1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– As the Senate has adjourned until Tuesday week, it would be a great inconvenience to a number of honorable members if what I understand to be the intention of the Government in regard to an extra sitting to-day and to-morrow were persisted in. There is a generalfeeling onboth sides of the House that the business of the session should be concluded as early aspossible, and we on this side were ready to co-operate with the Government in finishing next week, but, as that is now impossible,Ihope that they will meet our convenience by allowing theusual weekly adjournment this afternoon.
Mr.DEAKIN. - The members of the Government are anxious to consult the wishes of the House. We are willing to sit to-night and to-morrow, and it is our present intention to do so,but between now and the afternoon I will consult honorable members in regard to the matter. The action of the Senate in adjourning until Tuesday week was unexpected, and perhaps will lead them to take a new view of the position.
– I indorse what has been said by the leader of the Opposition, and ask the Acting Prime Minister to be reasonable, so that our friends may get away to their homes this evening.
– It is stated in this morning’s Argus that some soldiers who had been serving in South Africa arrived in Sydney without means, although pay was due to them by the military authorities, and as they were unable to obtain this money, or to get a free pass to Melbourne,whence they originally left, they walked to Goulburn, and the mayor of that city is now interesting himself in their behalf. It is disgraceful that men who fought for their country should be treated in that way. Will the Minister make inquiries into the facts of the case, and, if they are as stated, will he take steps to see that the money due to the men is paid, and that they are returned to Melbourne?
– I have not yet seen the paragraph to which the honorable member refers, but I do not think the statements it contains are correct, because the Treasurer has placed at the disposal of the Defence department a sum of money to provide for the returning to their homes of men who have been landed at the wrong ports, and I have given instructions that such men shallbe so returned. Some time ago we had to keep a number of men in the barracks at Melbourne for some days before there was an opportunity to send them to New South Wales and to other States. The difficulties which mainly arise are due, however, to the fact that the military authorities in South Africa do not always discriminate between soldiers who are sent from Australia andmen who may have been Australians, but who were enlisted in South Africa. Besides that, men are frequently sent to the wrong ports. For instance, there were landed at Hobart the other day men belonging to the South African Irregular Corps, and others who were sent from South Australia and Western Australia. We paid the expense of returning those men to their original destination, and in another case we had to pay to bring men to Australia who had been landed in New Zealand. There are, however, a number who did not belong to any Australian contingent, and who now want us to convey them to any State they like to name.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Minister to what appears to me the grossest negligence, in condemnation of which I cannot find language strong enough. I was informed, on good authority, in Adelaide last week, that some of the returned soldiers have had to sleep in the park lands there because they possessed no money, though large sums were owing to them by the Imperial authorities, for which, in my opinion, the local authorities should, in the first instance, have taken responsibility, arid afterwards charged their payments to the Imperial authorities. Will the Minister inquire into the matter, and ascertain how many have not been paid? I understand that some who have been back for months have not been paid. It is a scandal that men should be treated in that way.
– I do not know anything about the cases to which the honorable member refers, but if he will give me the names of the men who have been illtreated, or any other information upon which I can base inquiries, I will have the matter investigated. The Commonwealth Government is directly responsible for the payment only of the men belonging to the Commonwealth Horse, the States Governments having undertaken to pay the men despatched in the several States contingents.
– Some of the men did belongto the Commonwealth Horse.
– In that case, unless there is something amiss with their claims, the military authorities are censurable, and I shall take prompt measures ‘to deal with them. It is not because there has been any shortage of funds that men have remained unpaid, because the Treasurer placed £20,000 at the credit of the Defence department to meet all these cases. With regard to the statement of the honorable member for Macquarie, I have ascertained that the men referred to were not sent from Australia at all, but were members of the Johannesburg Mounted Rifles and South African Light Horse.
– But are they not Victorians?
– That may be, but they enlisted in South Africa, and the department is in no way responsible for them.
– Did they fight alongside the men sent from Australia? That is the real question.
– That does not affect the responsibility of the department. If any one is responsible, it is the Imperial authorities. In some cases where Australians have enlisted in South Africa, and have been returned here, I have had them sent on to their own States, and am making claims against the Imperial Government for the expense so incurred. But I suspect that in the case under notice there is no proof that the men had any claim upon the department.
– In view of the statement of the Minister for Defence, that the Imperial authorities have upon many occasions neglected their duty, and not looked after the Australian soldiers who have fought for the Empire, will the Acting Prime Minister take steps to have thisstate of affairs remedied, or to protest against the occurrence of similar default in the future?
– The Commonwealth has advanced money to meet Imperial obligations in order to avoid delay, but we wish to mark the distinction between our direct responsibility for the Commonwealth contingents, whose members are to be paid out of our own pockets, and the responsibility which is really that of the Imperial authorities, but which we have assumed, and for which we expect to be recouped.
– Will the Acting Minister for Defence make strict inquiries into the case which has been referred to, and, if the men are stranded, have them sent on to their destinations, afterwards charging the Imperial authorities with the cost?
– That has been done in every case in which the men had any claim to be so treated. But whilst we sent many valiant and good soldiers from Australia, the department have had also to deal with a few men who represent themselves to be what they are not.
-i suppose all the men have their discharges.
– No. Some of those who make representations to us produce no evidence of having served in South Africa at all.
– Well, in this case the Mayor of Goulburn has taken the matter up.
– It may be merely a matter of advertising. It is impossible to deal with these cases until the facts are known.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Minister to the case of Regimental Sergeant-Major Coffey, who was a member of the first Victorian Contingent, and, while on active service, caught a cold which developed into phthisis. The Imperial Government paid him a pension until the 4th August, but from that date until the18th September, when he died, the man was in absolute want. I wrote to the Minister for Defence in regard to the matter, and was informed that the man should make his claim upon either the Imperial or the State authorities. The man has since died. For some time before his death he was without medical comforts, and his wife and four children were practically without the necessaries of life. In these circumstances, I desire to ask theActing Minister for Defence whetherhe will inquire into the case, and include it amongst those which he proposes to refer to the Imperial Government.
– If the honorable and learned member will remind me of the matter, I will make inquiries from the Secretary for the Department of Defence. I am satisfied that if the honorable member wrote to the Minister some action was taken by the department, and that representations have probably been made to the Imperial Government. If proper representations were made, I think it is very likely that the man waslooked after prior to his death.
– That is my impression, because instructions have been given that if any of these men cannot obtain their money and are in want, every consideration shall be shown to them, especially if they are ill. I cannot think that the soldier referred to could have been neglected if proper representations had been made to the authorities. I will make inquiry, and if there is no reason to doubt its validity, a claim will be made upon the Imperial Government.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question with regard to the money now being raised for the relief of the sufferers by the Mount Kembla disaster. Quite a number of branches of the Australian Natives’ Association, with which I am connected, have raised subscriptions for the fund. Various other societies, as well as members of the public, have done the same ; but an impression is gaining ground that the money so raised is not under proper control, and that it will probably be handed over to the New South Wales Miners’ Accident Relief Fund, which is managed by the Government. A number of members of the Australian Natives’ Association who have spoken to me about the matter are anxious that the money which has been raised should be paid direct to the widows and orphans for whom it was intended. In these circumstances, I am impelled to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he can give me any assurance that these moneys will not be paid into the particular fund to which I have referred, but that they will be paid direct to those for whom they are intended.
– The matter is one over which we have no control, although we have the deepest sympathy with the object of the fund. As the honorable member considers there is some confusion in the public mind in regard to the question, I will undertake to make inquiries, and furnish him with the result.
– I have received the following Message from the Senate : -
– TheSenate returns to the House of Representatives the Bill for “ An Act to regulate Parliamentary elections,” and acquaints theHouse of Representatives that the Senate does not insist upon that part of its amendment to amendment No.104 of the House of Representatives to which that House disagrees, and agrees to the consequential amendments in clause 140a, does not insist upon its disagreement to amendments Nos.6, 58, 139, 141, and 196, and agrees to the consequential amendments of the House of Representatives in amendments Nos.110 and 161.
The Senate insists upon its disagreement to amendments Nos. 21, 22, 23, 24, 114,180, and 192, as set out in the annexed schedule, and requests the reconsideration of the Bill in regard to these amendments.
The Senate, Melbourne, 25th September, 1902.
I deem it my duty to point out that it is unusual to have a Message relating to the same Bill returned three times to the House, but I know of nothing to prevent this Message being received, if it be the will of the House to receive it. It is competent either to proceed with its consideration now or at any other time which the Minister may desire to fix.
asked the Minister re presenting the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The matter is being inquired into.
Mr. KINGSTON laid on the table
In Committee(Consideration resumed from 25th September, vide page 16128) :
– I notice that, according to these Estimates, the number of messengers employed in the House of Representatives is the same as last year. In Division 8, however, we find provision made for three messengers for the Queen’s-hall. It is set forth that these messengers were provided for in last year’s Estimates, and I desire to know whether three additional appointments have been made.
– The number has not been increased, but the messengers have been redistributed, and their titles altered. Messengers who were before allotted, I think, to the Senate are now placed under the heading “Queen’shall,” as their duties, lie there between the two Houses.
Vote agreed to.
Division 3 (Parliamentary Reporting Staff)- £7,304
– On this item, I should like to ask the Treasurer whether he has any information as to the financial position of the refreshment-room.
– This sum will cover the entire loss.
Vote agreed to.
Division 6 (Water Power, &c.) - £300 ; Division 7 (Electric Lighting, ida.) - £1,362 ; Division S (Queen’s Mall) - £554; Division 9 (Parliament Gardens) - £532, agreed to.
-I see that the lift attendant receives only £65 per annum.
– Last year he was paid at the rate of £52 per annum, so that an increase has been granted to him.
– I think he is still underpaid. He is kept at his post at all hours, and should be fairly paid.
– It is a matter with which the House Committee has to deal.
– I think the salary should be brought under the attention of the committee.
– I will call the attention of the House Committee to the fact that this officer certainly does appear to be inadequately remunerated.
Vote agreed to.
Division 11 (Administrative) - :£S,135.
– I see that there is an increase amounting to £66 in one or more of the salaries. I suppose the number of clerks is the same as before, and of course I do not want to resist any fair claim for an increase.
– The amount named will be divided amongst six clerks.
– I do not -think this is a time for increasing salaries, but .if the Acting Prime Minister is satisfied that some one has hitherto been underpaid, and this increase is justified, I shall not resist it. May I ask the way in which the money has been allocated 1
– The clerks amongst whom this amount is ‘to be distributed receive salaries ranging from £80 to £260 per annum.
– Who have obtained the increases 1
– The amount represents, roughly speaking, an increase of £20 to each each clerk.
– Has an all-round increase been made?
– If these increases are to be of annual recurrence, the matter is a very important one.
– The Public Service Act is not yet in operation, but we have endeavoured to deal, with these cases as we should have done if the measure had been in force. No increases have been made in the salaries of any of the better paid officers, but £100 per annum is being divided between six clerks in the department whose salaries range from £80 to £260 per annum. They have proved by their efficient service that they are worthy of a little more than they have been receiving.
– Who are receiving the increases ? The men obtaining the higher salaries or the men receiving the lower ones.
– Under these Estimates each of them will receive an increase ranging from £10 to £”20.
– Who is receiving the £10 increase, and how many are receiving the increase of £20 ?
– I cannot tell the honorable member from memory. I investigated every case, and although rejecting certain proposals, was satisfied that the sum which appears on the Estimates was not more than was demanded in justice to the employes.
– Evidently the .Acting Prime Minister went carefully into this question and satisfied himself as to the wisdom of making the increases. But ‘from -his long association with things as they go in Melbourne he may have unconsciously allowed the officer at the top to obtain a rise and the little fellow at the bottom to obtain a very small increase. If the Acting Prime Minister will give the committee an undertaking -that. he will look into the matter and see that the lower paid officers get something, I shall be satisfied.
– I know that they are getting something under this proposal.
– I wish to draw attention to the labour problem in the Band. The representative institutions of the Transvaal have been silenced with the assistance of Australian soldiers, and for that reason labour there is unable to give expression to its desires. There seems to be an intention on the part of the Imperial authorities-
– The honorable member cannot discuss that matter on this division.
– The division includes the salary of theSecretary of the department, and, if necessary, I shall have to move that that officer’s salary be reduced by £1. He is the officer who might have to deal with this matter.
– I submit that the honorable and learned member for Corio is perfectly in order in discussing, under this division, any questionwhich comes within the range of the functions of the Minister for External Affairs. But, in any case,the honorable and learned member can put himself in order beyond doubt by moving a reduction in the salary of the secretary.
– The honorable and learned member will be in order in discussing anything which comes within this division, but not in discussing anything outside.
Mr.Crouch. - I understand that the secretary is the mouthpiece of the Minister in reference to external affairs. Thatmeans that, in all matters external to Australia, the administration is through the secretary, and I submit that I have a perfect right to speak on the subject which I have indicated, namely, the employment of Chinese labour on the Rand in South Africa.
– The honorable and learned member cannot possibly discuss that question onthis division of the Estimates.
– I hope theChairman will not give his ruling too precipitately. AlthoughI do not see that I can have any sort of sympathy with the object the honorable and learned memberhas in view, a great principle is involved in the pointof order raised.
– The honorable and learned member forCorio will not be deprived of his opportunity.
– That may be so, but still the question of the proper place at which the right should be exercised is ofgreat importance. I think the Chairman will admit that all matters whichfall within the province of this Department of External Affairs are relevant to the Estimates of the department. Parliament might be so dissatisfied with the administration of the Minister for External Affairs as to mark its disapproval by refusing to vote a single sixpence onthe Estimates for this division. Such an action would be of very serious consequence. As I said before, it is only the importance of the principle with which I am concerned.
– If necessary I can place myself in order by moving a reduction of the salary of the secretary.
– That isnot necessary, I think.
– In my opinion the secretary, underthe direction of the Minister, should havewritten protesting against the employment of Chinese on the Rand. The fact is that the mine-owners of Johannesburg are able to get a sufficiency of native labour. By the action of Australian troops, fighting along with the Imperial troops, these mine-owners have been put in a position of dominance, and are able to insist upon employing native and Chinese labour at a certain rate.
– Will the honorable and learned member resume his seat. If it is the pleasure of the committee thatthe standing orders be departed from to allow a general debate on this item, I, of course, can have no objection. Otherwise I must confine the honorable and learned member to the item before the committee.
– When the last Estimates were under consideration it was admitted that as a matter of practice honorable memberswere entitled, on thefirst item, to initiate ageneral debate onthe administration of the department. Yesterday the Treasurer himself suggested that that would be theeasier courseto pursue.
– That is so.
– Unless that right is admitted I do not see how honorable members can possiblyexpress an opinion on the general administration ; and I trust that no hard-and-fast line will now be drawn which will affect innumerable cases later on.
– I hope the practice common in most of ourStates Parliaments will be pursuedhere. It would be unfortunate if members were obliged, in considering the transactions of a department,to confine themselves to moving reductions in particular items. It has always been considered in the States Parliaments that the first item in each division offers an opportunity of challenging anything and everything relating to the administration of that department. The widest latitude has been given, and the result has been satisfactory to honorable members, and advantageous in facilitating business. I hope that under the circumstances the Chairman, if he thinks it necessary, will grant the privilege winch has been indicated.
– The practice which lias been described by the Acting -Prime Minister is that followed in the House of Commons, and it affords the one way in which honorable members can discuss foreign affairs. In England the Ministers’ salaries are voted on the Estimates, and, in order to ventilate foreign affairs, it is the invariable practice to move a reduction of those salaries. In the Commonwealth, however, Ministers’ salaries are provided by the Constitution, and do not appear on the Estimates ; and, therefore, the only opportunity which honorable members can have of discussing the whole range of the administration of the Department of External Affairs is by formally moving a reduction of the secretary’s salary unless the latitude now suggested is allowed.
– It is quite unnecessary for me to move a reduction of the secretary’s salary. I am not asking for any privilege : if I am not within my rights under the standing orders, I do not desire to continue. I ask not for the favour to “speak, but for the right, and, if necessary, will contest the position. I may point out that the Immigration Restriction Act comes within’ the province of this department,- and in order to show why we should exclude aliens from Australia, I might find it necessary to refer to the parallel case of South Africa. I should like to know whether I have permission to proceed.
– Before the Chairman gives his ruling, I should like to point out that the honorable and learned member for Corio has overlooked an important distinction. The honorable and learned member wishes to discuss the action of certain mineowners and capitalists in Johannesburg. If it were a matter of Imperial policy - if the intention were to discuss the action of the dominant power in any part of South Africa - there might be some reason for the course which the honorable and learned member desires to adopt. But is’ it not reducing latitude of discussion to an absurdity when it is proposed to consider the attitude of certain private individuals in South Africa t Mr. Crouch. - That is not my object: my object is to discuss the inaction of the department in dealing with a certain matter.
– The honorable and learned member is suggesting that the Department of External Affairs should deal with a matter which does not in any way affect the policy of the Government in South Africa. It would be as justifiable to ask. the Department of External Affairs to deal with the attitude of certain private individuals in, say, Quebec.
– That is not the point at issue with the Chairman just now.
– I contend that it is the point at issue.
– The Chairman says that no general discussion can be allowed.
– The honorable and learned member for Corio wishes to discuss the attitude or the action of certain private individuals in South Africa ; and, in my opinion, that is altogether an absurd position.
– Two points of order have been raised, one as to whether it is competent for the honorable and learned member for Corio, on the item of the secretary’s salary, to discuss anything coming within this division or the administration of this particular department. The other point- raised is whether it is competent for the honorable and learned member to discuss matters not connected with the administration of this department. The honorable and learned member was proceeding to discuss matters in connexion with South African affairs, which, in my opinion, have nothing to do with the administration of a department of the Commonwealth. I therefore rule that the honorable and learned member cannot, under this heading, discuss the question he has indicated, although it is competent for him to discuss anything in connexion with the department.
– Do I understand the Chairman to rule that it is not competent for honorable members to take exception to the inaction of the Minister in regard to external matters - that is, matters outside of Australia - in connexion with which he might have been asked to protest 1
– That is my position.
– Does the Chairman hold that it is not a matter of fair comment to say thai the Minister has failed to do something which Parliament may be of opinion he should have done 1 Surely that is a matter of fair comment, no matter’ whether the honorable and learned member for Corio be right or wrong in the opinions he desires to express. If such questions are not open to discussion, a Minister may fail in the most important part of his duty to the people of Australia and the Empire - because the Empire is involved - rand yet any comment will be precluded. I hardly think the position has been fully understood ; at any rate, I protest against the ruling.
– I may be misinterpreting the Chairman, but understood him to say that the discussion of any subject will be in order if an honorable member can bring that subject into connexion with the department with which we are now dealing.
– That is so.
– Then I understand that the honorable and learned member for Corio wishes to challenge some action, or inaction - and inaction may be as important as action - of the department of External Affairs in South Africa. Until I have heard what the honorable and learned member has to say I do not venture to pronounce an opinion on the subject with which he desires to deal. But, judging from the few sentences we have heard, he appears to be challenging the administration of the department ; and, under the circumstances, so long as he connects his remarks with the department, I take’ it that, under the ruling of the Chairman, he is entitled to speak. It is admitted, of course, that in dealing with the department of External Affairs we cannot refer to Post-office administration, or vice versa As I understand the ruling, so long as the honorable and learned member connects what he has in his mind with the administration of the Department for External Affairs - and surely “ external affairs “ is wide enough to connect the department with every other part of the globe - he will be in order.
– If the ruling of the Chairman has the effect indicated by the Acting Prime Minister, the honorable and learned member for Corio ought to be allowed the benefit of it. In the House of Commons, in the discussion on the item of Ministers’ salaries, the most unofficial occurences are brought under the notice of honorable members. If a number of citizens in a town of Europe commit outrages on other citizens it is open to any member of the Imperial Parliament to challenge the Secretary of State for .Foreign Affairs with neglect of duty in not making representations on the subject.
– Hear, hear - Bulgaria, for instance.
– At present the range allowed is very wide, and it might create a bad precedent to curtail it, because this is the one opportunity which members have of canvassing the action of the Minister. Under these circumstances it would be unwise, under the ruling just given, to draw the reins too tightly. It is really essential to the working of parliamentary institutions that on the Estimates there should be full scope for criticism* of the action or neglect of action on the part of Ministers or public officers. It appears to me that external affairs embrace the affairs of the world, and a wide latitude in discussion ought to be allowed. When the department of the Treasury or the Post-office department is under discussion members can be kept to narrow limits ; but the department of External Affairs gives honorable members some title to review the whole action of the “Government or their inaction, such as in not making representation in any country in the world on any conceivable subject. It would be an abuse to carry this right to ridiculous extremes ; and we are now more concerned in preserving the principle which governs the right of criticism.
– Perhaps I did not make myself quite as clear as I intended in the ruling I gave. If I was, understood to say that the honorable and learned member could not make his remarks relevant to the administration of this department, I was misunderstood. What I did rule was that it would not be competent for the honorable member to apply anything that was not directly connected with this department or its administration. I understood the honorable and learned member to be referring to the employment of Chinese by the mine-owners on the Rand in South Africa. If the honorable and learned member can show a connexion i between that matter and the administration of the department, I certainly shall not rule him out of order.
– The action of those honorable members who have supported the Chairman’s first position on “this occasion, shows that it is not possible in some instances, in this national Parliament, to put aside State and parochial ideas. My contention is that in connexion with the employment of Chinese in South Africa, the department of External Affairs, in not offeringa protest, has been guilty of a serious neglect of duty. I wish to point outthat in the first place we have a certain responsibility for the present condition of things in South Africa, in consequence of our having sent troops to that country to quell the rebellion or war - as honorable members may choose to call it. We are from that cause, to some extent responsible for the state of tilings that exists there now. That state of things is this : That the mineowners in South Africa - largely in Johannesburg - are unable to obtain a sufficient supply of native labour, and are doing their best, by putting pressure upon the Imperial Government, and in other directions, to import Chinese cheap labour on to the Rand. That cheap labour will largely compete with the large number of Australians who have gone over to Johannesburg, in search of employment. Further than that, I have here a telegram clipped from the London Times, of 11th July, 1902, from which it appears that the Transvaal Government have actually arrested chiefswho have tried to induce their natives to escape from the Rand. The cablegram reads as follows : -
Some native chiefs have been arrested for inciting natives to quit theRand. An unsuccessful attempt was made at a rescue.
Then appears a telegram showing the real opinion of the Johannesburg people on the subject. It is dated 5th July, and says -
The importation of Asiatics is politically most undesirable, and South African opinion will only tolerate it as a last resource when all other expedients have failed.
Yet, in spite of this, I find in the Age of 21st August of this year a cablegram from England, in which it is stated -
Reuter’s Johannesburg correspondent estimates that there are only 620, 000 kaffir “ boys “ available for working purposes in South Africa. This number is quite insufficient to meet the labour demands, and the importation of Chinese coolies engaged for a term ofyears, and under contract to return totheir native landon its expiration, is being seriously considered.
If there is one thing more than another which results from a war, especially when that war is successful, it is responsibility for the after administration of the conquered territory. We ourselves; under circumstances which made our action necessary and just, have dipped our hands in blood in South Africa. We, as a nation, have ceased from following our ordinary peaceful course of noninterference with the affairs of the rest of the world, and have taken to arms to assist in suppressing two republics. Whether they were free and liberty-loving republics does not matter. Very largely through the exertions of Australian arms, as appears from reports of British generals since the war, the Imperial Government was able to succeed in the war, and the local representative institutions,which expressed to some extent the views of the South African peoples, have been extinguished. We cannot now escape from the responsibility of our own action. It is one of the consequences of taking part in a quarrel that in the peace that follows the state of affairs brought about should not be altogether contrary to the wishes of the conqueror; and I venture to say that it is not the desire of this House that our money and blood should have been spent upon those South African fields, merely to enable the mine-owners of the Rand to be more prosperous and opulent through the importation of Chinese coolies, to compete with the white labour which is. now. resident there. I venture to remind the committee that the promise was made time af ter time by Mr. Chamberlain that in the terms of settlement the Australian. States and other parts of the Empire which had participated in the war should be consulted. I can point to speech after speech madeon platforms in England, where Mr. Chamberlain said that that promise would be carried out. Of course it has not been carried out. But our Government might properly ask that its voice should be heard in this matter, and, as far as. Asiatics are concerned, we should support the non - representative voice, the Crown-colony voice, the crushedbyColonialoffice voice of the Transvaal miners, and see that, as far as our representations can receive attentionin the counsels of the Empire, imported Chinese and other Asiatics shall not be allowed to compete with the white labour in South Africa. I think that this committee will be in sympathy with any action that the Ministry chooses to take in that direction. I sincerely trust that some action will be taken, and. that, as a consequence of it, we shall let it be known that, so far as Australia is concerned, we desire white labour to be employed in these conquered territories, and that that is one of the requests we make in virtue of the part we took in the war.
– Ido not know whether the honorable and’ learned member for Corio has seriously considered the whole of the consequences which would follow from the adoption of the principle he has laid down in regard to this particular case.
– It is too late to consider that : we have taken the responsibility.
– I am far from denying, our responsibility for the part which Australia has played in connexion with the recent war in South Africa; I do not think that Australia desires to escape from any such responsibility, or regrets the action which she took. But it is quite another question how far that action commits us to a criticism, which may be considered- an interference with the internal- affairs of territories which, as I understand, are to be placed at once upon, a basis that will admit of the representation of the wishes of the inhabitants. Though- they are not endowed with representative institutions to the fullest extent, yet they are to be from the- very outset endowed with advisory councils on which both the English and the Boer populations will be represented.’
– A Government of the Crown colony type.
– A Government of the Crown colony type, no doubt : but under circumstances which admit of the exercise of very considerable powers by an advisory council of the character mentioned. Inasmuch as the people of those- territories will be in. the enjoyment of self-government to that extent, at all events, we should need to be very careful in expressing general views upon any question of. great importance to their internal administration. There are portions of the British Empire* in which the views which are practically universal in Australia with regard to the employment of the coloured racesare not maintained ; and we should- no more welcome a representation from, any other part of the Empire that chose to favour the encouragement of the employ*ment of cheap labour in- Australia than would the inhabitants of the new Transvaal colony encourage any interference- with them om our part of, an’ opposite nature.
– Are- the cases parallel %
– The cases1 are not parallel, but the principle, of interference- is. the same in each. I will not enter into a discussionas to how far the institutions in the nature of . representative government which it is proposed to institute in. the Transvaal, compare with the so-called representation of Australian, European, and American inhabitants granted to them, by the former Transvaal Government. These are matters which it would be profitless to discuss at this hour. I am not drawing such a comparison, because, so far as the-honorable and learned member is- concerned, I am in close- sympathy with his view of this case. But while we are entitled to express our personal opinions outside, that does not justify us- in making official representations, which, if they were to have any weight at all, must be backed by some effective action on the part of the Commonwealth Government. Supposing, we did make a representation of the character desired to the people of: South Africa - because as I have said, the measure of representative government already accorded gives the- people a voice - it may be an incomplete voice in our apprehension, but still, it is- a. voice - in the management of their own affairs. The probability is that the immense majority of the very citizens of those former republics, with whom we have recently been in conflict, would not sympathize with us in. regard to this matter. On the contrary, we might find that, as they always freely employed the coloured labour of their own country, they would be quite willing to employ any coloured labour on the same terms-. We could, not count confidently upon the sympathy of; those people who, although they are for the time being deprived of their full, franchise, will have a measure of representation in the advisory councils. The consequence is. that although Australians generally would be in. sympathy with’ the opinions which the honorable and learned member has expressed, we should, be making representations to. a- people who would not receive them with, sympathy, and might regard them, as quite as much, an interference with- their present policy as during the- war they regarded our going to South Africa- at.all,as an interference in. a quarrel, which, thev were-pleased- to think they could limit to one portion of the Empire. Under these- circumstances,, therefore - although it is perfectly open for any persons, or any private bodies or associations, to express their _ opinions with regard, to the employment of coloured labour on the Rand - this is not a subject with which the Government of the Commonwealth ought to be asked to take action. By so doing we should possibly expose ourselves to a mortifying rebuff. We would not be considered by the citizens of South Africa as lending them any assistance - in fact, the probability is that our action would simply be interpreted as a desire to interfere in their affairs, arising partly from our antagonism to coloured labour, and partly from our interest as a rival gold-producing country, to deprive them of the labour which has been usually employed by them. For my own part, I regret the action taken upon the Band, although I do not consider, from what can be gathered - and I have no special information on the subject - that the employment of either alien or Chinese labour is likely, under present circumstances, to enter into competition with white labour. The information I have is that the whites on the Rand are employed at os. a day. It is also generally understood - -indeed, I believe it is incontestable - that the cost of living in Johannesburg is at least twice the cost in Australia. The consequence is that 5s. per day in Johannesburg represents not more than 2s. 6d. per day in Australia. Under the circumstances that is clearly not a class of employment or a rate of remuneration to which we can desire to see Australians aspire. We cannot imagine Australian labour desiring to enter into competition for such employment.
– It is the number of people there that has brought down wages on the Rand.
– That is true to a large extent: but the rates are also due very largely to the number of the indigenous inhabitants of the country. Though I myself regret to learn that there is any proposal to import more coloured labour to the Rand, j’et it remains true that even if such labour were entirely excluded, the people there would still be face to face with a far more serious problem than the Commonwealth of Australia or any part of it has to face owing to its large native population.
– One of the companies there pays 350 per cent.
– That may be so, but if one can place reliance on recent cablegrams which have been published in the mewspapers as to the transference of £100,000,000 of war debt, the vast amount of interest on that sum will have to be paid, by taxation levied almost wholly upon the mine’ owners of the Transvaal. The honorable and learned member will see that the mine-owners are not therefore escaping scathless. Whether or not they had the large share of responsibility which was attached to them in some quarters for the inception of the late war, it is quite clear that for whatever purpose it was waged, they are having allotted to them something like a fair measure of responsibility for the enormous outlay incurred. For these reasons I fail to see that this Government ought to have taken action in the matter, unless our counsel was in some way specially invited. There was a matter upon which, without being directly consulted, Australia had an opportunity of speaking, and that was in regard to the suspension of constitutional government in Cape Colony. On that question Australia had a proper opportunity of being heard, and thePrime Minister expressed the feelings of the great bulk of the people of the Commonwealth. That was a matter, upon which it was proper for the Government to speak, because an opportunity of speaking was presented to them, but in this case an opportunity for speaking has not arisen. So far as I know, this Chinese scheme is merely the project of a few men, of whom we have examples in Australia, who subordinate every other consideration to that of earning profit upon their investments.
– And who- can only be effectively opposed by a popular franchise.
– There are men who pay the smallest possible heed to the consideration of the future of the country they may be- imperilling by the introduction of large numbers of races, who within our experience cannot be said to be capable of taking any part in representative government : men who consider any country as no more than a field for investment, and’ with whom the profit they reap is the only measure of good government. That they should make such a proposition should surprise no one. We may hope that the Imperial Government, with their knowledge of the consequences of such a step, will not give their consent. If our opinion were invited, there can be no doubt as to what our verdict would be. But I repeat that no proper opportunity has yet presented itself to us of speaking on this question. If such ait opportunity is presented, I have no doubt it will be taken advantage of. But to act as the honorable and learned member for Corio proposes in regard to what, so far as I know, is at present merely a project, which may never be indorsed even in the country in which it is made, which may not be approved by the Imperial Government, and which may, therefore, remain merely a project, would not be wise. If we were to express an opinion in these circumstances, where should we draw the line in the representations we ought to make to other Crown colonies upon projects launched by them, which in our opinion may be as hazardous as that to which the honorable and learned member has referred? The Government may be acquitted of blame in not having taken any action in regard to what at this stage is a mere project. To have made general unsolicited representations might have been an interference with the measure of autonomy at present existing in . those States, and might have established a precedent which in the future would be found very dangerous to this and other self-governing communities throughout the Empire.
– I quite agree that so far as South Africa and many other parts of the Empire are concerned, the circumstances surrounding the labour problem, especially in connexion with the employment of coloured people, are so different from those obtaining in Australia, that the question must be looked at from a point of view different from that adopted here. While conceding that, and admitting that if representative institutions were in existence in that portion of South Africa which is immediately under discussion, we might leave it to the people there to determine the steps they should take, it seems to me that the most serious aspect of the question from a humanitarian standpoint has been left out of consideration in the speech of the honorable and learned member for Corio, and in the reply of the Acting Prime Minister. I regard the suggested importation of Chinese as a comparatively unimportant matter compared not with the suggestion, but, so far as the cables inform us, with an actual decision on the part of the High Commissioner that all the natives of the Rand shall be compelled to labour for the mine-owners by the impositionof an annual poll tax. I quite admit that with respect to the aborigines of Australia and New Zealand, and in every other part of the Empire, we have no right to interfere with their desire or opportunity to earn a livelihood for themselves. They should be given the fullest and freest opportunity to compete upon equal terms, if not upon liberal terms, with those of us who have come into competition with them. But it is altogether another question, when in order to compel a pastoral people - and, generally speaking, that, I understand, is the characteristic of the natives of that portion of South Africa - who would be satisfied with the kind of living to which they were accustomed, and have no desire to work under the trying conditions in mining, to enter the mines.
– The trouble was to keep them back from the mines.
– It surprises me that the honorable member should say that in view of the fact that before the Boer war occurred at all, a commission appointed by the Transvaal Government at the request of the Johannesburg mine-owners suggested that this poll tax should be imposed for the special purpose of compelling the natives to go into the mines. The proceedings of that commission were reported in the newspapers of a little over two years ago, and Earl Grey, the chairman of one of the big companies there, said that unless they could secure the imposition of a tax of that kind upon the natives, there would be no possibility of inducing them to work under conditions which would allow the mines to be cheaply carried on. We have been informed that this tax has now been imposed, and I say it is to the eternal disgrace of the British administration in South Africa that they should seek to compel the natives against their will to enter the mines to work under the mine-owners’ conditions.
– It is disguised slavery.
– There can be no doubt that it is a form of slavery. It is something equivalent to what I am informed occurs in Western Australia at the present time, where the natives are, it is said, indentured, but are really compelled to work for pastoralists, and are subjected by their masters to all kinds of corporal punishment if they break the letter of an agreement which their poor muddled or ignorant brains did not enable them to understand when they signed it.
– That was the Boer policy in South Africa.
– I do not care whose policy it was. If it was the Boer policy, more shame to the British Government to countenance the continuance of it. But one must not be led by one’s indignation to enter upon matters that are outside the purview of Australian affairs. I have very strong opinions upon these subjects, but I have tried consistently to adopt the policy that we have no right to undertake responsibilities and duties outside of the affairs immediately concerning our own people. I believe that we have already gone too far in that direction by assuming responsibility in respect of the administration of New Guinea. I understand also that the Government have taken some measure of responsibility in connexion with the New Hebrides outside the mere subsidy paid for extending the trading relations of the Commonwealth. In these assumptions of responsibility I think we are perhaps going further than we at the present time can have any proper conception of. For that reason alone I have not a word of reproach to hurl at Ministers for not making the representations suggested. I should like to see bodies representative of public opinion in Australia, take action of this kind by expressing publicly their opinion of the illiberal, not to say unjust, proposition involved in the imposition of a poll tax on the natives of South Africa.
– They ought first to know of it for a fact.
– Of course, and I believe I have qualified what I have said by assuming that the cable reports upon the subject are correct. I cannot certainly say that they are, but I think it will be admitted that in regard to large public matters the cable reports are found to be reasonably correct. On the whole subject I think that this Parliament should confine itself to Australian affairs, and for that reason I do not wish to say more than that I think the Government are wise in refraining from taking any action which would involve us in responsibility, or set up the idea that we are seeking to interfere with the affairs of the world at large.
Mr. FOWLER (Western Australia).In view of the overwhelming rebuke which I understand the honorable and learned member for Corio directed at me, I hasten to assure him that I am thoroughly in sympathy with the object he wishes to attain. I do not for a moment believe that any policy which would have the effect of increasing the amount of native labour in the mines of South Africa, or of adding to that labour by the importation of coloured aliens from other parts of the world, is one that would have the support of the people of Australia. I am sure that it will not have the support of the Empire as a whole. I believe that the Imperial authorities during the short time within which they will have the affairs of South Africa under their control will not allow that policy to be developed to any serious extent. In view of the remarks with regard to the cruel treatment of kaffirs, I am somewhat surprised to learn that the objection to this treatment is directed solely against the Imperial authorities. There is no so-called civilized race on the face of this earth that has been more remorseless in its cruelty towards the native races than were the people of the Boer republics. I feel sure that whatever may be the conditions imposed upon the natives of South Africa by the Imperial authorities, their case’ will be greatly better than it was under their old masters.
– The honorable member cannot justify a poll tax, surely ?
– As regards this poll tax, of which we have heard very vague reports, I should say that, for my own part, I totally disapprove of any attempt in the way of a poll tax to drive the natives into the mines. At the same time, I recognise that the natives, in common with the whites, ought to pay some portion of taxation for the benefit of the country in which they live. It yet remains to be seen whether the taxation is of the nature which we have been given to understand it is, and whether its effect will be in the direction indicated. As regards this whole question, I must again express my surprise at the confusion of ideas which has led a number of people all over the world with whose views I am closely in sympathy to lose sight of the important fundamental feature in the whole of this difficulty. We have now in South Africa for the first time a condition of things which will give to the people the control of their own affairs, and I say it is for them to work out their own social, political, and economical salvation in- the same way that we have worked out ours in Australia.
– When they get representative institutions.
– I shall give my honorable friend an instance of what has already occurred. We are told of the dominance of the capitalists and mine-owners in Johannesburg. A few months ago, for the first time in the history of Johannesburg, the municipal council - now established on a proper basis - has been able to impose a tax on land values throughout the municipality. There is a distinct proof that at last South Africa is beginning to enjoy representative institutions, and I have no doubt but that the future will justify those who hold that the war arose through the denial of representative institutions and a free franchise to the majority of the people by a few who by circumstances were placed in power for the time being.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).The honorable and learned member for Corio might have made a great deal better use of this opportunity. He seemed much more anxious to demonstrate that we had been wallowing our hands in blood than to deal with the black labour trouble. The fact that we sent away troops and helped to slaughter a number of persons in South Africa seems to be his trouble. He has been doing a great disservice to a very laudable object. When he asks us to interfere with the internal arrangements of another part of the Empire, he asks us to take a course whichwould react on Australia in a most troublesome way. Is it for us, who are in advance of the world with regard to racial legislation, to invite interference with that legislation? Does the honorable and learned member suppose that if we interfere with the self-government of other parts of the Empire, we can resist their claim to direct their attention to our affairs ? We ought to be the last to go out of the confines of this continent to deal with any question of that sort. We should be studious in our avoidance of the troubles of any other part seeing that we are ourselves in secure possession of a splendid charter of self-government. If we interfere in South Africa in connexion with black labour, they have the same right to interfere in Australia in connexion with white labour. Unconsciously, the honorable and learned member is striking a serious blow at our system of self-government, which has enabled us to achieve such grand results. At the same time, it does seem incongruous that, we who are bundling the kanaka out of our confines, and resisting the intrusion of all the inferior races, should have been fighting in a country where there is such a tremendous supply of cheap, coloured labour. But that is our unfortunate position. We have no voice in their internal arrangements. This Government, representing the self-governing institutions of Australia, is asked to take an action which would inevitably strike a blow at our liberties. I can conceive of no policy more open to grave criticism and to be resisted. I am glad to hear that the Government will not interfere in that way. The honorable and learned member’s remedy is rather out of doors. It is within his right to ask his fellow citizens in public meetings to pass a resolution telling his confrères in South Africa how deeply he sympathizes with them in regard to the adverse conditions under which they suffer. I have no doubt, notwithstanding what has been said, that the labour conditions are very acute in that country. There are thousands of our own people who cannot get employment there, and it is all because of the tremendous competition with cheap black labour. I know some men who are coining back, and they all declare that a white man has the greatest difficulty to get employment in mining pursuits and similar occupations. If South Africa is to be completely in the Empire, in the sense in which Australia is, and is to maintain her free institutions, somethingwill have to be done to curb the employment of black labour. The honorable and learned member says that we have no fear of competition from black labour, because white men will not descend to the local conditions. The same argument might very well be made to apply to Queensland. If the sugarplanters will only pay enough for white labour they can get all their work done. When it comes to making a choice between the black man and the white man, I shall consider the white man first every time. If South Africa is to be governed in the interest of the natives and to the exclusion of white labour, then a very serious problem will be presented to the Empire at large. I believe that South Africa is in a very disorganized condition. That is the inevitable result of the upheaval which took place. In time, no doubt, order will be evolved, but in the meantime the position is acute. There can be no harm in expressing our sympathy with the unfortunate victims over there, and in doing everything which is possible by constitutional methods, outside interference, to help them to remedy their difficulties. It would be a serious blow at our free institutions if we began to assert a right to interfere in the internal conditions of any country’ within the Empire. The honorable and learned member is taking a course which is calculated to alienate sympathy from a very deserving object. He talks about the denial of free institutions in South Africa. How did that unfortunate result come about ? It was incidental to the attempt to defend our country from those who wished to take away our free institutions. There was no choice left to us, and the honorable and learned member knows that the suspension of free institutions in that troubled country is only temporary. We have been repeatedly assured, upon the honour of the statesmen of the Empire, that the moment the South Africans prove their fitness to have restored to them free institutions it will be freely and generously done. What the honorable and learned member is pointing out is the consequence of belligerency everywhere. It is generally troublesome in its consequences to free institutions. I hope that he will be satisfied with the indications of sympathy which have flown out to him from all parts of the Chamber. We all agree with him that everything possible should be done to remedy the difficulties in South Africa. But when he talks about having wallowed our hands in blood lie gives his own case away, and shows that he is more in sympathy with any movement which aims a blow at the honour and traditions of our troops and our relations to the Empire than with any proposal to remedy the labour troubles in South Africa.
– I think that the honorable member for Parramatta was labouring under a misapprehension when he charged the honorable and learned member for Corio with desiring to destroy British institutions.
– It is quite a misquotation.
My. O’MALLEY.- The honorable and learned member was ready to shed his blood at Albert Park, if necessary. I have the greatest sympathy with him. . I agree with him, although I foolishly contributed to it, that it was a huge mistake for us to interfere in South Africa.
– I said nothing of the sort. I would not like to be misunderstood in that respect.
– The honorable and learned member said we wallowed our hands in blood over there.
– These natives belong to South Africa. Years ago when I went to school in America, I was taught that they did not belong to the Caucasian race. I hold that they have as much right to South Africa as we have to Australia. We are the invaders of their country. We went there for “boodle,” pelf, exploitation, and plunder. ‘
– Just as we came to Australia.
– Exactly ; but the natives here are a different class of people. The black man was destitute of mental proportions, consequently he was incapable of running this country, and it laid idle. In South Africa, however, the natives have proved themselves more or less capable of work. I do not believe in slavery. Great Britain was the first nation to spend millions to free the niggers. She freed the niggers in her West Indian Islands at a cost of £33,000,000. It is very well to talk about sympathetic resolutions. One ham sandwich makes an infinitely better impression upon a hungry’ man than do 40,000 resolutions of sympathy. I hope that we shall interfere no more in South Africa or in any other country, but will try to develop our own resources.
Vote agreed to.
– I should like to hear something with regard to the proposed appointment of a- Secretary to the Executive Council. Unless we are to have a peripatetic administration such as was recently threatened I can see no necessity for the appointment of such an official . The practice in Victoria has been to make an allowance to an officer already in the State service foi: acting as Clerk to the Executive Council, and I have not heard that this gentleman has taken to his bed through nervous exhaustion resulting from over-work.
– No ; but he might be prostrated by having to .attend so many social functions.
– - We do not require an officer to give his attention to matters of that kind. I should be glad to hear what the Acting Prime Minister has to say upon this subject.
– The provision for the appointment of a Secretary for the Executive Council was withdrawn from the proposal recently submitted with regard to the establishment of the Governor-General, because it was urged that it was a matter that did not specifically relate to His Excellency’s office in the same manner as did the costs and charges attached. Although at that time I thought that this was a very important feature of the proposed new arrangement I withdrew it in deference to the wishes of honorable members, in order that we might consider the merits of the case in connexion with the Estimates. The title of the office is that of “ Secretary to the Executive -Council “ instead of “ Clerk to the Executive Council.”
– Are the Government going to pay the official £450 per annum to console him for the alteration of the title 1
– No. The Clerk of the’ Executive Council has hitherto received £150 per annum, in addition to his income from other sources, apart from the Commonwealth, for attending the meetings of the Executive Council, and for dealing with the papers relating to its proceedings. Even for those duties the remuneration is entirely inadequate, having regard to the extreme importance of the business dealt with, and the continuously confidential position which the clerk occupies towards Ministers, on the one side, and the representative of the Crown on the other.
– Is it not a fact that the Minister proposes that £600 shall be paid to an officer who will be practically a private secretary to His Excellency the Governor-General 1
– No; I will explain what foundation there is for that statement. There is some, but the whole error has arisen through the introduction of the word “private.” The officer whose appointment is contemplated will be a public officer, and his duties will be of a public character. Although the readjustment of the relations, so far as expenditure is concerned between the Governor-General and the Commonwealth called attention to this matter, and pointed to the necessity of making some change, I was personally only too happy to seize the opportunity of carrying out what I had long believed to be a proper alteration. In New South Wales and Victoria, if not in other States, it has been customary to pay the officer who is merely Clerk to the Executive Council a larger sum than is here provided for.
– But he has not an additional clerk at £325 per annum.
– Yes. I am informed that in New South Wales and in Victoria the Clerk of the Executive Council has clerical assistance afforded to him.
– Then it is departmental assistance.
– It is provided for on the departmental estimates. It has been the practice to provide at the expense of the department a clerk to assist in performing the work connected with the Executive Council. The officer whose appointment is here provided for is to be the Secretary to the Executive Council. That is to say, he is to be the Governor-General’s secretary in all matters relating to the public business discharged by His Excellency on behalf of the Commonwealth and having charge of all communications which pass between the Commonwealth .and the Imperial Government or the State Governments, or through the Imperial Government with other powers. His time will be as fully occupied when in the discharge of his public duties as that of most other officers in the public service. The duties are now discharged by Captain Wallington, who receives an allowance for acting as Clerk to the Executive Council. Eoiyears we had a special officer in Vittoria at a salary of £700 or £800 a year, and clerical assistance was provided for him from the Chief Secretary’s office.
– That was some time ago. Has not Mr. Brisbane been discharging the work for some time past for £150 a year ?
– At the time I speak of Mr. Brisbane performed the greater part of the duties of the Clerk to the Executive Council, but, in addition to that, the Clerk to the Council was receiving the salary I have mentioned, not because of the bulk of the work he was called upon to do, but because of its importance. I hope honorable members will grasp that what we propose involves a real -change. We intend to take this officer under our complete control, so that all public and official communications of the Governor-General with the Imperial
Government, and with the Governments of the States, or through the Imperial Government with foreign Powers, may beintrustedto an officer responsible to us, who shall be maintained continuously in office, and shall have that knowledge of all matters dealt with from time to time which is really invaluable. Some of the issues with which the Executive Council has to deal relate to negotiations of long standing concerning our relations with the Imperial Government and foreign Powers. Among the communications which pass are some of the most confidential character, many of them containing information supplied to the Government of the Commonwealth and other responsible Governments by the Imperial Government affecting foreign Powers or our interests here or ; abroad. Occasionally, though perhaps not often, matters of this kind are of the utmost importance, and their revelation would involve most serious consequences. It is absolutely necessary, therefore, that the officer intrusted with these communications should possess the confidence of the Government and of the GovernorGeneral, through whom he eventually enjoys the confidence of the Imperial Government. The proposal is to take out of the hands of the Governor-General’s staff all the public duties connected with the office of Secretary to the Executive Council. The Governor-General will continue to pay his own staff for his own private purposes, in view of the social functions which attach to his position. With that we have nothing to do. The Secretary to the Executive Council will have no such social obligations to fulfil. I have already told honorable members that I should strongly recommend the appointment as Secretary to the Executive Council of Captain Wallington, who is now acting as Clerk. He is a man who possesses an unexampled knowledge of the affairs of every State in the Commonwealth.
– Was not this office created for him ?
– That is the general impression.
– That impression is entirely erroneous. I have long had in my mind the desirability of making a change of this kind. I have been altogether opposed to permitting public business of the greatest importance to be dealt with by any young adjunct of His Excellency’s staff whom he may select to transact it. I told honorable members recently of one instance that occurred in which serious loss - the loss of thousands of pounds - was occasioned by a mistake on the part of a member of a Governor’s staff in decoding an important official proposal which passed between Australia and another part of the Empire. The mistake was made by an officer over whom we had no control, because he was paid by the GovernorGeneral.
– We are paying this officer.
– Yes, for the purpose of making him responsible directly to us.
– But he is being paid already.
– He is now being paid as Clerk to the Executive Council, but we propose to appoint him Secretary, and to intrust to him the whole of the duties attached to that position.
– Will not the effect be to relieve the Governor-General for the time being of the necessity of paying this particular salary ?
– No, the effect of it will be to place the Secretary of the Executive Council in exactly the same position as that occupied by the same official in the Dominion of Canada, where, owing to experience similar to our own, it was found to be undesirable to leave it to the GovernorGeneral to allot his official correspondence to any member of his staff. The Governor-General chooses his staff very often for personal reasons. It may be comprised of members of his own family or of those who are closely associated with him, and the questions whether his officials possess the requisite knowledge or efficiency to enable them to competently discharge the highly responsible duties attached to his public functions is a matter between his conscience and himself, with which the Government have no right to interfere. We cannot offer advice to His Excellency as to or exercise control over the officers whom he chooses. We are now proposing to change that system by making the Secretary tothe Executive Council our own officer, directly responsible to the Commonwealth. We shall thus bring under control the whole of the public correspondence which passes between the Commonwealth and the Imperial Government and other States.
– Will he be a member of the public service 1
– Under what section of the Act?
– I cannot say at the moment, but he will be required to comply with the same conditions as all other public servants. I can assure honorable members that, as a matter of experience, the absence of the direct control of the public correspondence of the Commonwealth has, in more than one instance, led to serious embarrassment. At the present time, if a paper is wanted, Ministers make application for it to their Governor, but delay sometimes occurs through the misplacing of documents which have passed through the hands of more than one aidedecamp. I have known considerable delay in the production of a document wanted by a State Ministry to occur for some reason of that kind.
– Things must have been carried on in a very slip-shod way in Victoria.
– My knowledge is not confined to the practice of any one State. Under the present system we have not the control which we should have of the communications which pass between us and the Secretary of State for the Colonies, or the Governments of the States.
– In what way will the position of this officer differ from that of the Clerk to the Executive Council of a State 1
– The Clerk to an Executive Council attends the meetings of the Executive, records its papers, and registers them as well. This officer will have charge of the whole of the correspondence which is transmitted from the Commonwealth through the Governor-General to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, to foreign powers, arid to the Governments of the States. He will be responsible for the coding and decoding of secret despatches, be answerable for errors and proper checking, and take upon himself tasks which now may be distributed amongst several members of the Governor-General’s household. The Commonwealth will pay his salary, and will have the same right to dispense with his services as we have to dispense with the services of other public officials. The present occupant of the office has been with six or eight Governors, and has served in practically every State in Australia. He has been behind the scenes in Australian politics for nearly twenty years past, and holds .the clues to transactions of a confidential nature which have occurred during that time.
– I think it must be agreed that, if the office is a necessary one, the gentleman to be appointed is quite capable of performing the duties attaching to it.
– Is this not another way of increasing the Governor-General’s salary by decreasing his expenditure 1
– No. At present we pay this officer £150 a year, and we propose to increase his salary by £450 to make it £600.
– The proposal is to take over and pay him for the performance of work for which he is now being paid by the Governor-General 1
– The Governor-General allots the duties connected with the transmission, recording, and coding of correspondence among various members of his staff, and, while it is true that the creation of this office will decrease that work, the number of its members is practically determined by other considerations, so that the saving to the Governor-General will not be worth mentioning.
– Will Captain Wallington communicate the contents of despatches to the Governor-General t
– Despatches will pass from the Ministry to this officer, and he will hand them on to the Governor-General, and upon his authority transmit them to the Colonial office. In the same way, replies will be transmitted by the GovernorGeneral through him to us, and he will retain and record them for us, and will be responsible for them. He will be in that way an intermediary between the GovernorGeneral and the Ministry.
– It i3 a wrong position in which to place an officer.
– The experience of Canada shows such an officer to be the proper channel of communication between a GovernorGeneral and his advisers. I know of an instance in which a State Cabinet was kept waiting for papers for a fortnight because one aide-de-camp thought that they were in his possession, whereas they had been dealt with by another.
– When that happened the Governor was not attending properly to the public business.
– A Governor cannot always prevent such occurrences. He is absent in the country from time to time on public business, and while he is away official communications pass through the hands ‘ of the aide-de-camp whom he has left behind to attend to them. But, perhaps, the replies to those despatches are dealt with and sent away by another aide-de-camp during his term of duty. The Commonwealth Government should have control of its despatches, and be the master of every officer who is intrusted with the performance of important public business. We have nothing to do with the Governor-General’s private communications and social invitations. He deals with them as he pleases, through whatever officers he chooses to appoint. Public documents and despatches, however, ought to be- within our control, and the officer who receives and records them should be a Commonwealth officer.
– The position taken up by the Acting Prime Minister in defence of the creation of - this office cannot be successfully attacked. I quite admit that an officer who will be responsible to the Commonwealth Government for the proper performance of the work should be appointed to this position. What I object to is the proposal to increase the expenditure of this sub-department by £450 a year. The Secretary to the Federal Executive Council is to have a clerk at £325 a year. The Acting Prime Minister made a great point of the fact that it is absolutely necessary the secretary should be a man deserving the confidence of successive Ministries, but not a solitary despatch can pass through the office which will not be accessible to the clerk as well as to the secretary.
– The clerk will see the Executive Council papers, but he will not see the foreign correspondence, confidential despatches, and documents of that kind, which will go through the secretary alone.
– Will copies of foreign despatches not be kept in the office ? Is it proposed that these copies shall be always looked up in a safe, and be inaccessible to the office staff?
– At the present time they are not in our hands at all j they are in the hands of the Governor-General, who treats them as he thinks best.
– Will the GovernorGeneral still retain possession of some of these papers 1
– No ; we propose that this officer shall retain them.
– Then they will be kept in the office, and the clerk at £325 a year will have access to them.
– The clerk may see Executive Council papers, but the officer who is to be Secretary to the Executive Council will deal with despatches and papers, which his clerk will never see. The clerk will have a room of his own.
– But he will have access to the room occupied by the secretary. I want to show that this talk about continuous confidential relationship between the secretary and the Ministry is all moonshine, and to protest against the appointment of a society favorite to this position.
– Cannot we discuss the matter without reference to individuals ?
– Every member must be the judge of his own actions in a matter of this kind, and I consider that I have a perfect right, in the interests of the public, and of men who have grown up and spent their best years in the service of the public, to protest against the appointment to this highly-paid office of a man whom I regard as a society butterfly.
– I wish the honorable member knew him.
– I know him by seeing him in the street, but I have never spoken to him, and am not under any obligation to him, so that- I cannot be said to have any personal feeling in the matter. The Acting Prime Minister told us that this man has had twenty years’ experience of public life.
– Yes, in almost every State, . as secretary to different Governors.
– He has had no experience in Western Australia.
– I think that is the only State in which he has not acted, though he has visited it. Very few public servants know more than their own State.
– He is, no doubt, acquainted with the private affairs of several past Governors, and knows a great deal about society functions, but he cannot have had experience in the real conduct of public affairs, unless he has gained it lately by reason of his connexion with the Commonwealth Executive Council.
– He has performed a great deal of public official work for the Governors with whom he has been connected.
He may have shared in the conduct of entertainments, but his work has not been confined to society functions.
– What would happen if he were to die ?
– Another man would have to be trained for the position.
– Allowing that he has some acquaintance with the conduct of public affairs, the duties which he has hitherto discharged are not parallel with those which the occupant- of this office will be called upon to perform, and, in any case, those who have entered the public service as boys, and who have grown up in it, have earned the right by their industry and good conduct- to appointment to offices like this. Before filling this position the Government should ascertain whether there is not already in the public service a man who is capable of discharging the duties attaching to it. I am sorry if my protest has had anything like a personal aspect ; but if the Government will not undertake to invite and to fairly consider applications from the public service for the position, I hope the committee will strike out the item.
– The main point we have to consider is whether it is l ight to create an office of this description. If we think that it is, the appointment of any particular person to the office is a matter not for us, but for the Executive, who will be responsible for their action to this House. W e must not confuse the two positions. Do not let us, because of a possible mistake in the appointment, decide that the office is unnecessary. If we make this provision it will be the duty of the Government to consider the claims of every man in the public service in connexion with those of Captain Wallington. While I do not assert that it is wrong, I rather deprecate the introduction of a personal element into the discussion of a public question.
– The Acting Prime’ Minister himself said that the appointment was being made for Captain Wallington.
– No, I said that I would strongly recommend my colleagues to appoint Captain Wallington, and that I believed they would do so ; but that cannot be said to be “ making” a position for him.
– I do not think my honorable and learned friend would confuse us by introducing such considerations. If it was the intention of the Minister that Captain Wallington should be appointed he was right in stating it to the committee, and now that we have the information we have to consider whether the office is necessary. If I may give the committee the benefit of my experience as a Premier of one of the States for five years, I must say that an office of the kind is absolutely necessary as a means of conveying confidential communications between the Ministers and the representatives of the Crown. A man possessing high qualifications, whether he be the gentleman named or an officer taken from the public service, is absolutely necessary in working out a system of government which, to a much larger extent than some honorable members appear to think, involves confidential communications between the Government and the representatives of the Imperial authorities. It is so with the States, and I think it must be still more so in the case of the Commonwealth Government. I have come to the conclusion that the office is necessary. Of course, there are a number of persons who would accept the position for one-third of the salary proposed to be attached to it. But we do not govern in that way. If we did,, we could readily obtain seven persons to do the work of the Federal Ministry for £500 a year ; but we feel that, granted the necessity for an office, it is our duty to attach a proper salary to that office in order that the best man for the position may be obtained. Since the name of Captain Wallington has been mentioned, I wish to say that if there is a man in the public service of Australia who is better qualified to fill this position, he ought to be appointed.
– Or as well qualified.
– I am not quite sure of that. Although Captain Wallington has not been, in point of official form, in the public service, I think I am only doing him justice in saying that he has really been just as rauch a servant of the State as if he had been appointed under the Public Service Act. I have known him personally for twenty years, and I therefore wish the committee to discount anything I say in regard to him, for I may be influenced by friendly prejudice. I cannot claim any personal intimacy with him ; but from force of circumstances, I was brought daily into contact with this gentleman, and I believe him to be singularly well qualified for the position. There may be another man in the service better or equally well qualified for the office, and, if so, the Government must consider his claims. We must never be led away from a proper regard for the claims to promotion of officers in the service. If I knew of any man in the service as well qualified to fill this office, I think I should abstain from saying one word to recommend the gentleman named ; but I honestly believe that for this particular office there is no man so well qualified as he is. Apart from that altogether, I hope that in dealing with the Estimates, we shall be quite free from personal considerations. If the salary is voted, the appointment will be a matter of Executive responsibility. Before making the appointment the Government are absolutely bound to satisfy themselves that there is not a person equally well qualified for the position in the public service of Australia. With that obligation, and that responsibility upon the Government, I think we have at present simply to consider whether the office is necessary, and whether the salary is too high. In my opinion, the office is absolutely necessary, and the salary reasonable. In these circumstances, I shall certainly support the vote.
– I moveThat the item, “Secretary to the Federal Executive Council, £600, “ be reduced by £200.
– Why not move to strike out the line “ Clerk, £325” ?
– I am bound to take the Acting Prime Minister’s declaration that a clerk must be employed, but we should be very careful not to increase the number of secretaries in the Commonwealth service. Great dissatisfaction exists because it is said that nearly every man in the service has a secretary, and that the secretary has a clerk, for whom the people have to pay. If members of the Federal Parliament can afford to spend £400 or £500 in seeking election to this House, to work here for £400 a year, and to allow their business to go to the dogs, as many of them have to do, surely £400 a year ought to enable the Government to secure a suitable Secretary to the Executive Council ? I could obtain the services of a university man - a man with 44 degrees attached to his name - to do the work for £400 a year.
– Members of Parliament can be obtained to do the work of the country for nothing.
– Certainly. The work which the Secretary to the Executive Council has to do is not sufficient to keep him employed for an hour a day. I agree with the honorable member for Coolgardie that the clerk will do the work. It is very funny to hear that certain private communications pass between the Government and the representative of the Crown which no one can see except the gentleman at the top. If there are such private communications, they must be a danger to the fabric of democracy in Australia. The Government have no right to have communications with any foreign Power about which the people are net entitled to hear. If ever I have] the honour of being Prime Minister the people shall know everything.
– The honorable member would not let his constituents know of every corn.munication that passed between him and his Ministers.
– I should at least let them know of all communications with Powers beyond the seas.
– The leader of the Opposition has requested the committee to remove all personal elements from their consideration of this item. I think it is wise that we should do so not only in regard to this, but in regard to all the items. On the evidence which has been presented, this office is necessary, but I do not think a department is necessary. There is a difference between an officer and a department, and I think the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley, has put his finger on the weak spot. He realizes that it is necessary to grant a secretary to the Executive Council, but he is not prepared to grant both a secretary and a department. That is a danger which is associated with the whole service. Immediately a chance to create an office is discovered, an officer is appointed, and he at once starts to erect a department around him. In this division provision is made for a clerk at a salary of £325 per annum. That is a princely remuneration for a clerk. It has *been admitted that a secretary should be appointed, and high encomiums have been passed by the Acting Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition upon Captain Wallington. It is said that his training and associations fit him for the office. Butithas also been admitted that his time will not be so fully occupied I as to necessitate the employment of a clerk to assist him. I would Suggest to the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley, that he should withdraw his amendment, and that when we come to the line, “ Clerk, £325,” he should move to strike it out. A clerk is an officer who performs the mechanical work of the department, and it is absurd that we should pay £325 per annum for the work in addition to a salary of £600 per annum for a secretary. If we strike out the provision for a clerk, this item can remain. The secretary’s time will not be fully occupied, and he is not likely to be much out of pocket if he has to find some one to do the mediannical work.
– But we should be dismissing a good man if we got rid of the clerk.
– No one will be dismissed.
– No the clerk will be transferred to some other department.
– The whole range of the service will be open to him.
– A salary of £600 is too much for any man.
– lt appears that there is already a clerk in the office ; but it is not necessary to dismiss him, seeing that he may be found a position in some other branch of the service. At any rate, my only concern is to watch the interests of the public. The Acting Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition occupy positions which compel us to pay attention to the opinions they express, and I feel that I must accept their statement that £600 is not too large a salary for the office. I should be glad if the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley, would withdraw his amendment in order that I- 11]ay move that the item “ Clerk, £325,” be omitted.
Mr. SALMON (Laanecoorie)’. - I am sorry the Government have proposed to appoint a Secretary, to the Federal Executive Council at a salary of £600. When the last Estimates were before the Chamber there was a discussion in regard to the remuneration which was paid to the then Secretary to the Governor-General for extra services rendered to the Executive Council, and honorable members may recollect that J very strongly advocated the claims of the occupant of that office for consideration at the hands of the committee. The item was passed, and I have not altered my opinion with regard to it, but I deplore the fact that the Government have manufactured another office, which in my opinion is “not necessary.
– Was the honorable member here when I spoke ?
– Had the honorable member been present he would not now make that statement.
– I am only expressing my opinion.- The argument used when this matter was discussed before - and I dare say it has been used to-day - was that it is absolutely necessary on account of the character of the communications which pass between the Commonwealth Government and the Home Government, that the officer in charge should be entirely under the control of the federal authorities. I do not agree with that argument. I feel satisfied that the gentleman occupying the very responsible position of private secretary and confidential adviser to the GovernorGeneral is quite competent to undertake the duty of acting as the medium of communication between us and the Home Government. The only danger to be apprehended is that of the divulging of confidential reports and despatches ; but I cannot imagine an officer occupying the position to which I have alluded being guilty of anything approaching such conduct. I am prepared to vote against the item. I quite agree with honorable members who are of opinion that an- appointment of the kind would mean the immediate creation of a department, the officers in which would arrogate to themselves a position in the service which, in my opinion, they should not occupy. The greatest danger that the Government have to encounter at the hands of the people of the Commonwealth is due’ to the multiplication of offices under federal authority. As a supporter of the Government, I regret to find again - because this is not the first time it has happened - the creation of an absolutely new office which had no existence under the States Governments.
– I should be very sorry to follow every example of the States.
– I know that the Minister for Home Affairs is very sorry to follow any example ; he likes to lay down a line for himself. The honorable gentleman, while he is not prepared to follow anybody, would like us all to follow him ; but I am not prepared to follow in the direction desired on this occasion. _
– I have a groat deal of sympathy with the view expressed by the last speaker, while disagreeing with him in his statement that no such officer is required.
– I did not say that.
– There is absolute necessity for such an officer, and I agree with the designation given him in the Estimates. In my. opinion the Acting Prime Minister is responsible for the whole of this debate. Instead of leaving honorable members to infer from reading the item what the duties are - that is to say, if the duties are what we think they ought so be - the Acting Prime Minister tells us that the officer is to belong partly to the Governor-General and partly to the Executive Council.
– I did not say that the officer would belong to the Governor-
General, but that he would have to be in the Governor-General’s confidence.
– I am now putting my own construction on what the Acting Prime Minister said, and if the intention be as I have indicated, the officer will be placed in an entirely false position. I can conceive of circumstances, in time of crisis, when it would be most inconvenient to have an officer so appointed acting as a means of communication between the GovernorGeneral and the Ministry for the time being. Such an officer ought to be absolutely under the control of the Government, and not in confidential relations with the GovernorGeneral. One would think, on listening to the Acting Prime Minister, that this was one of the most important offices in the world - that there was hardly a man capable of filling it - and in that I think the case has been overstated. We do require a Secretary to t4he Executive Council, but here we have a proposal to pay a man a salary, not for doing the real work, but for standing in confidential relations as between the Ministry and the Governor-General. If the occupant of the office be paid £600 a year he ought to be made responsible, and the real work not left to somebody else ; and I protest against the creation of what may be called a merely complimentary office. I am prepared to vote for the first item, irrespective of whom the occupant of the office may be, but I think that the whole civil service ought to be considered in filling these superior positions. Our first duty is to officers of the service who have been struggling along for so many years ; and any officer capable of doing the work should have the preference. I want to guard myself against reflecting in any way on Captain Wallington, whom I believe to be a’ very able man ‘ in Ins particular line ; but there are able officers in the service who, as I say, ought to receive consideration.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella). - I gave way before in order to listen to the explanation of the Acting Prime Minister, but I must confess frankly that I do not yet feel satisfied with this item. There are two facts which we cannot disregard. The first is that we are saddling the Commonwealth permanently with another highly-paid officer, and the second is that the Commonwealth has not yet come to grief in the absence of such an officer. The present state of affairs has not been productive of the disaster that the Acting Prime Minister painted in somewhat lurid colours. In the present financial circumstances of Australia, even if the permanent appointment of this official would mean an improved conduct of the business of the Executive Council, I think the existing arrangement ought to continue for the sake of the saving that would be thereby effected. A great charge made against this Government, and especially against some of the members of the Government, is that they are continually allowing new appointments to be made. As the States are, or will be in a short time, face to face with deficits, it is our business to save every penny, and the present arrangement ought to be continued at any rate until the financial stress is over. Sums of £400 or £500 saved here and there will amount to a very considerable sum throughout the whole of the departments.
– And the example will be far more valuable than the saving.
– A postponement of the appointment would be an advisable step, and it may be that afterwards there will not appear the same necessity for such rigid and lasting economy. I am not prepared to vote for this new appointment.
– It was mainly in reply to the honorable and learned member for Corinella that I rose before, but refrained from entering on several important topics which have since been touched on as incidental to this particular matter. I quite agree that there is necessity for economy, and there is no reasonable proposal to that end I would not support. I altogether repudiate the charge that this Parliament or this Government have as yet been guilty of any departure from the rules of economy.
– I did not say that the Government or Parliament had been so guilty. What I said was that we were regarded as being guilty, and that I did not want anything to be done to encourage the idea.
– That may be so, but it is necessary to make this preliminary repudiation. However, I recognise the possibility of making a saving in connexion with this proposal. I had already considered that possibility, but refrained from pressing it, because the officer to whom it refers is a valued and trusted officer.
– We do not want him dismissed.
– We are not going to dismiss him. I am alluding to the clerk at £325 a year. When examining the work that was being done, I could not fail to see that it was a considerable payment for the duties performed. But the clerk has so well and efficiently filled the office for a long time, that I did not wish to propose a change until a change should be obligatory. It has been suggested, however, that the £325 is a considerable salary to pay for the discharge of what are practically ordinary, regular, mechanical, clerical, duties ; and, in order to meet the views of honorable members, I am prepared to promise that my colleagues and myself will endeavour to find amongst the new appointments necessary under the Commonwealth, one suitable for such an officer, and to give the claims of this gentleman the first consideration, with a view of replacing him by a clerk at a smaller salary.
– A clerk at £50 would be sufficient.
– Our minimum salary is £110, and it will be necessary, I suppose, to pay something between that sum and £150.
– Why cannot the man at £600 a year do all the work ?
-I have in my hand a document which has to be transmitted. That document consists of fifteen pages, and requires to be copied, and similar documents, also requiring to be copied, are passing to and fro every day. It is impossible to expect a man in charge of such documents, who has also to perform other responsible duties, to do mechanical work.
– Is not all the work of the Department of External Affairs confidential, or nearly so?
– No. As I said before, with a view to meet the views of honorable members, I am willing to undertake at the earliest possible moment to transfer this permanent officer to some other department where further assistance is required. The Minister for Home Affairs, who has under his supervision the electoral work and public service administration, may, I hope, be able to take the claims of this officer into consideration, and thus leave us free to appoint a clerk at a smaller salary to do the mechanical work required in connexion with the Executive Council. By that means the saving desired by the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley, will practically be achieved, and we shall obtain what we want, namely, full control by the Government.
– Will there be a saving if this officer be transferred at the same salary?
– In any case, some person from the States services or elsewhere would have to be appointed to the office to which he will be appointed.
– Could not the present arrangement continue without disaster?
– I have told the committee of one disaster which cost over £10,000. My desire is to meet the committee, and, by the method I have indicated, make the substantial economy suggested.
Question - That the item “ Secretary to the Federal Executive Council, £600,” be reduced by £200 - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I should like to hear something about the item “Clerk, £325.” I wish to know whether it is the intention of the Government to allow the office to remain as it is, or whether they intend that the secretary whom they propose to be appointed at £600 a year shall do the work ?
– It will be necessary to leave this item as it stands until we are able to arrange a transfer. Until that is done the officer will continue to be paid out of this vote. As soon as the work in the department of the Minister for Home Affairs so develops as to require an officer of the standing of this clerk he will be one of the first to be transferred. After that his place will be taken by an officer paid at about the minimum salary of £100 or £110 a year, engaged to do mechanical work.
– Does that mean that until an appointment can be made in one of the other departments we shall have two men doing one man’s work in connexion with the Executive Council 1
– The opportunity is almost certain to arise before the close of this year. In fact, it may arise within a month, because the Electoral Bill is just on the point of being passed, and that will call for the appointment of at least two or three officers of some standing, who will have important work of a clerical kind to do in connexion with the administration of the measure. When that begins, the gentleman who is now filling the position of Clerk to the Executive Council can be transferred. Then, again, the staff of the Public Service Commissioner must be completed within the next two or three months, and there is a probability of an opportunity for a transfer arising there. The first opportunity will be taken, and there is every reason to believe that an opportunity will arise within the next month or two.
– I am rather surprised that the honorable member for Yarra should try to take away from the Secretary of the Executive Council the clerk who has been appointed to assist him. I think that a man who gets £600 a year should have a clerk paid at about £300 a year to help him. It is not adding to the dignity of his position that he himself should be called upon to work.
– Does not the honorable member think that we should get a few messengers to help him ?
– Certainly ; the moment an appointment such as this is made honorable members may rest assured that a number of other appointments will follow. That has been so all through in connexion with the establishment of the federal departments. . The idea of giving a man £600 a year and then asking him to work is absurd. I am surprised at the Acting Prime Minister asking the committee to allow this clerk bo be transferred to another department. I understand that this gentleman is a very able man.
– Then he should be able to do the work !
– I do not think he should be compelled to do it, and under the circumstances I feel almost inclined to vote against the item and abolish the position of the clerk altogether. It is clear that if this officer is transferred it will not relieve the Commonwealth of the expenditure.
– It will save a new appointment.
– It is time enough to face that contingency when the appointment comes up for consideration. The present position simply means that a post similar to the one which the present clerk holds at £325 a year will be created for him in another department.
– Oh, no; that would be the case in ordinary times, but when we have coming into operation new legislation, for which there must be officers, new and important positions must be created.
– Then there is the question of whether the officer to fill the position of Secretary to the Federal Executive Council should not be taken from the ser- ‘ vice of. one of the States. I understand that there are officers doing similar work in the States, and why should an office worth £600 a year be given to a man who has not previously been in the public service ?
– Why not make the clerk the secretary?
– Yes, give that rooster the salary.
– If the clerk has been doing the work in the past, why not give him the £600 a year, and then we shall save £325 on the position? The attitude taken up by the Acting Prime Minister seems to indicate that he desires to create this position for a certain individual. Another item in the schedule, to which I would direct attention, is No. 7 - “ Travelling expenses of honorary Ministers, being for actual expenses incurred, £100.” If honorary Ministers are to receive payment for the expenses they incur while travelling, why should not Members of Parliament be similarly treated ? I am not saying that I approve of that course altogether, but I certainly think that if honorary Ministers get paid, the same treatment should be meted out to Members of Parliament. I am opposed to the Ministers receiving this payment. When the honorary Ministers were appointed, it was done to satisfy certain States. The general impression was that we were to have seven Ministers. Then the Government found that Tasmania raised a certain amount of objection through not been represented in the Ministry. Therefore, they immediately appointed an honorary Minister for Tasmania. Then again, they appointed an honorary Minister for New South Wales, because that State held the premier position in the Commonwealth. In the case of one of them, we have been called upon to appoint a private secretary at £400 a year, to assist the honorary Minister, who carries on his own business during the session; and there are cases where the Senate has been practically shut up for a week or a fortnight to suit his convenience. Yet, in addition to paying £400 a year for his private secretary, we are asked to pay his travelling expenses.
– That is not fair in regard to a man who has made immense sacrifices for the Commonwealth.
– It is fair criticism if this gentleman cannot attend to the business of the Commonwealth for which he is paid. I admit that he has done good work for the Government and for the Commonwealth. We all recognise his ability. But if we are required to appoint another Minister, the Government should come down to Parliament and say that seven Ministers are not sufficient to carry on the work of the Commonwealth. They should take the responsibility of creating another office. But they have not taken that course. They have seen fit to appoint two honorary Ministers, and now we are asked to pay their travelling expenses. It is not right. We ought not to do any such thing.
– I wish to explain that the item of £100 for the travelling expenses of honorary Ministers is not devoted to the purposes which the honorable member for Kennedy supposes. It is intended to pay the expenses of honorary Ministers when they visit some part of the Commonwealth to discharge. Ministerial functions or to attend when the presence of a member of the Federal Executive is required. The money is not devoted to paying their travelling expenses on ordinary occasions. The vote is put down here to inform the committee publicly that honorary Ministers are required occasionally to attend certain functions which are important enough to require the presence of a Minister.
– Suppose a member of Parliament is required to attend some important function, does he have his expenses paid?
– He exerciseshis own choice as to whether he attends or not. But this is a case where a member of the Cabinet would have no interest in the matter, but must take a long journey to attend some important function, and is paid his out-of-pocket expenses.
– There is no reason why he should attend at all.
– Only £55 was spent in this direction last year.
– The Government are now increasing the amount.
– No ; it does not follow that because £100 is put upon the Estimates that such an amount will be required in the course of the year. It may be that we shall not spend more than £55, as was the case last year.
– What is the meaning of item 5 in subdivision 3 - “ Temporary assistance, £120.” Why should temporary assistance be wanted any longer ?
– I do not suppose it will be wanted, but one can never tell, especially in connexion with the administration of new Acts of Parliament. For instance, the bulk of the £105 voted last year was spent in connexion with the permit system which we were asked to undertake in regard to vessels leaving for South Africa. It was entirely unforeseen expenditure ; no one could have expected it. The amount involved is too small to make it a charge against the Imperial Government, more especially as the system was not at all unfavorable to the interests of Australia.
– How many went to South Africa ?
– Altogether rather more than 3,000. The money was spent in a totally unexpected direction, and, of course, if such occasions do not arise in the coming year the money will not be spent.
– I should like to ask the Acting Prime Minister what he is going to do about the salary of the Clerk to the Executive Council ?
– I have already explained that, owing to the Electoral Bill, which will come into operation shortly, and to the work involved in connexion with the office of the Public Service Commissioner, opportunities may be afforded for the transfer of the officer now filling the position of clerk. As soon as possible, he will be transferred to some clerical post probably under one or other of the new Acts.
– Will he be an electoral expert 1
– No ; he will be a clerical officer in connexion with the administration of one of the Acts. The Electoral Act is going to cost for the establishment of its administration £35,000, and will involve a very large amount of work in connexion with the preparation of the new rolls, the bringing into operation of new machinery, and so on. We propose to take the first opportunity, which we expect will arise in a few months, to transfer this officer to a position suitable to his standing in the public service. That transfer will be an advantage’ to him, because he will have opportunities of rising, if he exhibits sufficient energy and ability, which’ he would not have if he remained in his present position. We shall then cast upon the secretary the whole of the work in connexion with the Executive Council except the purely mechanical writing and typing, for which we shall appoint a junior officer at about £110 per year.
Mr. PAGE (Maranoa). - I am very pleased to hear the explanation of the Acting Prime Minister, and as far as I am concerned it is satisfactory.
– Why should a gentleman at £600 a year be expected to do any work ‘!
– Does not the honorable member know that it is only in keeping with the ordinary manner of heads of departments that they should not do much work? I have not had much to do with heads of departments in the federal service, but the little I have had to do with them in the State service of Queensland shows me that heads of departments are harder to approach than Ministers. They stick you outside their doors, and keep you standing there to be scrutinized by anybody who comes along, as though you were a proclamation. Perhaps the federal service may not be so bad as that. As the Attorney-General has given the committee an assurance that this item of £325 will be reduced, we cannot cavil at the action of the Government. We have lost on the last division, and must be satisfied. We know very well that the .whole Commonwealth is being accused of spending money very freely by the creation of various offices. This appears to be the only office created that has not had following in its train the appointment of half-a-dozen, or, perhaps, twenty, minor officers.
– Give them time.
– Well, this branch of the department has been established for twelve months, and we find that the cost has only increased by a little over £600, whereas the cost of some of the departments . has increased by thousands per annum. We have not got that far in this instance. If we are to take up as much time upon the rest of the Estimates as has been taken up in discussing this vote of £600, we are likely to be here for the next four months instead of getting away next week. If there is one thing which I like more than another it is political consistency^ and I must say that some members of this committee are amongst the most expert political acrobats I have yet come across. Honorable members representing South Australia are always preaching economy and asking for the assurance of Ministers that they will not make this or some other appointment, but when they are given an opportunity of voting for a reduction of £200 they do not avail themselves of it.
– Did the honorable member see me voting against it 1
– I did not mention anybody.
– I am the only South Australian representative present.
– I am sorry to hear the _ honorable member say so, because honorable members from South Australia are always preaching economy, and yet when large sums of money are going through in connexion with these Estimates there is only one representative of the model State present.
– I regret that the honorable member for Maranoa should have cast any reflections upon the representatives of South Australia. People who live in glass houses should not throw stones, and in. the matter of attendance to the duties of this House the representatives of South Australia compare, favorably with those of any other State. I happen to be the only representative of that State present to-day, because the other representatives, in common with most members of the committee, were under the impression that the debate upon the Budget speech would occupy at least a week. I rose particularly to say that I am not satisfied with the explanation given by the Acting Prime Minister in connexion with the vote for travelling allowances for honorary Ministers. I presume that when Ministers took it upon themselves to go beyond the Constitution in the’ appointment of honorary Ministers, they did so for their own convenience. I remind honorable members that this House has been particularly generous to Ministers, and has given them their salaries of £400 each as members, or £2,800 more than has been accepted by Ministers in similar conditions in any of the States Parliaments.
– That is not so. No State Parliament was ever in the same position under its Constitution.
– There are two ways in which this expenditure may be avoided. Ministers might attend these functions in other States themselves, and if they can not find .time to do so, they can certainly, out of the emoluments they receive, pay the expenses of honorary Ministers who are called upon to do their work. If the appointment of these honorary Ministers is intended to relieve them of their obligation to attend functions in the different States, the effect will be to relieve them of expenditure, and that is another reason why we should protest against this arrangement. 1 shall be prepared to support the honorable member for Kennedy should he persist in the amendment he has suggested, not because of the amount at stake, but because of the principle involved.
– I heartily support the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Kennedy. When it is considered that the Ministerial salaries amount to £15,000, it will be admitted that they are very liberally treated, and I think it is altogether too mean and too Scotch for them to say that they will not put their hands into their pockets to pay the expenses of honorary Ministers incurred in the performance of duties which they should perform themselves. The country should certainly not be asked to support any such charge.
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie).- To bring this discussion to an issue, I move -
That the item, “ Clerk £325,” be omitted. The Acting Prime Minister has spoken in the highest terms of this officer.
– We shall not get rid of him by omitting this item.
– I am just going to point out a vacancy which he might be called upon to fill. The Acting Prime Minister has given this officer a very high testimonial.
– For the duties which he has to perform.
– And of course for other duties for which it may be found that he is equally capable if he is given a trial. I believe this officer comes from New South Wales, and that he was there regarded as a capable man. From what I have heard, I am inclined to indorse the high character given him by the . Acting Prime Minister, and I point out that if we omit this item, although there will be no clerk at £325, there will be nothing to prevent the Government saying to this officer, “Here is another position, that of Secretary to the’ Federal Executive Council. The salary is a little higher than that which you have been receiving, but we presume you will have no objection to promotion.”
– He is not fit for that office.
– If he is the capable man he is represented to be by the honorable gentleman, and by other honorable members who have spoken concerning him, there can be no reason why his promotion should be delayed. I have no desire to interpose between the Government and 45 v their administration of so small a department as this, but now that we are out for economy a saving of £325 a year in a small department is not to be despised, especially when it can be effected by the promotion of a worthy and capable man. The Acting Prime Minister says that this officer is capable only for the discharge of the duties he is at present called upon to perform, but I say that he may prove himself equallycapable in the performance of the higher duties of Secretary to the Executive Council. Probably the man himself does not know what an excellent officer he would make as Secretary to the Executive Council at £600 a year, as I am sure that the spur of the additional emolument would induce him to put forward his best efforts to give satisfaction.
– I am not prepared to go quite so far as the honorable member for Coolgardie, but I think the item might be reduced by say £200 in order to carry out the suggestion made by the Acting Prime Minister.
– I have before promised to make that reduction, by the transfer of this officer within the next month or two, as soon as the Acts to which I have referred come into force.
– Might it not be as well to do it now when dealing with the Estimates?
– We must pay this officer the £325, as he is a permanent officer transferred from a State.
– If the Acting Prime Minister has undertaken to carry out that arrangement I am prepared to accept his word. With regard to the item of £100 for travelling expenses for honorary Ministers, the vote does not amount to much, but there is an important principle involved. I cannot see why honorary Ministers should be paid travelling expenses any more than any other member of the House. They have never been so paid in any of the States.
– This sum is not for ordinary travelling expenses, but only for special trips undertaken in connexion with public business.
– But private members have to travel as well.
– So have the honorary Ministers; but this vote covers only the bare expenses incurred by them in attending functions in the States which the other Ministers would otherwise have to attend.
– If they relieve other Ministers of duties which they are supposed to perform, it is not too much to expect those Ministers to pay their expenses.
– Not in the least, if the committee choose to strike out the item.
– If we keep on increasing the expenditure by small driblets in every possible way the aggregate will be very large. When the attention of the Acting Prime Minister was drawn to several increases in the salaries of clerks in the early part of this division, he was not in a position to give the committee any information. I hold that the committee should be given full particulars of every increase, however large or small it may be. When one State is compelled to go in for percentage reductions - and its example will be followed by other States - it is a great anomaly that we should be increasing the salaries of our public officers. By the vote I gave just now, I did not wish to indicate that I thought that the gentleman who is filling the position is not worth the salary. I certainly think that he is well worth the salary, because I know that he is a most excellent officer and estimable man. I voted as I did to prevent the creation of a new office. I thought that if the salary were reduced to £400, the office would not be filled.
– I had not the information at the moment it was asked for by the honorable member for Gippsland. An officer of the department was transferred to another in which he conceived that he found a better scope for his abilities. His salary was £260, and the only appointment I have made has been to fill that office at £180 a year, by taking an officer from the Naval branch, who otherwise would have lost his employment. That gave me a good saving to start with.
– There were other increases.
– In reference to the clerks who received increases, we followed the provisions of the Public Service Act as if it were in operation. We had first of all a youth who joined at a salary of £50, and who had gone through twelve months’ experience. With him the provision made is that from the 1st July to the end of the year he is to get a salary of £60, and from the 1st January next year a salary of £80.
– Did he have any experience before he joined the department t
– Some experience.
– Is he of age, and ought he to be paid a better wage than £80 a year 1
– My recollection is that he is from eighteen to twenty years of age. Two clerks who were taken from the Tasmanian service, where they got £100 a year, have been tried in the department, and are now getting £120 a year. They have far more important duties to do in “the department than they had to do in the State service. Then comes an officer who is doing work which last year was done by his senior, who has been moved up. He gets £180 a year now, as against £150 which he previously received.
– Thirty pounds is a very good increase.
-The officer is doing work which last year was done by an officer at a salary of £240. When that officer was taken away, we moved up the juniors with these increases. The other officer has been in the Commonwealth ever since its initiation, and was very highly reported on by the officers last year. He had no increase last year, and he gets a £20 increase this year. The increase is divided over two years. If my honorable friend takes into account the saving we have made, and notices that this is a gradual moving up of officers according- to the principles laid down in the Public Service Act, I think he will see that the recognition is no more than the good work done by the officers deserves. I must say I felt under an obligation to them, inasmuch as I have not only made this reduction, but, as my honorable friend is aware, I have placed at the services of the commission, of which he is chairman, an officer whose work has to be divided amongst all the other officers, while he is saving the cost of a secretary to that body.
– I think it would a pity to strike -out this item, in view of the promise which has been given by the Acting Prime Minister.
Mr. SALMON (Laanecoorie). - I was in favour of striking out the item; but after the statement of the Acting Prime Minister, I “ do not think that we should be justified in taking that course. I deeply regret the previous vote which was taken ; but a very large 45 v z number of those who voted against the proposal to reduce the item of £600 cannot conscientiously, I think, refuse to accept the offer made by the Government.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).- I appeal to the honorable member for Coolgardie to withdraw his motion, because it is quite clear from what has been said that the Government do not intend to appoint this clerk to the higher position. Supposing he was the fittest man who could be found, if the Government will not appoint him to the position, there is an end to the matter. If we refuse to vote this salary he will have to go about his business, I presume, until some work can be found for him to do. We ought not to deal in that way with an officer who has been brought over from a State service. Since the Government have promised to transfer him to another position whenever an opportunity arises, the least we can do is to continue his salary until that can be done.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).This officer was transferred from New South Wales, and he was specially selected by Lord Hopetoun on account of his exceptional ability to fill the position. I am informed on very good authority that he is an excellent officer. It would be a great pity if an injury were done to an officer who has served the State of New South Wales and also the Commonwealth in such an exceptional manner as has been stated. I hope that he will suffer no injustice as he might do if this motion were carried. I suggest that he might be considered in connexion with the appointment of secretary if he is competent to discharge the duties ; but until that question is settled, he should be allowed to remain in his present position.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).The statement made by the honorable member for Macquarie, if correct, puts a new aspect on this matter. If Lord Hopetoun specially selected this officer to come over to Melbourne, the question arises whether he was in the service of New South Wales at all.
– I believe that Lord Hopetoun made a request for his services.
– He filled a similar position in the office of the Governor of New South Wales.
– What had Lord Hopetoum to do with sending this officer over to Melbourne? I hope that he did not go about the departments for officers to come over here, and do this kind of work. It would have beeninfra dig. on his part to make a request for any officer, and if I thought for a moment that he did so, I should have a very different impression of him from what I have. We might leave the salary of this officer alone until something else can be found for him to do.
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie). - I am inclined to think that the fears expressed by the honorable member for Macquarie of any injustice being done to this officer are purely groundless. That is not my intention, nor will it be the effect of my motion if it is carried. It is quite optional with the Government to promote the officer to the position of secretary. After the high testimonials which have been given by Lord Hopetoun, the Acting Prime Minister and other honorable members, I feel certain that the officer, whom I do not know, must be eminently qualified for the post. When the Government can reduce the cost of this department by the substantial sum of £350 a year, they have no shadow of excuse for not appointing him. Supposing that the item were omitted theremustbe other positions to whichhe could be transferred almost immediately. Neither on one ground nor on the other is there any excuse for allowing the item to remain. Honorable members who are continually talking about the necessity for economy will expose themselves to a charge of inconsistency if they vote against my amendment, which is intended to effect a saving of expenditure, and at the same time to secure promotion for a deserving officer.
Mr.R. EDWARDS (Oxley).- I have no personal knowledge of the gentleman whose salary is under discussion. The only question in my mind is whether there is work sufficient to justify us in paying this officer a salary of £325 per annum. If the Acting Prime Minister is prepared to assure us that it is absolutely necessary that we should have a clerk in the office, I shall support the item.
– It is necessary to have a clerk in the office, but I have promised to replace the present occupant of the position, as soon as he can be transferred, with a clerk at about £100 per annum.
Amendment (by Mr. McDonald) proposed -
That the item, “Travelling expenses of honorary Ministers, being for actual expenses incurred, £100” be omitted.
– Rather than have a debate upon this item of £100, I prefer to withdraw it. I am sorry that the work of honorary Ministers is not better appreciated.
– I object to the withdrawal of the item. I think it is only fair that Ministers who perform public services should be recouped any expense which they may incur, and it is most improper to suggest that they should pay out of their own pockets money spent in the discharge of their Ministerial duties. I have consistently supported every movement in the direction of economy, but I think we should be trifling with the honour of the House if we did not insist upon the retention of this item in the Estimates.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I hope the honorable member for Kennedy will withdraw his amendment. I understand that if an honorary Minister does not attend a particular function on behalf of the Government, a salaried member of the Government will be called upon to discharge this duty, and will be entitled to have his expenses defrayed. Therefore it is not likely that any saving will be effected by the omission of this item. The Vice-President of the ExecutiveCouncil has performed a great deal of useful work for the Government, and I understand that he is not being paid any salary.
– Hear, hear.
– I believe, further, that he did not receive one penny of the £55 which was spent last year in defraying the expenses of honorary Ministers.
Mr. McDONALD (Kennedy).- The expenses of honorary Ministers should be paid by the members of the Government. In the first place, there was no need to appoint any honorary Ministers. If the number of Ministers first provided for was not sufficient, it was the duty of the Government to ask for more. One of the honorary Ministers was appointed to suit the convenience of the Government, and the other office was created in order to give Tasmania representation in the Cabinet. When we agreed that Ministers should be allowed to draw their allowance of £400 a year as members, in addition to their Ministerial salary, I thought that would be the end of the expense connected with the Ministerial offices. I believe that Ministers are entitled to their allowances, but I do not think that we should be asked to make payments to the honorary Ministers whom they have appointed to help them in their work. This is a matter of principle and not of amount. If we allow this item to pass we shall probably find expenses under one head and another so far increased that we shall be called upon to vote the equivalent of full salaries for the honorary Ministers. I shall press my amendment.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).- No doubt the Government have acted in perfect honesty in submitting this item forour approval. I should not object to the honorary Ministers being recouped their expenses out of the departmental votes, but I object to affirm theprinciple involved in the appointment of honorary Ministers.
– There is no departmental vote out of which these expenses could be legally paid. The departmental votes are available only for the payment of travelling expenses incurred in connexion with the business of the respective departments.
– Are there not votes out of which Ministers can recoup themselves their travelling expenses?
– Yes, when they are engaged in carrying out the work of their respective departments.
– There should be no difficulty in arranging to refund to the honorary Ministers any expenses which they may incur when they are engaged on public business. I shall vote against the item, because I think that the practice of appointing honorary Ministers should be discouraged as far as possible.
Question - That the item “ Travelling expenses of honorary Ministers, being for actual expenses incurred, £100,” stand as printed - put. The committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Vote agreed to.
– The Minister should give some information about this expenditure. Twenty thousand pounds is a heavy subsidy for the Commonwealth to have to pay year after year. It seems to me that the Ministry would do well to intimate to the officer in charge of New Guinea that it is desirable to raise a little more revenue from customs duties.
– From customs duties ?
– I believe in the imposition of customs duties to meet the expenses of Government, but not to keep alive ricketyindustries at Castlemaine or elsewhere.
– The increase in customs receipts from New Guinea this year is estimated at £3,000.
– The annual report does not show how the money is to be raised. The revenue collected in the Possession during the year totalled £15,114, which is £1,279 in excessof that of any preceding year, whereas the customs dues totalled £11,389 10s.1d., an increase of £567 12s. over the amount collected in 1 899-1 900. I do not find in the report any statement of the revenue derived from the various articles imported, some fifteen lines of which are specifically enumerated, the value of the rest, classified as “ other articles,” being put down at £30,219.
– What is the total value of the imports?
– Then the Customs revenue is about 15 per cent, of that amount.
– The honorable and learned member refused to agree to duties of 15 per cent, when the Tariff was under discussion in this Chamber.
– Not to revenue duties of 15 per cent.
– The Administrator in his report makes a very fair suggestion. In recommending that the arrangement in regard to the subsidy be fixed for a definite period, he writes -
It is scarcely necessary for me to point out the advantage of this to both sides, the Federal Government knowing what they will have to provide in their Estimates, and the Administration of the Possession knowing the limit of the annual contribution to their revenue.
At the same time I think that the present subsidy is a very heavy one, and that some arrangement might be made by which the revenue of the Possession would be increased. There is another small matter to which I would like to refer, and that is that the bulky report of the Administrator which has been placed in our hands bears upon it the imprint of the Government Printingoffice, Brisbane, 1902, while the document is said to be “ Printed for the Commonwealth of Australia.” Did the Commonwealth authorize the printing of it ?
– Not specifically. The Brisbane office has been doing work of this kind for the Commonwealth ; but, no doubt, expenses can be cut down.
– 1 notice that the Possession is paying 4 per cent, as interest on a loan of il,000.
– That interest was being paid upon an overdraft which existed at the time of the transference, -but I do not think it is being paid now.
– The New Guinea authorities have received a distinct intimation that under no circumstances will they receive more than £20,000 a year from the Commonwealth.
– Ordinance No. 6, of 1900, authorizes the borrowing of £3,000 for the public service, at a rate of interest not exceeding 4 per cent. It does .not appear that the money has been repaid.
– No provision for the payment of the interest is made on the Estimates, but I will make inquiries into the subject.
– Four per cent, is a very high rate of interest now ; the average rate is between 3^- and 3£ per cent. I should like to know if the Government have abandoned the. idea of obtaining from the Imperial Government a contribution towards the maintenance of the Merrie England. I understand that the steamer is available, not merely for the New Guinea service, but also for the service of some of the adjacent islands.
– Only in connexion with the administration of New Guinea.
– Can it be said that the Imperial Government has given up all control of New Guinea, when at any time there may be difficulty about the adjustment of the boundaries between the British and German possessions 1 I think that we should have some explanation with regard to all these matters.
– I wish to know from the AttorneyGeneral whether federal legislation will not be necessary to provide for the administration of New Guinea by the Commonwealth. I am very pleased to notice that the sales of land there have been restricted. It seems to me that we should do well to prevent the sale of land there altogether, until we know better how the territory should be administered.. I would rather see the amount now derived from land sales added to the annual subsidy than permit land speculation there.
– The questions to which the. honorable member for Coolgardie has called attention were considered in connexion with the annual Estimates for New Guinea. The chief source of increased Customs revenue there is a levy made upon the sticks of tobacco which are the current coin of the country, labour being paid for and goods purchased by them. It did not seem possible to materially increase the Customs receipts in any other way, because, as there are very few whites in the country, the consumption of dutiable articles is very small. The honorable member for South Sydney is right in assuming that the alienation ‘of land, the increase of customs duties, and the relations between the Possession and the Commonwealth will have to be dealt with in the measure which the Government hope to prepare during the recess for presentation to Parliament next session. At the present time we are merely continuing the existing methods of administration, and making what economies we can. There has practically been no demand for land in New Guinea, except in such areas as have had to’ be refused.
– What is meant by “Native labour fees, £255 “?
– That sum was received in fees for the registration of agreements between natives and their employers.
Vote agreed to.
– There seems to have been some increase in the additional subsidy granted on condition that black labour is not used in this mail service.
– No ; but a larger amount has to be provided for this year, because last year’s vote was only for a portion of the year. - Mr. E. SOLOMON.- I understand that there has been some correspondence in regard to the action of Messrs. Philp and Co., who, it is said, are not complying with the condition.
– 1 have not seen it.
– 1 think that the Minister should explain the reason for this subsidy, and why an additional subsidy of £2,000 has been granted for the extension of the services.
– I cannot understand why the vote for a mail service to Pacific Islands should be included in the estimates for the Department of External Affairs. All other mail services are provided for in the estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s department. It seems to me that we should have an explanation of the reason why the Commonwealth is to pay £6,000 a year for a small mail service to the South Sea Islands. In addition to the sum which was previously paid by the New South Wales Government, there is provision made for a subsidy of £2,000.
– The additional amount was passed last year for the extra service.
– What I desire to know is whether this expenditure is justified as relating to a mail service or whether it is to be regarded simply as a bonus given to Sydney merchants to assist them in distributing their goods in the South Sea Islands, and in that way to make a profit. These men protest against everything else in the way of bonuses, but it seems that they ask the Commonwealth to assist them in their business undertakings. If free-trade is a correct principle they ought to carry on their business upon commercial lines. If had an opportunity of testing the matter, I should decline to vote one shilling out of the Commonwealth funds to enable Sydney merchants to run ships to the islands for their own profit. Can this expenditure of £6,000 per annum for the conveyance of a small mail service - a mere handful of letters - to the islands be justified ?
– Has the honorable member read the reports ?
– He should do so,’ for they put a different aspect on the matter. They show that a much bigger question is involved.
– I believe this is a subsidy granted for the assistance of certain companies.
– Burns, Philp, and Company.
– I am not going to mention names. I do not care who the merchants are. I should like the Minister to justify this expenditure by allowing the extent of the mail service.
– I thought that the honorable member would have recalled sufficient of the discussion which took place upon this proposal last year to have rendered an explanation unnecessary The. payment of this subsidy was authorized by Parliament before it was made by the Government. The contract was not entered into upon the ground that the money would be well spent for the mere carriage. of letters once a month between Australia and the various groups of islands named, nor was it a proposal to give any bonus to the merchants of Australia. Although there is a certain export from Australia to these islands, an equal trade, so far as I am aware, is the return traffic in the shape of produce. The object which we had to serve was neither to facilitate the carriage of produce or the conveyance of mails, although both those considerations certainly had some weight with us in arriving at a determination. Our object was to insure a sufficient settlement in that no-man’s land - the New Hebrides, in reference to which there is a joint agreement between Great Britain and France that neither power shall take over control. In the existing circumstances, the settlement of the islands was rapidly becoming wholly French. English settlers were being starved out, but an opportunity was afforded by this means of encouraging the settlement of Australians.
– That is another matter. The subsidy of £3,600 has been going on for years.
– We took that over. All that we are called upon to justify is the new departure made to encourage Australian settlement in the New Hebrides. Our efforts have been successful. Some 50 or 60 fresh settlers are already there, and are preparing to take over their families, while others are following. It is expected that this will be the beginning of a connexion with these various groups of islands - which, with the exception of the New Hebrides, are all under the British flag - that hereafter will be of considerable importance to the Commonwealth. We are spending this money, not for immediate, but for future results. There should be a reasonable hope that in the future these services may be made self-supporting. We cannot expect such a result for some years to come; but this subsidy, which the House in all the circumstances thought it judicious to authorize, is becoming of assistance in developing the trade both to and from the islands.
– Why call it a mail service?
– It is because of the mixed motives which led to this service being authorized that it is not thought fair to debit the Post-office with what really is the cost of action taken by the House with regard to its future Pacific policy.
Mir. WATSON (Bland). - Since this matter was last before the committee, I have given it some consideration, and I am rather of the opinion that we made a mistake in agreeing to it. As many honorable members know we find great difficulty in obtaining the expenditure of a paltry £100 or so for the development of our internal resources, and yet we seem to undertake these external responsibilities in the free and easy manner which is involved in the presentation and passage of these Estimates through the committee. From what I can glean, I believe that there is likely to be complications with one other nation in regard to this New Hebrides business. A considerable stir is being made about the incursion of settlers from Australia, but I think it would be a good thing if the fever-stricken islands were confined to French settlers. I do not know what degree of responsibility the Government are accepting as to the land which the settlers are taking up. I understand that there was some offer of land by Burns, Philp, and Co.
– They offered it to the settlers, not to the Government.
– It was stated at the time that the land was being offered to the Government for the use of any settlers who might care to take advantage of it. In any case it seems to me that we should pursue a wiser course if we refrained from prosecuting this enterprise beyond the Commonwealth.
– As one who knows perhaps as much about this matter as does any honorable member, I support the Government proposal. I do so for what I believe are the very best of reasons. I have no personal interest whatever in the New Hebrides. I have only that interest which all Australia, if it looks rightly at the matter, has in the nearer islands of the Pacific.
– Is this not a bonus?
– I am not speaking of what it is. I shall explain the whole position to the committee. Some honorable members may be able to recollect the occasion upon which French marines were landed on the New Hebrides. Who objected to that? Who secured the withdrawal of the marines? The people of Australia - principally the people of Victoria. And for what reason ? Because they recognised the fatal carelessness which had allowed New Caledonia, which was in the commission of the first Governor of New Zealand, to pass into the hands of a foreign power with threatened dangers to Australia.
– There is a difference between New Caledonia and the New Hebrides, and it is all in favour of New Caledonia.
– That may be; but it depends upon whether the honorable member is referring to the mining or agricultural wealth of those islands. In regard to agricultural wealth, the New Hebrides are far better than New Caledonia. But that is not the point. Some little time after the landing of French marines on those islands had been successfully resisted, representations were made to the people of this country, who were interested in the preservation of the independence of the islands, that whilst Australia had objected to the French annexation, it was doing- nothing to retain the trade which at one time belonged wholly to Australia. It was pointed out that it was doing nothing to maintain British settlement in the New Hebrides ; that the French had subsidized the French New Hebrides Company to enter into trading enterprises there, to acquire land and to obtain settlement, and that it was seeking a preponderating influence which would settle the destiny of those islands. Those who had taken part in the opposition to the landing of the French marines were asked - “ Will you do nothing to support British settlement against this competition on the part of the French Government.” The result of that appeal was that a large number of people here invested small sums in an Australian New Hebrides Company. They were told that the company was not intended to make a profit ; that it was merely to retain British interests in the islands, and they knew that probably the money which they put into the company would be lost. For some twelve years or more they entered into this struggle with the French New Hebrides Company, the French company being backed up by the secret funds of the French Government. In spite of that opposition, in spite of the immense sums which were spent by the French Government, they managed not only to maintain but to increase British trade with the islands, and also to increase to some small extent British settlement there. After it had lost £20,000 in this way the company found that it could continue no longer to induce private individuals in the community to provide funds to carry on the contest, and a proposition was made to Burns, Philp, and CO., some of whose steamers had been chartered -previously to carry on the trade.
– Was not that after the reconstruction of the company ?
– The company was reconstructed, but I am referring to a period subsequent to the loss of the additional capital that was obtained. There had been latterly a subsidy granted by the Victorian and New South Wales Governments jointly.
– That subsidy was increased about three years ago.
– Yes ; I can say from my own knowledge that even with that subsidy a loss was suffered every year in the effort to maintain British influence in the ‘ group. The loss continued to such an extent that it was found impossible to go on, and an effort had to be made to get some one else to take up the service. Burns, Philp, and Co. took it up, and they also suffered a loss. I feel justified in saying that, although settlement and trade are increasing, no profit has resulted from their efforts, notwithstanding that they obtain a subsidy. I admit that as soon as the service can rest on its own bottom the subsidy should be withdrawn. But I assert that in the national interest it is very undesirable that we should allow these islands to pass over to the domination of France, and to become a greater menace than is New Caledonia to Australia. There is a better harbour in the New Hebrides than is to be found in New Caledonia, and that is one reason why the French would like to get possession of the islands, and secure a naval base which would become a source of danger to us in the future.
– .Does the honorable senator say that the results may be mo’re serious in the New Hebrides than in New Caledonia t
– I say that the naval menace would be more serious if the French had predominance in both places. Ships coming from Noumea through the reefopening could be blocked by one or two menofwar, and the offensive armaments which could be used against the British fleet in Sandwich harbour of the New Hebrides could not be used at New Caledonia. We are entering upon our career as a United Australia, and one of our principal objects is to see that these islands shall not become the play-ground of foreign powers to a larger extent than at present, and thus allowed to introduce us to the troubles of European politics. I am satisfied that this expenditure, which, I hope, owing to increased trade, will be a decreasing one, is not only desirable, but will save a great deal of expense in the future. As to the land, it had to be acquired by the company, because the French were urging land ownership as a reason for French annexation. And I can tell honorable members the precautions that were taken in connexion with the acquisition of the land. Part of it had long been acknowledged to be in the possession of one or two Sydney firms, who had traded with the islands for many years before there were any French or English there. The other part was acquired from the natives, but never without the presence of the missionaries and others who could speak the native language, and who could testify that it was freely offered and disposed of by the right owners. No attempt has ever been made to make money out of the land ; and the present offer to the Federal Government is thata merely nominal charge shall be made. Naturally a commercial firm like Burns, Philp, and Co. look for some return from enlarging trade, but what has been desired all along is settlement by the British people, not, perhaps, in large numbers, but sufficiently large to promote British interests, and to resist the claim daily made in Paris that the French are predominant in landholding, settlement, and trade. There can be no doubt the French trade’ and French interests would become much larger if the subsidy were withdrawn. I never had, and have not now, any pecuniary interest in these islands, except as one of the contributors to what was merely a donation towards the maintenance of the British connexion. The only interests I have are the interests of Australia.
– I have read the correspondence between Burns, Philp and Co. and the Prime Minister, and I am satisfied that it was a statesmanlike act to subsidize the steam-ships. I should like to know from the Treasurer why £3,600 appears in the Estimates as transferred expenditure, while £2,400 appears as other expenditure.
– Because £3,600 is the old liability, and £2,400 is the new expenditure incurred by the Commonwealth.
– If the Commonwealth is paying so large a sum as £2,400, or nearly one-half of the whole subsidy, it is only right that other ports, besides that of Sydney, should receive some consideration.
– But Sydney is the nearest port.
– No. Brisbane is the nearest port ; but as the whole of the Commonwealth is paying, I think occasional trips might be paid, not only to Melbourne, but also to Adelaide and Brisbane, where there may be a desire to open up trade with the New Hebrides, and so save the cost of transhipment at Sydney.
Vote agreed to.
– I should like to know whether the Government regard the recent investigation into the Immigration of Italians into Western Australia as closed. Considerable dissatisfaction is felt with the imperfect nature of the inquiry which was made by the magistrate appointedfor the purpose. It is rather singular that the particular mining district to which the Italians have gone in the largest numbers was carefully avoided, as it would appear, by the gentleman who made the investigation.
– We have since received returns from police officers and others in regard to that district, and I think the report is now complete.
– I am aware that reports have been furnished, but still it isa pity that the magistrate did not visit that district. I also regret that greater powers were not conferred on the magistrate in the direction of compelling witnesses to attend in order to give evidence on oath. The inquiry has not been as thorough as it might have been, and I should like to know whether the Government consider it closed.
– The inquiry is not closed against the receipt of any further information, and the intention is to use the report as the basis for the consideration of the question, in any of its phases, whenever it may arise. Under the operation of the Immigration Restriction Act we are keeping a careful catalogue of all entrances into all parts of the Commonwealth, checking and comparing them, and endeavouring to trace them when we discover any remarkable circumstances, such as the regular appearance of a number of immigrants of any particular nationality. It does not follow that because the report has been presented that the inquiry is closed; on the contrary, the report is only intended to throw light on thecontinuous investigation which we now make into all the arrivals into the Commonwealth.
– If the Government intend to press this investigation any further in Western Australia, I hope they will find a different commissioner than Mr. Roe. First of all, this gentleman is said to have been extremely reluctant to leave Perth, and wanted all the witnesses to attend on him in that city. As the honorable member for Perth has pointed out, he absolutely neglected to visit the Murchison district, where there are, I suppose, ten Italians in the mines for one Italian working at Coolgardie or Kalgoorlie. That is a place where, if anywhere, he could have obtained direct evidence connecting the presence of these men with some contract or stipulation made outside the Commonwealth. By this time the head of the Government knows that the appointment of Mr. Roe was not one which would have been recommended by the representatives of “Western Australia. An inquiry conducted as this has been cannot be effective. In order to obtain the evidence required it is necessary to have a man who is more of a detective than a police magistrate, because it is impossible to induce persons to come into open court and admit that the contracts exist. . In such a case the proof must be indirect instead of direct.
– According to the report, contract has been admitted in at least one instance.
– I was not aware of that. I see that the sum of £500 is provided for the expenses of these investigations. The other day, in answer to a question, I was told that the cost of the reports of Mr. Justice Dashwood and Mr. “Warton into the pearl-fishing industry did not exceed £200. Does the Acting Prime Minister tell us that £300 more was expended by Mr. Roe in his investigation in Western Australia ?
– No ; nothing like it. I do not like to trust my memory, but I believe that the cost of the inquiry by Mr. Roe is not more than £50.
– Then what is the object of placing this sum of £500 on the Estimates ?
– We have to cover the cost of printing the report and other expenses.
– Do I understand that the total cost of Mr. Justice Dashwood’s report was only £155, including shorthand writing and other contingencies ?
– That is all that was paid to Mr. Justice Dashwood for everything.
– Did that also pay for Mr. Justice Dashwood’s conveyance to Thursday Island ?
– Speaking from memory, I think it did.
– Then I think the work was done at a remarkably cheap rate.
– The cost was very reasonable in both cases.
– But there is no reason why Mr. Warton’s report should cost so much, since he was on the spot.
– He had travelling expenses, and he had to get assistance for taking down the evidence. The honorable member may see the items if he wishes.
– But there is no evidence in Mr. Warton’s report.
– Mr. Warton took a certain amount of evidence.
– But Mr. Warton, as a Police Magistrate, was” surely capable of taking down the evidence.
– I am only speaking from memory, and the cost may not have been so much.
– I understand that the House will not have an opportunity this session to discuss the reports on the pearlAshing industry.
– There may be an opportunity when we ave waiting for the return of the Appropriation Bill from another place.
– Possibly I ought not to inquire whether the Government intend to act on the recommendations iD these reports.
– The Government have not had time to consider the question yet.
– In the meantime, is it not desirable that we should have a little more information about the pearl-shelling question?
– The Government are still collecting information, and within the last fortnight I have had an opportunity of seeing three persons who have a knowledge of the industry.
– In my opinion, the public would have much more confidence in an inquiry made by a select committee of this House, than in an inquiry by persons who may or may not be indirectly interested in the maintenance of the industry.
– Two of the gentlemen whom I saw are engaged in the industry, and the other is interested on the opposite side.
– That is just the trouble ; it is very difficult to arrive at the truth when one side is extreme against the industry, and the other side is interested in its maintenance. Before we pass regulations, which may in One case mean the extinction of the whole township of Broome, we ought to. be perfectly certain of our course. I have no information at first band, but from what I have heard, the condition of affairs at Thursday Island and the condition of affairs at Broome are not on all fours. The regulations which might work smoothly in one case might work harshly in the other. That is a reason the Government might be well advised to have an investigation made of this matter by members of Parliament during the recess.
– I think that the suggestion of the honorable member for Coolgardie is a good one, because it must be apparent to any one who has looked into the report of Judge Dash wood, that it is not worth the paper on which it is written. I trust that theGovernment will hesitate before departing from the policy already declared by the Commonwealth, in consequence of anything that appears in a report of that character. I do not wish at this stage to go into the matter in detail, but I will point to one thing in that report which condemns it out of hand. Judge Dashwood says in one paragraph that he has not been able to get any idea of the profits of the pearl-shelling industry - that if he had the account sales in respect of the shell that was sold he might be able to arrive at the profits, but that from the people whom he examined - those interested in the industry - he could get no particulars as to the profits they made. Yet a few paragraphs lower down he states that it is impossible to carry on the industry profitably and employ white crews. How was he able to form an idea as to whether the industry could be carried on by white men unless he knew what the profits were? Previously he had said that he had no idea as to the profits, and could get no particulars in regard to them. Yet he presumes to express an opinion as to the possibility of employing white labour profitably. The whole report is vitiated, it seems to me, by an admission of that sort. I trust, therefore, that the Government will take some other steps before they abrogate the provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act as applied either to Broome or Thursday Island.
– There is no intention on the part of the Government to abrogate the provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act in any way. All that it is intended to do, as I have explained to honorable members before, is to endeavour to preserve the existing situation until the Government can lay before the House some proposals in regard to it. In the meantime we allow ships to replace those of their crews that are going away and new luggers to be manned, but we do not permit the settlement of any class of coloured labour in Australia.
– I wish to ask a question with regard to the item of £500 for the “expenses of investigation in respect to the Immigration Restriction Act.” I notice in Division 11, sub-division 2, that there are two sums of £400 and £500 for a similarpurpose.
– This sum is for the special investigation of Judge Dashwood and Mr. War ton.
– Does this sum cover the printing of the reports ?
– Yes ; it will cover that.
– And the allowances to both gentlemen ?
– Yes ; it will cover the whole thing.
Vote agreed to.
Division 16 (Secretary’s office) - £2,655.
– I move-
That the item, “Secretary and Parliamentary Draftsman, £800,” be reduced by £50.
Honorable members will see from the schedule of Estimates laid before them that the sum of £50, which last year was voted as an allowance to the parliamentary draftsman on account of extra duties discharged by him, is this year added to the permanent salary of that officer.
– The committee asked that that should be done last year.
– I for one objected to it. The allowance last year, as I understand it, was given because this gentleman had been put to a great deal of trouble owing to the length of the session and the pressure of parliamentary drafting. In consequence of the large number of Bills that were introduced, it was said that he had had to do a great deal of extra work. I must say, however, that, judging from the expert opinions given by members of the Commonwealth Parliament qualified to express an opinion upon the drafting, it has not been such as to reflect any wonderful credit upon the person intrusted with it.
– Yes; on the whole it has been very good.
– I have heard a considerable number of complaints lay some honorable members as to the drafting. The right honorable member for East Sydney yesterday referred to the drafting of the Inter-State Commission Bill. This is part of the work for which the Secretary to the Attorney - General’s department is responsible, though whether he did it himself or not I do not know. I do not for a moment say that he is incapable of good draftsmanship. I have rather reason to believe the contrary. But the best Act we have put through Parliament, so far as mere draftsmanship is concerned - and this has been pointed out by some very high authorities - is one with which this officer had nothing whatever to do. I refer to the Customs Act. However, I do not express any particular opinion on that point. The point I take is that there is no possible justification for giving a higher salary to the Secretary to the Attorney-General’s department any more than for increasing the salaries of the secretaries of the various other departments. The strength of the argument is all the other way. Allowing that there is required as Secretary to the Attorney-General’s department a gentleman who has professional experience, as well as other qualities, we must still remember that the number of individuals over whom he has to exercise control is small ; and even when you add to that work the matter of parliamentary drafting, there is no reason for giving him a larger salary for it, because in many cases he gets some one else to do the actual work. There is, therefore, a wide distinction between the position of this officer and that of the Secretary to the department of Home Affairs, or that of Secretary to the depart- ment of Defence.
– We pay the Secretary for Defence £900 a year.
– That is because we could not pay him less. He was. taken over with the transferred department, and the Minister for Defence told the House that he could not transfer this officer at a lower salary than he was formerly receiving. But in the case of the Secretary to the department of Home Affairs, we have an officer who has to deal with an expenditure of about £170,000 a year, who has an enormous number of officers scattered throughout Australia, and has a large and growing department to control. Yet he has to be satisfied with a salary of £750 per annum. I do not wish for a moment to increase that salary, but I think the same amount is quite enough for an officer who has a very small department to control, involving a total expenditure of only some £2,600.
– Does the honorable member think this department can be measured by its expenditure 1
– I have just said that the department is not to be measured alone by that consideration, but that is one of the features which has to be remembered. We have to contrast the duties of this officer with those of the head of a department which has a number of sub-branches and an enormous number of officers over whom control has to be exercised.
– The honorable member forgets that the secretary to my department advises every other department of the States, and touches the whole of the other expenditure.
– I thought the AttorneyGeneral was supposed to do all that.
– He is the AttorneyGeneral’s chief officer.
– That is an argument for doing away with the office of the AttorneyGeneral altogether, and saving £2,000 a year.
– I said that this officer was the Attorney-General’s chief officer.
– Are we to pay several other officers to do the work ? Admitting that the Secretary to the A ttorney-General’s department occupies a responsible position, I say, nevertheless, that his work is not so responsible and does not involve so much work, care, and anxious consideration as do the duties of the secretaries of some of the other departments.
– I take the liberty of differing from the honorable member entirely..
– I suppose there is nothing like leather, and I can quite understand the magnifying effect of the glasses through which the honorable and learned gentleman looks at anything connected with the law. But, in my opinion, judging not only from the affairs of the Commonwealth, but from those of the other States as well ; and comparing the Law department with the department of Home Affairs and the Defence department - and especially with the Customs department - I say that the duties of the permanent heads of those departments involve responsibilities which justify their receiving at least as much, or even more, than the Secretary to the AttorneyGeneral.
– I do not find fault with the honorable member on account of his criticism, though he has quite misunderstood my interjection. But I do regret that his knowledge of the importance of this office has misled him into an entire misconception of the situation. First ‘ of all, the Secretary to the Attorney-General is not a mere secretary of the department. As secretary of the department, of course, it is quite fair to measure him by its expenditure and by the branches over which he has to preside. But this officer is chiefly, and practically, foi- the greater part of his time, the parliamentary draftsmen, the Crown Solicitor, and the assistant to the AttorneyGeneral in all the functions pertaining to his work.
– The parliamentary drafting work will not again be as heavy as it has been this session.
– That is his chief work, and . he receives for that practically the salary which is set down here. But because the department is so small it would be absurd at present to have a clerical staff in addition to the professional staff. At present we have two professional men only, the chief of whom also discharges the duties of head of the department. But really the work which he does, and for which he is paid, is that of parliamentary draftsman and drafter of opinions. In Victoria, the State pays its parliamentary draftsman £1,200 per annum, and does not think he is overpaid. You cannot have a man of standing in his profession engaged to undertake this work at a salary less than is here set down. I undertake to say that this amount compares favorably, so far as its smallness is concerned, with the salary paid by any State in the Union. The work this officer is doing here is done by more than one officer in New South Wales.
– The parliamentary draftsman gets £750 per annum there.
– But this officer is not only our parliamentary draftsman. What honorable members are overlooking is the fact that in New South Wales and elsewhere there is a salary for a Parliamentary Draftsman, and another salary of £1,000 a year for a Crown Solicitor,- while this officer is our Parliamentary Draftsman and Crown Solicitor. We in the Commonwealth, with this professional staff of two men, and counting myself three, are doing work which in the States is divided between several subdepartments.
– And we are paying the Crown Solicitor in New South Wales at the rate of £1,000 a year in fees.
– No. We have as yet paid only £167.
– I saw an official statement to the effect that he was being paid at the rate of £1,000 a year.
– That is an estimate made in the New South Wales office, because there they do for us all the work of an ordinary solicitor’s office for Sydney and for the State of New South Wales, and we pay them in respect of that. But, happily, we have been, so far, fortunate that in nearly every case we have conducted we have obtained costs.
– Because actions could not be brought against the Commonwealth.
– I am speaking of cases in which we have prosecuted, and we have been so successful in obtaining costs and damages, that, as a matter of fact, even if we did spend the amount stated, we should have the great bulk of it returned. This officer is doing work which in the States is done by several officers, and he is working under circumstances under which no State officer has ever had to work. I can appeal, not only to members of the profession, but ‘ to any one who has had experience of a Crown Law office to admit, that at the commencement of this Commonwealth, we have had entirely novel work, the determination of the difficulties consequent upon the introduction of this entirely new- Constitution and the imposition of this system upon six other systems, the consideration of laws of each of the States under which we are still working in. some of the departments, and the various other questions arising out of the administration of all these laws have been submitted to us to deal with. I can say without reflection upon any professional man in the service of the States that there is not one who has had the burden of the responsibility we have had to share during the last two years. We must have it until the legal position of the Commonwealth is settled, and at the present time it is far from being settled.
– The officer is well paid at £750.
– Not as a professional man.
– What professional standing had he a little time ago ?
– His professional standing in New South Wales was excellent.
– We never heard of him in the courts.
– I am sorry to hear that the honorable member has had so little acquaintance with either legal literature or practice in !New South Wales.
– We knew that he was connected with the federal movement, and that is all.
– The honorable member knows this gentleman’s standard work upon the subject, which is on the table of this House, and he should know that members of the Federal Convention admitted themselves under great obligations to him for his unwearied researches and, great knowledge of the subject.
– Are we to pay for that now ? .
– This vote is proposed, not because of any special work done in a special year, but because I venture to think, as every one will who is at all familiar with the nature of the work, that £800 a year is a small amount to pay a man who undertakes the responsibilities necessarily devolving upon the Law department of the Commonwealth. If we are to measure a salary by the work done, the salary here proposed is considerably under instead of over the mark. If honorable members are of opinion that the Commonwealth should take advantage of the experience and knowledge of its employes, and should not remunerate them for it, they will consent to cut down this salary. I venture to say that no officer in the service works longer hours. He has not only to attend during the usual office hours, but he must be in attendance in this House when measures are before us in connexion with which his presence may be required. In addition to this, we are associated in the preparation of the opinions upon which every other department of the Commonwealth is now acting in every one of its branches.
– He must work beyond his office hours.
– He does, habitually. Honorable members will find Mr. Garran and myself at the office at half-past five or six o’clock on many evenings for an hour to an hour and a half after everybody else has left the building, not from choice, but because of the work which has to be done. Any one who considers the importance, as well as its quantity, will agree that this is not an over-payment. I am at a disadvantage in appealing to honorable members who have not themselves . been engaged in this responsible task of advising every department of the Commonwealth since every department of the Commonwealth continues to appeal to us upon all the questions relating to the Constitution.
– That is what he is there for.
– Exactly ; but when the honorable member speaks of the work, my regret is that I cannot oblige him by some penal requirement to spend a week there in order that he might be able to estimate its importance.
– I am making a comparison with the work done by the heads of other departments.
– I am willing to compare the work done by Mr. Garran, either as to its importance or to the length of time which its performance occupies, with the work done by the head of any other department. As an advocate of economy, I am not an advocate of high salaries ; but I venture to say that a salary of £800 a year for the work performed by the permanent legal officer of the Commonwealth is much below the value set upon such work in any of the States, or anywhere else.
– Before a vote is taken upon this question I think it is right that honorable members should realize exactly what this officer has to do. The honorable member for Bland, I am sure, recognises that an officer should be paid not according to the size or importance of the department with which he is connected, but strictly according to the work which he has to perform. The Attorney-General has pointed out that in Victoria there is a parliamentary draftsman who is paid at the rate of £1,200 a year.
– They are rather luxurious in Victoria; we cannot follow that example.
– I am not asking honorable members to follow that example, but I say that when a State finds it necessary to pay a professional man such a salary for doing only one part of the work which is undertaken by this officer, the circumstance is worthy of attention. I know something of the two-fold duties which this officer has to perform.
– Does the honorable member know as much of the work which the under-secretaries of other departments have to perform?
– I know a good deal of it, andI believe that the majority of them are overpaid. I am preparedwhen the time comes to take action in regard to them, because I desire to see salaries placed upon something like a basis which we can afford. But that basis must have a strict relation to the work performed, and in my opinion the work performed by this officer is of a twofold character, and is well worthy of the salary which he is paid.
– Honorable members who have had any experience in dealing with Estimates must be aware that each Minister holds the genius of Australia in the person of his under-secretary. This apparently applies in dealing with the Commonwealth Estimates as it has applied in connexion with Estimates we have dealt with in the past in the State Parliaments. We know that every Minister protests that his under-secretary is the ablest man who can be got, that he is underpaid, and that he is making a sacrifice for his country. If I desired an additional reason for voting for the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Bland, I should find it in the great length to which the Attorney-General felt himself obliged to go in defending this officer. The honorable gentleman introduced the personal question, which I object to at any time in discussing Estimates. This officer was last year paid at the rate of £750 per annum, and was given an allowance of £50 for extra duties. Surely those duties have not still to be performed.
– Yes ; they go on continuously. They include his attendance upon Parliament. I explained that last year.
– If we look to the near future, Parliament will be in recess, and this hard-worked officer will be relieved of his attendance upon Parliament for six or seven months. I think that a salary of £750 is quite enough for him. As to the comparison with State officers, it must be remembered that the States Governments have control of a greater number of departments, and the States’ officers have more work to perform. Though this gentleman in New South Wales was well known in connexion with the federal movement, the only office which he filled there was that of secretary to his father, and for that he received £250 per annum.
– In addition to his private practice.
– That may be, but I agree with the honorable member for Bland that he will be well paid at a salary of £750 per annum.
Question - That the item, “Secretary, and Parliamentary Draftsman, £800,” be reduced by £50 - put. The committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr. WATSON (Bland).- Why was not the Chairman in the Chair? Was it because the Government was in trouble ?
The ACTING CHAIRMAN.- The honorable member is out of order in discussing the action of the Chairman.
Vote agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House at its rising adjourn until Tuesday next.
– I should like to know when we are going totry to finish the work of this session. I understand that in agreeing to an adjournment this afternoon, honorable members are prepared to coma back next Tuesday afternoon, and thereafter to sit daily from 10 o’clock in the morning until the business is disposed of.
– It is on an understanding we have obtained from the leader of the Opposition, that he will lend us every assistance to finish the work next week, that we have agreed to this adjournment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.37 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 September 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020926_reps_1_12/>.