of our primary as well as our secondary industries. I have made this explanation so that Senator Lynch may see the wisdom of postponing the discussion on his motion. If it is carried tonight, I shall have to inform the Senate that we have not at our disposal the machinery necessary to make an effective inquiry into the matters mentioned by him.
– Can the Minister say when the inquiry will begin, and if the proposed bureau will inquire first into the condition of the primary industries mentioned in my motion?
– I cannot say when the inquiry will begin, but the Government will bring down a bill for the creation of the Bureau of Economic Research, and we hope that it will be passed before the Easter adjournment. The Government will then appoint a director and other officials, and take whatever steps may be deemed necessary to extend the Bureau of Census and Statistics, which will commence at once on the collection of the data to fill the gap to which Senator Lynch has referred in the Commonwealth Year-Booh.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
Penny-a-Word Messages - Proposed Select Committee.
Debate resumed from 14th February, (vide page 246) on motion by Senator Thomas -
That a select committee be appointed - with power to send for persons, papers, and records and to move from place to place - to inquire into and report upon the desirability and commercial possibility of sending messages from Australia to England over the beam wireless at a penny a word, such committee to consist of Senators Carroll, Findley, Graham, Herbert Hays, Reid, Guthrie, and the mover.
– In view of the information given to the Senate by Senator Thomas when submitting this motion, I do not propose to detain honorable senators unduly to-night. I should, however, like those honorable senators who have determined to vote for the appointment of a select committee, to have a full sense of the responsibility of their undertaking to investigate what every one will agree is most desirable, namely, the possibility of cheapening wireless communication between Australia and the Mother Land. Some honorable senators may think that it is a simple matter to ascertain the earnings of the beam system, and the amount of capital expenditure involved in maintaining it, and to make a recommendation to the Government. I remind them that the ramifications of wireless communication and the development of this new science are very far-reaching in their incidence and of considerable importance imperially. Honorable senators will probably recall that a special committee was appointed in Great Britain last year to inquire into and report upon the situation that had arisen as a result of the competition of the beam wireless with the cable services. That committee was charged with the responsibility of making recommendations to the various Governments concerned to guide them in their future policies. Broadly speaking, the idea in mind was that we should nave selfcontained Empire communications. The committee, which was representative of Great Britain and the various dominions and protectorates, took evidence for many months. It was confronted with the problem that the expansion of beam wireless meant the extinction, so far as earning power was concerned, of the cable communications within the Empire. That honorable senators may more clearly understand the position, I propose to quote briefly from the remarks of Sir John Gilmour, the Secretary of State for Scotland, who was chairman of the committee. I think it was accepted as axiomatic, that cable communication for the purpose of Empire defence, must be maintained, so the problem, as honorable senators will note, is a very involved one. It is essential for the safety of the Empire that cable communications should be maintained at their present standard of efficiency.
– Who says that?
– I do firstly, and I propose to quote acknowledged authorities in support of this view. In the first place, I cite the opinion of the right honorable the Secretary of State for Scotland, and in the second place, I refer honorable senators to reports presented to the Government from high officials in the Commonwealth Defence Department. It is agreed that to maintain cable communications side by side with beam wireless, there must be an adjustment between the two services. After a careful investigation of the position, the committee appointed by the British Government last year, made certain recommendations with regard to mergers, and when dealing with the report in the House of Commons in August last, the chairman of the committee, the Bight Hon. Sir John Gilmour, said -
Speaking in the same debate, MajorGeneral SirRobert Hutchison, a man of long military experience, said -
From the point of view of national and Empire safety, it is absolutely essential that we should preserve our cable communications as well as wireless, because it is obvious to anyone that no matter how efficient and how varied our wireless codes may be, they can be picked up and ultimately solved. The human ingenuity that produces a code can solve a code. Therefore, it is of the greatest importance that the cable should he preserved. Had the light gone on between the beam wireless and the cable, undoubtedly the cable in time, having used up its resources, would have gone under, and we should have been left with the broken instrument of the cable as opposed to the increasing efficiency of the beam wireless’. I think the Government are very wise to approach this subject at once before violent battles have been fought between the two systems, in order to preserve the cable, which is absolutely necessary from the point of view of secrecy, for commercial purposes, and also for the purposes of defence.
Though it is possible to operate the beam system for probably a fraction of the cost of the cables, it is absolutely essential that the latter services should be maintained in the interests of the defence of the Empire. Consequently delicate adjustments had to be made to make this desirable state of affairs possible. I understand that an agreement has been arrived at with the other dominions and protectorates of the Empire, but up to the present it has not been accepted by Australia, and I am advised that Amalgamated Wireless is now negotiating with the merger company with a view to an arrangement that will protect both the Australian and Imperial interests.
– And protect the cable companies’ dividends.
– That may be necessary in view of the fact that Australia is so largely interested in the affairs of the Pacific Cable Company, so whatever may be the arrangement it will not be made without regard to the interests of the people of Australia. While provision is to be made for a dividend of 6 per cent. on the capital brought into the merger company, I am advised that 50 per cent. of the surplus will be devoted to reducing the cost of communications and the balance applied to the advancement of the ever improving science of wireless. I do not propose to repeat what I said during the debate on this subject last year. On thatoccasion I pointed out that Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited received as its share of the spoil1d. per word, but it must be borne in mind that provision had to be made for the receiving station at the other end. I have no doubt that Senator Thomas will very properly say that this is a matter for investigation by the proposed select committee, if it is appointed. Honorable senators should not forget that so far as Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited is concerned, the cost of wireless communication with Great Britain is very low indeed, and also that we must pay some regard to international radio arrangements. Consequently we are not free to embark upon any scheme for the aggrandizement of the position of Australia at the expense of international relationships.
There are one or two other points which it might be advisable for me to mention. I consider that the arrangement come to by the merger companies was most reasonable, but, while these delicate negotiations are proceeding, it would be, I think, detrimental to the interests of this country and of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, in which the Commonwealth holds more than half the shares, if a select committee were appointed to range over the whole field of wireless. If, with the enthusiasm displayed by Senator Thomas, it proceeded to sift everything to the bottom, as select committees are apt to do, I am afraid it would interfere with the endeavours of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited to make the best bargain it can for the people of Australia. An inquiry at the present juncture would not be good business; nor would it be in the interests of Australia or of the great science of wireless, which is” only yet in its infancy. The Government realizes that the honorable senator has the support of a majority in this chamber, but feels that the Senate should be placed in possession of all the facts before it agrees to this motion. It feels that the wireless service of Australia should not be penalized by a reduction of rates while no corresponding reduction is made by the merger companies overseas. The whole problem, it will be seen, is a delicate and complicated one, and its solution will need time. Investigations by a select committee at this stage would embarrass an arm of the Commonwealth service which Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited is. I should like honorable senators to understand . thoroughly that the appointment of a select committe will not carry with it the implied undertaking on the part of the Government that it will be converted into a royal commission. It will be time enough to have an inquiry when the merger is completed and all the necessary adjustments have been made between the different countries concerned.
– It will be too late then.
– It will never be too late, because all charges made by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited are subject to the approval of the Postmaster-General of the Commonwealth.
– Some time ago Senator Thomas spoke to me on this subject, and, as one who believes in the acquisition of knowledge, either by individuals or by legislative bodies such as the Senate, I said that I should be very glad to support him in obtaining the appointment of a select committee. I see no reason to-day for retreating from the attitude I then took up. The honorable senators who are named as members of the proposed select committee may he expected to approach their task without that precipitancy feared by the Honorary Minister (Senator McLachlan) and with that amount of discretion which the various veiled allusions made by him seem to indicate are necessary. I do not know why all this mystery exists. I think they will have sufficient delicacy of feeling and sufficient discretion to recognize thin ice when they see it, and that they may even be expected not to bring a blush to the cheeks of the Honorary Minister. I refuse to think that there is anything shameful, indelicate or improper in the negotiations now proceeding, but honorable senators who will comprise the committee will be just as ready to recognize the wisdom or otherwise of interfering with them as any other honorable senator. I could understand the Government bitterly opposing the motion originally submitted by Senator Thomas that penny-a-word wireless messages should be instituted, but the honorable senator’s present proposal that a select committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the reasons which existed for the noncompliance with his former request is quite a different matter. I have not been able to gather from the speech of the Honorary Minister any adequate reason to deter me from voting for a motion which asks for an inquiry and not for the institution of penny-a-word wireless messages. Any knowledge that can be imparted to the Senate by an honorable senator or by a number of honorable senators constituting a select committee must be to its advantage. Knowledge is power, and in the acquisition of that power through the knowledge which it is hoped to gain the committee will use just as much discretion as the Honorary Minister would display. There is another consideration which weighs with me. It is, perhaps, purely sentimental, but many of our actions are guided by sentiment. This motion has been moved by an honorable senator who, having held the position of PostmasterGeneral for a considerable time, may be deemed capable of being able to form some idea of the fitness or unfitness of the request he is now making; and it is moved at a time when to our regret he is about to retire - I hope only temporarily - from the service of the Senate. Under those conditions I, for one, acting irresponsibly and guided solely by my own feelings, would have to think very deeply before I refused the request of the honorable senator that I should vote for an inquiry. It must be remembered that the motion is simply for an inquiry. I sec no reason why I should not abide by the promise I gave the honorable senator that I would support his motion for the appointment of a select committee.
– After the speech delivered by Senator Kingsmill it is unnecessary for me to take up any further time in urging honorable senators to carry my motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I thank honorable senators for the vote they have just given, and I move -
That the committee report to the Senate on the 27thJune next.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate’ adjourned at 9.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 February 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1929/19290221_senate_11_120/>.