3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Telephone Attendants’ Ornaments - Cabinet Committee of Inquiry - Classification of Post OfficesTelephone Bureaux and Letter Receivers.
– In view of the statements in today’s Age about the grievance of female telephone attendants, who complain that they are not allowed to wear jewellery, nor certain styles ofheaddress, I wish to know if the PostmasterGeneral is aware that a well ornamented head is a woman’s crown of glory ? Does he think it his duty to allow interference with the rights of women because they have to work for their living?
– My officers report that -
Bangles, loose sleeves, lace trimmings in sleeves and gloves are at all times liable to become entangled in apparatus and cause trouble. Attendants should therefore not be allowed to jeopardize the efficiency of the service by wearingthem.
In Sydney Central, the only New South Wales exchange in which female attendants are employed, the practice is not allowed, and. all members of the female staff, monitors included, are compelled to wear closely-fitting sleeves from elbow to wrist.
Complaint was recently made, through the press, of continued interruptions and disconnections at Windsor Exchange, and upon investigation it was found, in addition to other causes, that attendants were wearing bangles, which struck the switching keys, and there is no doubt that a considerable number of disconnexions were caused thereby.
– With reference to the proposed inquiry into the Department under the control of the Postmaster-General,has the Government adopted the course that it adopted in regard to the Defence Department when preparing its defence scheme. Has it invited the departmental officers to offer suggestions for improving the efficiency of the service?
-Every step will be taken to obtain available information from every source, including officers and exofficers of the Department. These have already been invited to give information.
– Publicly invited?
– When is the new classification of post-offices likely to be gazetted ?
– As soon as the necessary information is to hand. We are obtaining it as quickly as possible.
– I have received a complaint from a portion of my constituency as to the delay in establishing public telephone bureaux, and fixing letter receivers. : I understand that the contractors for the supply of slotmachines, or the necessary attachments, were some time ago behind in their deliveries, and I desire to ask the Postmaster-General whether that difficulty has been overcome.
– I think that the supplies are to hand, but shall make inquiries to satisfy myself on the point.
New Administrator - Treasurer
– According to this morning’s Age -
Speaking with a thorough knowledge of the present position of affairs in Papua, the Bishop, in the course of conversation yesterday, remarked that it was unfortunately the fact that the white population there is practically divided into two camps, and the aspirants for the important position shortly to be filled are theacknowledged heads of these camps. Should either succeed in getting the appointment the cleavage of parties would most probably become still more marked, and however unjust it might be there would always be the suspicion of partisanship in the decision of. matters in which the two camps weredeeply interested. What is wanted, therefore, is a strong man who would have no local prejudices, and who would not from the start of his administration haveto overcome the feeling that he was a partisan, but who might by tact and firmness be able to reconcile the differences which now exist, and which, if not removed, might easily operate to the detriment of the Commonwealth possession.
Will the Prime Minister take steps to immediately appoint as Administrator some one new to the service, possessing the requisite knowledge and ability ?
– It is difficult to understand. His Lordship’s allusion, because the names most frequently mentioned in the press of late are not those of the head’s of opposing camps. There were, formerly, two camps in Papua, but one of them has practically disappeared from the Administration. In my opinion, it is necessary that the charges which have been made shall be finally dealt with before any appointment is decided upon.
– Does the Prime Minister think that a new Administrator will be appointed before the prorogation of Parliament ?
– No; unless our anticipation of the date of the prorogation is wrong. The papers which were transmitted to Papua a week or ten days since will not, in the ordinary course, be returned to us for more than two. months.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
– Referring to a. paragraph in to-day’s newspapers, does not the Prime Minister think that if anything should be established in the Federal Capital it is the Commonwealth Mint? Untilthe Federal Capital is established, cannot arrangements be made for the Imperial authorities to strike our coinage at a certain Tate of mintage, as is done for other parts of the Empire?
– We have reached, or are about to reach, a satisfactory arrangement, which will be made known to the House as soon as possible.
– Does not the Prime Minister think that the Mint should properly be established in the Federal Capital ?
– And also the Small Arms factory?
– The Federal Capital will be the proper place in which to centre all Federal enterprises that can be carried on there with advantage. It ought to include most of them; but I have not a sufficient knowledge of the. facts relating to the establishment of the Mint to give a definite answer to the honorable member’s question.
Meeting of New South Wales Representatives - Selection of Site
– As a meeting of New South Wales representatives has been convened by one of his Ministers to consider the Capital Site question, will the Prime Minister see that meetings of the representatives of the other States shall be similarly convened, so that this purely Federal question may be decided on State lines ?
– The new Committee charged with the protection of the rights of Parliament must first inform me as to the penalties which can be inflicted on any representative refusing to obey such a summons.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether, in the event of the word “ Dalgety “ being deleted from the Seat of Government Bill, to be dealt with, I understand, on Wednesday, the House will have an opportunity to go right on, and -make whatever selection it desires ?
– I stated last week that in the event of such a contingency we should at once commence to deal de novo with the selection ofa site.
– The same day ?
– Why not?
– I understand that a Committee is to be appointed for the disbursement of the£500 voted by Parliament for the relief of Australian men of letters. Can the Prime Minister say when that Committee will be appointed, and when distributions will be made? Applications for relief have already been sent in.
– I hope that the Committee will be appointed next week, and will at once enter upon its duties.
Views of the Victorian Premier and the Honorable Member for Flinders - Available Land - Commonwealth Control of Land and Railways.
– As the Premier of Victoria is considered one of the best and most up-to-date Premiers which this State has had, I wish todirect the attention of the Prime Minister to the following quotation, appearing in a leading article in yesterday’s Age, of remarks made by him on the subject of immigration -
We must provide homes for those we bring here, and we must find land for our own people first. There are 200 applicants for every piece of land we have to offer. Before we ask people from England to take up land, we must provide land for the sons of our own pioneers, who are leaving us because they cannot find suitable homes amongst us.
My impression is that I have heard similar remarks from the lips of the Prime Minister, and I desire to ask him if he is in unisonwith the Premier of Victoria on this subject ?
– In a letter with which the Premier of Victoria has recently favored me, he enters into the question with great fulness, explaining his attitude more clearly than in the expressions just read, with which, so far as they go, I concur.
-In reference to the immigration proposals made last week by the honorable member for Flinders, who, I understand, ingenuously offered to allow the Government to make use of his new ideas - which, by the way, are very difficult to discover - I desire to know whether the Prime Minister will cause the honorable member’s proposals to be printed, with the new ideas appearing in block type.
– When the question is again before us, I can avail myself of the opportunity to consult with my honorable friend the honorable member for Flinders.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answerto the honorable member’s questions is - 1, 2, 3, and 4. I hope to lay on the table at an early date a letter from the Premier of Victoria, in which the lands available and about to be made available are set out in detail. Under the circumstances, I invite the honorable member to accept this as a sufficient reply for the time being to the first two questions. The third will be answered by letters from the Premiers of the other States. In reply to No. 4, the whole of the steps proposed to be taken to secure immigration will be dealt with in connexion with the next Estimates.
– It is stated in the press that Messrs. Harris, Scarfe and Company have been punished for eight contraventions of the Customs Act, there being four complaints of omission of charges from entry, and misdescription of goods, two of understatement of quantity for duty, and one of undervaluation of goods. The fines imposed total£25. Are these contraventions part of the seventeen charges which it was understood would be placed before the Law Courts ? Does the Minister of Trade and Customs not think it a travesty of justice to impose a penalty of£25 for offences of such enormity, and so many ?
– I shall be glad to give full particulars to-morrow. I understand that no fraud was imputed, and that the fines inflicted were those usually imposed.
– Are the cases in question part of the seventeen charges?
– I am not clear on that point.
– Has the Cabinet yet determined when the present session shall come to a close; or can the Prime Minister give the House an approximate idea, so that honorable members may be enabled to make their arrangements accordingly.
– Ifour honorable friends of the Opposition will assist us to pass the small number of measures we are asking, we shall at once prorogue.
Expenses of Candidates
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question relating to the Additional Estimates in which provision is made for a claim by the honorable member for Echuca to be reimbursed£199, expenses incurred by him in connexion with an election for his constituency which was voided, owing to the alleged default of electoral officials. I notice that no provision is made for the expenses incurred in connexion with the same election by Mr. Thomas Kennedy, the ex-member for Echuca.
– The honorable member is clearly asking a question which should be put when the Additional Estimates are under consideration.To allow it to be asked now would be to anticipate the discussion of those Estimates.
– I intended to concludeby asking the Prime Minister whether he would consider the desirableness of making provisionon the Estimates for the expenses incurred by Mr. Kennedy.
– That question may be answered.
– The matter relates to the Treasury. The reason no provision is made in the Additional Estimates for the claims of other candidates is that when they were framed I had not received full and complete statements of claim in respect of them. No detailed application had been received from Mr. Kennedy. This morning, however, I received three applications, including one from that gentleman, and after consultation with the Prime Minister I have decided to bring in ashort Bill covering these claims immediately after the Additional Estimates have been disposed of. I am obtaining the particulars as rapidly as possible.
– There will be further Additional Estimates?
– Only to meet the claims of those who have suffered loss by default of returning officers at various elections.
Mr. HUME COOK laid upon the table the following paper -
Lands Acquisition Act - Grant ofRight of Carriage Way over portion of the road of access to the battery site at Mount Nelson, Tasmania.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - .
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 3rd April, vide page 10177) :
Department of Postmaster-General
Division 189(Central Staff),£10,373, upon which Mr. Frazer had moved -
That the item, “ Secretary,£1,000,” be reduced by£1.
.- The amendment which has been moved will enable my remarks to take a wider range than would otherwise have been open to me. The item relates to the permanent head of the Post and Telegraph Department, and we know that a great deal depends upon the manner in which his duties are discharged. I have considered very seriously the proposals which the Government have made in order to bring this Department into a better state of efficiency, and the selection of a Committee composed of three Ministers seems to me a very extraordinary method of endeavouring to elicit the truth. In the first place, this Committee will sit in judgment, either upon the. present PostmasterGeneral, who is a member of the Committee, or the late Postmaster-General. Both of these honorable gentlemen have been in charge of the Department for two or three years, to say nothing of previous periods ; and it seems to me extraordinary that an inquiry, which is intended to be thoroughand impartial, should be conducted by gentlemen who will have to sit in judgment on their colleagues. How can we expect, under these circumstances, a thorough investigation of abuses in the Department ?
– I do not think that the right honorable gentleman is quite correct ; the inquiry is more as to the organization of the Department.
-But it is in regard to the organization that complaint arises. No one would impute to any Postmaster-General any desire but to do the best for the Department. I am happy to say of all Ministers who have occupied office in the Commonwealth Government, that there is not one who has not been possessed by the most honorable desire to discharge his duties to the best of his ability. No personal question, I am sure, can arise in connexion with either the late PostmasterGeneral, the present Postmaster-General, or any preceding Postmaster-General ; but the public require something more than honorable intentions. What is desired is efficient administration; and there is not a Department, whether in the State or the Federal sphere, which is in a state of greater chaos, or which is giving less satisfaction to the public, than the Department of the Postmaster-General.
– A good deal of that is caused through the Public Service Commissioner.
– I have no desire to impute blame to any one, nor do I think the honorable member has any such desire ; but the House and the public look for a proper inquiry in order to ascertain who is really at fault: There is no desire to prejudge ; we begin with the feeling that the Department is ina grossly disorganized condition ; and, without imputing any blame, we desire to know the cause of the disorganization. As I have already said, it seems to me an extraordinary way of probing these matters, to appoint, as a Committee, three members of the Cabinet, who connot be expected, in the course of human nature - without any imputation against their integrity - to investigate in the same fearless way that some disinterested person would be able to do. The PostmasterGeneral is just as much involved in this inquiry as any officer in the Department. He is the head-centre of the whole; and his conduct is just as much a subject of inquiry as is the conduct of the humblest officer. What would be said, for instance, if any member of the Committee were in close relationship to the Secretary to the Department? We find, however, that the highest officer of all, on whom the whole burden of responsibility rests, is to be judged in a sort of Cabinet council by his own colleagues. The very Minister who is at the head of the Department, and whose conduct must be the subject of inquiry, is one of the persons chosen to make the investigation ; and in that respect we have a comicality that we should not expect to find outside the pages of Gilbert and Sullivan. There are complaints about the management of the Postmaster-General ; and yet that honorable gentleman is deputed to inquire into the complaints ; the person who is himself accused of mismanagement - nothing worse than errors of judgment, or, perhaps, want of capacity - is to be one of the judges ; and how can we expect the public to be satisfied with such an inquiry? I cannot, at the present stage, refer to the Additional Estimates in detail ; but everything that hasbeen said about sweating in the Department, and about the miserable salaries paid, is justi fied by these Estimates. An enormous number of new officers are found to be necessary.
– Does that not show that we are taking the first step to reform?
– Does it not show that the officers of the Department have been sweated in the past? And, further, in spite of the fact that this large number of new officers are to be appointed, thousands of pounds are placed on the Additional Estimates to provide temporary assistance. What does that mean ? It means that the Department is escaping the necessity of properly manning and equipping the branches, by engaging a number of employés who are not on the regular staff.
– A number of the Sydney staff are working from six in the morning until ten at night.
– Without going into details, I may point out that there is a sum of£20,000on the Additional Estimates for further assistance in the case of New South Wales. This sum is in addition to the annual Estimates, and can only refer to the three months of April, May, and June of this year.
– That is really to make up for what was struck off’ the main Estimates.
– I do not know by whom any votes were struck off the main Estimates ; the fact that the money is provided on the Additional Estimates shows that it has to be spent in the three months. If we multiply this£20,000 by four, we have£80,000 which ought to have been spent in New South Wales alone in carrying on this service in a state of efficiency without overworking the men or cutting down salaries. This proposed vote is in itself a revelation, and the most damning proof of all that has been said about the disorganization in the Department. Can we expect Ministers to conduct a fearless inquiry into their own conduct and their own responsibilities? Personally, I have no such expectation. Just consider the magnitude of the responsibility that rests on the Postmaster- General. In my opinion, that Minister has greater pressure on him, in the way of actual work and responsibility, than any other member of the Government. Of course, when a Tariff is under consideration, the Minister of Trade and Customs has to bear an enormous strain ; but that can be regarded as a mere passing emergency. Taking the Departments in their normal state, there is not one in which the Minister has more to do than has the Postmaster-General. Indeed, there is. work in the Post and Telegraph Department for, perhaps, two Ministers ; and how is it possible for the PostmasterGeneral to act on this inquiry, which will involve enormous labour and research, and, probably, visits to other parts of the Commonwealth. How can’ he properly perform his departmental duties while he is engaged in a roving commission ? If the Postmaster-General were the ablest and most industrious man in the world, and giving him credit for all the diligence and ability he may possess, it would be physically and. intellectually impossible for him to carry on the every-day work of this enormous Department all over Australia, and at the same time act as a capable and efficient president of the proposed’ inquiry. .Surely in these matters we must act with some dim perception of business commonsense? The mere fact that we are a Parliament surely ought not to divorce us from considerations of ordinary prudence. What man who had an enormous business concern on his shoulders would dream of taking on some ‘.other enormous business, when his own concerns were more than enough to absorb all his energies and abilities? The head of a business, if anything was wrong, and he himself could not leave the helm, would not leave it to undertake inquiries in various branches. He would prefer to exercise his own judgment upon investigations made by others, and he would desire to have them made as thoroughly and as fearlessly as possible. Suppose a report from the Committee comes before this House. The Postmaster-General cannot be expected to sit in judgment on his own report. What we want from the Postmaster-General is that - when a report is presented to the Government, and to Parliament, the honorable gentleman should have his head clear and free from’ any concern but the investigation itself, and should be able to give the Government the ‘best advice on the report which has come before him. ‘ But with the preparation of it he should have nothing whatever to do. > His- function is a much higher one. The function of the Minister and that of the Government is a much higher one than that of investigation, of going from one place to another, investigating alleged abuses, and examining clerks, and hearing what the officers of the Department have to say. That is a most important duty it is true ; but what will be the position of a clerk In the presence of the Minister? Does the honorable gentleman put an officer of his Department in a fair position when that officer has his Minister sitting over him? If his evidence is unpleasant to the Minister, if instead of saying smooth .and pleasant things, he has to say, in the course of his duty, strong and rough things about the way the Department is administered, ana about injustices which have occurred, how can he be expected to do so before the Minister, who is sitting in judgment over him ? How can he give his evidence in the way in which we should like him to give it ? Every word said in commendation of the Department is a tribute to the Minister, every word of criticism is a criticism of Ministers who have had charge of the Department. ‘ Is it not enough to ask an officer to criticise bis superiors,” without having the Minister sitting in judgment upon him? Is not that enough, I ask? I wish to enter, on behalf of the Post and Telegraph officers, and the telephone attendants, of all ranks, high and low, my most indignant protest against putting them in the hands of a Ministerial coterie. They should be placed in the hands of some independent, fearless tribunal, which would have nothing to do with the Department. Instead of that, they are to be brought in touch with the Minister, at a time when they should be most fearless, and when they should have some protection behind them in directing attention to. things which point to inefficiency of administration and to neglect. I do not anticipate any good whatever from an inquiry so conducted. I quite agree that the Ministry are in a difficulty in this matter. Any Ministry is in such a position when there are imputations against the efficiency of a Department. Every Ministry is necessarily put in a position of difficulty then. If the power were proposed to be taken out of the hands of a Minister to deal with a Department - say by a Com- mittee of this House - I could quite understand the Ministry saying, “ We are responsible to Parliament ; if you want to set up a Committee an judgment upon us in the person of our Postmaster-General, we decline to occupy such a position.” But in this case that has not been done. The House has not asked the Government to accept any position of indignity in any shape or form. The Government themselves have clone this. They have themselves considered it necessary to institute some authoritative inquiry. I say that if the Government came to the conclusion that an inquiry was necessary - that there were things that required to be probed and examined and reported upon - the next duty of the Ministry was to appoint some competent, disinterested, and impartial body to inquire into those matters, and to report upon them. But instead of the legitimate demands of the public being satisfied, instead of this House being guided in the way that it wanted guiding in dealing with these matters, we have had a Committee appointed which is bound to fail, because there is not the root idea of confidence and impartiality in the tribunal before whom the men upon whose testimony we rely will appear. Every one of these officers who appears, voicing the dissatisfaction and discontent of the Service, complaining of injustice, complaining of wrong, complaining of neglect, complaining of miserable administration in this business of the Post Office, will be himself sat injudgment upon by the Minister who conducts that Department. That is a very awkward position to put any man in. Instead of encouraging men to come and give us the benefit of their real honest knowledge and experience, the Ministry have appointed a Committee which will destroy the possibility of our obtaining the testimony we wish to obtain.
– There is not the faintest fear of any such thing happening.
– No; in the heavenly region in which my honorable friend lives, it is impossible for any man to get a drink ! But, unfortunately, heavenly as are his ideas, men have some experience of public affairs. I suppose that I have had, probably, a greater knowledge of the Public Service than any member of this House, because I was not only a. Minister for many years, but I also had the honour of being a member of the Public Service in New South Wales for, I think, a period of fourteen years.
– Was the honorable gentleman a member of the Post and Telegraph Service?
– No; I was not there. I had a softer billet than any billet in the Post and Telegraph Department seemsto be. In fact, it was so soft that. I could not stick to it; I had to leave it. What I say about bringing members of the Public Service before a Committee such as this is, that if they are expected to make the freest and fullest exposure of any irregularities in their Department, and of any shortcomings in their superiors, the Ministry should have had to examine them a Commission which would protect them in every possible way. They should not be called upon to criticise the man who sits in judg ment upon them. That is a monstrous position to put any public servant in. But that is the position these public servants will occupy. I do not expect a frank and fearless disclosure before such a Committee. It is no reflection on these public servants at all to say that one of the drawbacks to life in a business like theirs is this : I do not care how honorable you are, I do not care how fearless you are, and I do not care how able you are - you have always a row of men above you who have a tremendous influence over your future career. It is one of the painful incidents of the Public Service that the members of it have joined themselves to an occupation, during the whole course of which they must be under some one - under a number of superiors - probably each one of whom can have an unfavorable influence upon their career and advancement. That is in itself a sufficiently hard position for these officers of all ranks to be put in. I enter my emphatic protest against the nature of this Committee, and I wish to say that whatever they may do, I am satisfied that the inquiry cannot be a thorough and fearless one.
– I do not know how far at this moment I am entitled to discuss the general subject of the financial position of the Post and Telegraph Department. I presume that the whole question is open on the amendment as well as on the original motion.
– I am willing temporarily to withdraw the amendment if the honorable member thinks it would give him greater latitude.
– I do not wish the honorable member to withdraw his amendment ; but if I am in order I wish to say a few words about what seems to me the somewhat extraordinary position into which the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department is drifting froma financial point of view. The figures are somewhat remarkable. I find that during the last year or two the expenditure has been increasing by leaps and bounds; not consistently with the natural expansion which takes place in the administration of a great Department like this, but to a very much greater degree than can be properly attributed to that cause. I wish to direct the attention of honorable members to a few of the figures, and to ask the PostmasterGeneral if he can give the Committee some explanation of what they show. If I am wrong no doubt the honorable gentleman will set me right, but to put the matter shortly, what I find is that the revenue this year is estimated to have been increased by £178,000, which represents an increase of 5.6 per cent. But whilst that is so, the expenditure of this Department as shown by the general Estimates, and without taking into account the Additional Estimates at all-
– We cannot deal with the Additional Estimates until we come to them.
– If the Treasurer will allow me, I will show how I propose to deal with them in a moment. I find that whilst the revenue has increased by only 5.6 per cent. on the revenue for last year, the Estimates which are now before the Committee, without taking into account the Additional Estimates laid on the table, show that the expenditure has increased by 7.8 per cent.
– What does the honorable member include in expenditure ?
– I am just going to tell the honorable member. I find, further, adopting the same rule and taking into account the statements placed before us by the Treasurer as to the Additional Estimates, which will involve the Committee voting £107,000 more, that, whilst the revenue will have been increased by 5.6 per cent., the expenditure will have been increased by no less than 11.5 per cent. in the one year.
– Nearly double the increase in revenue.
– Yes, nearly double that increase. I find, also, that the number of officers employed in the Post and Telegraph Department will have been increased by over 1,500 in number, or by 14.4 per cent., in the one year.
– I do not wish to interrupt the honorable member, but, if his speech is to go without challenge, there must be a general debate at this stageon the Additional Estimates.
– Not at all.
– Yes, there must be. The honorable member for Flinders has quoted figures based upon the Additional Estimates, and it will be necessary for me, in following him, to quote my own figures, which I intended to quote only when submitting the Additional Estimates. The speech which the honorable member is making, if permitted to continue, must lead to a general debate on the Additional Estimates at this stage, as well as when those Estimates are immediately before the Committee.
– On the point of order, I should like to say that I have no wish to adopt any course which would embarrass Ministers or the Committee in the discussion of this matter. If it would better meet the wishes of the Committee, I am prepared to postpone my remarks on this subject until we are dealing with the Additional Estimates.
– It would be more convenient if the honorable member would do so.
– I claim only that either now or when we deal with the Additional Estimates, or at some other time, I shall have the right to discuss the general financial aspect of this most important Department.
– I doubt whether the honorable member could discuss it on the Additional Estimates.
– My fear is that if my remarks are postponed until the Additional Estimates are before the Committee, it may then be pointed out that I should haveraised the question which I desire to raise on the general Estimates.
– The discussion will be limited to the Additional Estimates when we come to deal with them.
– I cannot tell at the present moment how far the Additional Estimates go; but, seeing that we are now engagedupon the general discussion on the Estimates of the Post and Telegraph Department, I think it would be convenient at this stage for the honorable member for Flinders to raise the question he proposes to raise, and to have it discussed and done with. I understand that there is no vote in the Additional Estimates affecting the Secretary and the administrative branch of the Department.
– Oh, yes, there is.
– I point out that on the first vote in these Estimates for the Secretary and Assistant Secretary, we have taken the general discussion and review of the whole Department. That being so, I feel that when we come to discuss the Additional Estimates, it will be my duty to confine the remarks of honorable members to the special items contained in those Estimates. In the circumstances, I think it would be more convenient for the Committee to continue the general discussion now.
– I was not going to submit the Additional Estimates until after the Committee had disposed of the Estimates now under discussion, but I was asked by the Opposition to submit them as soon as possible.
– The reason given was that we wished to discuss the real position of the Department.
– I said that I submitted them at an unusual stage, but that they were to be discussed after the discussion on the Estimates-in-Chief .
– Is the honorable gentleman speaking to a point of order?
– Yes. I am dealing with the point of order, and discussing what you said, sir, a minute ago.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable gentleman dealing with a point of order or not?
– Yes, I am.
– I point out to the Minister that I have already ruled that the honorable member for Flinders would be in order in discussing at this stage the question which he has raised. Though I shall not. of course, permit him to go into the details of the Additional Estimates, so long as the honorable member confines himself to generalities, I shall allow him to proceed.
– It is a most unusual course.
– The position I desire to establish is that whilst the revenue has increased only by the comparatively small amount of 5.6 per cent. over lastyear’s figures, and whilst we might naturally expect the expenditure also to increase in the same reasonable proportion, I find that if we take the Additional Estimates into account, the expenditure has increased by the very extraordinary amount of 1 1. 5 per cent. in one year. The honorable member for Grey askedme what I have included in expenditure, and the question is a very pertinent one. The difficulty in which we all find ourselves in discussing the Estimates of the Post and Telegraph Department is that the accounts of the Department - and I am not blaming the Government in this matter, becausethey are onlyfollowing the rule - are not presented to the Committee in such a way as to enable honorable members to form an intelligible idea of the working of the Department from a financial point of view, as they certainly would be able to do if they were dealing with the accounts of any ordinary business concern. I join with the honorable member for Fawkner and other honorable members who have preceded me in urging the necessity of as soon as possible endeavouring to presentthe figures of the Post and Telegraph Department as the accounts of a going concern, so that we might be able to see what is properly attributable to expenditure, and what to revenue.
– Hear, hear. We have taken steps in that direction.
– I am very glad to hear it, and I shall be glad to hear some details as to the steps which have been taken. At present we are in the dark, and must make the best conjecture we can. The great difficulty is that in addition to the total expenditure of the Department which is shown on page 44 of the Budget papers, a very large sum appears under the heading of “ New Works and Additions.” Parliament in its wisdom has adopted the policy that these should be paid for out of revenue - a very wise policy inwhich I think we should all concur as far as it can practicably be done - but paying them out of revenue does not in the least mean that they ought to be debited to revenue in a capital account. To order to see whether the Post Office is really working as a business concern ought to work, it is essential that there should be something like a capital and revenue account - some means by which we should be able to see how much is attributable to revenue and how much ought to be put down to capital.
– Then you want some sinking fund for your capital.
– Precisely so.
– A sinking fund for money paid out of revenue?
– The honorable member does not quite follow me.
– I was questioning the interjection.
– I agree with the honorable member to some extent that an actual sinking fund is not necessary to provide for the repayment of money which is not borrowed. But if you have a going concern, it does not matter where you get the money from, if you want to see whether the Post Office is working economically-
– I agree wholly with the honorable member’s argument, but I do not agree with the necessity for a sinking fund for money which is paid out of revenue.
– The honorable member is quite right in the abstract, but although you may not have a sinking fund, you ought to debit expenditure of that kind to capital. This year a sum of £434,000 is paid out of the revenue of this year towards this expenditure of the Department. The House has declared that it should be paid out of revenue, and I think I should be quite justified in asserting that the House, in saying that it ought to be debited to the annual expenditure, has also expressed the opinion that it ought to be paid out of the annual revenue, but I do not think it would be quite fair to do so in dealing with the accounts of the Post Office as a business concern, because a good deal of the money which is expended out of revenue is expenditure which is ordinarily met by payment out of moneys borrowed.
– I do not think so. We never did such a thing in Western Australia.
– A good deal of the expenditure included under “New Works and Additions “ in these Estimates, for undertakings such as building post offices, &c, is in many of the States, although, perhaps, not in Western Australia - and it certainly has been so in some States - met, rightly or wrongly, out of borrowed money.
– In nearly all the States.
– I think so. But whether it has in fact been paid out of borrowed money or not is not the question to which I am asking the attention of the Committee. If a business firm builds a house out of revenue, or sets up machinery pf a comparatively enduring character, it would not be proper to debit that as part of the ordinary annual expenditure. It ought to be spread over a number of years. I am making this allowance, which diminishes the strength of my case, but I think it is a fair one to make.
– The Chancellor of the Exchequer at Home makes- loans to the Post Office, which are so paid back.
– It should be debited by instalments over a moderate number of years - I do not say over twenty or thirty years.
– Over two-thirds of the life of the works upon which the money is expended.
– I am making this calculation in the absence of any authoritative exposition from the responsible Minister and his officers. We ought to have an authoritative statement from him, with the assistance of his officers, of what ought to be taken as the period over which these expenditures are supposed to be serviceable.
– We ought to have the annual report, which has been promised now for five years.
– Yes. I think I arn making a very liberal allowance indeed when, instead of attributing the whole of the £434,000 to this year, I attribute only one-tenth of it to this year.
– Hear, hear.
– 1 am glad that the Minister agrees with that statement. There will be found on page 45 of the Budget papers what is called a comparison of the years 1901 to 1908, and under the head of Postmaster-General appear on that page the various sums which in each of those years was expended out of revenue towards “ New Works and Additions,” commencing with a moderate sum in 1901-2, and reaching a very large amount this year. In the first year the total was ,£37,000 ; in 1:902-3 it was £i35>°°°; in i9°3-4 £187,000; in 1904-5, £131,000; m 1905-6, £146,000; and in 1906-7, £276,000, while this year it is £434,000. I am quite prepared to admit that instead of attributing the whole of the ,£434,000 to this year-
– I have an estimate on the basis of 10 per cent.
– I was not aware of that, but it entirely bears out* the view I have taken. If then we ought to place only 10 per cent, of that sum to the expenditure of this year-
– .£52,000, including the Additional Estimates.
– But the Minister has forgotten that if this vear has to bear only one- tenth of its own expenditure, it must bear also one- tenth of each of the expenditures of the preceding years, because if each of these sums has to be spread in instalments over ten years, then every year must bear not only its own tenth but a tenth of the expenditure of each year which has not been fully met.
– Every year would vary very much.
– Every year the sum has been increasing.
– And so have the receipts.
– True. I have given the Minister the benefit of the smaller expenditures in previous years, and instead of taking the average of the last three or four years, have gone back to the beginning, taking the weak as well as the strong years. Upon that basis, and assuming that we are justified in saying that these expenditures are of a kind that ought to be spread over ten years, the expenditure this year, instead of being £434,000, comes to £134,000 - I arrive at that sum by adding up all those expenditures and taking onetenth of them - and not £52,000 as suggested by the Minister. If that is not a fair mode of trying to reduce this to a business proposition, I should like to have some other suggestion from those who are responsible for carrying on the Department. I am glad that the Minister agrees with me in the. estimate which 1, quite independently, arrived at, of what ought to be attributed to each year.
– A strong combination.
-I should regard it as a very feeble combination if I had not the Minister’s concurrence. That amount has then to be added to the expenditure of this year. In order to make a fair comparison you must also add to the expenditure of last year its- proper share of the additions which had been paid for in that year and in the preceding years, and so on back to the beginning. By so doing, you will arrive at a proper account. Without wearying honorable members by going into the actual calculation, which every one can make for himself from pages 44 and 45 of the Budget papers, I find the result to be as I have stated - that the expenditure has been increased by £219,000 this year. Last year’s expenditure, as appears from page 44 of the Budget papers, was £2,689,000. I have to add to that year its tenth of the various payments for preceding years.
– Not the whole of it, because a portion of the tenth is paying- off the principal, and it would be reduced.
– The amount of one-tenth, which ought to be attributed to expenditure each year includes the tenth of each preceding year. I have added up the various tenths which ought to have been attributed to last year - the figures are all to be found in the Budget- papers - and I find that they amount to £91,000. That sum, added to ihe £2,689,000, would produce £2,780,000. During the present financial year, adding the £134,000 - which represents its proportion - to the £2,865,000, gives us a total of £2,999,000. I find, therefore, that these Estimates - without touching the Additional Estimates at all - represent an increased expenditure of £219,000, which is equal to 7.8 per cent. So that in respect of these Estimates alone, without taking into account one penny of the £100,000 additional which is being expended, we find that whilst the revenue has increased by only 5.6, the expenditure has increased by 7.8 per cent.
– For this year as against last year?
– Of course. It is a fair thing to assume that the expenditure .will increase in a growing concern-
– But not in the, same ratio.
– Not in anything like the same ratio. It ought to increase at a less ratio than that at which the revenue increases.
– This expenditure represents accumulated arrears.
-I must confess that if one wishes to ascertain anything from the Budget papers - and the same remark is applicable to all Budget papers-
– Except those of the honorable member himself.
– If one wishes to ascertain any special information from the Budget papers - and a similar remark is applicable to all Budget papers, my own included - he has to worry through them from beginning to end before he can achieve his purpose.
– Does not the honorable member think that that state of affairs is brought about intentionally?
– I never brought it about intentionally, but I will not answer for other Ministers. Of course, the Postmaster-General may have a complete reply to my remarks-
– The Postmaster-General will make the position quite clear directly.
– No doubt. When we come to the Additional Estimates, we find that they provide for an increase in the ordinary expenditure of the Department of £107,000, in addition to an expenditure of £63,000 upon new works, without one single farthing being added to the revenue. But I put aside for the moment the £63,000 provided for additional works - the whole of which ought not to be contributed by this year, but only onetenth of it - as immaterial.
– Will that money be spent this year?
– I am not taking that question into consideration. I am dealing only with the additional ordinary expenditure for this year - with the £107,000.
– And recurring expenditure.
– It is rather important that we should know whether or not it is recurring expenditure. I find that that additional expenditure provides for the employment of no less than 900 additional hands - new men who are coming in at the fifth class-
– It provides for 905 additional officers.
– Thus we find that, though upon the ordinary Estimates the expenditure has increased by 7.8 per cent., as against an increase in revenue of 5.6 per cent., the Government now ask us - practically in the tenth month of the financial year - for an additional£107,000 - which, presumably, will all be expended within the next two or three months - and which will bring the expenditure up to 1 1. 5 per cent., or practically double the whole of the increased revenue.
– Where is this sort of thing to end ?
– Exactly. I am quite prepared to admit that in a great Department like the Post Office, and in a progressive country like Australia, there must be a continual, steady increase of expenditure in proportion to the revenuereceived. But I think it has always been the endeavour of every Department, and of every Minister, to see that, as far as possible, the increased expenditure shall bear a reasonable ratio to the increased revenue - that it shall, if anything, be somewhat less.
– Provided that adequate provision has been previously made out of revenue.
– That is the point.
– That is the whole point.
– This expenditure represents an accumulation of arrears.
– It is the result of sweating.
– The PostmasterGeneral may have a complete answer to the position which I take up, but the least that he can do is to place the Committee in possession of it.
– If the honorable member had been present on Friday, he would have gained a lot of information.
– I do not think that anything was said on that particular point.
– I shall be happy to give the honorable member further information.
– If it should turn out that the expenditure for the present financial year has to be increased in order to make up for sweating, as the right honorable member for East Sydney put it -I do not know whether that means that employes have been underpaid-
– They have been overworked and underpaid.
– They have not been paid for the work which they have done.
– If they have not been paid, they ought to be. Everybody is quite prepared to see justice done in that direction. But the Postmaster-General ought to tell us exactly why this additional bill is presented to us. As yet, we have had no really satisfactory information upon the subject. No one will welcome such information more than I shall, but I thought it necessary to put these plain figures before the Committee, in order to elicit information.
– The discussion of the Additional Estimates this afternoon has taken me somewhat by surprise. Probably, sir, your ruling is correct, but I did not anticipate that the Additional Estimates would be discussed before the consideration of the Estimates-in-Chief had been concluded. IfI interpret your decision aright, it is that at this period a discussion may take place upon the Additional Estimates, as well as upon the Estimates-in-Chief?
– The adoption of that course will save time.
– I am quite agreeable to that course being adopted, and as a matter of fact I very much prefer it. I have been waiting for the discussion upon the Estimates-in-Chief to conclude before making a statement in regard to the Additional Estimates, for which honorable members must understand I am responsible. I am not going to allow those Estimates to be passed without placing upon record the reasons why I submit them.
– And the reasons why, when taken in conjunction with the Estimates-in-Chief, they show an increased expenditure of £1,500,000 over the expenditure of last year?
-Perhaps I cannot satisfy honorable members in that regard. I am not going to be placed in a false position because, as honorable members know, the Treasurer has practically no control over the administration of any Department. I am not blaming the PostmasterGeneral at all for the increased expenditure proposed, because I know what a huge Department he has to administer. B ut for my own protection I desire to place upon record the reasons why I have been compelled to submit these Additional Estimates. With your permission, sir, I wish to trace, as briefly as I can, the history of the growth of the increased expenditure of this Department up to the present stage. These Additional Estimates provide for a total expenditure of£571,028.
– I rise to a point of order. You, sir, confine honorable members pretty closely to the point at issue, and yet you are allowing the Treasurer to make rambling remarks in the nature of a financial statement. If other honorable members attempted to adopt that course, they would be promptly pulled up.
– Order ! What is the honorable member’s point of order?
– I desire to know whether the Treasurer is in order in making practically a financial statement?
– I was waiting to ascertain exactly what line the Treasurer proposed to follow. I hope that he is not going to make a statement dealing with the Estimates for the whole of the CommonwealthDepartments. If he attempts to follow that course, he will be out of order. But he will be quite in order in dealing with any of the Estimates relating to the Postmaster-General’s Department.
– It was mainly the Postmaster-General’s Department that I was referring to. There was only one other Department about which I intended to say a few words, in order to make the position clear to honorable members. I desired, sir, to quote a few figures regarding the Defence Department.
– The honorable member will not be in order in doing so.
– We have passed the Estimates for the Defence Department.
– I know that, and that is where the trouble comes in. We have not passed certain amounts on the Additional Estimates.
– The trouble is that the honorable gentleman did not bring down the Additional Estimates soon enough.
– I brought down the Additional Estimates almost immediately I was asked to do so, but I did not anticipate that the two discussions would be dove-tailed into one.It is only to the items for the Defence Department that I wish to refer, sir.
– The honorable memberwill not be in order indealing with the Estimates for that Department.
– In that case, I shall reserve what I wish to say until we reach those Estimates. After deducting certain totals, these Estimates provide the sum of£571,028.
– I rise to order, sir, because it appears to me that the Treasurer is attempting to depart from your ruling. He has mentioned that “ these “ Estimates provide the sum of £571,028. That is the total amount of the Additional Estimates, and I draw your attention to the fact that the Estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department provide £107,000 and £63,000, making a total of£170,000 in round figures. Suppose that the honorable gentleman goes outside the proposed appropriation of £170,000, the other items are included in the Estimates for Departments which have already been passed, and we should be unable to discuss the matter.
– I submit, sir, that in this general discussion it will be quite in order to take into account all the factors concerning the Estimates now before the Committee. How can we discuss the departmental finances unless all the factors are on the board?
– What I am arguing is that we can discuss the item of£170,000, but not the item of£571,028.
– I submit, sir, that the Treasurer will be quite in order in discussing any matter relating to the Post and Telegraph Department, either on the Additional Estimates or on the EstimatesinChief, so far as it will make clear its whole financial position.
– I took it that the Treasurer was merely mentioning incidentally that there is provided a certain sum, out of which, I presume, so much is required for the Post and Telegraph Depart- ment. I did not understand him to be discussing the matter at all. He is quite in order.
– I merely wished to state the total sum which is provided on these Estimates, but if the desire is not to discuss in detail now the Additional Estimates as well as the EstimatesinChief for the Post and Telegraph Department I shall refrain from doing so. I may mention that the Department absorbs the following amount-
– On a point of order, sir, I desire to ascertain whether, if the Treasurer makes a general statement concerning this Department on the Estimates-in-Chief, we can discuss afterwards the Additional Estimates ?
– The Committee is now considering the Estimates relating to the Postmaster-General’s Department, and so long as the Treasurer confines himself to them he will be quite in order.
– That is, Estimates amountingto£107,000 ; he must not go outside that proposal ?
– The provision for this Department includes£107,000 and a lot more. On the Additional Estimates there is provided for the Post and Telegraph Department£107,720 under ordinary votes,£975 under the head of Home Affairs for maintenance,£63,410 under the control of the PostmasterGenralfor new worksand buildings, and £27,211 for the erection of post offices, &c., making a total of £199,316 for the Department. I have here astatement which shows the increase of revenue and expenditure. I am sorry that I did not know that the discussion was likely to take this trend, otherwise I would have referred to these items before the honorable member for Flinders spoke, as I could have given him a good deal of detailed information concerning the matters on which he spoke generally.
– But there is no additional revenue ?
– Yes. I shall state the revenue presently, because I have had a return prepared up to date. Honorable members are aware, through the press, that some attacks have been made upon me because I would not and could not provide money enough to supply the requirements of this Department during the last seven or eight months. I propose to quote some figures in order to show how the departmental expenditure has grown since 1900-1, when it was£2, 595,860. In 1901-2 it was £2, 383,815; in 1902-3, £2,568,846; in 1903-4, £2,697,454; in 1904-5, £2,699,667; in 1905-6,£2,784,664; in 1906-7, £2,965,773;while in 1907-8 it is estimated at £3,498,503, showing an increase of£532,730, in 1907-8, as compared with the previousyear.
– It is about time the honorable gentleman took a pull on it.
– I am not complaining of any one, except that I have my own ideas about certain things.
– To gain what increase of revenue?
– I shall come to that immediately.
– Are those ideas for circulation ?
– I am submitting the figures so that they shall appear in Hansard.
– The honorable gentleman said just now that he had some ideas of his own, and I wish to know if he willcommunicate them to the Committee ?
– Not at the present juncture. The reason why I am going into this detail is because I have to protect myself as Treasurer against the demands for large increases of expenditure which are coming forward.
– The honorable gentleman means that he has to protect himself against the Postmaster-General?
– No. My honorable colleague and I get on very well indeed. I am not blaming him. I recognise that it is very difficult for an honorable member who is new to the position to have full grip and control.
– Whom does the honorable member blame?
-I do not blame the honorable member except to a small extent, because sometimes he asks for works to be done which might be delayed a little, and that is the case with a large number of honorable members:
– For what purpose does the honorable gentleman think that my constituents sent me here?
– One reason was that the honorable member might get all that he could out of the Treasury for them. In the year 1900- 1, the revenue from the Department was £2,269,502 ; in 1901-2, £2,372,861; in 1902-3,£2,404,730; in 1903-4,£2,510,203;in1904-5. £2,632,551; in 1905-6, £2,824,348; and in 1906-7, £3,129,074 ; while the. revenue for 1907-8, is estimated at£3,297,000. At the end of the present financial year the difference between the increase of expenditure and the increase of receipts will be £364,804, not including interest on buildings, that is to say, the expenditure has increased by £532,730 in1907-8, while the receipts have increased by only £167,926, the difference being £364,804.
– Then the Government will not propose to reduce the revenue by the adoption of penny postage?
– I am not going to deal with that matter now.
– Can the honorable gentleman state what profits were made by the Department under State control ?
– That information has been given previously, and I do not wish to overweight this statement. The increase in the number of persons employedin the Department of the PostmasterGeneral is most serious. This increase in employes is necessary ; but the only reason that can justify it is that previously, as the Postmaster-General says, the Department was starved.
– Then this Government has been starving it.
– In the year 1 900- 1 the number of permanent employes was 9,930. In 1901-2 the number on the Estimates was 10,132; in 1902-3, 10,259; in 1903-4, 10,498; in 1904-5, 10,772; in 1905-6, 10,759; in 1906-7, 10,932; and in 1907-8, 12,506; an increase in one year of 1,574; whereas the previous average annual increase has been 168. The average salary was, in1902-3, £121, and in 1907-8, £127, though in the two previous years it stood at£133. The appointments made recently, however, have been chiefly to the lower grades of the service. When making my Budget statement, I said that I had been asked to sanction the appointment of 1,000 new hands, to which I demurred ; but I found myself compelled to make provision for the appointment of 669, apportioned among the States as follows: - New South Wales, 267; Victoria, 222; Queensland, 103 ; South Australia, 17 ; Western Australia, 25 ; and Tasmania, 35. During the year, I have been repeatedly applied to by the Postal Department to sanction further expenditure, and the advances which I made over and above the provision on the Estimates practically exhausted my account. But the applications to me were so repeated and so forcible that
I was bound to do the best I could. The number of temporary hands actually employed on the 31st December last was 1,908, of whom 883 were being employed in New South Wales, 300 in Victoria, 220 in Queensland, 95 in South Australia, 321 in Western Australia, and 89 in Tasmania.
– The 1,574 permanent hands will take the place of temporary hands?
– The PostmasterGeneral will be able to supply those details. I asked the Public Service Commissioner to inquire into the ground for every recommendation made to me, and allowed provision to ‘be made only on his certificate; but I found the money for every appointment which he certified to be necessary. I therefore provided for 183 new officers out of the Treasurer’s Advance. The Additional Estimates provide for 905 officers, including the 183. These offi- cers are distributed among the States as follows : - In New South Wales, 480 ; in Victoria, 315; in Queensland, 40; in South Australia, 43 ; in Western Australia, 5; and in Tasmania, 22. Adding these to the number provided in the EstimatesinChief, provision in the total Estimates for the current year has been made for 1,574 new permanent appointments. Of these, New South Wales has 747, Victoria 537, Queensland 143, South Australia 60, Western Australia 30, and Tasmania 57. Other appointments to the service do not exceed 60.
– I was right in saying that the increase in the Postal Department is equal to about 15 per cent.
– Not one too many.
– That is another matter. The Committee expects an explanation from the Postmaster-General. It is not getting one from the Treasurer.
– When the draft Additional Estimates were sent to me from the Department, although the Postmaster-General was very desirous of obtaining additional expenditure, I found it necessary to reduce his estimates by £73,000. I did that, making what I deemed to be a safe calculation as to the revenue which I should receive, and the amount I should have to expend out of the Commonwealth one-fourth. I gave the Postmaster- General credit for £17,000 in connexion with transfers from London, which he has paid into the revenue, though I declined to do so at first.
– There will be no money for the Surplus Revenue Bill to deal with if the Treasurer expends all his revenue.
– Unless the Surplus Revenue Bill is passed, some of the appropriations will lapse, and I do not wish that to come about. If that happened, the money would have to be revoted next year, which would swellthe Estimates of Expenditure for that year.
– Next year will bear only its own expenditure.
– It would bear its own expenditure, but, if we do not spend the money that we vote, and the vote lapses, we shall have tofind the money out of next year’s revenue for a vote made this year. In order to show how I have had regard to next year’s expenditure, I may say that the Post and Telegraph Department desired me to provide £300,000 more this year for works that would not be commenced until next year, and that I refused to accede to the request.
– It would be a silly business to vote money this year for works next year.
– I do not know that it would be silly, and I only mention the fact in order to show that the Department contemplates a great expenditure next year.
– Where is the sense of such a request?
– I do not know.
– The idea was to ask Parliament to authorize works so that money could be spent in the year in which the money was voted.
– As I said before, I only mention the fact to show that we may expect some large works next year.
– The two Ministers appear to be getting mixed !
– That is not so; I have had these matters too much under consideration to get mixed. In conclusion of my remarks upon this particular question, I desire to say that the large increase of permanent employés is to me a source of great concern, and I have agreed to the proposal only in consequence of the continued assertion that the Post and Telegraph Department cannot be efficiently carried on without those extra appointments,and that the employment of so many temporary hands is not conducive to economical working.
– Has the honorable gentleman put that statement in writing ?
– I have, because I desire it to be kept as a record. I do not wish it to be possible for the right honorable member for East Sydney, or any other honorable member, five or six years hence, if I live so long, to point to me as the Treasurer who was responsible for this increase of expenditure. I have known such a thing done ; and, therefore, I protect myself on this occasion. I think it is quite true that the employment of so many temporary hands is not conducive to economical working. Permanent hands doubtless work better ; and, if they do not fully know their duties at first, they very soon learn them, and in many respects are preferable to temporary officers.
– That is a very good justification for substituting permanent men for temporary men.
– I am advised that, as occasion presents itself, the number of temporary hands will be reduced very considerably, and that that is the justification for the increase in the number of permanent hands.
– Would not the argument of the Minister apply to the increase in the number of permanent hands, to which he says he objects?
– I do not object; I am merely giving the information as to the number required, and a warning that the matter must be carefully looked into.
– Is there not also an increase in the number of temporary employés ?
– Yes; and I may say that, as Treasurer, I have had to find, I think, £25,000 more than was voted on that score. When I asked why the increased number was necessary, I was told, in addition to the reasons I have already given, that the volume of business was so great as to necessitate the, appointments; and, as I could not provide for the full increase of permanent employés, temporary appointments were made in the meantime. My contention is that, after the number of permanent employes appointed, the number of temporary employes ought to be reduced very considerably. It must not be forgotten that the last year or two have been boom years, and, if bad seasons come, a large army of permanent employés may prove embarrassing. I think that the right honorable member for East
Sydney has had some experience of similar conditions arising in New South Wales, when the number of public servants had to be reduced. It is asserted that in the past the Departments have been starved in employes, and thus there arises the demand for such a large increase this year. But it must not be forgotten that the demand for works expenditure has been very large, and, in my opinion, we ought not to force too much expenditure into one year, but, if possible, let each year bear a fair share of the increase. I cannot resist giving a warning that the rushing up of expenditure may prove the high road to a very strong retrenchment agitation.
– Is the Minister giving a quotation, or reading words which he himself has written?
– In the last half-minute or so I have read what I have myself written. The works expenditure in the Post and Telegraph Department in 1902-3 was £135,699; in 1903-4, it was £187,809; in 1904-5, it was£131,829; in 1905-6 it was £146,575; in 1906-7 it was £275,783; and in 1907-8 it was £524,699, the last mentioned sum being made up of original Estimates £434,078, and Additional Estimates £90,621. This shows an increase over last year of about £250,000.
– In my calculation, I have deducted only £135,000 from the £524,000.
– In order to arrive at the position as to the increase over last year, there must be deducted £275,000 odd. I should have liked to deal with the Defence Estimates now, so as to have placed the whole financial position before honorable members, but that is not possible at the present stage.
– Will the Treasurer give us a list of the items that constitute the proposed expenditure of £250,000 on Defence ?
– Yes; but, as I say, I cannot do it at the present stage. As Treasurer, I feel that, in the face of increasing expenditure, without corresponding increase of revenue, as we had last year and one or two years before, we must be very careful what is done regarding these Estimates. I admit that the Post and Telegraph Department is perhaps the most difficult to manage, not only by the Minister, but by the heads of the branches. The services of the Department are so farreaching throughout the continent, that it requires very close organization in order to secure efficiency and success.
– Does not the Treasury keep the accounts of the Post and Telegraph Department ?
– Is there no regular account kept in the Treasury of the expenditure and revenue of the Post and Telegraph Department?
– All the revenue has to be paid into the Treasury.
– But is there no account kept of how much of the expenditure on the new works and buildings is to be attributed to the expenditure in any one year ?
– I have not. made any attempt to keep such an account ; but what I do think is that there ought to be an annual report from the Post and Telegraph Department:
– Containing all the information now suggested.
– The PostmasterGeneral is not to blame for the absence of a report, and I know that its preparation would be difficult.
– Why has the Treasurer not made the suggestion to those Ministers on whom he has been trampling?
– I have not been trampling on any Ministers - I am the most docile man in the world. All I desire is to protect myself.
– If the PostmasterGeneral is not to blame for the absence of a report, who is?
– The present Postmaster-General has not been long in office.
– Who is the other fellow?
– The Department cannot be worked by the PostmasterGeneral alone; he must have the assistance of the heads of branches.
– And the Postmaster-General has taken the position on a Committee of Inquiry in order to fill up his spare time !
– And I think the Postmaster-General will do a considerable amount of good on that Committee of Inquiry. I do not agree with honorable members who are of opinion that this committee will result in no good ; because the object is to ascertain where the public are dissatisfied, and where the organization can be improved.
– The Postmaster-General has not time for that work.
– The members of the Committee have taken the responsibility on themselves.
– And I have no doubt they will satisfy themselves.
– I was pressed to become a member, but I did not feel disposed to accept the invitation.
– We shall find when it is all over that the Committee will report that they ought to remove themselves from office !
– I do not think they would be justified in making any such recommendation. However, I have thought fit to put” the position clearly before Parliament and the .country, seeing that, during the last few months, I have done my best to keep down expenditure in every possible way. I have been blamed for doing this by those who did not know the financial position of the Commonwealth, It is very hard, indeed, to meet such a large increase of expenditure in one year, unless there is a very elastic revenue ; and had it not been for the elastic revenue obtained since the imposition of the present so-called terrible Tariff, I do not know how we should have dealt with the expenditure of the Post and Telegraph Department. There has been a great clamour for works in this Department, and my reference to the honorable member for Maranoa applies to almost every other honorable member. The desire amongst us_ is that our constituents shall be properly looked after in the way of Post and Telegraph facilities.
– We desire to see the public served.
– That is all I desire.
– Quite true, and the honorable member’s constituents are part of the public. I hope I have put the position clearly before honorable members, and shown that I have restrained, in part at any rate, excessive expenditure in connexion with this great Department. But I do urge on that Department - I have urged it many times privately upon my colleague the Postmaster-General ; and he is taking the right course now - to see whether there is not some fault in connexion with, the details of its . work. That is where is seems to me that there is some fault. I am anxious to see the Department give satisfaction to the public, and equally anxious to see an expansion of conveniences, as far as it is possible to extend them, from one end of the continent to the other. But we cannot expect that to be done without finding the money. It is thus that- I have had to find more money than was anticipated by any- one during the present year, and have had to bring down these Additional Estimates. The Committee now know the whole position in which the Department stands.
– I do not propose to deal with the figures which have been given to the Committee by the honorable member for Flinders and by the Treasurer. My honorable, friends have given the increases in lump sums. I propose to give them in percentages, both in regard to revenue and expenditure. The revenue for 1902-3 showed an increase -of 1.34 per cent, over the revenue for 1901-2 ; of 4.39 per cent, in 1903-4, over the previous year; of 4.87 per cent, in 1904-5; of 7.29 per cent, in i905r6; and of 10.79 Per cent- m 1906-7. This year it is estimated that the increase will be approximately 5.38 per cent.
– Do those figures represent the whole service?
– They are the increases in receipts for the years mentioned, over the previous year’s receipts. I will next give in percentages the increase in expenditure. Honorable members must . bear in mind that we are now paying out of revenue for works . which were previously, paid for out of loan money.
– Has the Commonwealth had any loans at all ?
– No, .but in the State days many of these works were paid for out of loans. In 1902-3 the increased expenditure over 1 901-2 was 4.09 per cent. ;’ in 1903-4, 5.01 per cent. ; in 1904-5, 0.08 per cent.; in 1905-6, 3.15 per cent.; in 1906-7, 6.50 per cent. In other words, in 1906-7 the expenditure increased by 6.50 per cent., whereas the receipts increased by, nearly 11 per cent.
– Can the Minister give us approximately the anticipated revenue and expenditure for the current year - I mean the ratio?
– I cannot give that for this year.
– Do those increases to which the Minister refers show increases of expenditure for one year over the year before ?
– Including expenditure on works and everything else?
– Including works and everything. The increase of revenue in 1906-7 over 1901-2 was £[756,213, or 31.86 per cent. The increase of expenditure for 1906-7 over 190 1-2 was 20.17per cent., or £497,979.
– That does not look like starving the Department - an increased expenditure of 20 per cent. to get 30 per cent. more revenue; and that in a booming time. It cannot be said that that looks like a starved service.
– It certainly is not by any means an inflated service, especially when honorable members bear in mind that in the year 1904-5 we had practically no increase of expenditure at all. That is where the trouble has arisen. ‘During the last three years the sum asked for by the Post and Telegraph Department has been continually reduced; and last year we found that the abnormal increase of business and the shortage of officers brought us close to a condition of things that could not continue. There were complaints all round the House.
– Why did the Government continually reduce expenditure when it was wanted ?
– Because the Treasurer whopreceded the previous Treasurer, having only a certain amount of money to spend, cut down the Department’s Estimates.
– The Cabinet is all one, the Minister should recollect. You cannot split a Cabinet.
– My honorable friend has asked me the reason, and I have told him plainly. Some of the reasonsfor this increased expenditure date back to preFederal days. Just previous to Federation quite a number of telegraph and telephone lines were starved. Some of the poles are now rotten. We have to face an abnormal expenditure to put these works into an efficient condition. We have had to face an abnormal expenditure in regard to works in New South Wales, South Australia, and Victoria.
– Abnormal in Sydney ?
– In the way of undergrounding.
– It was done, to a great extent, before the Department was taken over.
– To some extent, it was done in Sydney, but not in Adelaide and Melbourne; and, especially in Melbourne, the undergrounding has been a cause of great expenditure.
– Will the Minister allow me to say that inthe calculations which I laid before the Committee I only debited the year’s accounts with 10 per cent. of that expenditure.
– I have had made a calculation something like that of the honorable member, on the basis of 10 per cent. In the appropriation for 1907-8, salaries and contingencies, &c., amount to £2,865,109, and Additional Estimates amount to £107,720. Ten per cent. on new works - appropriation for 1907-8, £434,078; and Additional Estimates, £90,621 - would be£52,470. Add that to the £2,865,109 and the£107,720, and the total is£3,025,299. That calculation would give us an excess of revenue for the present year, over the expenditure, of £272,113; the estimated revenue being £3,297,412. I fully agree with the honorable member for Flinders in regard to the necessity for thepreparation of an annual report. But such a report must, of course, be based upon reliable data.
– So far, the Minister has only agreed with the idea; he has not done the thing.
– Until we get our works and buildings transferred definitely to the Commonwealth, and know exactly our capital expenditure, it is quite impossible to have a report that would be worth reading.
– Surely not. The matter to which the Minister has referred does not affect the question. The interest on the transferred buildings is a fixed sum.
– Surely no balancesheet could be said to be fair until the matter of the transferred buildings is settled up?
– The Minister could include the interest on those buildings in his balance-sheet. That does not in the slightest degree affect the matter.
– I quite admit that an annual report is necessary, and should be provided. I hope that it will be provided next year. We ought to have approximately a statement of receipts and expenditure for the various branches of the Department. We ought to know the profits which we are making on the telephone services, or the losses to be debited to it.
– Do we not know that?
– It is quite impossible under present circumstances.
– I heard the Minister declare the other night that the telephone service was all right.
– We are surely discussing a business matter in a business-like way.
– The remark of the honorable member for1 Gwydir was a sensible one.
– I think it will be found that the telephone branch is the best paying branch in the service.
– How does the Minister know that?
– I make the statement from my knowledge of the Department. A statement regarding the various branches of the Department must, ‘however, under the best of conditions, be approximate. Even in the central office, officers are continually dividing their time between the various branches of the Department ; and that remark applies particularly to the larger country offices.
– The Minister could separate telephones and telegraphs almost entirely.
– I do not know that we could do that. We intend to try to do it, but the figures will be only approximate.
– In many country offices, the telephone work is combined with the telegraph work.
– That is where the difficulty arises.
– What I’ meant was that it is quite possible to separate telephones and telegraphs from the purely postal work.
– That can be more easily accomplished., but even a statement on those lines would be- approximate. I mav add that in the last report of the Post and Telegraph Department of the United States, it is pointed out that, although the Department has been in existence for over 100 years, they are only now taking the initial steps to do the very thing that my friend, the honorable member for Flinders, asks us to do.
– Does the Minister mean that we are to wait 100 years for a proper balance-sheet?
– No; but it has to be remembered that we have had to amalgamate the post and telegraph affairs of six States, and that we . have had to do our work in the face of shortage of money, whilst we have paid for the whole of our new works out of revenue. That is a very great accomplishment in itself, and could not be done without very great difficulty. But I fully agree with the business principles laid down by the honorable member for Flinders. Already we have taken steps to take a tally during the coming year of the work done by the officers of the various branches, and to debit each Department with the cost of the work done for it.
– The Minister will want another 10,000 officers to do all that.
– It is quite impossible to arrive at an approximate estimate unless it’ is done.
– The Minister should not. go into too many details of that kind.
– It is impossible to arrive at an estimate unless we determine the basis upon which it is to be built.
– Do not carry it too far.
– We shall try not to carry it too far, but the estimate of the cost of branches must be reasonably approximate to be of any value whatever.
– On important matters, ves.
– If the present Estimates are considered in the light of the observations of the honorable member for Flinders, it will be found that this excess revenue - ,£272,11.3 - will practically, allow of the payment of 3 per cent, interest on transferred properties, .taking the value thereof at ,£6,000,000, and yield a balance of .£92,113 to be brought forward. I admit that I have not included the 10 per cent, for the previous years. If that were included it would reduce the balance.
– By over .£100,000.
– Would it not wipe out the balance altogether?
– No, it would still leave us with a balance of over ,£172,000.
– My criticism was not based on the fact that the Department had not paid its way, but was directed to the point that it was desirable not to increase the expenditure for the year beyond the increase of revenue.
– I am quite sure that the expenditure will not be increased at the same ratio, because we shall be able to do away with one-fourth of the temporary hands that we have at present.
– They would have to be made permanent hands, would they not?
– The expenditure will be considerably lessened.
– If the Department had more employes than it required, I could understand the honorable member’s statement.
– We have made provision for temporary hands, and are providing for the necessary increase in the number of permanent hands, so that honorable members must either be prepared to face an increased expenditure on the part of the Department or to allow officers to continue to do work allotted to higher grades without receiving a proportionate increase in their remuneration, and to allow time off to accumulate. In other words, if we are to properly staff the Department, Parliament must provide the necessary means for paying for that staffing. I received . this morning a deputation which urged that we should continue country mail services at a loss. Owing to the increased price of fodder, theseservices are costing us this year nearly £11,000 in excess of the cost for last year. In respect of a very large number of them we are losing as much as 50 per cent. over and above receipts.
– And are not the contractors also losing money?
– If we are to pay contractors on the basis which the. honorable member, by his interjection, seems to suggest, a still further expenditure will be incurred. It isuseless for honorable members, on the one hand, to oppose sweating, and to demand increased postal facilities if, on the other, they insist upon the expenditure being kept down. The Department is faced with thedifficulties with which every Government post and telegraphic service in the world is confronted. It has to pay reasonable wages, provide for holidays and sick leave, and grant many facilities which would not be forthcoming if the Department were a private enterprise. We have also to provide for heavy losses on country extensions, and these must be met by increased expenditure. A statement of receipts and expenditure, as suggested, would show exactly in what respect losses were incurred by the Department. If the Department is to be conducted on business principles, Parliament should vote a sum to meet the extraordinary demands made upon it to provide services which in no way relate to it. In respect of our oversea mail service alone, we have to pay something like£15,000 per annum more than we should otherwise have to do, because of a provision in the contract relating to the export of butter. What has the carriage of butter to do with the conveyance of mails? Yet we find that that increased cost is charged to the Post and Telegraph Department. We are paving heavy subsidies for. mail steamers to carry passengers and cargo.
– Such charges ought to be debited to the State.
– But does not the money come out of the pockets of the one body of taxpayers ?
– I have no objection to the present system providing that my Department is not blamed for meeting these demands.
– The representatives of some of the big metropolitan centres may find fault with the system, but I do not.
– Quite so, and I am sure that the honorable member will allow me the right to vindicate my Department. I am simply pointing out that we have to provide facilities, which a privatefirm would not think of granting.
– Then the Government should apply to the Department the principle adopted by some Railway Commissioners of the, States, who say that if Parliament requires a certain policy to be carried out, it must provide the necessary funds.
– If I have the opportunity, such a scheme will be submitted at the earliest possible moment.
– That will be about ten years hence.
– The right honorable member is gauging the time by his own standard. Last year, if he will permit me to say so, he screeched about sweating in my Department, and I hope that he will not screech to-day about the expenditure incurred by the Department in an effort todo away with that sweating.
– I have not a word of objection.
– I appreciate the fair criticism in which the right honorable member has indulged.
– Has the Minister obtained the Public Service Commissioner’s sanction to his proposals?
– The Commissioner has agreed that there is need for the increased number of hands in New South Walesfor which I have asked. I should like to say in passing that very often fears of the probable effects of a drought are not realized. It is a remarkable fact that during the last drought the business of the Department in New South Wales - where it was most keenly felt - increased in respect of every branch.
– And yet the staff at that time was very much less than it is to-day.
– That was not my fault. The Public Service Commissioner, in his classification of 1904, showed that there was an excess of officers.
– What about the Cabinet Committee of Inquiry ?
– I was about to say, in answer to the leader of the Opposition, that my experience leads me to believe that there will not be the slightest hesitancy on the part of officers - from the lowest to the highest grades of the Service - in making a full and fair statement of their complaints.
– Does the Cabinet Committee propose to personally visit all the States capitals ?
– And together?
– That will be a matter of arrangement.
– What is Parliament to do while the Ministers are away?
– When I neglect the duties of my office it will be time to complain. It is quite possible to administer the work of the Department in any of the States. I repeat that every opportunity will be given for public servants who think that there is a principle at stake, or that there is ground for complaint, to make known their complaints either privately or publicly in any form they please.
– Then the members of the Committee will have their hands full for the next few. months.
– I do not know how long the inquiry will take. After all, much of the trouble that has taken place has been due to the fact that the several Departments of the Commonwealth are passing through evolutionary stages. We have taken over services from six different States, and it is only by experience that we can determine how the work of each of the Departments should be so allotted as to enable them to fit in with each other. A great deal of trouble can be removed by clearly defining the relations of the several Departments and by avoiding centralization.
– How long will the Committee be at work?
– We shall deal as quickly as possible with the work before us.
.- We must thank the two Ministers for their explanations. Taken together they unfortunately have the effect ofmaking the position more confused than it was ; but we may be able to obtain some information from them. Since we are dealing with a question of finance, I think it right to say that it is rather surprising that Ministers have not availed themselves of the opportunity to point out how unfair it is to debit the Post and Telegraph Department in any one year with expenditure on works the utility of which may last perhaps for thirty years. The Treasurer has given us details of increased expenditure in a given year on public works relating to the Department ; but that is a. grossly unfair way of making a comparison of receipts and expenditure. This expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds will be incurred on works and services the utility of which may last for twenty or thirty years.
– On the average about ten years.
– Then let us say ten years. But we should begin by making that adjustment of the figures which have been put before us. Given plenty of money we cannot have a better system of finance than that under which we put our revenueinto permanent and reproductive works. But when we have either to starve the public services or adopt some more rational system of expenditure, we must decide upon debiting permanent works on an annual basis - on the basis of one year’s expenditure on one year’s services.
– Boiled down, that means that we should have a loan expenditure with a sinking fund of ten or twelve years’ duration.
– Absolutely. I ventured to introduce that system in New South Wales. In that State, as well as in others,loans were dealt with under a very rotten system, although the country was rich enough to stand it; but I established the principle to which I have referred in connexion with expenditure on buildings or works, the utility of which might extend over any given period. I decided upon a system under which each year’s revenue contributed its share to the expenditure on such works. The result was that the expenditure on a given work, having a life of ten or twenty years, was paid for proportionately out of the revenue of those ten or twenty years.
– What became of that system?
– I believe that it was dropped after I went out of office. I suggest to the Committee that the time must come when we must cease to cripple the Federation and starve its services by insisting on debiting the revenue of any one year with the expenditure on buildings which may last for thirty or forty years. We shall have to revise our principles of finance when we have not the money to enable us to continue the present system, but as long as we have the money available we cannot do better than put it into reproductive services.
– The system of paying for works expenditureout ofthe year’s revenue has led to great economy in carrying out works and buildings.
– Although it may not always be visible, anything in the direction of economy is to be commended, and we should constantly endeavour to secure it. But what surprises me most in connexion with the condition of affairs in the Post and Telegraph Department is, the absolute lack of foresight, or some greater defect, in estimating the number of hands required to carry on the work of the Department. The density of ignorance which prevails in some financial quarters in the Commonwealth service - I do not know where - is to be seen on a reference to the following figures : - In the year 1906-7 the Government actually spent £1 2,600 on temporary assistance for carrying on the Department in New South Wales, and for 1907-8 they actually propose to spend, not. more, but £3,600 less than was found necessary in the previous year. Is not that a monstrous state of things? Instead of providing £12,600 again, or something more, to meet the expansion of the Department, and the increasing demands for assistance, they have actually submitted an estimate of £9,000 for 1907-8, or £3,600 less than was actually spent on temporary assistance in the year before.
– Thereason for that was given - a drought was feared.
– I suppose that anything in this world can be explained, in a House of Parliament, at any rate.
– There is £20,500 on the Additional Estimates for this purpose.
– The amount set down in the Estimates-in-Chief is quite apart from the vote for £20,500 in the Additional Estimates. It was necessary to spend £12,600 in 1906-7, and, instead of the Government recognising that fact, and the tremendous pressure there must be for the employment of more hands, we were asked to vote the sum of £9,000 instead of £12,600, for the current year, with the result that Additional Estimates are brought down, including a sum of £20,500 for temporary assistance, over and above the £9,000 submitted in the EstimatesinChief.
– The drought has disappeared, I suppose.
Mr.REID. - I suppose so. I should say that in the smallest town in Australia people have better ideas of business than these Estimates disclose. Ministers must Save had this pressure for more hands staring them in the face for years and years, and yet they deliberately put down a smaller amount for temporary assistance this year than they had actually to spend in the year before, with the result that now, when we are within three months of the end of the financial year, we are called upon to vote another £20,500. In other States, this has not been so glaring. In Victoria, £7,400 was spent on temporary assistance in 1906-7, and the Government submitted a vote on the Estimates-in-Chief for 1907-8 of £7,000 for this purpose, or £400 less than was spent in the previous year, whilst in the Additional Estimates, a vote of £8,566 is asked for this purpose. I do not wish to labour the point, but I do wish to show that honorable members are left to the most extraordinary sort of guidance in connexion with matters which must have obtruded themselves upon the Department during the last three or four years. Surely, during the last three or four years, the Postmaster-General must have known the strain upon the Department, and the enormous increase in the volume of its business? Yet, in spite of that, and with the result of past experience pressing upon the Minister, the Government and the officials, we are deliberately asked to vote money on the Estimates-in-Chief, apparently on the assumption that the temporary emergency has passed away, and that the amount required for temporary assistance should be less than it was in the previous year. There is another reproach which can be made in connexion with these votes for temporary assistance. They mean that men, who should be regularly placed on the permanent staff in this Department, are left at the mercy of the rule under which their services may be dispensed with after about six months.
– No, no. There are very few of the men treated in that way.
– There is a law to that effect, though my honorable friend may get over it in some way. All I can say is that, under the law temporary hands can be employed only for a strictly limited period. .
– For nine months at most.
– And it was carried out, until a few months ago.
– It is a brutal sort of thing that men required to do honest work in carrying on the Department, should be shifted aboutin such a way.
– But it is the law.
-“ It is the law.” Here is the voice of helpless political imbecility.
– It is a law which the honorable gentleman helped to make.
– But does that law prevent Ministers from putting money on the Estimates to provide for the appointment of permanent officials? What a superficial reply the honorable gentleman has given !
– It is a law for dealing with a temporary emergency.
– That is all, and the dealing with emergencies in that way should not be converted into a general practice. We have always protested against that.
– But that is just what has been done.
– It is not done now.
– The honorable gentleman claims to have set the rule aside, and says that it is not being done now.
– We are trying to prevent if.
– What we have to deal with is the fact that this rotten state of things hasbeen going on year after year in this Department, and it ought not to have been permitted to continue.
– Hear, hear. We all say that.
– Somebody is responsible for its continuance, and it is not the members of this Committee. They cannot possibly administer the Departments; but they are entitled to some consideration from the Ministry, who, in making provision for carrying on the work of these great Departments, should submit to Parliament a proper scheme of expenditure, which will provide for the employment of a sufficient number of officers at a proper salary. This is what we have a right to expect from the Government of the country.
– And to work a proper number of hours.
– No doubt. I agree with the honorable member for Gwydir on that point. We talk with horror about sweat ing under private enterprise, and it is a great evil wherever it is practised ; but is it not a monstrous thing that the Common wealth Government should be the chief sweater in Australia to-day?
– Oh, that is nonsense.
– I say that in the Post and Telegraph. Department it is so.
– Not a bit of it. That is rubbish.
– Well, it is my view.
– Then the honorable gentleman does not know what he is talking about.
– Surely the need for the employment of hundreds and thousands of temporary hands in the Department is proof that some one is overworked?What can it possibly mean? Is it not one way of sweating a man to make him do the work of two? And is not that just as bad a way of sweating a man as cutting hi? salary down by one-half?
– Some can hardly be said to be doing two men’s work.
– I am aware that there is little or no trouble in the delightful State from which the honorable member for Fremantle comes. The same amount of money is not asked for to provide for temporary assistance in Western Australia as in the other States. There are different ways of sweating a man. One is to give him less than he earns, and another is to make him do the work of two men, and surely that is as bad a way of sweating as the other ?
– It is the worst way.
– I should think so, and it is certainly the least excusable way. Honorable members are prepared to vote any money that is needed for the proper conduct of these Departments. They do not wish to see this practice of largely employing temporary and casual assistants continued. How can we establish a departmental staff on proper lines, or expect efficiency, if a large proportion of the persons employed in a Department go out of the service every few months? The thing is impossible. . I wish to refer to only one or two of these matters, because the work of the Department has been very fully dealt with. With reference to the wail about the want of money, I should like to say that there is no excuse on that score at all. The revenue of the Commonwealth is more than £1,000,000 in excess of the Treasurer’s estimate. The honorable gentleman estimated that it would be £850,000 more than the revenue for last year,but our revenue for this year has increased by nearly £2,000,000; and, in view of that fact, of what use is it to talk about a scarcity in the money chest?
– We are sending surplus revenue to the States also.
– I should like to see as much given to the States as possible. But our first duty in connexion with these Departments is to see that they are put in a proper position. We should do that, not only in the interests of the officers of the Department. There is a larger interest at stake. These huge public services involve the convenience of every man, woman, and child in the community, and for that reason should be placed on a proper business footing. The expenditure has gone up by £1,500,000over that of last year, and the £1,800,000 of excess revenue has practically been mopped up already by these Estimates of Expenditure. I do not objectto expenditure which may be necessary to pay the officers employed in the Public Service proper salaries. It is not a question of how much we can afford. There is no doubt as to the power and the ability of the State as an employer to pay the people it employs proper wages. The country does not grudge fair and honest wages being paid in any of the public Departments of the State. The EstimatesinChief include a vote for additions and new works of £340,000, and yet we have in the Additional Estimates a vote of £411,000set down for this purpose. What sort of finance is this - that we should have Additional Estimates involving an expenditure of £70,000 more than is provided for in the Estimates-in-Chief for the whole year? What sort of finance is it when the votes appearing in our Additional Estimates are larger than those which appear in our Estimates-in-Chief? It shows a dislocation of management in some of these Departments which is deplorable. How can we ever have our finances in a proper state unless the Government are able to forecast, I do not say absolutely, but with a certain approach to accuracy, what the expenditure in a given year will be as against that year’s revenue ?
– We are asked to vote the additional amounts for two months.
– I am much obliged to the honorable member for the interjection. The vote of £340,000 under the head of addi tions and new works in the EstimatesinChief was to cover twelve months’ expenditure.
– Order. I ask the honorable gentleman not to enter upon a general discussion.
– I am obliged to you, sir. I admit that, to be in order, I should refer to the Post Office Estimates, and I should prefer to deal with them. If honorable members will look at the Estimates for the Post and Telegraph Department they will find the votes set down for additions and new works.
– The figures run up to £198,000.
– They run up to very nearly the total amount provided for in the EstimatesinChief.
– The total votes for works in the Estimates-in-Chief for this Department amount to £434,000.
– Here we have about £200,000 asked for for two months, or nearly half the amount asked for for the year’s expenditure. As honorable members are aware, at the end of the year every penny that has not been spentis written off.
– It is going to be put into a surplus fund now.
– The trust fund has not been established vet. I see now what this Surplus Revenue Bill was intended for. Under the operation of that Bill, the £200,000 set down in the Additional Estimates for new works and buildings for this Department would be put into a trust fund to be spent in another year.
– And perhaps in another way.
– Under that system it would be possible to include different sums of money in the estimates of expenditure for one year without any honest intention of spending them in that year, but with the intention of spending them in some subsequent year.
– Or perhaps in connexion with another service.
– What sort of finance should we have under such circumstances? Our figures would show no true indication of the state of the finances of the Commonwealth if we dealt with them in such devious ways ; but the Surplus Revenue Bill has, I think very sensibly, been postponed.
– The principal item of expenditure is for undergrounding telephone wires. That could have been foreseen.
– Surely those are matters that ought to. have been foreseen when the Estimates were being prepared. It looks as though the people who framed these Estimates were always underground and had no daylight or sense or understanding.
– Does the honorable member think that the Government will spend that money when they get it?
– We have let contracts for
– I admit that every Government is liable to criticism of this sort. We have never yet been accustomed to finances on a basis such as they ought to have been on, and I admit that it is easy to criticise.
– It is quite right, I think.
– I hope the honorable member will not only think , that it is quite right-
– - I am sure of it.
– But will do his best to put an end to this sort of utterly inaccurate and haphazard finance. I hope he will set the example to begin with, and impress upon the heads of the Departments when they are asked to give their Estimates for a given year’s expenditure that if they do not foresee the legitimate and necessary expansion of the Department and come back afterwards for . Estimates the need for which ought to have been foreseen, it will be looked upon as a serious lack of efficiency, a serious cause of complaint.
– This is an expenditure that I urged them in. the very first year to undertake. It has taken seven years to begin it.
– It is an expenditure that I urged strongly.
– The Minister, with that everlasting buoyancy of his, which enables him to float without going anywhere, is always in a position to say “ Everything will be right some time, now that I am here.”
– I did not say that.
– But that, is the pith of the honorable member’s attitude - that every other man who was in the office before him was either asleep-
– I did not say that either.
– The honorable member did not say it in so many words, but he must admit that the whole Department has gone into chaos. Who is responsible? Is ‘it not the man who is at the helm, and can my honorable friend separate himself, as he did at a picnic, from the Treasurer?
– That is not correct. The right honorable member is going on a newspaper report, which he ought to know the value of.
– I do not know what sergeant it was who said it, but it appeared in the newspapers. The honorable member ought to apply to the man that wrote it and get his authority. But the honorable member has occasionally in this debate made remarks, and the Treasurer has also made remarks, which are utterly foreign to the idea of Cabinet responsibility. . The honorable member is responsible for the actions of his predecessor just as implicitly as if he were his predecessor himself, if such a thing could be. I must ask the Government to do better with this Department in the future than they have done in the past. What is the use of talking -about the state in which these works were handed over to us in the year 1901 ? Seven years have elapsed since then. Surely,” in seven years, men could put telegraph wires and telephones into a better state. Surely,, in seven years, that Department should have been put in proper order. My great objection to this scheme of the Minister is that it will multiply his difficulties. If he were the ablest man in the world he would have enough to do .in the ordinary management of that gigantic Department without proposing himself as the head of a Committee to inquire into his own administration. It is one of the most comical things in the history of official life. The honorable member has appointed himself as Chairman of a Committee to report upon his own administration by means of evidence to be given to him by his own subordinates. The honorable member says, “I am sure these officers will do their duty fearlessly, and will say everything they have got to say in the way of complaint.” What I have to say is that there may be a lot of officers who will not, and the men who do .not will have a better chance than the men who do. That is my experience, and I’ say it without imputing anything wrong to any one. There are two methods of getting on in any, service. One is by fearless, open independence, and the other by currying favour with superiors. It is not always the man of integrity and ability that succeeds. . It is sometimes the man of integrity and ability that goes to the. wall, and the man who curries favour that succeeds. That is an evil great enough in any service, but this is offering a premium to public officers to act in that way. I feel sure that most of them will scorn’ it. I believe that the public officers, as a body, will act fearlessly, but I do ask, “ What is there between them and this Minister; what is there between them and this Government, if their evidence, being fearless, exposes incapacity and bad administration?” It is a thankless task. To go to the highest stages of the Department, I will just conceive the Secretary to the Post Office taking Mr. Mauger, the Minister, to task, and saying, “ Lookhere, Mr. Mauger, you have invited me to express my opinions on this Department. In my opinion, you have managed it in the most shocking way. You have no capacity for your office. In this particular case you acted foolishly. In that particular case you acted still more foolishly, and the whole of the blame for this state of things rests with you.” I should like to see where the gentleman would be who said that. I believe it would not be true, to begin with.
– That will all be in the report.
– No doubt the report will be drawn up by the Postmaster-General. Having plenty of time on his hands, he will, of course, take full notes of all the evidence, and draw up the report, which will, at least, show one fact : that since the Honorable Samuel Mauger became Postmaster-General, the Department has entered upon a new and majestic phase of improvement and development. It is sure to show that.
– If it does not show that, what is the good of it?
– What, indeed, will be the good of it? Fancy the honorable member reporting of the Honorable Samuel Mauger, Postmaster-General, that he has been a rank failure in his office ! Imagine the absurdity of such a report !
– It would prove him to be a failure if he did that.
– The honorable member - because, like every other man who is worth anything, he believes in himself - would naturally say, “ This evidence discloses a giant conspiracy to discredit me. These are all free-traders, or men who do not believe in teetotalism. My views on the liquor traffic and on protection have poisoned the minds of the public servants who have spoken in this way of me.” That would be my honorable friend’s view upon their even well-merited criticism. But these are all matters of conjecture. What I do emphasize is that if Ministers choose to have an inquiry, they ought to make it a proper, thorough, and independent inquiry. This is not that. I think they will find, before the matter is done with, that they have made a great mistake, and that instead of bringing peace, contentment, and efficiency to the Department, they have made, and will make, things worse than they were.
Mr.CHANTER (Riverina) [5.43].- A good deal has been charged against the Minister during this debate, to a great extent, on account of the want of revenue. I propose to point to one case where the Minister has deliberately thrown away revenue without sufficient justification for his action. I approach this matter with great regret. I am sorry that I should have to deal with a question of this kind, and to blame the Minister for what I consider very injudicious action on his part in the exercise of the enormous power which Parliament has given to him to place an embargo upon the correspondence of any man or firm.
– Would the honorable member allow all kinds of correspondence to go through the post ?
– If the honorable member will bear with me, he will see that I am not in favour of that. But I certainlyam not in favour of any Minister discriminating between one man and another.
– There has been no discrimination.
– I think I shall be able to show that there has been a considerable amount of discrimination in this and other cases. If an evil exists, the remedy should apply to it as a whole, or it should not apply at all.
– According to that reasoning, no thief should be arrested until all thieves can be arrested.
– No; the honorable member is pre-judging the case. I ask him to bear with me, because I intend to state my view of the case, and will back it up with the views of some of the most prominent legal and medical men in Victoria. I am, therefore, not alone in my opinion. The firm of Freeman and Wallace - the Medical Institute - have been carrying on business for a great number of years.
– What class of business?
– Does the honorable member know?
– I have an idea.
– Is the honorable member’s mind open, or is he prepared, upon what he has heard some one say, to form a judgment, as the Minister has done, without an inquiry ? That is practically the position. The Minister caused this gazettal to take place on the 31st December last.
– Is it not a fact that a number of reputable newspapers refuse to publish their advertisements, although they pay high prices for them?
– I shall be very glad if the honorable member, when he has an opportunity of speaking, will name any newspaper that has refused their advertisements. I can name newspapers- ‘
– I must point out to the honorable member that, while he will be quite in order in dealing in a general way with the Minister’s action, he will not be in order in discussing the merit’s or demerits of the particular firm to which he is referring.
– Parliament is supposed to be the place in which to redress grievances. The Estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department are before us at present, and I am about, regretfully, to charge the Minister with practically an act of maladministration. Surely I can show why I-, and others too, have formed that conclusion.
– If I allowed the honorable member to go into the merits or demerits of this particular firm, some other honorable member would probably rise to point out in reply that the firm was very respectable, or otherwise. A discussion would then ensue, not on the Estimates now before the Committee, but on the question of the merits of .the firm. Last week the honorable member for Wentworth attempted to discuss the merits or demerits of a certain report from Mr. Beale, ordered by the Government to be printed. I prevented him from doing so, as it did not come within the purview of the Estimates then before the Chair. There is an Act of Parliament which gives the Minister certain powers. Supposing that those powers were exercised in the case of Tattersalls sweeps, and honorable members rose to discuss the merits or demerits of sweeps, then the discussion that would ensue would be on the question of sweeps, and not on the question of the administration of the Department. I must ask the honorable member not to follow that course.
– I have no intention of going into the merits or demerits of this case. My intention is to discuss the action of the Minister, and what led him to take it. The Chief Justice of the High Court has laid it down distinctly that Parliament is the only place where a decision of the Minister in a case of this kind can be reviewed.
– If the honorable member is of opinion’ that this is such a serious matter, surely he will see that the proper way to deal with it is either by a vote of censure, or by some other direct motion.
– I do not ‘want to be forced into that position, but I think I may claim - and I have precedents for it not only in this Parliament, but in all the States Parliaments - that when the Estimates of any particular Department are under consideration, every action of the Minister charged with its administration is open to review.
– That has always been allowed. I have never known it to be refused.
-^1 dp not wish to prevent the honorable member from pursuing that line df argument, but I desire to prevent him from discussing the merits or demerits of the particular case which he was opening up, and which would inevitably lead to a debate quite foreign to the question under consideration.
– I had no intention of doing as you, sir, suggest. . I merely wish to say that the Postmaster-General was wrong in taking the action that he did. I contend that when Parliament placed in the hands of the Minister of the day the extraordinary power of imposing a prohibition on private correspondence, it expected that it would be exercised only after due precaution had been taken to prevent injustice being done.
– Did not the honorable member discuss this matter on Friday ?
– I did not.
– If the honorable member would broaden the terms of his motion relating to this matter, I would grant him his Select Committee at once, and should be glad to do so.
– When Parliament clothed the Postmaster-General with the extraordinary power to which I have alluded, it expected that it would be exercised in the most judicious manner and only after the persons charged had been afforded an opportunity of rebutting the statements made against them. I ask the PostmasterGeneral, in his reply, to state whether he took the action which he did upon his own responsibility, or whether he first obtained the approval of the Cabinet?
– For whatever I did, I alone am responsible.
– When Parliament gave the Postmaster-General the extraordinary power to which Ihave referred - the power to interfere with a man’s means of livelihood - it expected that before such action was taken a statement of the case would be made to the Cabinet as a whole.
– Surely not. If the PostmasterGeneral is the responsible head of his Department, he must accept full responsibility for its administration.
– This Parliament never intended that. Let us suppose for a moment that the Postmaster- General of the day were a fanatic, whose extreme fanaticism induced him to see evil where no evil existed.
– In that case Parliament would restrain him.
-If Parliament says that the Postmaster-General was right in the action which he took, I have nothing more to say.
– How can the honorable member learn the opinion of Parliament unless he submits a definite motion?
– I cannot learn the opinion of Parliament unless a definite statement is made by the PostmasterGeneral. In the next place, I ask the honorable gentleman from whom he derived the information upon which he acted ? Was not that information founded upon a case which occurred in Victoria nearly two years ago? That case was submitted to the Crown law authorities of this State, and the Attorney-General advised that no ground for a prosecution existed. Subsequently the Minister allowed himself to be used to inflict an injury upon this particular firm, although the State had declined to take action against it.
– That is a very grave charge to make.
– When a charge has been made against a firm, I submit that it should be inquired into immediately. But the. charge against this particular firm was made, in the first instance, not to the Post master-General, but to the Attorney-General of Victoria.
– The honorable member would not confine his proposed inquiry to the mere charge that has been made ?
– I would have it as open as possible. The gravamen of my complaint against the Postmaster-General is that he visited an extraordinary punishment upon Messrs. Freeman and Wallace without giving them the slightest opportunity of defending themselves.
– The honorable member knows that a prohibition was previously imposed upon the correspondence addressed to that firm, and that a similar prohibition obtains in New Zealand at the present time.
– The PostmasterGeneral had better not induce me to open up those cases by submitting a direct motion. I am familiar with the whole of them, and I say that they disclose nothing against the firm in question. When the Australian Industries Preservation Bill was under consideration in this Chamber, some honorable members strongly objected to its provisions, upon the ground that they imposed upon an accused person the onus of proving his innocence.
– The honorable member voted against that provision, I think?
– I did not.
– That was rather a nasty one.
– I would remind the honorable member for Flinders that there is a great difference between affording a man an opportunity to establish his innocence and denying him that opportunity. The. Australian Industries Preservation Bill affords an accused person an opportunity of proving his innocence, but in the case to which I am referring, the PostmasterGeneral denied Messrs. Freeman and Wallace that opportunity. As Britishers, and the descendants of Britishers, we are proud to boast that it is the right of the humblest individual to be heard in his defence before punishment is inflicted upon him. That is all for which I am contending. Messrs. Freeman and Wallace were denied an opportunity of being heard in their defence before the terrible weapon which has been placed in the hands of the PostmasterGeneral was used against them. They were branded as frauds and swindlers without being afforded the slightest chance of defending themselves.
– The honorable member assisted to place that power in the hands of the Postmaster-General when the Postal Bill was under consideration.
– And I am very sorry that I did so. If I had the opportunity to-morrow, I would take it away from him, because, in this particular instance, he has abused it. Immediately after a prohibition had been imposed upon all. correspondence addressed to Messrs. Freeman and Wallace, that firm demanded either an open inquiry or a Select Committee of this Parliament, or that a criminal charge should be laid against them, in order that they might be afforded an opportunity to obtain redress. But every one of their appeals was disregarded. Surely honorable members cannot approve of that?
– They could have proceeded against any one of these men for conspiracy.
– What men?
– The men who were mixed up in the case.
– Who were these men? Who were the Postmaster-General’s informants ?
Mr.Mauger. - The papers connected with the case were laid upon the table of the Senate, and can be laid upon the table of the House if necessary.
– Does the PostmasterGeneral say that he even read those papers before he took action?
– I read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested them.
Mr.Tilley Brown. - Was there not a case in which this firm was concerned before the High Court in Sydney?
– Yes. There was a case before the High Court, which it won.
– That is not so. The Postmaster-General decidedly won his case.
– I can see very plainly that a certain number of honorable members have prejudged this matter, and that they are not prepared to listen to any evidence which may be forthcoming.
– It is too “fishy.”
– The honorable member is one of those members.
– I would “ shoot “ them all out.
– Why does the Honorable member deny this firm the right of an inquiry ?
– Because I am opposed to all “ quacks “ - even to “ quack “ politicians.
– The honorable member himself “quacks” a good deal oftener than I do. Surely honorable members - without being in possession of the facts of the case - are not going to deny the right of an inquiry where a grievance is alleged to exist ! The Chief Justice of the High Court has clearly laid it down that the PostmasterGeneral may do the most grievous wrong of which we can conceive, without any redress being obtainable, except at the hands of Parliament. No appeal can be made to a Court, because Parliament has, unwisely I think, placed the Minister above all Courts in thatregard. It was denied just now that in a previous case the High Court did not rule in favour of Messrs. Freeman and Wallace. When an embargo was laid upon their letters, they appealed to the High Court, because then they possessed that privilege, and it was removed.
– The embargo was removed, not on account of any judgment, but on account of the firm having entered into an undertaking to obey the law.
– What was the undertaking? Does not the honorable gentleman know that the firm were refused leave to send through the post a book called Clinical Experiences, which could be read by any honorable member without any detriment to his morals? Does he not know that in thatbook there were only four words which were objected to?
– Order !
– The Minister has caused me to digress a little.
– If the Minister makes an irrelevant interjection, the honorable member is not called upon to reply to it. I ask him not to go into any details.
– Surely, sir, when the Minister is allowed to make a statement which I know is not correct, it is my duty to correct him at once.
– What statement does the honorable member refer to?
– The leader of the Opposition knows what I am talking about, because he gave a legal opinion at that time, and so did Mr. Pilcher, another eminent lawyer. What I complain of is that the Minister meted out punishment to this firm on ex parte statements, and without having allowed them any opportunity to make a statement in defence. Since he took that step, he has declined to grant a departmental inquiry.
– Is it likely thatI am going to grant an inquiry into my own action?
– If the Minister knows that he acted wrongly, I hope that he is manly enough to try to undo the wrong as quickly as possible.
– The Senate had an opportunity to appoint a Select Committee, because the papers were lying upon its table for some time.
– The honorable gentleman does not administer the law in a uniform way. In this case, he is acting differently from what he did in another case, when he placed an embargo uponthe correspondence of Mr. Oxenham. Will he tell the Committee why he allowed an inquiry to be held in that instance, and within two or three days, removed his embargo ?
– I granted no inquiry.
– The honorable member heard Mr. Oxenham, or somebody else, who was able to get a word into his ear, and within two or three days the embargo was removed.
– I did in that case as I do in all similar cases. When I received a guarantee that Mr. Oxenham would not use the Post Office for illegal purposes, his letters were allowed to go through.
– Is not the firm of Freeman and Wallace entitled to similar treatment ?
– There is no analogy between the two cases.
– Has not the firm offered to give any guarantee that the Minister likes to demand ?
– On a previous occasion, the firm gave a guarantee, and broke away from it.
– That is another misstatement; and if the Minister persists in that line of conduct, he will compel me to table a motion upon which I can discuss these matters. His last interjection is not only unfair, but also inaccurate. I have the assurance of the firm that they never broke away from their agreement with the Minister, and that it was kept in every particular.
– It must be a firm of no reputation if they went back upon their promise to the Minister.
– The firm did not go back upon their promise, and I on their behalf deny that they did.
– The Minister says that they did.
– An embargo was also placed upon the correspondence of Mr. Wren, of Melbourne, who carried on a business similar to that of Mr. Oxenham, of Sydney.
– And it is still upon him.
– Is it not a fact that the embargo upon Mr. Wren’s letters was removed ?
– No, and it will not be removed until he gives an undertaking similar to that which Mr. Oxenham gave.
– Am I to understand that the Minister takes up this position, that he will accept an undertaking from Mr. Oxenham but not from this firm ?
– The cases are not analogous.
– Is it not a fact that with the exception of a very small section, the press of the Commonwealth has condemned the Minister’s action towards Messrs. Freeman and Wallace?
– Decidedly not.
– Both the Argus and. the Australasian have condemned the honorable gentleman’s action in very strong terms.
– As those newspapers accept the firm’s advertisements what weight can they carry?
– What has that to do with the matter?I admit that politically the Argus is not friendly to the Minister.
– The honorable member will find that it has not condemned my action.
– Order. The Minister will have an opportunity of replying.
– The Leader, the Australasian, and the Bulletin have forcibly condemned the action of the Minister, which was taken upon a faked-up case presented two years ago to the Attorney-General of Victoria. If that case had been proceeded with, the individuals would have been charged with fraud and afforded an opportunity of defending themselves in open court. But the State authorities had declined to go on with the case, and the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth would not even submit it to the PostmasterGeneral, though somebody else got a loan of his. ear in face of the fact - which has been brought under his notice -in the papers - that to a certain extent it was a blackmailing case.
– My honorable friend is quite wrong in his statement.
– I am not wrong, as a reference to the papers will show. But if the honorable gentleman thinks that I am wrong, why does he not mete out justice by consenting to an inquiry of some kind, when men could be sworn and examined?
– I think that the firm have a good chance of bringing the case before the new Committee which has been appointed to investigate the working of the Post Office.
– They have the chance of making an appeal from Cæsar to Cæsar. All I desire to secure is an inquiry, and if it should show that the Minister was justified in his action no one would be more pleased than myself, for I have no desire to assist fraud or wrongdoing. But an inquiry is refused absolutely.
– Was the matter referred to the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth ?
– I do not know.
– Yes, it was. I am charged with not having carried out the functions of my office, and I say that the charge is not correct.
– All I know is that without trial of any kind punishment has been inflicted upon this firm.
– They are only asked to comply with the law.
Mr. CHANTER. No, they have approached the Minister through their solicitors and are prepared to give him any guarantee that he may require if they are only allowed to carry on their business. He denies that concession to them, and gives it to others.
– That is not correct.
– It is only a few moments since the honorable gentleman admitted that he made the concession to Mr. Oxenham because he was prepared to comply with certain restrictions.
– And I denied it to Mr. Wren because he would not comply with like conditions. Those two cases were analogous.
– Why does the honorable gentleman deny the concession to Messrs. Freeman and Wallace?
– Because theirs is not an analogous case.
– That is merely the opinion of the honorable gentleman. Surely he is not afraid of the result of a departmental or parliamentary inquiry? Let him formulate a complaint against the firm whom he has accused of acting with fraud and tried on exparte evidence. Let him be honest and just by bringing a complaint against the firm so that they may have an opportunity to go into a Court and defend themselves.
– What is the nature of the business which they carry on? Are they manufacturers ?
– I am quite prepared to discuss the nature of their business if the Chairman will allow me to proceed.
– I know that on the staff of Freeman and Wallace’s Institute there are three or four medical men possessing the highest attainments and qualifications.
– Are they duly-qualified medical practitioners?
– Absolutely. They possess higher attainments and diplomas than are held by many medical men in ordinary practice. . I am in a position to prove before any Committee that the charge made against the firm by the Minister is absolutely wrong, that they have not been guilty of fraud in any way, and that the medical men on their staff are as reputable as any medical men practising in Melbourne, or any other city in the Commonwealth.
– Of what has the Minister found them guilty?
– Without a trial the Minister has found the firm guilty of carrying on a fraudulent business. These people have not yet had the justice of being brought face to face with those who originally made the statement to the Government; and the Postmaster-General has placed himself above all Governments.
– That is not the case. The State Crown Prosecutor had the case in Hand, and it was at his instigation that it was sent on to the Federal Government.
– In reply to that, I may say that I am in a position to state that the Attorney-General for the State of Victoria said that he had not seen the papers, or taken any action for six months prior to the Postmaster-General placing the embargo on the correspondence.
– That is not a reply. I said nothing about the Attorney-General of the State.
– Which is the higher - the Crown Prosecutor or the Attorney - General ? The fact remains that the State authorities took no action.
– Simply because they could not, and pointed out that we could.
– Is it not a fact that the case was submitted to the State Crown Law authorities, who said there was nothing in it?
– They said nothing of the kind.
– I am in a position to say that they did say something of the kind; and, therefore, an inquiry is necessary. There is some one behind the Minister in this matter. The PostmasterGeneral has not acted on his own initiative; and, in my opinion, a very serious injustice has been done. What possible objection can there be to an inquiry ? Why cannot the embargo be removed under certain conditions, and an investigation entered upon fairly and squarely ? If these people have done wrong, let them be charged, and, if guilty, punished. In the name of justice
– I am surprised to hear the honorable member speaking of justice !
– I do not expect any sympathy from the honorable member, because I know he is connected with an association that is persecuting this firm.
– That is not a fact.
– The PostmasterGeneral is clearly wrong, in face of the fact that the members of the Medical Defence Association published in the newspapers the statement that they were pleased at his action.
– That is another matter. No medical association approached me before I took action.
– Who did approach the Postmaster-General ?
– I was guided by the facts disclosed in the documents.
– If the members of this medical association did not approach the Postmaster- General, who did?
– The State Crown Prosecutor, and the police authorities; sent the papers on, and said it was a case in which we could take action but one in which they could not.
– What more does the honorable member for Riverina desire?
– I desire justice.
– And the honorable member has got justice.
– The honorable member for Balaclava is a member of the legal profession ; but, after what he has said, I could not recommend him to any friend of mine who desired an honest legal opinion.
– I am out of thelegal business now.
– Mr. Wren runs racehorses, and so does the honorable member for Balaclava, but why is the correspondence of the former, and not of the latter, stopped? An embargo has been placed on correspondence in connexion with Tattersall’s sweeps, and yet there are members of this House who participate in the profits of such sweeps, and their correspondence is not stopped. If the PostmasterGeneral is going to set himself up as the censor of the morals ofthe community, then, for God’s sake, let the censorship be applied all round, and not to one or two individuals ! Throughout the States of the Commonwealth, I can find dozens of cases in which similar firms advertise and receive correspondence ; and yet, because of certain antagonistic forces, the particular firm whose case I am presenting is treated in this drastic and cruel manner.
– There are a number of similar firms advertising in the newspapers.
– They will be dealt with.
– Are there not medical specialists advertising every day all over Australia, and yet are not interfered with? Is there some influence behind the Postmaster- General which he feels bound to obey ?
– There are abortionists’ advertisements every day in the newspapers.
– Every day advertisements of the kind can be seen.
– Does the honorable member suggest that we must not punish those against whom we have evidence, until we have evidence against all?
– But in the present case the Postmaster-General has acted on his own evidence, which is not supported as it ought to be supported. The action of the honorable gentleman is condemned by Mr. Purves, Mr. Coldham, and Mr. Duffy, who are three leading counsel, and is condemned by the leading analysts, and also by an ex-house surgeon and other medical men of high authority.
-Parliament is satisfied.
– That is a very unfair position, in view of affidavits which I could read if I were permitted. Personally, I do not care a snap of the finger which way the decision goes, but I desire to see the Postmaster-General act fairly andsquarely.
– Why is the honorable member so heated over the matter?
– Because Parliament, composed, apparently, of men like the honorable member for Balaclava, is prepared to see a wrong done without finding a remedy. What would the honorable member for Balaclava think if, because of one or two communications about his racehorses - from people wanting tips, for instance - he found in to-morrow morning’s Common wealth Gazette a notification that no further correspondence will be delivered to him?
– That would certainly save me a lot of trouble !
– Quite so, but that is not the point. I venture to say that, under such circumstances, the honorable member would be one of the most dissatisfied men in Victoria.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I propose now, in answer to the Postmaster-General, to quote from an article published in the Leader of 12th March, 1906, which does not traverse the merits of the case -
Undoubtedly there are the seeds of tyranny in the amplitude of this power, for it is open to the Postmaster-General to act on his own initiative and to inflict injury without offering any opportunity for remonstrance or explanation. He may be right or he may be wrong in the action he has taken, but whether he be right or wrong has nothing to do with the question and imposes no limitation on what he may do. The High Court has declared that in a matter-
– The honorable member will recognise that he is now endeavouring to evade my ruling, and seeking, by means of a quotation from a newspaper article, to introduce a statement relating to Court proceedings, which I think goes beyond the ordinary limits of debate.
– I am notdoing anything of the kind. I prefaced my remarks with the statement that the article from which I proposed to quote did not deal with the merits or demerits of the case, but simply pointed out the only course open to a citizen to obtain redress.
– The honorable member will not be in order in reading such an extract.
– Then I beg to dissent from your ruling.
– Willthe honorable member put his dissent in writing?
– I shall do so, sir. It is with regret that I take this course, but, whilst I recognise, and have every respect for the position which you occupy, I feel that, having regard to the privileges and rights of honorable members generally, it is my duty to move -
That the Chairman - in ruling that a member could not read an extract from a newspaper in commenting upon the action of a Minister in administering his office as one not consistent with a citizen’s rights - is not supported by the StandingOrders for the guidance of debate.
– I did not understand that to be the Chairman’s ruling.
– Speaking to the motion, I would say, as one who has had a lengthy experience of parliamentary procedure, that, although the matter has not been exactly covered by the Standing Orders relating to debate, it has always been the practice to allow honorable members in Committee of Supply to criticise in the fullest possible measure the Estimates of any. Department placed before them for consideration. I had pointed out that a certain action taken by the Minister amounted practically to maladministration, or, to describe it in less severe terms, that it had been taken without that full consideration which should have been given to the subject to which it related.
– Does the Chairman accept the honorable member’s statement of his ruling ?
– Will the right honorable member permit me to proceed ? This is the first occasion on which I have heard it declared that a charge brought against a Minister cannot be fully referred to on the Estimates relating to his Department. I accepted the ruling of the Chairman that I would not be in order in discussing the merits or demerits of the Ministerial action of which I complained, and was proceeding to quote an extract from a newspaper article, which I pointed out did not deal with the merits or demerits of the case, when you, Mr. Chairman, interposed. The extract which I was reading merely points out the course citizens have to take - having regard to certain decisions given by the High Court - to obtain redress, and I feel that I should be in order in reading it. I am bound to respect your ruling, Mr. Chairman, but, if it is permitted to stand, it will mean that it will be impossible for us in Committee of Supply to criticise the action of a Minister when the Estimates relating to his Department are under consideration, or to read newspaper articles in favour of a certain line of action. If that procedure is to be adopted, then we shall be hobbled. I hold that I was .perfectly within ray rights and privileges, and that there is no standing order to prevent me from reading the extract in question.
– I cannot accept the statement which appears in the honorablemember’s written dissent from my ruling as correctly setting out the grounds on which I held that he would not be in order in reading the extract in ques-. tion. The ruling which he attributes to me is his, not mine. In this connexion I am practically the sole judge of relevancy. Honorable members have abways possessed the right to discuss grievances, and are entitled to avail themselves - to the fullest extent of ‘their privileges in that regard. The position I have taken up is that, whilst the honorable member would be in order in discussing in a general way the attitude of the Minister, he would not be in order in going into the full details of the case which he was discussing, if I were to allow the honorable member to go into minute details as to the decisions of the High Court, and in regard to various proceedings prior to the action taken by the Postmaster-General-
– That was not my intention.
– If I were to allow the honorable member to do that, other honorable members would be entitled to claim a like privilege, with the result that we should have a debate bearing solely upon the treatment of the persons to whom the honorable member has referred, and the Estimates themselves would be entirely lost sight of. There is already in existence an Act of Parliament which gives the PostmasterGeneral the power to take certain action, and my opinion is that,’ if the Minister has exceeded his powers under that Act - if, as the honorable member suggests, he has been guilty of maladministration - he is deserving of censure, and that the question should not merely be brought forward in connexion with the Estimates of his Department. When the Estimates are under consideration, a discussion may take place regarding the general administration of the Department to which they relate, but an honorable member is. not in order in discussing some general grievance, as the honorable member has been endeavouring to do. If I were to allow such a procedure, we should have an almost endless discussion on many matters that could not be legitimately classed as coming within the Estimates. I have allowed the honorable member ample latitude to ventilate his grievance, but it would appear that he now desires to obtain further information beyond that for which I think he is entitled to ask while these Estimates are under consideration. The honorable member is quite in order in disagreeing with my ruling, but not on the grounds which he has stated.
– There seems to be a misapprehension. I was not disputing your ruling, Mr. Chairman, nor was I going into the merits or demerits of the case. The article which I wish to read does not do that, as you would have seen had I been allowed to continue.
– In that case, it is irrelevant.
– Although it gives no opinion upon the merits or demerits of the case; it draws attention to the position brought about by the High Court’s decision; and points out what citizens must do if they wish to obtain redress. I took exception to your ruling because you held that I could not continue to read the article, being, doubtless, of the opinion that it dealt with the merits or demerits of the case, when I knew to the contrary. I give you my assurance that no part ‘ of the article does that. However, if you say that you have not ruled that, I will withdraw my motion. I merely wish to put the case before the Committee, so that justice may be done.
– In all these matters we must be guided by rules which have no reference to the merits of the subject under consideration. Without associating myself with the views which the honorable member for Riverina has expressed, I wish to point out that there is a principle involved, which, with all due respect, I ‘ say the Chair has not quite recognised. The convenience or inconvenience of the Committee, as affected by the length to which a subject may be discussed, is beside the question, of a member’s rights. . There could be no principle to guide our procedure if we were to try to decide as to the length at which an honorable member could discuss a particular subject. . From time immemorial, as you, Mr. McDonald, have been the first to recognise, honorable members, on the first item of a Department, have had the . right to discuss everything connected with its administration. If the honorable member for Riverina is doing that, he is within his rights, and no power can deprive him of them on the ground that he is speaking at an inconvenient length, or because of a dislike to the subject which is being brought before us. We must be careful not to allow our rules to be influenced by such considerations; because the ruling of to-day is the law of to-morrow. A large number of honorable members may be absolutely out of sympathy with the honorable member for Riverina; but in these cases we must be most zealous in safeguarding the rights of the individual. A majority has always power to enforce its own rights; but one of the glories of our parliamentary institutions has been that a member can assert his rights against the whole House. One of our most important rights is the right to discuss the actions of Ministers in regard to their Departments, and who is to place a limit on the length of such criticism, or say in what manner it shall be made ? How is it possible to criticise the actions of a Minister without going into the merits of the case concerned? It is contrary to reason to assert that an honorable member can criticise the action of a Minister in regard to a particular transaction, if he has not the right to explain why, in his opinion, the Minister has acted improperly, and that he cannot do without going into the merits of the case. If the merits of the case are with the Minister, instead of being open to censure he may be entitled to the support and confidence of other honorable members. I suggest, Mr. McDonald, that the honorable member should be allowed to go into the merits of the case. His whole address must be idle if he is not allowed to do so.
– Allowed to go into the merits of the case ! He has been talking two or three hours. Surely it is time that he got to them.
– I am thinking, not of the honorable member for Riverina, but of the rights of individual members. If one honorable member talks toolong, is that a reason why the rights of all others should be limited for alltime by a ruling of the Chair? My honorable friend or myself may to-morrow be the victims of this ruling, by being prevented from giving reasons for what we are doing, when we are basing, on the soundest ground, a protest against Ministerial action.
– I do not recollect that, when in trouble, I have received much sympathy from honorable members opposite.
– The honorable member for Riverina would be one of the first to apply the gag to this side.
– It is, nevertheless, our duty to guard the rights of honorable members. I, therefore, suggest to you, Mr. Chairman, that if the honorable member for Riverina is in order in canvassing the conduct of the Minister, he cannot be precluded from discussing the merits of the case. If he has a right to do that, no one can shut his mouth ; if he has not, his mouth should have been closed long ago.
– I merely wish to repeat that I am not going into the merits of the case. I wish to place the Committee in possession of information as to what the Ministerhad done, and what the opinion about his action outside is. That opens up a case for inquiry. I wish to act in compliance with your ruling, and, in proposing to read the newspaper article in question, I was not transgressing it.
– Then the honorable member might withdraw his motion of dissent.
– I wish to do so. If Mr. Chairman thinks that I am going into the merits of the case, he will be justified in calling my attention to his ruling. I merely wish to point out to the Committee what the Minister has said in respect to the applications made to him, and to assert the inalienable right of the individual to come to Parliament for redress. I am not touching upon the merits or demerits of the dispute between the two parties.
– Why belabour the matter? If the honorable member is going to withdraw his motion, why not do so, in order that we may get on?
– The Chairman has said that he did not rule as I thought he did, and lavish to put myself right with him.
– The honorable member must take one stand or another. He has handed in a motion of dissent from my ruling, and he must either proceed with it or withdraw it. I have not prevented him from bringing his case forward or debating it ; but it is for me to decide whether a member is or is not relevant. I ruled that he was not in order in what he was doing.
– I withdraw the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
– I very much regret the position in which I have been placed to-night, and am sorry that I have been called upon to say anything against one with whom I have been on most friendly terms, both privately and politically. The case appears to me of very great moment, and I ask the Committee to give me an opportunity to place it before honorable members. Those who are aware of my loyalty to party know that it is a strain upon me to have to say anything against a Minister to whose Government I have given loyal allegiance. But I should be recreant to my trust if, knowing that the Minister had made a mistake which was inflicting grave injury on a private individual, I were coward enough to say nothing. I am not alone in the opinion that the Minister’s action has been ill-advised, and I hope that he will retrace his steps. A considerable time prior to taking this action I approached the Minister by letter. I pleaded with him to grant an inquiry of some kind.
– Hundreds on the one side and hundreds on the other have written to me about the case.
– I am not going to speak of the hundreds who have written to the Minister in opposition to inquiry. I am going to show that my action is not promoted by pique. In support of my statements I have received opinions from three of the most eminent men of the city, who believe that the action taken by the Minister is not justified by the evidence placed before him. . Without any derogation of . dignity on his part, he could well concede what this firmasks for. They have been punished without trial. They ask for a trial in some form. First they ask the Minister to give them an opportunity of being brought face to face with their traducers, andenabled to rebut the evidence. Failing that, they ask the Minister to consent to the appointment of a Select Committee of this House to inquire into the whole of the circumstances of the case. Failing that again, to show their bona fides, they ask the Minister to make a deliberate charge against them, and to give them an opportunity to defend themselves in a court of their country.Are they right in making these demands? I think they are. The leading journals in Melbourne and in other parts of the Commonwealth have said that they are right.
– The leading metropolitan journals have not.
– I have mentioned the Argus, the Australasian, the Age, and the Leader.
– Neither the Age nor the Argus has written in favour of this firm.
– But they support what I am contending, namely, that the Minister should not put himself in the position of being at once judge, jury, and advocate.
– No; that is the position in which Parliament has put the Minister.
– It is a position in which Parliament never intended the Minister to be put. I was one of those members who supported the Post and Telegraph Act, and am now very sorry thatI did. It was never intended that one member of the Cabinet should act alone. Parliament intended that in the case of an alleged offence, where such a grievous punishment was to be meted out, there would be Cabinet considerationand approval before action was taken.
– Does not the law give control to one Minister?
– The law gives power to the Minister to stop the honorable member’s correspondence to-morrow without giving him an opportunity of defending himself. There is no reason why that should not be done.
– The Minister could not possibly do that.
– Could he not? If is a fact that if the Minister chooses to stop the correspondence of any man or woman in the Commonwealth he can do so to-morrow without giving any reasons for his action. What I am challenging is the exercise of that power without the right being given to the individual punished of hearing the evidence against him and defending himself. The Minister takes up. the position - “ I have done this, believing I am in the right, and I do not care a snap of the finger what your interests or your sufferings are.” I cannot believe that this Parliament ever intended to put such power in the hands of any Minister.
– The Minister states the evidence upon which he proceeds.
– He does not state it.
– And the same firm’s correspondence is prohibited in New Zealand.
– So far as that is concerned, will the Minister deny that the correspondence of one medical man who has been out of practice for several years, and of another who has been dead for two years, has been stopped?
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Minister has done anything except carry out the law ?
– The honorable member is simply attacking the Minister on a matter of policy.
– It is not right that an honorable member who belongs to an association which is at the back of this persecution, should make any statement about it. I have evidence here that the Medical Defence Association-
– An absolute misrepresentation. It is not a person like the honorable member who should make a statement like that.
– I do say it.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member in order in making the statement that I am connected with an association which is at the back of the action taken by the Postmaster-General?
– I have already denied that any institution has asked me to do anything of the kind.
– The honorable member for Riverina would not be in order in directly accusing the honorable member for Hunter; but I understood him to say that a certain association, to whichthe honorable member belongs, was at the back of the action that has been taken. If the honorable member for Hunter denies that, I am sure that the honorable member for Riverina will accept his disclaimer.
– That is what I stated - that the honorable member for Hunter is a member of an association, which is at the back of the persecution of this and similar firms.
– The Postmaster-General has just denied the statement.
– I can produce from the Age newspaper the statement of the Medical Defence Association.
– Surely the honorable member would want a better authority than the Age newspaper.
– It would be a poor lookout for some of us if the statements of the Age newspaper were accepted.
– I can produce a statement from the Argus if that would satisfy the honorable member.
– Surely the Minister’s word can be taken?
– And my word ought to be taken. I know that I should be out of order in referring at greater lengthto this Association, but I shall take another opportunity of dealing with it, and of proving my statements concerning it. I am one of those who . have known the persecution of this particular Association, and am well aware that they will stop at nothing. If they did not approach the Minister directly, they are ingenious enough to adopt other means to bring about the result which they want. We have in power now a Postmaster- General who is a protectionist and a Liberal. Most men who know him will be aware that he is pretty firm in regard to his principles. Every man is more or less biased, however. Suppose that in the course of time - I do not know when or how - the honorable gentleman were deposed, and we had a Conservative or Tory Postmaster-General at the head of the Department. What chance would the labour unions of Australia have against him if he chose to use his power to stop all their correspondence ? He could do it.
– He would soon be “ bumped out.”
– He could do it, though.
– I should be one of the first to help to “ bump him out.”
– And he would deserve to be” bumped out.”
– I doubt whether the honorable member for Hunter would be one of the first to object in such a case. The position is that the Postmaster-General has taken action on certain statementsmade to him by certain individuals. But certain other individuals belonging to the medical profession have told the Minister that a mistake has been made.
– No, that is not the case.
– I know that it is the case. Will the honorable gentleman tell me that Dr. Amess is not an authority?
– The honorable member is referring to a different matter.
– I am not referring to a different matter at all. Will the Minister tell me that Mr. Jackson, the analyst of this city, is not an authority ? Will he say that Mr. Churchman is not an authority? There are also other professional opinions which are diametrically opposed to the action of the Minister in this matter. Then in regard to the opinions supplied by the Attorney-General, the honorable gentleman is well aware that there are other opinions in exactly the opposite direction. There are the opinions of Mr. Purves, Mr. Coldham, and Mr. Duffy.
– I have their opinions on a case stated by their own client, which is a very different matter.
– The Minister has their opinions in the papers upon which he acted.
– Nothing of the kind.
– Then the Minister deceived the parties, because he allowed their solicitors to see papers which were supposed to be the papers in the case.
– The papers have been laid upon the table of the Senate.
– They have been before the Senate for a long time.
– The honorable member for Riverina’ s friends will be able to make out a case for conspiracy if there is anything in what he says.
– What case of conspiracy could they make out?
– Has not the honorable member seen the papers laid before the Senate ?
– I have not seen them, because, as I intended to take the action which I tried to take a few days ago, I purposely kept my mind free, open, and unbiased.
– Knowing nothing about the particulars of the case, the honorable member is making a very intelligent speech concerning it.
– Of course, I know what the feelings of the honorable member for Parramatta are in this matter. There is a section of the community who will always be” on a certain side in such cases.
– No; that is not so.
– I know it from the honorable member’s surroundings. What I am demanding is justice. The meanest individual in the community has a right to justice. The parties in this matter demand that before they are punished, they shall be tried. But the Minister’s principle is, kill first and try afterwards. I again repeat that a trial was refused before punishment was meted out. If the parties were really guilty of the things charged against them, it is not likely that they would desire the evidence to be brought up on an inquiry. That is not the act of a guilty person. The act of such a. person would be to hide his head and get away as soon as possible, not to come forward and demand investigation with a view of securing justice.
– What is justice?
– What I how mean by it is, that a man should never be condemned before having an opportunity to defend himself ; that he should not have his hands tied behind his back and be punished without trial.
– These are serious charges to make against the Minister.
– I recognise the seriousness of them, and regret that circumstances have arisen which compel me to make them. I do not want to be on any Committee that may be appointed, t have no wish to be connected with the inquiry in any way. I have no objection to the Minister selecting any person he thinks proper to conduct it. What is wanted is an inquiry in connexion with which the people who make these charges will be put upon oath, and be liable, if they do not speak the truth, to the’ punishment provided for persons who swear falsely against their neighbour.
– Does the honorable member not think that the Committee, should be appointed by this House, and not by either the Minister or himself?
– I do not ask that it should be appointed in any other way. I repeat that all that the persons concerned ask for is some kind of inquiry, whether a departmental inquiry, an inquiry by a Select Committee, or an inquiry by any of the Courts of the country, based upon a definite charge laid against them, which would give them an opportunity to defend their honour and their business. Is that an unreasonable request to make? It might be granted even at this late stage, three months after the injury done these people. It would not hurt the Minister or lower his dignity in any form, bub, on the contrary, it would vastly strengthen the position he has taken up should the result of the inquiry be to justify the course he has adopted. Should that be the result of an open and fair inquiry, the public, and every one concerned, would be satisfied.
– Does the honorable member think that the public mind is very much disturbed bv what has taken place?
– I think that in New South Wales, where one of the heads of the firm is known politically and socially, it is disturbed. I have known this gentleman in social circles for many years.
– There have been more requests from New South Wales not to alter the decision arrived at than there have been against it.
– In New South Wales what has been done is looked upon by many people as an absolute outrage, because it is believed that the Minister is discriminating.
– That is not correct.
– I have given an instance of it before, and I have only to iepeat it again. I have referred to the action of the Minister in the case of Mr. Oxenham.
– That is not an analogous case.
– That should be for a Committee to decide: In that case, the Minister exercised his power without giving Mr. Oxenham an opportunity to reply in any shape or form. Then, as the result of the operation of some forces, with which I am in no way concerned, the honorable gentleman was induced to remove the embargo against Mr. Oxenham within a few days.
– What were the forces ?
– I do not know, but, as a result of their operation, the Minister, in a few days, permitted Mr. Oxenham’s correspondence to continue to go through the post on certain guarantees being given. These people offered to give the same guarantees.
– There is no analogy between the two cases.
– The only differentiation is that the honorable gentleman at the head of the Post and Telegraph Department - the Minister of Morals for the Commonwealth - takes it upon himself to say what is or is not moral and what is or is not fraud. It is not the duty either of this Parliament or of the Minister to inquire into fraud. The Courts of the country are established for ‘that purpose. If fraud is alleged against any one, a charge should be made against the persons concerned, and should be inquired into by the Courts.
– The Minister has acted under the 57th section of the Post and Telegraph Act, which gives him the power he claims, and the honorable member helped to pass that Act.
– I have already said that I am very sorry that I assisted, by my vote, in the passing of that Act. But when, in the light of experience of its operation, we see that we did wrong to pass it, are we going to be so recreant to our duty as to say that we shall continue the injustice it permits? Surely not? Surely a special appeal of this kind should have some weight with honorable members? If you, sir. will permit me to read an extract from a paper I have here, I am sure that you will see that it cannot be considered to be out of order.
– I do not know what extract the honorable member refers to, but if it is the extract I have already forbidden him to read, he should certainly not read it.
– Will I be permitted to. read an extract from the Argus ?
– I do not know what the extract is.
– Let the honorable member read it first, and say that it is an extract afterwards.
– I invite the attention of the Committee to this statement -
How very great are the discretionary powers vested in the Postmaster-General under the Post Office Act was clearly shown by a judgment of the High Court, delivered yesterday. He is authorized to refuse to deliver mail matter addressed to any person or persons carrying on a fraudulent or immoral business, and he alone, it would seem, is the judge of the fraudulence or immorality. His action is not examinable by any Court either on an application for a mandamus or on a proceeding by writ of certiorari, mandamus can issue because the delivery of letters is not a Ministerial act which the Postmaster-General is bound in virtue of his office to perform. Nor is the refusal a judicial act, since the party against whom the order is made is not heard, so there, is no ground for a writ of certiorari. As an executive or administrative act there is no apparent means of bringing the Postmaster-General’s determination under judicial review. Without attempting to discuss the merits of the Postmaster-General’s decision in the particular case before the Court, it may be remarked that individual PostmasterGenerals may differ widely in the meaning they attach to the term “ immoral,” and yet a firm so labelled by any one of them will have no chance of refuting the charge. Of course, in the last resort the Postmaster-General is re- sponsible to Parliament, but Parliament, save in the event of what appeared to be a glaring error, would be. most unlikely to challenge his opinion. Seeing that the Post Office is a monopoly, and that its political, chief is armed with such great personal authority, it is to be hoped that in all instances of refusal to convey correspondence the utmost care and most scrupulous impartiality will ever be exercised.
– That is not on this case; but on the action of my predecessor in regard to the same firm.
– It is on this case; but the honorable gentleman can take it as he pleases.
– Now the honorable member can say where he got the extract from.
– It is from a paper to which I have already referred. I might read other extracts, but I have no wish to do anything which might bring me into conflict with the Chair. I repeat that the Argus, the Australasian, the Age, the Bulletin, and other newspapers published in different parts of the Commonwealth, have dealt with this matter on the same lines and have contended that the power exercised by the Postmaster-General is too great. In one newspaper it is broadly stated that in this case the power intrusted to the Minister has been improperly exercised on the ground, which I haveurged, that it is absolutely improper and unjust, and against the intention of Parliament in passing the Act, to lay this ban or bar upon any persons withoutgiving them an opportunity to defend themselves. The Minister has asked why they did not take action against certain persons for conspiracy. How could they do so ? The Minister knows that they could not do so. The persons to whom he alludes, and who I will not name, though I could name them, doubtless entered into a conspiracy. Their conspiracy did not succeed, and the heads of the State to whom they had to go, and to whom they submitted the results of the conspiracy, instead of laying a charge of fraud against . these people, said there was no prima facie evidence of fraud, and would not go on with the matter.
– They said quite the opposite. The honorable member has not read the papers. He has admitted that.
– I know that that statement has been denied.
– The honorable member said he had not read the papers, and. now he is professing to state something which they contain, but which they do not contain.
– I have read sworn statements.
– The honorable member might have read the papers themselves.
– I have read sworn statements to the effect that the AttorneyGeneral said he had never seen the papers six months after they were transmitted to the Federal authorities. The State authorities desired to take certain action. They tried their best by improper and underhand means to make a case against this firm and failed to do so. Having failed, they or some one in their behalf moved the PostmasterGeneral, who is behind the hedge and cannot be touched except by Parliament, to do that which they dared not attempt to do themselves. That is the position, and there is no getting away from it, This firm is charged with being a firm of quacks. That is a statement which has been made here, and which has-been made on several occasions. In answer to that charge I Have only to say that on their staff there are Dr. Kempster, who comes from England, and whose professional titles are L.R.C.P., London, and M.S. A., London. That is a. pretty good title.
– I do not think much of it.
– It is not as good as a member of the British Medical Association. There is also Dr. Wallace, L.R.C.S.E., L.R.C.P.E., L.M.
– Is he alive to-day ?
– No, he is not in the firm at all.
– There are two Drs. Wallace, and the honorable member may be under some misapprehension on that account. There is Dr. White, M.D., Post Graduate, New York, and Dr. Bell, D.D., Lecturer.
– That does not guarantee their moral ity.
– The charge is not one ofimmorality, but of fraud.
– Of obtaining money by false pretences.
– The honorable member for Hunter shows that he is prepared to condemn these people without evidence.
– The charge is practically one of obtaining money by false pretences.
– I ask how many medical men, the honorable member included, can say that they have not taken up the same class of cases as are dealt with by this firm?
– Certainly I have not.
– I do not blame them on that account. It is the duty of a medical man to give relief to all classes of sufferers.
– He should not be a fraud and an imposter. He should act in an honorable way.
– As a layman I should prefer to go to an institute having ‘the advantage of the advice of a number of medical men of high professional repute to going to an individual member of the profession.
– The honorable member would not have much left after he went there.
– Perhaps that may be so. I know something of what professional men are, and though there are members of the medical profession for whom I entertain the very highest respect, there are individual members of that profession as degraded as any other persons in the community.
– The great fault I have to find with them is the way they write their prescriptions.
– I know how far some of them will go when it suits their purpose. But that is quite beside this question. We have to deal with a case in which certain action has been taken which I wish to have reviewed. Is the Minister afraid to review it? Are honorable members afraid to have it reviewed? Would it strengthen or weaken the position they take up if the matter were fully inquired into? The leader of the Opposition, from his large experience in the Law Courts, is aware that they will have no evidence which cannot be fully substantiated. Hearsay evidence will not be taken in a Court of law. They must have something definite and absolute upon which to act. In this case, there is nothing of the kind. In a Court of law, there is some redress, because an individual who makes a wilfully false statement on oath is punishable. In the Minister’s Star Chamber, however, anybody, or any number of nobodies, can pour into his sympathetic ear something which lie thinks is right. The Minister then says, “ All right, the case is tried; down you go to execution at once.”
– What interest would anybody have in telling lies in a case of this kind?
– I know what interest one party behind this business have in telling lies, because they want to crush out of existence everybody outside their association who offends against their rules in any way, and one of the greatest offences is to advertise.
– Have they appeared in this case?
– They have. It was published in the Age.
– They have not.
– I could produce their statement from the Age commending the Minister’s action.
– That is a very different matter.
– Does the honorable memberbelieve in preference to unionists?
– I do, but not to the honorable member’s union, which is an immoral union at times. I do notbelieve in preference to individuals. I wish to see them treated alike and fairly. Although the Minister may assure me thathe has not received a direct visit from the particular association to which I refer, will he say that he has not received visits from others ? Will he say that he acted entirely upon those papers without any other influence behind them?
– Most certainly. I acted on the advice of the Attorney-General.
– I accept the Minister’s assurance. I had a different opinion, and am glad to be relieved of it.
– I will go further, and say that not a living soul but the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General knew that the prohibition was going to be made until it was made.
– I have now an admission that I wanted, and that is somewhat in conflict with the Prime Minister’s statement the other night that the matter had been reviewed and approved by the Cabinet. The Minister now says that it was not reviewedand approved by the Cabinet.
– I do not say anything of the kind.
– If it was a right thing to do, why did not the honorable member bring it before his colleagues? Did Parliament intend that one. Minister should act on his own account, or did it intend that he should act loyally by his colleagues in Cabinet by submitting to them a matter of such grave importance?
– The law prevents the Minister from taking the opinion of his colleagues. The law makes him the judge.
– The law gives him the power to act, but it does not take away from him the duty which attaches to every Minister of submitting matters of great importance for the consideration of all his colleagues.
– If he remained of the same opinion, he would have to exercise his power despite his colleagues. His duty under the Act is to give his opinion,and not that of his colleagues. He must make up his mind, and it is his own mind that must decide the case.
– I agree with the honorable gentleman that it is the Minister’s duty to act upon his judgment, but it is equally his duty to submit cases of this kind to the Cabinet.
– Not at all.
– When the honorable member for Parramatta was in the Department, what did he do on his own responsibility that he did not first submit to his Cabinet ?
– Since the honorable member asks me, I may tell him that 1 stopped the delivery of letters to Tattersall’s in Sydney ten years ago, without consulting anybody.
– Then the honorable member did equally wrong.
Mr.Joseph Cook. - I think the honorable member was one of those who kicked up a row about it then.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. I am sure he will withdraw his statement when I tell him that I never approached him in any shape or form, by word or letter, in any case with which this firm was connected in New South Wales.
– The honorable member for Parramatta referred to Tattersall’s.
– Nor did I interfere in Tattersall’s case. I am not declaiming against the Minister’s opinion that a wrong is being done in regard to betting or gambling, or the publication of these matters. What I am declaiming against is that any Minister should take action against one firm and leave dozens of others in the same line of business untouched. The Minister cannot deny that that is the case. Does he think he has stopped gambling by prohibiting Tattersall’s sweep correspondence? Is there not any amount of gambling going on in this city ? Why does not the Minister go to the Stock Exchange and the various clubs and touch them? He picks out one. There is no justice in his action.
– That is not correct.
– The honorable gentleman is continuing the prohibition against Tattersall’s, and has been worrying one or two banks who have received letters. He may to a certain extent control things that he considers improper, but he will never stop gambling by legislation, because it is a weakness of human nature that will go on for ever.
– Is that any reason why he should not try to stop it?
– Then he should try to stop it altogether. He should not pick out one case only. Within 200 or 300 yards of this building, one can see glaring instances. If the Minister has time to attend to his Department - I doubt if he has, because his time is apparently taken up in attending to the morals of the community - he can find plenty of scope for the exercise of his powers. He thinks he has stopped indecent literature from going through the post, but I, and several other honorable members, recently saw passing through the post, two post-cards that would not be allowed in any decent household. I do not know how the honorable member came to overlook them. I do not pretend to be a great purist, but I can place my three score years of life against those of most ordinary men, and thank God that I do not feel ashamed of any act of mine during that time. If a man is going to use a Department like this in order to establish himself as the censor of everything, he should clean out the whole stable, and not one little corner of it. Is the honorable member afraid to do it? Are there influences behind that personally or politically he fears? Why is he not courageous enough, if he takes action in one case, to take it in others? Why does he not prove himself right in this case by granting some form of inquiry by which fair play will be given?
– Why does he not tackle the big daily papers?
– So I have ; and they have left out quite a number of advertisements.
– One can find in the Library at any time paper after paper with that sort of advertisement in it. I feel strongly upon this matter. An absolute outrage has been perpetrated by the Minister., and his conduct now is not conducive to good government. If I had done any one an injury, or had any suspicion that I had done so, I should at once grant the freest and fullest inquiry, in order that I might stand justified or condemned - I would not care which.
– I take it that the Minister is confident that he has done right.
– Up to the presentI do not know what he may do later - he has taken up this position : “I will not have the matter inquired into. I have done it. That is enough.”
– Cannot the honorable member make him?
– The House is at liberty to order an inquiry.
– The House is very anxious to get away to eat its Easter turkey. It showed a fine disposition the other night to help me. If action in a certain direction were taken, honorable members opposite would be only too glad to support me, if they thought it would putthe Government out. They would not. care about this or any other little matter, but would seize the chance. That is party politics.
– Does the honorable member think that the honorable member for Hunter would vote against the Government on this matter?
– Yes; or on any other matter to get the Government out of power.
– We thought we hadyou.
– There is many a slip twixt the cup and the lip. Honorable members do not know when they have me. They never catch me sacrificing my principles.
– Has the honorable member changed his seat advisedly?
– I came here for the sake of convenience, having copious notes and wanting a table to put them on.
– We were afraid the honorable member might have left the Government.
– I shall be glad of the right honorable member’s assistance. He, in giving a legal opinion for these people, fought the very fight that I am fighting now.
– The legal opinion that I gave was as to the powers of the Act. It had nothing to do with the merits of the case.
– That is all I am contending for. If men like the Right Honorable George Houstoun Reid, leader of His Majesty’s Opposition in the Parliament of Australia, say that itis possible for a Minister to do wrong, will the PostmasterGeneral, or any other Minister, still maintain that it is not possible? Any man might unintentionally do wrong. The Minister in this case has shut his eyes deliberately to supreme justice. He acted upon what he believed to be a primâ facie case made out to him, but which was rejected by the State authorities. He did not act fairly or judicially, although, of course, he acted within his powers. He did not act within the intentions of Parliament or in accordance with the British principle that no man shall be punished without trial.
– The honorable member voted the other night to compel a man to convict himself.
– There was a decided difference in that case. There a man was asked to prove his innocence. In this case, he is not allowed to prove it.
– That is not? the difference at all.
– There is a vast difference between charging a man with an offence whilst affording him an opportunity to establish his innocence, and punishing him without affording him that opportunity. But it is about time that I heard what the Postmaster-General has to say with regard to this matter. I shall be very glad if he can see his way clear - even at this late hour of the day - to remove the embargo which has been placed upon the correspondence of the firm to which I allude, or if, as an alternative, he will grant some form of inquiry into his action. He need have no fear of his conduct being inquired into. If he has erred, he is not the first Minister who has done so.
– Why presume that he has erred ?
– When doctors differ thepatient dies. In this case the doctors differ. Doctors quite as eminent as is the Postmaster-General differ from the view which he holds. If an inquiry be granted nobody will be more pleased than myself to learn that the Postmaster-General has justified his action. If, on the contrary, his action should not be justified by the evidence forthcoming, he is not the man that I take him for, if he will not admit his error, and extend relief to those who are at present suffering as the result of his action.
– My remarks will be as brief as possible.
– Oh, no. State the case fully.
– The Postmaster-General must not enter into the merits of the matter.
– One or two statements have been made by the honorable member for Riverina which I feel it my duty to answer. In the first place I have not in any way discriminated. This particular case was sent on to me by the Victorian police, with an intimation that, in the opinion of the Crown Prosecutor, a primâ facie case had been made out against the firm in question, and that a prosecution would have followed had the State authorities been able to take action against the firm, instead of being impelled by the evidence to take action against an individual. They thought the case was so strong that it should be considered by the Federal authorities. I went through the papers very carefully and sent them’ on to the Crown Solicitor and the Crown Law authorities, and the Attorney-General gave his opinion upon them. I considered that opinion, reconsidered the papers, and took the action which has resulted in the prohibition imposed upon the correspondence of this firm. The moment that I imposed that prohibition I was asked to grant* an inquiry. Naturally I declined to do so. I took the step which I,did deliberately, and I had consulted the Crown Law officers upon the matter.
– Did the Postmaster-General give the firm an opportunity of being heard
Before he decided to take action ?
– Most decidedly not. There is no provision that I should do so, and the evidence was of such a character that there was no call for me to do so. In my judgment there can be no question at all-
– Why did not the Postmaster- General allow these men to be heard ?
– For the simple reason that I have pover; under the Act to impose the prohibition. A prohibition has been imposed upon the correspondence of the same firm by the New Zealand Government, and I had acted upon the advice of the Crown Solicitor after the case had been submitted to me by the State authorities.
– The position of the Postmaster-General would have been stronger if he had first heard these people.
– They had been heard before. If honorable members will take the trouble to read the papers which were laid upon the table of the Senate more thansix weeks ago, I am confident that they will indorse my action. The Prime Minister stated publicly that he would offer no opposition to a Select Committee being appointed by’ the Senate. I declared that I would take the earliest opportunity of laying the whole of the papers before Parliament. As the Senate met before this House, the whole of the papers were laid upon the table of that Chamber. Honor- ‘ able senators had access to them. For months past they have had an opportunity to appoint a Select Committee to inquire into this case, and they have not done so.
– I understood the Prime Minister to say that he had no sympathy with the proposal of the honorable member for Riverina, neither had the PostmasterGeneral.
– Undoubtedly. The action which’ I took was fully warranted by the papers to which I have referred, and was backed, up by the Crown Law authorities. But the Prime Minister held that, however strong my case might be, and however decided my view upon the matter, Parliament had a perfect right to review it. The papers which are now upon the table of the Senate were forwarded to me through the Victorian police. The honorable member for Riverina says that I was prompted to take action by the Medical Association. In reply, I repeat what I said by way of interjection, namely, that neither the Medical Association nor any other association, nor any individual, approached me in the matter, either directly or indirectly, until after my decision had been made public.
– It would not have been to the discredit of the Medical Association if it had done so. It would rather have been to its credit.
– The moment that my decision was made public, however, not only the Medical Association but a great many other associations and many newspapers declared that I had done a great public good. My honorable friend .said nothing about that. If representations have been made upon the one hand, hundreds of representations have been made upon the other.
– Then why refuse an inquiry ? Surely it would strengthen the Postmaster-General’s position ?
– I am prepared to take full responsibility for my action. The papers -relating to the case have been laid upon the table of the Senate, thus challenging the appointment of a Select Committee. That is what has been done. I am not personally offering opposition to the honorable member’s proposal-
– The Postmaster-General has pulled the strings very well.
– I have pulled no strings, and it is unfair for the honorable member to suggest that.
– If the Postmaster-General supports the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into this case, he ought to go c”“t of office.
– I am not going to support it. I shall not vote for it.
– But the PostmasterGeneral will allow his colleagues to vote for it.
– My colleagues will not vote for it. I would remind honorable members that this is not the first time that action has been taken against this particular firm.
– If the PostmasterGeneral goes into that matter I shall reply.
– Not only the last Postmaster-General, but also a predecessor, took action in connexion with this firm. The latter recommended that the Crown should prosecute these people upon the evidence then in its possession.
– Why did it not do so?
– Ido not know. I do not propose to discuss themerits of the case. I merely wish to show that the statements that I have a. prejudice against this firm, that I singled it out for special treatment, and that I was backed up by the Medical Association, are all contrary to fact.
– The PostmasterGeneral has a very strong case.
– He has a very good backer in the honorable member.
– I listened most attentively to my honorable friend.
– I am listening very attentively.
– Every case with which I have dealt, under the law either relating to Tattersall’s, or to indecent pictures, or to medical matters, has been brought under my notice either by the State authorities or by the detectives of my own Department. I have never gone out of my way in the slightest degree to find personsto prosecute. But when cases have been brought under my notice, when the papers relating to them have been submitted to me, and when the evidence has appeared so strong that, in my judgment, there was no gainsaying it, I have not hesitated to act, and I should have no right to be administering the Department unless I was prepared to accept full responsibility for my action.
– God help me if the Postmaster-General were my judge.
– I thinkthat my honorable friend would find that I should not be very hard on him. But I do not propose to discuss the merits or demerits of this case. I have been intrusted with a certain responsibility, and I havenot singled out any firm or individual for special treatment. I told Mr. Oxenham, whose name has been mentioned, what I told Mr. Wren and others upon whose correspondence a similar prohibition has been imposed, that if they would give me a written undertaking in conformity with the conditions laid down by the Crown Law authorities that they would not violate the law in regard to postal matters, their correspondence might pass through the post without let or hindrance.
– Then why refuse the same consideration to Messrs. Freeman and Wallace?
– There is no analogy between the two cases.
– Why does not the Department make a charge against them, so that they may obtain redress in a Court of law ?
– If the House chooses it has a perfect right to appoint a Select Committee to inquire into this particular case, and into all the facts connected with it. We have offered no opposition to the adoption of that course. The Prime Minister went out of his way to afford the honorable member facilities to bring forward his motion relating to it.
– The PostmasterGeneral said just now that he would not vole for the motion. He must, therefore, vote against it. Would not that be opposition ?
– I should walk out of the chamber.
– Surely we are not going to take up the time of the country by dividing upon this question?
– I do not know.I deny having selected any particular firm for special treatment. I deny having discriminated, and if honorable members will only take the trouble to read the papers connected with this case alone - to say nothing of the history and practice of the firm in question - I am sure they will be satisfied that the right thing has been done.
– I do not propose to traverse the very interesting case which has been referred to by the honorable member for Riverina. The consideration of that matter had better be left until another occasion, when it can be dealt with upon its merits. I wish to direct the attention of the Committee to the report of the Public Service Commissioner, and to. certain matters which he deems to be of sufficient importance to justify him in dealing with them at considerable length. The first one relates to the question of the retirement of public servants upon attaining a certain age, namely, from sixty to sixty-five years. The Commissioner deals with this question on pages 12 and 13 of his report. He points out that during 1906 some 35 officers were obliged to retire on account of having attained the age limit, and that during 1907-8 181 officers will be due to retire. He also directs attention to. the particular action of the Postal Department in retaining the services of an officer who has passed themaximum ‘.age limit, namely, sixty-five years.. He regards this matter as of so. much importance - so far as it affects the efficiency of the service - that he has forwarded a long communication to the Department in regard to it. He points out the evil of allowing officers - no matter how efficient or how expert they may have been - to occupy an important position in the service, after attaining the age limit, and the reasons which actuated Parliament in fixing that limit. Just one quotation from his letter will set out his position. He writes -
If the promotion of officers to the highest positions is delayed until they are nearing the statutory age, no marked improvement can be expected in the Service. When they get to the highest positions they have only a few years to serve, and naturally make little effort to effect reforms or improve things, their main object being, with few exceptions, to make matters comfortable for themselves for the few years they have to remain. This must be bad for the public interest : but if officers go to “ the top “ in the earlier years of .their lives, they naturally set out to improve matters, and so build up an official reputation.
That is the effect which it has upon the rank and file. But the effect, which it has upon the officer primarily concerned, and upon the service through him, is set out in the following paragraph -
In a Service where officers are kept on beyond the term of sixty-five years, it must inevitably follow that their successors are likely to be men who -have- been accustomed to an antiquated régime, especially when the head posi-tions have been filled for a series of years by men nearing the retiring age, because when an officer is approaching the time for his severance from the Service, he makes little effort to change things; his mind, as a rule, is not so receptive as a younger man’s, and, as a consequence, his conservatism becomes accentuated.
Those are the positions which the Commissioner sets out. He lays down very clearly what will be the effect upon the service if there is any departure from the law, and’ he draws special attention to the case of a leading officer in the Postmaster-General’s Department being retained over the age limit, and the demoralizing effect which it has upon the whole service. Take the cases of men, some of whom do not hold very high positions or receive large salaries, out of which they can provide for their old age, and whose superannuation allowance, if any, is very small. As scon as these men reach the age limit, they are required to go. Their cases cannot be given special consideration. They are told, “That is the law and the policy of the Commonwealth,” . and their appeals are passed over without result. In this particular case, however, the PostmasterGeneral makes a departure in favour of his right-hand man - a gentleman against whom I am not prepared to say a “word; who has administered the Department with very considerable capacity, and who has command of his faculties despite his increasing years. It is not from the point of the individual, as the Commissioner points out, that this matter has to be looked at ; we have to consider the effect which it will have on the whole Department. If the Minister can make a departure from the practice on behalf of his leading officer, where is the line to be drawn ? Why not allow the humble man in the back country, who is,’ perhaps, supervising the construction of telegraphs or telephones, or any man in the lower. grades of the service, the same privilege as is . extended to this leading officer? If that were permitted, it would produce the effect which the Commissioner has pointed out. He says that the state of affairs under the Commonwealth would drift back to what it was under the States, and that for years officers would be kept out. of their well’-earned promotion. It must be borne in mind that the legitimate expectations of all the younger officers is a matter of no less consideration than the pecuniary circumstances of officers who have reached the retiring age. I understand that .the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has taken this matter in hand, and proposes to test the feeling of the Committee on the policy which .the Postmaster-General has initiated of practically breaking down the spirit of the “law in the interests of a particular officer in his Department.
– I hold, that if we have a law on the subject, it ought to apply universally.
– That is what” I am contending for.
– If a man at the bottom of the ladder has to go out when he reaches the age limit, a man at the top ought to go out also.
– That is what the Commissioner is contending for. In his report, he says that the law should be honorably observed, and applied not merely to the officers in the lower grades, but right through the service. I can well understand the demoralizing effect which this departure will have. Men whohave devoted their lives tothe Public Service, just as completely as this particular officer has done, and given the country the benefit of their abilities, are informed,when they reach the age of sixty-five years, that they must retire in the terms of the Act. They naturally say, “ If we were only placed alongside the Ministerial chair; if we were fortunate enough to hold the position which his leading officer occupies, how different would our treatment be.” This departure on the part of the Postmaster-General is not justified, and must tend to. restore the state of affairs which obtained in the preFederal days, and which the House set out to reform when it framed the Public Service Act. I think that this initial move of the Postmaster-General should not be allowed topass by without aprotest, and certainly the PublicService Commissioner has done his duty to the Public Service and to this House in calling attention to a breach of the spirit of the law by the Postmaster-General. Another matter is dealt with by the Commissioner on page 23 of his report. Under the head of “ Evasions of the Law,” he deals with the case of another officer in the Postmaster-General’s Department. A very able and courteous officer, who ranks next to the Secretary, is suddenly promoted from the clerical to the administrative staff, and we have, as the Commissioner points out, the anomaly of two administrators in one Department.
– Are there not two administrators in the Department of Trade and Customs ?
– The Commissioner points out that that case is provided for, but that this one is not.
– We propose to provide for it.
– In this case, it is done by a Ministerial act, and there are special conditions. The reason why there should be two administrators in the Department of Trade and Customs is that its operations extend over a big area.
– The same thing applies to the Postmaster-General’s Department.
– No ; it operates over a bigger area.
– In every State the Post and Telegraph Department has an administrator in the person of the Deputy Postmaster-General ; but here by a Ministerial act, and behind the back of the Commissioner-
– No; the honorable member has not read the whole of the statement.
– He ought to know that that statement is not correct.
– To be absolutely accurate, I will put the position in another way. Without the consent of the Commissioner-
– No, that office was created with his consent.
– The office of administrator ?
– The office of Assistant Secretary.
– Yes, but the duties and functions were not assigned to the position with his consent, and that is what he objects to.
– Why should he have been made Assistant Secretary unless it. was for administrative purposes? Otherwise . he would be of no use, and he had better have remained as he was.
– Apparently the Minister, when he asked the Commissioner to consent to the alteration of the designation, did not put that phase to him.
– That phase was put to the Commissioner, but the correspondence appended to his report is not complete. The honorable member should read the complete correspondence.
– The correspondence attached to this report covers very many pages.
– It is not complete.
– It seems to be fairly consecutive, and the Commissioner upholds the position he takes up very strongly.
– He upholds any position which he takes up.
– Yes, and I believe that he is correct in this particular case.
– I do not; he is not correct in many cases.
Mr.THOMAS BROWN.- That is a matter of opinion. Why are two adminis- trative officers required in the central bureau of the Postmaster-General’s Department ?
– Judging by results they want about sixteen.
– There is no question that quite two administrative officers are wanted. The honorable member cannot expect to receive an annual report and a balance-sheet with only one administrative officer there, and he will not get it either.
– If the Minister thinks that the appointment of an administrative officer is going to work all these wonders, why not have twenty or one hundred? Whynot make every member of his staff an administrative officer if that is going to insure efficiency ?
– And then put them in the place of the Cabinet Committee.
– Yes, to investigate their own work. I do not desire to weary the Committee by reading the whole of the correspondence about this case, as it is in print. I believe that if honorable members will peruse it carefully they will see that there has been a very sharp conflict between the Commissioner and the head of this Department with respect to this appointment, and that an officer, without his duties having been increased, has been raised from the clerical to the administrative staff, and thus given an increased salary which the Act does hot allow to him as a clerical officer. As the Commissioner veryproperly asks, if the PostmasterGeneral wishes to give to this officer an increased salary for the services that he renders, why not raise the salaries of all clerical officers who are performing equally important work?
– Why did not the Commissioner explain why he raised a man’s salary above the amount fixed in the Act for the clerical division?
– I am not aware that he did.
– Yes, he put down a salary of £650 for an officer.
– The probability is that an explanation will be forthcoming.
– The Commissioner was challenged about the matter and made no reply.
– From the very strong stand which the Commissioner has taken in this case, I feel very sure that there is a reply to that challenge; and that it can be obtained by the honorable member if he so desires.
– It is not in print.
– The Commissioner claims that this action on the part of the Post and Telegraph Department is a direct evasion of the law, and that instead of adding strength it introduces weakness in that it has created two administrative heads.
– The honorable member does not say anything about the way in which the Commissioner evades the law in the case of the lower officers, particularly in regard to the Boards of Inquiry.
– The Commissioner has to work according to the Act, and I believe that no one would welcome more cordially a thorough investigation of, or a means of investigating, these matters than he would. It seems to me, from his attitude, that the whole desire of the PostmasterGeneral is to magnify the central bureau and make it practically a supervising department for the whole Commonwealth.
– Why should it not be?
– For the. reason that in point of territory this is a very big Commonwealth, and that it is impossible to administer Post and Telegraph affairs effectively from a central office. The Commissioner points out that weakness.
– We must have a central office.
– Yes ; but it is not necessary for the Central Office to supervise the administration of the Deputy Postmasters-General in every detail. The Commissioner points out that he is decentralizing his Department, by giving his State inspectors larger powers.
– The same thing has been donewith the Deputy PostmastersGeneral.
– The Central Office should concern itself chiefly with matters of policy. If honorable members wish to find out how much the working of the Department is clogged by the system of centralization, they have only to look up the Commissioner’s report. He shows the need for greater decentralization, and quotes a pertinent paragraph from the report of a Commissionwhich recently investigated the tendency to centralization in Great Britain. That report strongly supports his policy. If, as the Minister says,there is other correspondence on the subject, he should put it be- fore us, so thatwe may be fully informed. Then I believe it to be unwise to make fish ofone and flesh of another in the Service - to retain, after he has reached the age of sixty-five years, a man at the topof the tree, and to compel all others to retire in acccordance with the provisions of the Act.
-The Secretary to the PostmasterGeneral is not the only officer whose services have been retained beyond the age of sixty-five years.
– What has been done is right and justifiable.
– Then the Minister should ask Parliament to repeal that provision of the Act which requires public servants to retire on reaching the age of sixty-five years. Officers who have not strong friends are turned out willy-nilly, while influential officers are retained.
– No friend made representations on behalf of Mr. Scott, who is willing to go; but we have urged him to remain until the work he can do is finished.
– Is there no other man in the service who can do the work ?
– A suitable man cannot be picked up in a day, a week, or a month.
– The Minister, knowing thatthe time is approaching when Mr. Scott must go, should make preparations accordingly.
– The time has not come yet.
-There should not be one law for one man and a different law for another. I intend to test the opinion of the Committee on the action of the Postmaster-General in raising an officer to the administrative division contrary to the provisions of the Act. I have nothing to say against Mr. Oxenham, who does his work with considerable ability; but his duties are not more exacting than those of the Chief Clerks in Sydney and Melbourne, who, as clerical bracers, cannot obtain more than a certain maximum salary.
.- I protest again, asI did some years ago, against what appears to be a distinct act of favoritism. The provision of the Act requiring public servants to retire at the age of sixty-five years should be enforced throughout the service, without regard to the position ofthe officers affected. Officars in the lower branches of the service when approaching the age of sixty-five years, are treated with contemptible meanness. Instead of being allowed to remain until that age is reached, and then being given the six months’ leave to which they are entitled, they are made to retire at the age ofsixty-four and a-half years, no matter how capable they may be. I protested against the retention of Sir Charles Todd, as a bad precedent. Under the present system, officers who have been at the head of Departments have ex-Ministers pleading for them, as has happened tonight. I remember when the honorable member for Coolgardie protested against the retention of the services of Sir Charles Todd.
– I do not think so.
– When officers are turned out of the service before they have reached the age of sixty-five, the rights which are supposed to be preserved to them by the Constitution are violated. Under the State Act there was no question as to the retiring age. Officers taken over from the South Australian service have fared very badly not only in respect to the retiring age, but in regard to salaries and many conditions which obtainedunder the State law.
– The position is much worse in Western Australia.
– I do not think there is in South Australia a Commonwealth officer’ who would not say that his treatment to-day is considerably worse than it was under the State Public Service Act. Hundreds of them have not received from the Commonwealth an increase of even 6d. per annum, although under the State law they were entitled to annual increments. The “ Federal Ten,” who issued a manifesto in favour of Federation in South Australia, addressed meetings of public servants in that State with a view of securing their influence to carry the Constitution Bill, and they promised them that under clause 84 of that Bill their rights would.be absolutely preserved to them. Section 84 of the Constitution was embodied in the Public Service Act, in order to protect them, yet they have been robbed of hundreds of pounds to which they were entitled under the State law. I was amazed to hear this evening of the great increase in the number of hands employed by the Department. In South Australia, the services of the Department, more particularly in country districts, are far worse than they were prior to Federation. Even on the recommendation of the Deputy Postmaster- General in South Australia we cannot obtain the services of an additional letter carrier in any place where there is a daily delivery.
– That is the fault of the Public Service Commissioner.
– It is certainly not the fault of the Department, because on its behalf protests have been made over and over again.
– The Commissioner is not responsible for the fact that men in the lower grades of the service are turned adrift as soon as they reach the retiring age, while those receiving big salaries are in many cases kept on.
– Wehave allowed all that we felt could render efficient service to continue.
– It is singular that only the men receiving big salaries are kept on. Ministers and heads of Departments always discover that the services of such men are of special value, whereas those in the lower grades are turned adrift, on reaching not the retiring age - sixty -five years - but sixty-four and a-half years.
– That cannot be. Those who are entitled to six months’ furlough are in the higher grades of the service.
– These men are told that they must take their six months’ furlough before instead of after they reach sixty-five years of age. I regard as utter meanness such treatment of well-tried, honest servants. We should be loud in our protests if a private employer were guilty Of it. Many of the men whose services are retained after they reach the retiring age earn as much in one week as others do in three months.
– Mr. Scott’s pension would be almost equal to his present salary.
– I am not referring to Mr. Scott. I protested against this course of action in connexion with the retirement of Sir Charles Todd. If it is the law that public servants shall retire at sixty-five-
– The law provides that, under certain circumstances, public servants may continue in the service after reaching the age of sixty-five years.
– How is it that the Minister is unable to point to one case where the services of a man in the lower grade have been retained after he has reached the retiring age?
– I shall point to a number of cases where we have protested, and urged that men should be kept on.
– But they have not been kept on.
– We have no controlover them.
– The Minister can determine whether the services of officers can be retained after they have reached the retiring age.
– The administrative officers can.
– The highly-paid officers are alone receiving consideration in that respect. I desire once more to protest against the starving of country services. Hundreds of small mail contracts of vast importance to rural districts - although they may appear unimportant to those residing in large cities, where mails are delivered several times a day - have been cut off. The whole trend of the service to-day is in the direction of centralization. The Estimate’s bear out’ my contention. I know of cases in which the recommendation of the Deputy Postmaster-General of South Australia, that additional letter carriersor messengersshould be employed, has been vetoed by some one in the central administration. I hope that the representatives of Western Australia will not think that I am taking exception to the treatment of officers of the Department in that State in pointing out that, whilst in certain cases they are entitled, under a regulation, to receive 5 per cent. more than is paid to men doing similar work in other parts of the State, that regulation has not been applied to South Australia. I havefairly good authority for the statement that Commonwealth line repairers in South Australia, working between Point Lincoln and Eucla, receive no such allowance, although they have to work side by side with men in the Western Australian branch of the service who do. I venture to say that the same conditions prevail in the northern parts of Queensland and New South Wales.
– Then, that is undoubtedly wrong.
– I mention the matter so that the Minister may make inquiries.
– I shall make representations to the right quarter.
– There were, at one time, two sets of officers, and the allowances to the South Australian men ranged from £20 to £30 over their ordinary salary. These terms applied to the men engaged on the northern telegraph system, between South Australia proper and the Northern Territory.
– Did these officers get the same allowances as the Western Australian officers?
– I do hot exactly’ know; but I think the allowances were fairly uniform. The allowances in the case of South Australia were fixed under the State law, and were considerably cut down under the Commonwealth ; but, on representations being made, a new rate was established, which, I think, is fair, and is, I understand, observed throughout. The class of men of whom I am speaking are kept moving about, and lead a most unpleasant kind of life, some of them having a range of 300 or 400 miles, in which they have to attend to the telegraph lines and keep them in repair. T think it necessary to mention these matters, so that no anomalies may be permitted. When speaking last on this subject, I referred to what I termed a bungle in the calling of tenders for’ the mail service to Spencer’s Gulf. I said then that, in my opinion, the only parties to benefit would be the Adelaide Steamship Company; and I am still qf that opinion. I pointed out then that the tenders were called in such a way as to enable this company to obtain a contract which has resulted in inconveniencing a number of settlers in the Franklin Harbor district. Under the State law, there was, for over twenty year’s, a mail service twice a week direct from Adelaide via Port Lincoln and Wallaroo ; and this gave a great advantage to the settlers in the way of obtaining supplies. Under the new system, there was a service twice a ‘week, but the mails were landed at Arno Bay.
– The contractors ask for £500 a year more than they did last year, in order to continue the service; and they have made the cost absolutely ‘ prohibitive.
– The Minister is correct, and yet his statement requires explanation. My complaint is that the Department never asked for a service as direct as it was before. The Adelaide Steamship Company have been trying to get out of this contract for years ; and the Department gave the company the alternative of tendering by way of Arno Bay or Wallaroo Bay ; and any business or commonsense man would have known that only one tender could be put in.
– This is a matter of decentralization - it was left to the Deputy Postmaster-General.
– The result was this tender for two mails to Arno Bay. After that there was some protest. However, the Government then called for fresh tenders; and the Adelaide Steam-ship Company, having got the price they required - in fact’, I think they got £200 more than they had under the previous contract - they asked for £500 more for the service once a week across to Wallaroo.
– Does not the honorable member think that this is a case where there ought to be’ a subsidy to the Depart1ment, seeing that this is not a matter of postal facilities, but one( of passenger facilities ?
– I say, unhesitatingly, that the other service was more expeditious; in fact, a passenger can now arrive before the mails.
– That is not the point. We could get a much cheaper mail service in a different way; this service is. for mercantile purposes.
– As a matter of fact, more is’ being paid for the service io-day than was paid when the people received greater facilities.
– The company would not tender again at the same price.
– As to the report, if I were asked to express an opinion, I should say that it was inspired by the Ade- laide Steam-ship Company. Paragraph 3 states that the settlers do not send their produce by mail’ steamer, but engage ketches, and, consequently, that the trade is not -a lucrative one to the company. How was that information obtained? I venture to say that the paragraph was inspired by the shipping company, who desired to get out of the contract. What has it to do with the Department whether or not produce be sent by boat ? As a matter of fact, there are. thousands of tons of produce sent by boat from Adelaide to Franklin Harbor. It may be true that wheat is not sent, but the reason is that the boatsof the company charge considerably more than do the ordinary ketches, and, further, very little consideration is shown for cargoes of wheat carried by mail steamer. It is said that bags of wheat and so forth do not receive half the care in handling on board the steamer that they do on board the ketches. That has nothing to do with the Department ; but, singularly enough, we are told that it’ is one of the reasons why the boat service was cut off. Everything in the report goes to confirm my deliberate and repeated statement, that this service is solely in the interests of the Adelaide Steam-ship Company ; and there is no one in the Franklin Harbor district, where there are over 1,000 settlers, who will not support that statement. Either knowingly or unknowingly, the Adelaide Steam-ship Company have been considered, while the settlers have been deprived of a service to which they have been accustomed for the last twenty years. The thing is done now, and of course the Adelaide Steam-ship Company is in a position . to charge what they like. When they were first asked to undertake this service they asked for £600. When requested to tender a second time they asked for£500. I venture to say that if the Minister or the Deputy Postmaster-General had insisted upon the carriage of the mails from Wallaroo, the Department would not have bad this sum to pay, and they would have had a service for practically the same price as theyhad been paying, whilst at the same time one of the large wheat-growing districts in South Australia is placed at a great disadvantage. I also wish to protest against the meanness of the Department in connexion with payments for services rendered by certain postmasters and postmistresses in country places. Some of them have to be at their posts 365 days in the year. For these services they receive the enormous payment of£6 a year. Who is responsible for that ?
– What is the amount of business done?
– It may not be very large. In one case that I know of it is only £15 per annum. But it is not a question of the amount of business. These officers of the Department have in its intereststo be at their posts.
– Is not the work done in connexion with a store in most cases ?
– In many cases a place has to be put up specially for the accommodation of the postal work.
– People come along and offer to do certain work, and the rate of payment is fixed according to the amount of business done. You cannot possibly pay a minimum rate of wage when the income does not amount to one-third of what such a rate would be.
– In two cases of which I have knowledge the people in charge have to be up all night twice a week to meet the mail. It is unfair to pinch them down to a paltry payment of£6 per annum.
– If, as the honorable member says, themail service is only twice a week, . how can he argue that the people in charge have to be present 365 days a year ?
– But stamps have to be sold, and the public have to be attended to.
– The postal officials have not to be there on Sundays and holidays, or after the shops are closed. They have only to be present during ordinary hours, and to attend to the mail twice a week.
– Plenty of these people have not shops.
– That is where the mischief is. They had shops at the time the contracts were undertaken.
– No; the offices are fixed where it is most convenient for the mail coach to change horses. It is unfair that the Department should pay a paltry pittance for such work. Another matter of which I have to complain is that if any postal facility is wanted in a country district the Department demands a guarantee. But there is no question of a guarantee being demanded in connexion with any large work for one of the big cities. The Department did not demand a 10 per cent. guarantee in connexion with the new telephone line between Melbourne and Sydney, but on a country telephone service a guarantee of10 per cent. plus the cost of attendance at the other end is required.
– Until recently the Department would not even take guarantees in some cases.
– We have made a number of relaxations lately.
– Assuming that a piece of work costs£250, why should the Department demand a guarantee of£25 per annum? If the money were borrowed the interest on it would not be 10 per cent. It would probably not be more than 3½ per cent.
– But provision would have to be made to pay the money back if it were borrowed.
– Five per cent. on the cost of an ordinary telephone line would in thirteen years pay back the whole amount. Another thing of which I complain is that the Department, in making an estimate in regard to telephones, reckons the revenue at £15 or£20 per annum, as the case may be, but makes no allowance for the increased revenue which must follow in regard to existing lines.
– On the honorable member’s representation, I made a change in that respect, and I am calculating on the basis he has suggested.
– I am very glad to get that admission.
– Further, I promise that the demand of 10 per cent. will be immediately reviewed, with a view either of an extension of the time or a reduction of the charge.
– It is something to get these admissions. They show at least that I have not talked in vain. After a good many years’ political experience, I know that it is best to leave well alone, and I thank the Minister for what he has promised. I trust that the Committee of Inquiry will see that 10 per cent. is unnecessary, and that 5 per cent., plus the cost of the attendant, will be ample to protect the Department against the cost of renewals and everything else. There is no other matter to which I wish to refer at present.
– Whilst almost every member of the Committee has joined in raiding the Department, and in the effort to inducethe Postmaster-General to make promises involving further expenditure, in order to redress grievances in his particular constituency, when the time arrives for the piper to be paid-
– They will sing a different tune.
– Undoubtedly they will. Only to-day, when the Treasurer was giving the Committee some information, we heard from two or three quarters that the honorable gentleman was running the expenses up pretty high. If we are to carry out certain works we must pay for them, and it is not becoming of honorable members who are always harassing the Postmaster-General, in urging upon him the construction of works which involve expenditure, to complain when the Committee is asked to pay for them. I agree with the right honorable member for East Sydney that, in dealing with the Post and Telegraph service, which requires continually the expenditure of a great amount of money upon new buildings, and the erection of new telegraph and telephone lines, it is impossible to finance the Department out of revenue. It seems to me ridiculous to hope to do so, vet we are endeavouring to do so.
– We have done it up till now.
– On the starvation system.
– Exactly. We have done it, but the way in which we have done it has given great dissatisfaction. I have always been a cautious individual, and I do not wish to tell the Postmaster-General or the Treasurer that they might alter their system. I know that they would not take my advice if I offered it. But I do think that greater consideration should be given to this phase of the question than it has received in the past. We should realize that in connexion with this Department particularly there is every year a great expansion of business, and the money required to meet the demands for new expenditure must be obtained somewhere. We cannot hope to obtain all that is required from revenue, and it is not business-like to expect to get in one year sufficient revenue from a particular work to cover the expenditure upon it.
– What does the honoraole member want done at South Melbourne?
– The honorable member wants a new post-office.
– The Minister need not put me away. In common with most other members of the Committee, I wish to see the post-offices in my division made fit for the work which has to be carried on there. The Minister, and even the honorable member for Coolgardie, will doubtless admit that from the manufacturing standpoint my division is the most important in the whole of Australia, and it is fair on that account that some consideration should be given to it. There is this difference, however, between myself and other honorable members, that if the Government undertake to carry out the works required, I am willing to give my assistance to find the wherewithal for the purpose.
– For works in. South Melbourne or throughout Australia?
– For the whole of Australia. I do not look at these matters in the narrow way in which the honorable member for Barrier does. In view of the enormous expenditure which is necessary if the work of this Department is to be properly carried on, it is essential that we should assist the Treasurer, instead of obstructing him, in finding the money. I do not wish to labour the question, but I have a few words to say with respect to the work of the Public Service Commissioner. I may be thought unfair in taking the stand
I do, but I do not blame the Commissioner. I believe that while it was necessary to put a stop to political favoritism in our public Departments, we have created something worse than existed there before. It was necessary that something should be done, but though Parliament no doubt meant well, I think it did not do what was right in this matter. Our public servants are worthy of consideration, and, as I said earlier, in discussing the Estimates, if we expect anything from them, we should endeavour to make their position as satisfactory as possible. But what do we find? In the Post and Telegraph Department, men who have for years applied themselves faithfully to the performance of their duties, times without number find officers appointed over their heads, and they have no redress. I am reminded by the position of the head of a Department of the story that a little boy once asked his father, What is a great man? and the father said, “ A great man, my son, is a man who has a lot of assistants around him, who take the blame for all his mistakes, whilst he takes credit for all their good ideas.” The heads of Departments occupy just that position. Men below them get credit for nothing. Unfortunately, it happens in a great number of cases that if a man is a horticulturist, and makes presents of nice flowers occasionally, or of a pet bull dog, or, in other words, if he is lickspittle, it is possible for him to secure promotion over men who would not stoop to that sort of thing. It is possible in these Departments for a man to have an officer put over his head who is by many years his junior, and he is unable to prevent it.
– Does the honorable member think that if we reverted to political influence that would be prevented?
– No, but I propose to show how it might be prevented. I am not blaming the Public Service Commissioner for what occurs. He can only make use of the machinery with which he is provided. He has to take his advice from heads of Departments, who, being human, are influenced byhuman likes and dislikes, and as a result the most capable man does not always secure promotion. We are told that he is the best judge. But I say that in our Public Service instead of an appointment being made before a man who is entitled to look for it becomes aware of what is being done, every appointment should be made as from some future date. The man who feels aggrieved should be able to apply for the post, and have his claims considered, and should be able to show that he is capable of carrying out the duties of the position to which another has been appointed. That isnot asking too much.
– Have they not that right now ?
– No. The first the man knows of it is when the appointment is gazetted. I knew a case in the Melbourne General Post Office, where a man of exceptional ability was overlooked. Another man was placed over his head, and he knew nothing of it until the appointment was gazetted. He complained to the Commissioner, who admitted that he believed that he had not been fairly dealt with, but added that the appointment had been made, and that there could be no redress. That sort of thing is not fair, and men treated in that way cannot be expected to apply themselves to their work with the same zeal as before. Again I say I do not blame the Commissioner. He may make mistakes, and in any case he could not please everybody. But I blame the present system. The law should be altered so that a man who feels aggrieved might be allowed to provehis fitness for the position beforehand. His claim could be easily tested by examination. If he does prove his fitness, and is the senior, he should undoubtedly get the reward of his seniority and fitness. I believe that, under the present system, this sort of injustice is more rampant in the Post and Telegraph Department than in any other, and that is why I am applying myself so strongly to it now. The Minister must have had cases of the sort brought under his notice. Undoubtedly, the Commissioner has, and something should be done to stop the unrest and discontent which is being caused in the Department by the influence which is retarding the promotion of some men, and selecting others to fill posts which they should not obtain.
– Other things being equal, seniority ought to count; but fitness ought to count before seniority.
– I agree that it is foolish to promote a numskull just because he is the senior, but, fitness being anything like equal, the senior man ought to get the chance, and, if it is not offered to him, he should have an opportunity of proving his fitness.
– What redress has the senior officer if his superior officer says that his junior is more fit?
– He has positively no redress under the present system. Is that better than the old system of political influence? The head of the Department selects his favourite for a vacancy, and the others have no redress. Will this House tolerate that sort of thing? We have heard on all hands .condemnation of the unfortunate Commissioner, who- is not to blame. The fault lies with the system which the Commissioner has to handle. It is impossible for him to know the fitness of ‘ every man in the service. -He has to take ‘the- advice of the heads of Departments, and if he gets bad advice, there is no remedy. We should bring into effect .some other system which will prevent the recurrence of what has happened’ in the past. I am one- of those who believe that the -people in the country should get assistance from the more closely inhabited centres, and that when a postal or telephone service is needed in distant parts, the question of expense should not always be considered. One should pay for the facilities given to others. That applies, not only to postal services, but to schools and railways. But, unfortunately, the- people in the country are the first to cry out if there is any Socialism that does not suit themselves. This is a form of Socialism that I believe in, and that will have to be brought about. The people in sparsely populated districts should have the same facilities as those in .thickly settled parts enjoy.
– Would the honorable member be in favour of three deliveries a day in the back-blocks?
– It is of no use for the honorable member to put up a straw man in order to knock him down again. The honorable member is not in favour of three deliveries a day in the back-blocks, and I do not know why he should think that I am sillier than he is, because I have never shown it. I do not believe that the people in the towns object to the people in the country getting every facility from the Post and Telegraph Department. I am sure that they will agree to pay their share ; but when any loss is made, it is from the country that the howl comes that it was a socialistic idea which should not have been countenanced. In- spite of all the grumbling about the administration of the Department, and in spite of many features in connexion with it- that none of us like to see, we should never forget that it is all a question of money, and that -it is foolish to endeavour to finance the Department entirely from each year’s revenue. The Minister should bring about some othersystem whereby the expenditure could be charged over a larger number of years, instead of to the current year.
– Are we not to hear something from the Minister? I have been able, since I sat down; to peruse the additional correspondence to which the -Minister seems to attach so much importance, as proving that he is right and the Commissioner wrong, in regard to the creation of the position of Assistant Secretary to the Post and Telegraph Department. The first letter, dated 31st October, 1906, embodies a suggestion from Mr. Scott that the position of Assistant Secretary should be created in order to relieve him of duties that could not otherwise be transferred, and a recommendation that Mr. Oxenham be appointed to the position, that Mr. Templeton be appointed senior clerk, and that another accountant should be appointed. This was agreed to by the Commissioner on the 18th January, 1907.- On 7thf May, 1907, Mr. Scott, on behalf of the Postmaster-General, came along with a request that the new position of Assistant Secretary should be placed upon the administrative list. Mr. McLachlan replied on the 30th of the same month in the following words -
The Public Service Commissioner has given full consideration to this matter, but cannot see his way to recommend the creation of a second administrative position in the Central Office.
Then begins the correspondence as printed in the Commissioner’s report. . The Commissioner first of all sets out the four main divisions of the service as the Administrative, Professional, Clerical, and General. He points out that the maximum salary fixed by Act of Parliament in the Clerical Division is £600 per annum - the position that Mr.’ Oxenham filled. He then sums up the matter as follows -
Under the Post and Telegraph Act the permanent head of the Postmaster-General’s Department is personally charged with the responsibility of the administration of that Department, subject to certain control, by the Minister, and the Secretary of the Postmaster-General’s Department, like other permanent heads, is furnished -with a competent staff ‘to assist him in carrying out his duties and responsibilities, the chief. Central staff official under his control being Mr. Oxenham, who, until’ recently, bore the designation of “ Chief Clerk,” a Clerical Division position carrying a salary of £600 ner annum, the prescribed maximum for that division. Some months’ ago Mr. Oxenham’s designation was at the request and on the recommendation of the permanent head, altered to that of “Assistant Secretary.” This having been effected, the permanent head subsequently submitted a recommendation that the position of Assistant Secretary be placed in the Administrative Division. After giving full consideration to the representations made, I could not see my way to accede to the request, and the Secretary was informed accordingly. Thereafter followed a series of communications between this office and the Department on the subject, the contents of which I consider should be set out verbatim, so that Parliament may be cognizant of all the circumstances of the case; as I note that, despite my refusal to comply with the departmental request, the position of Assistant Secretary appears in the current Estimates as an administrative position, with a salary of£700 assigned to it.
He adds -
There is one matter, however, which, to my mind, savours of an attempt to circumvent the salary limitations prescribed by the Act, and which, owing to its special importance as affecting the proper administration of the Service, calls for special attention.
The only additional communication is one dated 10th January of the present year, containing a report by Mr. Scott on the whole position, in which practically the Minister undertakes the serious responsibility of overriding the decision of the Commissioner. I do not see that this communicationtouches in one iota the position set out by that officer. It practically bears out all thathe contended for. First of all, the request for an assistant secretary was made by Mr. Scott, without any reference to the transfer of that position to another classification, and itwas only when the request came some months later to place the position in the administrative branch, where an increased salary could be allotted, that the objection was raised. The Commissioner has stood by his objection from that point up to the present time, and the Minister has been compelled to take the extreme step of setting aside the advice of the Commissioner and practically becoming a law unto himself. That is what I object to. The Parliament placed these various powers in the hands of the Commissioner ; and if the Minister is to override his decisions and recommendations, practically his ceases to be an office of any considerable importance, and the sooner, under these conditions, it is wiped out and the Minister made sole arbiter the better.
– Oh, let it be soon. Let us wipe him out.
– The honorable member is very mercurial at times and jumps to a rapid conclusion.
– Only last week I heard the honorable member asking the Minister to override the Commissioner with regard to the case of a public servant.
– I do not think that is a correct statement. My experience of Ministerial administration of the Public Service in New South Wales was of such a character that I hope it will not be adopted by the Commonwealth. The present system, with all its flaws, is a very great improvement upon the Ministerial system, and we shall be very wise tomark with jealous care the attempts of any Minister to make an inroad upon the principleslaid down in the Public Service Act. I contend that the extracts I have read do not detract one iota from the position taken up by the Commissioner. He set himself to oppose the transfer of this officer to the administrative division for the reasons he gave, and the Committee isnow asked to vote a salary for an administrative officer, not with the approval of the Commissioner, but in direct opposition to him. My desire has been to state the real position so that if the Committee in its wisdom should decide to support the Minister and belittle the section of the Act which appoints the Commissioner to deal with the Public Service, it will do so with its eyes open.
– The Public Service Commissioner concurred in the recommendation of the permanent head of the Department that the new position of Assistant Secretary be created, and Mr. Oxenhamtransferred thereto; that Mr. Templetom be transferred to the position of Chief Clerk in place of Mr. Oxenham, and that the position of Accountant be created in place of the position of Chief Clerk. The Commissioner did that for the purpose of strengthening the administrative staff of the Department. There was no other reason for taking the step. Mr. Oxenham would have been just as serviceable as Chief Clerk if the position of Assistant Secretary was not going to carry more responsibility.
– If that is the correct position which the Minister is taking up, why did the Department, months later, ask the Commissioner to approve of this position being transferred to the administrative division ?
– Because it was months later before the staff’ arrangements were completed and the duties fully defined. The whole point is.: Is a second administrative officer necessary? By consenting to the promotion, and agreeing to the creation of the new office, the Commissioner agreed that it was. This proposal originated with my predecessor, and has my concurrence. The . honorable member for Coolgardie, who has had departmental experience, in fact, any experienced person, must recognise that a second administrative officer is absolutely necessary.
– Is the Committee to understand now, from the Minister, that this office was created and the salary allotted without the consent of the Commissioner ?
– The position- was created with the consent of the Commissioner, because it was really required. It was required in ‘the main foradministrative purposes, and therefore it should carry with it a salary ‘commensurate with the responsibility pertaining thereto. The Government approved of the proposal, and in order to ‘test the” justice of it put a sum on the Estimates. I am quite confident that the Committee will be acting rightly if it agrees to the increased salary.’ That is the whole case in a nutshell. No one has been overridden. The appointment was in accordance ‘with the spirit of the Act, and brings our administration into line with that of New Zealand, where there are two officers.
.- I do not wish to re-open a matter which was put before the Committee at such length by the honorable member for Riverina, or to say anything of what has been done in the past ; I merely desire to express the opinion that the Postmaster-General, in exercising the very arbitrary power given to him by the Postal Act, which, makes him a judge without appeal, should allow those affected an opportunity to be heard. The- exercise of this power is very different from an ordinary administrative act, in regard to which he may take the advice of his colleagues. In the exercise pf what is a judicial function, although he may consult his colleagues or any one else, the law requires him to form an opinion of his own before taking action against an individual. If all his colleagues had one opinion, and he the con trary, it would be his duty to act on his opinion; but it will strengthen his position with Parliament and with the public if he follows the time-honoured rule of giving those affected the opportunity to make any explanation they like in reply to the charges brought against them. In fulfilling a judicial obligation, the Minister should act judicially, and no man can be said to do so who does not, before pronouncing judgment, hear the person charged.
– I agree with the honorable member for East Sydney. While I have no sympathy with those who are following improper callings, I think that the Minister should hear their explanations. I understand that the effect of his action is to prevent the delivery of correspondence at a proscribed address, even to members of the family not personally concerned, so that the innocent have to suffer. I do not know the merits of this case, but it is contrary to my ideas of justice to give a decision without hearing both sides. There should, too,, be the possibility of appeal. The honorable member for Calare has brought forward a glaring instance of the attempts of the exPostmasterGeneral to circumvent the Public Service Commissioner, in order to bring his friends to the front, and to increase, their salaries. This is. a scandal, and is about the third instance of the kind which has come under my notice. The officer concerned matters little; but in this case he happens to be one who travelled’ to Rome with the honorable member for EdenMonaro.
– I do not think a personal motive should be suggested”.
– We are not unaware of the circumstances of the case. We know that this officer travelled with the ex- Postmaster-General for months, and, when he came back,, a new. position was created for him, for which the Public Service Commissioner said there was no need.
– He approved of it.
– He did n6t approve of the office being made an administrative one.
– The change was proposed so that the officer concerned might get £100 a year more.
– If the Act is not to apply to highly-paid officers, can it apply to those low down in the service?
– This officer was at the top, and receiving the full remuneration for his classification.
– The PublicService Commissioner offered no opposition to the creation of the position.
– He did not know what was behind. Why was he not told what would be done?
– The report of the Public Service Commissioner is in print, and it contains the correspondence on the subject. He saw no need for the appointment. When the present PostmasterGeneral accepted office, he thought that he should be loyal to his predecessor, showing himself to be a mere sapling, capable of being bent in any direction. At last pressure seems to have been brought to bear on the Public Service Commissioner, and, to suit the honorable member for Maribyrnong, things have been made to read pleasantly.
– The only difference between the Public Service Commissioner and the Government wasas to whether the office of Assistant Secretary should be made an administrative one.
– There is the report, in which the Public Service Commissioner states that he opposed this, and protested against it to the last.
– He characterizes it asan evasion of the law.
– That is so. It is a scandal. I have brought under notice several other cases in which the same Minister has placed juniors over the heads of seniors. I have shown that after the last general election he placed over the heads of seniors postal officials who were engaged at the chief polling places in his electorate. Mr. Page. - Who is this?
– A Minister.
– Then he ought to be here to make some reply.
– I certainly think that he ought to be.
– He is sick.
– I have no desire to delay the passing of these Estimates and the covering Bill to-night, so that the Senate may proceed to deal with them to-morrow. That was the arrangement whenwe left on Friday for our homes, but, for some reason, an honorable member opposite deemed’ it wise that the further consideration of these Estimates should be postponed until today. From the same quarter, this afternoon, we have had a lengthy debate respecting a certain case.
– A lot has been discovered since Friday, hence the debate to-day.
– Quite so. I wish to ask the Treasurer whether the number of hands’ for whom he has provided in the Additional Estimates is all that has been requested of him by the PostmasterGeneral. In other words, has he given the Postmaster-General the full number of additional employes for whom he has applied ?
– Both Ministers assent to that ?
– Then there will be no further excuse, so far as the PostmasterGeneral is concerned, on the score of want of men?
-Not this year.
– The PostmasterGeneral is now obtaining all the additional hands for whom he has asked?
– Up to the present.
– For the next six months, I should hope.
– I do not know what will be done next ; the Post and Telegraph Department is a very erratic one.
– So I should imagine. It has lately been guilty of some very erratic acts, and I propose to make a few observations about one, to which allusion has just been made by the honorable member for Robertson. A very unwise attitude has been adopted by the PostmasterGeneral, as well as by his predecessor, towards the Public Service Commissioner. I venture to say that if names were excluded from the correspondence which has been laid before us, and honorable members did not know who had written the memoranda, they would come to the conclusion that Mr. Scott was the Public Service Commissioner, and that the Commissioner himself was really a subordinate officer in the Department. The militant and patronising tone adopted byMr. Scott in this correspondence is entirely misplaced. It conveys the impression that he has been trying to bully the Commissioner to do what the Commissioner thinks ought not to be done. That tone should not be adopted by an officer who is supposed to be under the absolute control of the Public Service Commissioner. If the Public Service Act does not apply to the highly-placed officers of the service - if it breaks down when it is applied to the heads of Departments - it breaks down when it is put to theonly real test that can be applied to it. If the Commissioner is to be subjected to such an indignity in relation to highly-placed officials, how can we expect loyal service on the part of the lower-grade officers?
– Surely the Secretary would not write in the way mentioned by the honorable member if the Minister had not authorized him to do so.
- Mr. Scott distinctly says that he is authorized by the Minister so to write.The Minister should not have given a direction for such correspondence to be addressed to the Commissioner.. I can conceive of nothing more destructive of the discipline of the Department than that officers in subordinate positions should be able to read that the Minister had directed that the Commissioner should be treated in this way. And for what? Simply because, acting on proper grounds, he said that in his judgment there ought not to be two heads in the one Department.That isan unassailable position to take up. Mr. McLachlan says that trouble will ensue if there betwo administrative heads in the one Department. In other words, he stands up for full and clear responsibility on the part of the man at the head of the Department, and it is possible to fasten him to that responsibility only when he is made solelyresponsible for his own Department. Inthat respect, the Commissioner has adopted an attitude whichwill commend itself to every’ business man outside the Department, aswell as to every well-balanced officer in it. If we have at the head of the Department two men adopting different attitudes with respect to different questions - if we put Mr. Oxenham on the same administrative plane as Mr. Scott - what will be the position ? Mr. Oxenham will have co-equal power with Mr. Scott.
– Duties may be delegated to him by the Minister.
– The moment the Minister delegates co-equal powers to these two officers; he will lay the foundation of serious trouble.
-There is no trouble in New Zealand, where the position is exactly the same.
– There is no analogy between New Zealand and the Commonwealth. New Zealand is a comparatively small country to administer, and the Assistant Secretary of the Department there occupies the same position as a chief clerk in one of our State Departments.
– He is an administrative officer.
– Of course he is. His position is precisely that of a chief clerk in a State Department, and his salary is about the same. The PostmasterGeneral has placed Mr. Oxenham - the Assistant Secretary - in a position of superiority so far as all the Deputy PostmastersGeneral are concerned.
– No ; the Deputy PostmastersGeneral are also administrative officers.
– They are; but their decisions are liable to be controlled in every way by Mr. Oxenham in the Central Office.
– Why did Colonel Outtrim retire from the position of Deputy Postmaster-General of Victoria ?
– Because he was disgusted with the service, and he left for the same reason that many of the strong men are leaving. The moment they reach the age limit, or get near to it, they are glad to go, find it is one of my chief complaints that the best men are being driven out. In New South Wales, at the presentmoment, there is one man taking his six months’ leave preparatory to retiring, who is as strong a man and as able to serve his country as any one inthe service. I refer to Mr. Russell - a hardy independents-minded man, who is leaving the moment he is entitled to do so, because he will not tolerate the humbug of the central administration.
– He has never said a word about that.
– Whatever he may have said, that, I believe, is the true reason, and it is the true reason with many other good men.
– It is about time that somebody “shook” up the New South Wales officials.
– All I can say is that the man I refer to, who has just been “ shaken “ out, was one of the best in the Department; and if the honorable member for Barrier thinks that to be good for the Department I do not share his opinion. We may appoint Committees or Commissions, but we shall do no good until we encourage the ablest officials to stay and do their best. There must be something radically wrong when officers high in the service are glad to go immediately they are entitled to do so.
– It is most unusual for men to be glad to leave the Government service. Did you ever hear of any one glad to do so?
– I am a humble example; I took a “ header “ and left one of the best billets in the Public Service.
– We are told by the Postmaster-General that he has succeeded in obtaining all the hands he needs, andthat everything is rectified.
– So far as the officers’ salaries are concerned.
– We have the statement that since Federation the Post and Telegraph Department has earned 30 per cent. more revenue and spent 20 per cent. in earning it. We have had a few boom years since Federation, and, with a rising revenue, there cannot be said to be much starvation in face of the figures I have quoted.
– That all depends on conditions.
– Quite so; and I assume that the conditions were normal, as, indeed, they were at the time of Federation. We are told that there is an accumulation of requirements, which necessitates special provision and so we find now that there is a revenue 5 per cent. higher, an expenditure 11 per cent. higher, new appointments 14 per cent. of the total ; and that, in spite of the booming returns, there is a deficit of£352,000.
– That is, charging to revenue the public works for this year.
– These calculations leave out of account interest, which, if it be added, means that the Department is losing £600,000 or £700,000 sterling.
-Sofar as I can see, the interest would be from £180,000 to £190,000.
– Well, say £200,000 - this shows a loss of nearly £600,000.
– If the honorable member spent £10,000 on building a new wing to his warehouse would he call it a loss because it was charged to one year ?
– That is not the point. I am not suggesting that the Department should be made to pay ; but I do suggest that, while there has been a very exceptional outgo, a considerable influx of new hands,a heavy deficit on the year’s transaction, and we have been told that the Department is sweated and starved, that discontent is seething throughout, and that there is something wrong.
-That is not correct.
– That is the statement made; and may I ask the PostmasterGeneral how he accounts for it. We have had placed before us a statement of the benefits which the officers have enjoyed since Federation in the shape of longer furloughs, more holidays, and more overtime. According to the statement everything seems to be “ as right as right can be.” If this be correct, we have the curious position that the better the condition of the men the more the discontent.
– I do not know that discontent does rule.
– Then the PostmasterGeneral is the only man who does not know. In my judgment, things are far from right. I was not here last Friday, or I should have taken exception to the unmanly action of the Postmaster-General when he tried to fix the blame for the trouble on the Deputy Postmasters-General of the States.
– I did not try to do that ; the honorable member is under a wrong impression.
– The PostmasterGeneral distinctly told honorable members that he was not getting the support to which he was entitled from the Deputy Postmasters-General.
– Not in that language.
– That is the language as I understand it; and no one can conceive a greater reflection on the men who are performing the duties of Deputy PostmastersGeneral in the States.
– It is a serious charge against the Deputy Postmasters-General.
– It is a serious charge, especially when the PostmasterGeneral first of all condemns the Deputy Postmasters-General, and, in the next place, is glad to pay his tribute of admiration to the central staff.
– That is not correct - it is only half the truth. I bore testimony to the fact that the vastmajority of the officers of the Department were doing their best.
– Did the PostmasterGeneral not say that the Deputy PostmastersGeneral were not doing their best?
– No, I did not.
– The Minister said that he did not get the assistance that he expected from them.
– Is that casting any reflection ?
– I can conceive of no graver reflection upon the Deputy Postmasters-General than that the PostmasterGeneralshould have said such a thing about them. Had I been here I should have challenged the remark instantly. I venture to say that the deputies are striving their very utmost to do their duty, and so far as my knowledge of them goes, they have any thing but a rosy time of it. I know an officer in Sydney who acted as temporary Deputy Postmaster-General for some months. He is a man of ability and loyalty, as the Minister knows. When a selection had to be made of a Deputy PostmasterGeneral for that State this man would not put in an application for the position. He had had quite enough of it. He was only there six months and did not want to occupy the position any longer. When we see this kind of thing going on through all the ranks of the service from the bottom to the top we must recognise that there is a want of tone and effective control. At the same time there must be a want of sympathetic treatment somewhere or other from the head of the Department. I do not. pretend to say where the trouble is, except that I believe it to be at the head. I will not mention names. It is not a nice thing to do at all. But I do say that we ought to stop blaming those at a distance. It is very cheap and easy to do it, but these men are doing their best to grapple with a serious position in the States, whilst at headquarters the red tape is being lengthened by the mile.It is time that some protest was made when we find Minister after Minister bespattering the central authorities with praise for all that they do, whilst superior officers in otherparts of the Continent are blamed. I do not believe in that kind of thing. I do not think that such treatment is just or is deserved. Honorable members have only to look at the correspondence which has been laid upon the table to see the source of the trouble in this Department. I draw attention to this opening sentence in the minute of the Secretary of the Department -
It has been evident for some considerable time past that the number of senior and responsible officers in the central office of this Department has not been sufficient to cope with the work. It was anticipated that after a time the volume of work would diminish, in which event the difficulties under which the staff, including myself, have laboured would have been lessened or removed. This anticipation has notonly not been realized, but the work has been increasing in volume and importance from year to year, until with the few senior officers available it has become unmanageable.
If honorable members will think over that for a moment they will see that the beginning of the trouble is undue centralization. There it is, and it unconsciously comes out at the very beginning of this correspondence. If honorable members will read the correspondence through they will see that the same note dominates the whole Department. I therefore say to the Minister that if he wishesthe service to be satisfactory and efficient he will remedy this state of things. I am only saying now what I have said for the last seven years.I feel inclined to turn up some of the debates of former years to show how completely I forecasted what has exactly come about. The Minister can appoint what Committees he likes, but unless he insists upon a thorough devolution of power no better results will be shown in the future than have been shown in the past.
– The only justice we can get isfrom the Central Office. I am for the Central Office every time. That is my experience.
– The honorable member’s experience has. been a happy one. I admit that his electorate is peculiarly placed, and I have no doubt that he has not suffered from some disabilities which have attached to honorable members in other instances. I wish him joy in his efforts, and am glad that he is succeeding. In my judgment this Cabinet Committee can do no good. I believe that it has been simply appointed to stall off inquiry for a little while. It is a political movement and nothing else. Something had to bedone, and so the Government said, ‘ We will do this in the Cabinet and then, perhaps, we shall satisfy those people outside. “. But when a Cabinet appoints a Committee to inquire into the working of a Department over which a Minister presides it is time for that Minister to consider his own position. Instead of taking the Chairmanship of the Committee thus appointed he ought to realize his own responsibility. I hope that my honorable friend will not think that there is anything personal in these remarks. But it is time for the Minister in charge of his Department to consider where he stands in relation to the Cabinet and the country. The Government may have their Committee, who may go all over Australia, but they “will not bring about content in the service. They will not obtain the requisite evidence to enable them to arrive at a just decision. They will not find that many subordinate officers will be prepared to stand up to the Minister and the Secretary, who may happen to be there. Not many of the underpaid men in the service will be prepared to tell the Minister to his face that he is not treating them properly.
– Some of them have stood up to me, and told methings pretty plainly.
– A few of them may do so. But that is not the way to get the best results. This inquiry will come to nought, as in my judgment it is intended to do. It is meant to stave off pressure. But the public will not be satisfied with anything short of a thorough investigation, and that, in my judgment, they are entitled to have. My idea would be to get a few of the best business men in this House.
– Hear, hear ; I thought the honorable member was going to say from outside; but as he says from this House, I agree with him.
– I think we should have both.
– Now I do not agree with the honorable member.
– I do not see why we should not appoint one or two firstclass business men from outside, with one or two who might be selected from this House and from the Senate. Much, in my opinion everything, would depend upon the personnel of the Committee, and, we should have a Committee of independent men, who would be able to bring their business acumen to bear upon the methods and procedure adopted in this Department, and see whether they could not unravel the tangled skein which is at present causing so much trouble right through it. I sincerely hope that that will be done. If there is to be a division upon these Estimates, I shall be compelled to vote in such a way as will express my view of what the Government have done in regard to the appointment of this Committee of the Cabinet, and to emphasize the necessity, in my judgment, of a thorough investigation of the working of this Department.
– I hope that the Minister will now listen to reason. If this were a Wednesday or a Thursday night the position would be different. I have sat up all night with Ministers on more than one occasion, but it has always been understood that on Tuesday nights, as honorable members have been travelling during the day, we should adjourn at about half-past ten o’clock, and it is now nearly half-past eleven o’clock.
– The honorable member would postpone the settlement of the Federal Capital question ; for that is what an adjournment now would mean.
– That does not frighten me. TheFederal Capital question is not a burning question in my constituency.
– Unless we pass these Estimates to-night, the Senate will have nothing to do.
– I am not at all troubled about the Senate.
– It was understood that they would be passed to-night.
– If Ministers have so arranged the business of Parliament that there is nothing for the Senate to do, that is not the. fault of honorable members. It is not unreasonable to ask that we should now report progress. The Estimates of the Post and Telegraph Department are very important, and this is only the second day on which they have been under debate. Does the Minister propose to report progress ?
– We must go on ; we cannot help it.
– I understand that there is a motion before the Committee for a reduction of £1 in the salary of the Secretary of the Central Staff, which has been moved for a particular purpose. Personally I am not prepared to support that motion, because, although Mr. Scott is at the head of the Central Office, I have a very great admiration for the way in which he conducts the business of the Department.
– The motion is not aimed at Mr. Scott personally.
– I admit that that is so. I think it is unfortunate that the salary of each Minister does not appear at the head of the Estimates for his Department.
– What a nice time he would have if it did?
– I believe that that used to be the practice in New South Wales.
– It is the practice in the House of Commons.
– It used to be the practice in New South Wales.
-I thought so.
– No; it is a statutory salary.
– The honorable member for Parramatta, who was “at one time Postmaster-General of New South Wales, says that it was the practice there, and we know it is the practice in the House of Commons, because we have a case in point where, when Mr. CampbellBannerman was Minister of War, a reduction of £1 was moved in his salary, which led to the defeat of the Liberal Party. I think it would be an admirable thing to adopt that practice here, because, if honorable members were dissatisfied with the management of a particular Department, it would be possible to deal with the matter effectively by moving a reduction of £1 in the salary of the Minister in charge of it. I take it that the motion for a reduction of £1 in Mr. Scott’s salary is intended as a vote of want of confidence in the working of the Post and Telegraph -Department.
– And as a protest against the retention of some officers who are over 65 years of age, while the services of others are dispensed with.
– I take it that the motion in this case is a motion of want of confidence in the working of the Department generally. Although Mr. Scott has reached the retiring age, I am personally very glad that the Government have decided to retain his services. I should be glad to see his services retained for the next twelve months, and probably for some time longer.
– Does not the honorable member think that some other officers who have been turned out because they have reached the retiring age, are just as capable of doing their class of work?
– I am unable to say, as I am not acquainted with the circumstances in their cases. Compulsory retirement of an officer after he has reached a certain age is a very good provision as a general rule, and I should like to see its application extended even to the High Court; but where there are special reasons for retaining the services of a particular officer, the Minister should have the power to retain them. I have said that I am glad that Mr. Scott’s services have been retained,. We have heard from the honorable member for Parramatta a strong defence of the Deputy Postmaster-General of New South Wales, and of the staff generally in the head-office at Sydney. We have heard that they -are unduly interfered with by the Central Office of the Department. I have only to say that since I- became a member of the Federal Parliament, and even before that,
I- have not been very favorably impressed by the way in which the authorities of the head-office in Sydney treated the constituency I represent, which is as much a part of New South Wales as is Parramatta, or any other constituency in that State. Since the establishment of the Federal Parliament, and after bringing grievances existing in my constituency under the notice of the Central Office, I have been blocked in my efforts -to obtain justice and fair play. I might instance a number of cases, but I shall mention one in particular. It has been said that the Central Office of the Department deals unfairly with the staff at the head-office in Sydney ; but this is the way in which the head-office in Sydney treats subordinates in the back-blocks of New. South Wales: Some time since, a young fellow was engaged as a temporary hand at Broken Hill, and was paid 25s. a week. He was entitled, after a time, to a holiday of four weeks. He went up for . his examination, asked for four weeks’ holiday, and obtained it. Whilst on holiday lie discovered that he had failed in the examination, and consequently was unable to go on to the permanent staff. But in the midst of his holiday’ he was asked by then Department to go into the office and do certain work. He did so, and when he found that he could, not ‘become a permanent hand, and his time was up, he asked to be paid for the time that he had put in at the request of the Department during his holidays. That seemed to be a fair and just demand. The postmaster at Broken Hill sent the claim on, but the Deputy Postmaster-General in Sydney refused to pay the lad for the two or three weeks for which he had worked during the holiday to which he was entitled. I brought the case before the Central Office in Melbourne, and Mr. Scott said he’ must have a report, although from the way in which I put it he admitted that it appeared unjust that the lad should not be paid. He added,, however, that “‘there were always two sides to a question,- and he must hear the other side. I am. glad to know that the boy was eventually treated justly, and received the amount that he claimed. ‘ That case does not show any very great fair play on the part of the head .office in Sydney towards those in subordinate positions. In order to show how ‘things are conducted from the’ head office in Sydney, I may state that this lad, when acting temporarily in the hope of getting a permanent position, was paid 25s. a week. It was thought that some one else could be got to take his place, but he was asked to go on for a few weeks. The postmaster at Broken Hillwas quite prepared, and, in fact, wished, to employ him. The head office in Sydney said it would employ him, but could pay him only 20s. a week. The young fellow refused the offer, and as a compromise they offered him 22s. 6d., but, he was able, as the Hill was booming at the time, to get some other employment, and so left the Department. That business was conducted, not through the Central Office in Melbourne, but through the great and mighty head office in Sydney. My opinion is that the Sydney office ought to be bustled, and I shall be very glad if the central or some other office does bustle it.
– The honorable member is making ex parte statements. I should like to hear the other side.
– I presume the honorable member did not make ex parte statements when defending the head office in Sydney as against the Central Office in Melbourne.
– I did not cite any cases.
– Some of the deputies have done their best.
-I am dealing only with the State of which the honorable member for Parramatta and myself are representatives. I have nothing to do with deputies in other States.
– The case cited by the honorable member shows, on the face of it, that there is something more to be said. I cannot conceive of the head office in Sydney fixing those salaries without reference to the Central Office.. The honorable member must bear in mind also that the Central Office may set aside their recommendations, but the Sydney office cannot set aside those of the Central Office.
– The Sydney office did.
– WhenI went to the Central Office in Melbourne, Mr. Scott said that if the case was as I stated it, the lad seemed to have been unjustly treated, and when the matter was further investigated and brought before the Commissioner, the Commissioner recommended that payment should be made. I did not intend to say anything with regard to that matter until I heard the honorable member for Parramatta’s remarks. I wish to know whether the Postmaster- General intends to make the toll system universal throughout Australia. At present, every new subscriber must come under it, but those who had telephones previous to a certain date are allowed to continue on the flat rate. The time has come for the Minister to extend the toll system throughout Australia. Either the flat rate is better than the toll System, or the toll system is better than the flat rate. If we are not prepared to make the toll system universal, then we should do away with it, and allow those who are now compelled to come under it to have the flat rate. I believe I was the first in this House to advocate the toll system. I have always believed in it. One argument which had great weight with me was that the people with large businesses received under the flat rate a great deal more service from the Department than they were paying for. The very fact that a large number of people are coming under the toll system confers added benefits on those who remain under the flat rate. Whilst the telephone service is not as good as it ought to be, because of the great pressure that exists - and sometimes I believe we are a little unreasonable when we want an answer immediately we go to the telephone - we must remember that it has gone ahead by leaps and bounds, and that the Department, not being able to get the wire or the instruments, has not been able to cope with the demand for new telephones. Those under the toll system do not use the telephone as often as they would if under the flat rate, because they will naturally be more careful, and that means that those who still remain under the flat rate are reaping a large advantage from the very fact that so many come under the toll system. If that is so, the time has come when we may reasonably expect those who are deriving great advantages under the flat rate to be brought under the toll system. I should like some official pronouncement from the Minister, before the vote is taken on the amendment, as to whether he proposes to bring under the new system those who are now receiving much greater services than they pay for.
– Some of those under the toll system are virtually on the flat rate, because they use the telephone very little. You shouldgive a refund to those people.
– Thatraises quite another question. The Government are charging too much for the toll system. The telephone shouldgo into a person’s home for .about a guinea as a retaining fee, and a certain amount should be charged from the very first conversation. I know that my proposal to make the toll system universal will touch the well-to:do. Unfortunately,, we are prepared, even in this House, elected as we are by adult suffrage, to touch the poor a great deal more readily than we are prepared to touch the rich. The people who are under the flat rate system at the present time are no doubt business, and wealthy persons. ‘ I hope that before the item is passed, the Minister will be good’ enough to state whether he purposes to adopt the toll system.. I should like that system to be introduced generally, and the Department to provide a neat little box into which any person could drop a penny who desired to use the telephone, even in private houses. It would make no difference to the Government so long as the toll telephone was used, because they would be paid, but under the flat-rate system the Government naturally objected to the telephone being used by any one except the subscriber. I believe that if the toll system were introduced generally, it would help, the telephone branch, because a great deal more revenue would be obtained than is now received. The service could be extended, and the charges reduced. I understand that some reference has been made to the possibility of separating the telegraph and telephone branches. I desire to know if the Minister intends to take any step in that direction, and- if so, when it is likely to be taken. I also wish to know when he intends to lay upon the table a report showing the expenditure and income in connexion with each post-office throughout the Commonwealth. It is only fair that honorable members should be furnished with that detailed information instead of being told, as at present, that the Department earns and spends so much per year. I should like the Minister to tell the Committee when a Commonwealth postage stamp is likely to be introduced. It is seven years since .the Commonwealth was established, and, in my opinion, the time has arrived when we should have a Commonwealth stamp, which could be used in any State. In the first session of the first Parliament, when a Post and Telegraph Rates Bill was under consideration, I moved the insertion of a clause providing that a Commonwealth stamp should be brought into use within two or three months from the passing of that measure. The Prime Minister asked me not to press my proposal because, he said, that what I desired would be done as early as possible. He certainly gave us the impression that it would not be long before it was done, but he did not want the exact time to be prescribed in the Bill.- On that understanding, my amendment was withdrawn. Years have passed since then, and it appears to me that nothing has been done.
– A good deal has been done.
– The Commonwealth stamp has not yet arrived. Those who travel from State to State have to carry postage stamps of the various States. It was only, last evening that a stranger asked me on the railway station at Murray Bridge whether I would .be good enough to post in Melbourne two letters which he had forgotten to post at. Adelaide.. I replied that I would gladly oblige him, but it was possible that I might forget to post his letters on the day I arrived. He said he. was quite willing to take the risk. As lie handed the letters to .me, I observed that each bore a South Australian stamp, and so I told him that it would be of no use for me to post them in Melbourne. Whatever has been done in the matter of providing a Commonwealth stamp has been done in the dark. It is hot known generally that one can obtain a Commonwealth stamp. Perhaps the Minister will explain what has been done.
– There is no Com- monwealth stamp.
– I said that nothing had ‘ been done in the matter, but the PostmasterGeneral replied that something had been done. At any rate, I have not vet seen a Commonwealth stamp, and I am very anxious to learn when it is likely to be introduced. I wish to know also what has been done in regard to the inspectors. This is another matter which I presume has been fixed up by the head office in Sydney, though, no doubt, the Central Office has had to agree to it. The’ Secretary to the Department desired at first that New South Wales should be divided into districts as Queensland was, with an inspector in charge of each. I thought the idea a capital one ; though the inspectors, who lived in Sydney, and the head office there, opposed it. But after the matter had come before Parliament several times, the Honorable Sydney Smith, when Post- master-General, agreed’ that the division should be made. It is not, however, quite satisfactory. . My . own electorate, for instance, has been divided very badly, and forms part of the districts of two inspectors, one of whom goes as far as Wilcannia, and the other as far as White Cliffs. Therefore, if anything has to be done at Wilcannia, it is. necessary to bring an inspector from Wagga, while to do anything at White Cliffs, an inspector has to be brought from Orange.
– If I were at the head of the Department, I would correct all these things.
– Unfortunately the honorable gentleman- is not. I ask the Committee whether it thinks that it was a brilliant thing for the head office in Sydney to so subdivide New South Wales that two inspectors have to travel all the way round by way of Victoria and South Australis! to get to the district which I represent? We have heard a great deal about the way in which the men in the head office in Sydney have been treated. We have been told that able and distinguished officers are being driven out of the service. It is about time’ that some of them were driven out, if they cannot make better arrangements than that of which I am complaining. Another matter upon which 1 wish information has to do with works expenditure. We have been told that there is not sufficient money to carry out necessary works. Now, a telephone has been promised for a long time past for a mining township called the Pinnacle, 9 or 10 miles from Broken Hill. I have received letters from the Department to the effect that reports have been received, and that the work will be commenced as soon as possible.
– I think that the appropriation has been made. If not, it will be made.
– It has been made.
– If the Minister .will give me his assurance that, if not made, it will be made, I shall sit down at once.
– It will be made.
.- At this hour of night, I have no intention of making a long speech ; but there are one or two matters to which I must draw the attention of the Postmaster-General, even if I have to speak until to-morrow morning. We have heard a good deal about the general dissatisfaction with the Post Office administration. No terms could be too strong to use in condemnation of the condition of the service. I do not blame the present POSt.. masterGeneral, although he has had more experience than many would admit, since before receiving his portfolio he acted as sort of relieving Minister. The appointment of a Cabinet Committee of Inquiry is altogether unsatisfactory. Nothing short of a Royal Commission, consisting of business men in and out of Parliament, will be sufficient to make a thorough investigation.
– Have we not sufficient ability in the House?
– The introduction of a little ability from outside would not be prejudicial to the inquiry. I should like to’ know whether the Postmaster-General does not consider that the practice of appointing to post-offices in large provincial towns men who have seen long service in remote country districts is unsatisfactory. Take, for instance, the position in regard to the post-office at West Maitland,where we have had for some time an officer who is practically past all useful work. His case may be somewhat exceptional, since he has not enjoyed the best of health. He is approaching the retiring age, and consequently, as he could not hope for any higher salary, could not be blamed, perhaps, if he simply, marked time during the remaining term of his service. He has been granted six months’ leave of absence, and his office is now being filled by a younger man, who is receiving a much lower salary, but is doing much better work. I understand that no permanent appointment can be made until the retiring officer’s leave has expired. and that the relieving officer cannot be appointed to the position because he is a junior in the service. It is probable that an officer who has reached the maximum salary in his class will be brought fromthe back-blocks and placed in charge. I hope that the Postmaster-General will consider this question, and determine whether it is not better to appoint as postmasters in large .provincial towns active officers whohave proved themselves capable men, although .they may be receiving comparatively small salaries, rather than officers frombackcountry offices, on the ground that they have reached a certain age, and the maximum salary of their class. In many counts y districts telephones are needed moreurgently than in some of our cities. Thepeople residing iri such districts frequently require to send over long distances urgent messages for medical assistance. Most of them are practically pioneers; they are hard workers, and are willing to assist theDepartment in making these extensions by- supplying some of the material required, as well as by contributing towards the proposed expenditure; but they have not, and do not, receive the consideration that should be extended to them. Money has been wasted on the construction of a telephone line between Sydney and Melbourne, which is not likely to pay for some years, while country districts have been practically starved.
– That is not correct ; I must take the part of the PostmasterGeneral in regard to that matter.
– The Treasurer takes the part of the Postmaster-General to a greater extent than he ought to do. I know of a case in which a word from him would have enabled a district to secure that for which it had asked for many weeks.
– The honorable member desired me to supply money for a certain work.
– No; it was a comparatively trifling want ; but I shall make no further reference to it, since I do not want to create friction between Ministers. Complaints are repeatedly made regarding delays in connexion with the trunk line between West Maitland, Newcastle, and Sydney. An expensive line has been constructed, as I have mentioned, between Melbourne and Sydney, but although the charge in respect of the West MaitlandNewcastleSydney trunk line is nearly the same, subscribers have often to wait for hours to get connected. I appeal to the Postmaster-General to give special attention to this complaint. He has promised that the service will be improved, but his promises so far have not been fulfilled. I agree with the remarks made by the honorable member for Barrier regarding the postal inspectors. In our country districts, we have two inspectors, where there should probably be six, and consequently 1 they have so much travelling to do that their duties cannot be satisfactorily carried out.
– The Treasurer says that he has no more money.
– I do not.
– The Treasurer has the necessary funds, but to my mind they are badly distributed. The Deputy PostmastersGeneral should have a much freer hand ‘than they have at present. I am informed that before even a telegraph pole can be erected m a country district, the necessary permission must be obtained from the central administration. The
Department should not be administered in such a way. The Deputy PostmastersGeneral are engaged from morning, until night in writing and signing letters, and are unable to supervise the work of the Department. They should be given “more freedom, and a system of decentralization should, as far as possible, be adopted.
. - I hardly thought it worth while to discuss these Estimates, but, in view of the extraordinary success of the honorable mem- ‘ ber for Barrier and the honorable member for Grey, I propose to make a few observations.
– The matter to which the honorable member refers relates to a promise which was’ made to me, and provision for which was once made on’ the Estimates.
– Does the honorable member think it singular that promises should have been made to him? Year after year, in connexion with the consideration of the Estimates, I have had promises made to me; but have not been able to obtain their fulfilment. As the Treasurer appears to be in a yielding mood, I think it desirable, however, to again bring forward certain grievances, although my experience is that very little is gained by discussing the Estimates. It is true that the Post and Telegraph Department’ does not deal hurriedly wilh any question that comes within its purview. If the Ministry imagine that the discontent in the service will be allayed, or the demand for an investigation removed, by the appointment of the Cabinet Committee of Inquiry, ‘they are making a huge mistake. It seems somewhat farcical that members of the Cabinet should be appointed to inquire into their own acts.
– It is probable that the honorable member thinks not, but, at the same time, it is simply appealing from Caesar to Caesar.
– This is by no means a new experience.
– That may be, though I never heard such a proposal as a means of satisfying the public mind whether or not a Department was administered properly. No doubt the Postmaster-General will act as President of the Committee,” and the officers consulted will probably tell them that they fully agree with the policy which has been followed. What possible good result can come from such an inquiry ? The
Postmaster-General could sit down in his office, and, discussing the matter with his colleagues, arrive at exactly the same results.
– Does not the honorable member think that he is pre-judging the case? Had he not better wait until the report of the Committee has been submitted ?
– Is the PostmasterGeneral going to bring in a report condemnatory of his own administration? If he does not bring in such a report he must bring in one saying that matters are all right.
– I am certainly not going to do anything of the kind suggested.
– Why does the Postmaster-General not .act as a Minister without calling upon other Ministers to assist him?
– Because the relationship of the Post and Telegraph Department to other Departments has to be considered, and also the relationship of officers to the Public Service Commissioner.
– Are these not ordinary Cabinet matters? .
– No, they are not.
– The more or less chaotic condition of the Department calls for an investigation ; and Parliament, I feel sure, will not be satisfied with an inquiry conducted by selected members’ of the Cabinet.
– Not even if the Cabinet Committee propose reforms which will remove anomalies.
– The PostmasterGeneral is very optimistic as to the result of the Cabinet inquiry, but such an inquiry must be more or less an absurdity, unless it is perfectly secret. To come to the proposal immediately before us, I do not care to vote for it, if it is intended as a .”hit” at Mr. Scott. Personally, I do not believe in this, system of compulsory retirement at the age of sixty-five. I think that such a rule shows the want of capacity on the part of those who are supposed to gauge the abilities and the remuneration of the officers ; because the mere fact that a man has reached the age of sixty-five does not prove anything as to his fitness.
– That was the age at which I arrived yesterday
– Further, if we make such a rule as to retirement, it ought not to be departed from. The honorable member for Barrier says that he does not know that any of the other officers who have been compulsorily retired at the age of sixty-five are capable of performing their duties^, but that he does know that Mr. Scott is. I am afraid that the position of the honorable member for Barrier is the position of Ministers, and also of the Public Service Commissioner. These gentlemen know of those who are immediately around them, and nothing about other officers. Those officers, who have the greatest amount of influence, and can bring it to bear on Ministers or the Commissioners, have a “pull” over others not so favorably circumstanced.
– I do not know that the Public Service Commissioner is “ getatable “ in that way.
– I am not suggesting, corrupt or irregular influence, but merely that people know best those facts and persons with whom they are brought most closely into contact. I suppose the Public Service Commissioner is responsible for reading the Public Service Act, somewhat unfairly, to mean that the retiring age of sixty-five, means actual retirement at sixty-four years and six months, with six months’ furlough preparatory to retirement. That seems to me to be rather a mean. way of dealing with an old hand. I am “chock full” of grievances, some of . which have been brought forward on many occasions. Some relate to cases, of injustice to public servants, some to South Australian offices. The Cabinet Committee cannot be expected to rectify many of the errors of administration and of neglect which have occurred.
– I recognise that in all probability an amendment of the Public Service Act will be necessitated.
– The alterations suggested by the Minister and his colleagues may, or. may not, receive the support of honorable members. Certainly the Government cannot trust to have their proposals blindly accepted, as many of their measures have been in the past. While I am not satisfied with the appointment of the Cabinet Committee as a means of allaying discontent or restoring public confidence, I admit that it. is very much a matter for Ministers themselves to decide upon. I, at all events, shall do my best to bring about a suitable inquiry with a larger scope, and including members of Parliament of all parties.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Boothby that we need a public inquiry into the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department. When the Government saw that I had put a notice on the businesspaper for the appointment of a Royal Commission of inquiry, I think it was a rather mean trick on their part to avoid full and impartial investigation by appointing a Cabinet Committee. I am satisfied that a number of the matters that require to be looked into relate to Ministerial acts. I do not think that a Committee appointed to judge its own acts will appeal to honorable members. There are one or two matters which I wish to bring under the notice of the Postmaster-General, and which require his attention. I have, on several occasions, had to complain of the dilatoriness of the Department in replying to correspondence. Latterly, as the result of complaints made some time ago, communications have been acknowledged on a printed form, but in many instances that is all that one hears about a matter, unless one writes again or interviews the Deputy Postmaster-General. I have received correspondence - perhaps from a member of the Council, of the local Progress Association - relating to some postal matter. I have forwarded it to the Department. It has been acknowledged. Perhaps I have lost sight of the matter for some months. But, on receipt of another letter from the persons interested, I have looked into the case again, and found that the Department has done nothing in the meantime.
– Can the honorable member give a specific case ?
– I have brought specific cases under the Minister’s notice.
– And I have given reasons in every instance.
– But not satisfactory ones. For a time there was an improvement, but then the Department fell back into the old state of neglect. Here is a specific instance which has been brought under my notice to-day. It is in connexion with such a simple matter as the erection of a pillar-box. A request was sent in from the Progress Association for the erection of a pillar-box at Wanstead. An inspector was sent out. and reported favorably upon the request.
– An ordinary letter carrier might report upon a matter of that sort.
– That is so; but I am showing the red-tape method adopted by the Department even in such a simple matter. After a time a notification was received that the matter had been approved, and that a receiver would be erected immediately. Some weeks went by, and then the Department received another reminder that the box had not yet been erected. That necessitated another visit to the Deputy PostmasterGeneral to ascertain the reason for the delay. Further reports followed from the officers, and later on advice was received that the matter would be attended to immediately. But only to-day I have received a letter which shows that the matter which months ago was to be attended to immediately has not yetbeen dealt with. The Postmaster-General asked me for a specific instance of the delays to which I referred, and I have given one. It is such cases as this which bringupon the Department deserved public discredit. I hope the PostmasterGeneral will inquire into the unnecessary delay to which I refer.
– The pillar-box might have been erected in much less time than was occupied in writing the correspondence connected with it.
– That is so, and the Committee must recognise the irritation caused by these delays, and the trouble to which honorable members are put, in having to make repeated visits to the authorities, and to write numerous letters about such comparatively trivial things when their time is already fullyoccupied with other public matters. These small matters, however, are important to the people immediately concerned. Another matter which I have tried time after time, though unsuccessfully, to have dealt with, is the practice followed in retaining the radius from the metropolisfixed for the application of penny postage, so far as New South Wales is concerned. I. have had many applications to deal with the matter from people residing just outside the area to which penny postage is extended. We can quite understand that some time ago it was reasonable to restrict the penny-postage area, but it ought to be understood also that from time to time, as population on the boundaries of the area increases, they should be extended. Under existing conditions, people on one side of a street enjoy the advantage of penny postage, whilst people on the other side of the same street have to pay 2d. for the same service.
– There must be some boundary.
– Yes; but, as population increases on the boundary, there should be some elasticityin the regulations which would permit of an extension of the boundary; so that, at least, people who live on different sides of the same road or street should not be treated differently in this matter.
– I could instance the case of a telegram being delivered free to a person on one side of a street and a charge of 6d. made for the delivery of a telegram to a person on the other side of the street.
– Does not that show the necessity for an amendment of the regulations governing these matters, or of the Postal Act itself?
– If the boundary is extended some one else will be dissatisfied.
– There should be a certain discretion left to the heads of Departments to meet cases of this kind. In ;ny constituency, Audley, Lily Pilly, and Port Hacking are just outside the pennypostage boundary, but in the1 last few years a large population has settled in those districts, and there is every indication that here will soon be as large a population just outside the boundary as there is just inside it. Does not the PostmasterGeneral think that, in order to meet cases of that kind, the time has arrived when there should be an amendment of the Postal Act, if that be necessary, in order to meet the needs of population settled just outside the present limits of the [jenny-postage areas. The only other matter to which I wish to draw attention at present is the question of time in lieu of money for Sunday services. In Victoria and, I think, in South Australia time and a half is given for Sunday work. But that is not done in New South Wales. .1 propose to quote an extract from a letter which describes very briefly what is done there -
There are about eighteen or nineteen men in the head office who perform night duty regularly, who have to be given a night off prior to Sundays, and consequently the night staff has two or three men of the regular staff off every night in the week.
– We took steps only today to have that altered.
– If the Minister tells me that that is going to be altered I will not read any more.
– Does the PostmasterGeneral intend to bring the Sydney practice into. line with Melbourne practice?
– What I -have stated applies generally to those unfortunate people in the service.
– They have what they call a perpetual roster, and they also put one man off so as to equalize their night work.
– And leave the staff short in order to do -it. As the Minister tells me that that is going to be remedied, I shall take up no further time.
– The question of age is an exceedingly difficult and complex one, and the Department has felt that to apply a hard-and-fast rule would be a. great mistake. There are cases of men physically and mentally quite capable, and to discharge them when they are doing good work is not right. There ought to be uniformity. The Public Service Act will have to be amended’ in several directions.
– There was never a Government yet that was game to tinker with that Act.
– What we propose to do will not be tinkering.
– Can the Minister indicate what the Government are going ‘to do?
– I cannot at this stage.
– Is there a feeling amongst some of the members of the Ministry that the Public Service Commissioner is doomed?
– I have never heard that feeling expressed in ‘the faintest degree.
– There is no such feeling.
– I have heard most loyal support given to him, and I have heard in the Ministry expressions of opinion that amendments are needed in the Public Service Act in the interests of the service and of the Commissioner.
– The Commissioner desires amendments.
– That is another matter altogether. They will receive consideration.
– The Government are not game to do it.
– I think it will be found that we are. With regard to the setting out of the financial position of each post-office in the Commonwealth, that has already been done, and the papers will be available in the course of a few weeks.
– What about the toll system and flat rate?
– That is too big a question to deal with to-night.
– What is the Minister going to do?
– I am going to consider the matter. The honorable member should not expect me to say right off what I am going to do on such a great question..
– Surely the honorable member has been thinking over it?
– I have been thinking over a good many things, including that big one. I could not promise definitely to-night to make such a far-reaching change as to put everybody on the toll system at once. An extra inspector is provided for in the Estimates, and the districts are to be re-allotted so as to prevent the anomaly that the’ honorable member pointed out.
– What about the penny postage radius?
– That is a matter that must be amended by Act of Parliament.
– What about an amendment of the Postal Act to do it?
– There is no chance of that this session. In regard to stamps, the Stamp Committee presented their report, which will be dealt with,’ but there can be no change until the expiration of the Braddon section.
– What has the Braddon section to do with it?
– The Braddon section and the financial arrangements have everything to do with it.
– I could understand the bookkeeping section affecting it.
– I refer to both. We are quite prepared to submit proposals in regard to a uniform stamp.
– Has the Minister, as Postmaster-General, or have the Government as a Government, given any consideration to the request that during the period intervening before the new mail contract with the Orient Company takes effect the Government of the Commonwealth should pay the extra amount which has to be paid at present by the Government of the State of Queensland to enable the mail steamers to go to Brisbane?
– Did not the House decide that in the negative on an amendment to test the question ?
– No. That test vote applied to the new contract. I am speaking of the old contract, which is now practically on the same basis as the new contract, to come into operation in 19 10. The interim contract contains practically the same conditions in regard to the carriage of mails on behalf of the Commonwealth, and that being so, the difference in cost during the interregnum ought to be borne by the Commonwealth Government.
– I do not think it ought to be. ,
– I have the, greatest respect for the honorable member’s opinion, but after all Queensland is the only State which has to make the payment, although temporarily it applies also to Tasmania. Of course nothing can be done except by the will of Parliament, but at present the Queensland State Government are paying the extra subsidy, because they could do no better. Any one examining the matter free from prejudice must, see that it is fair that the Commonwealth Government should pay, for the obvious reason that every State should have a share in the mail service, and that the service which is being carried on in the interval has all the restrictions contained in the new contract. I hope that the Postmaster-General and the Treasurer will consider this matter before the final set of Estimates is dealt with.
.I regret very much the answer given by the Postmaster-General regarding the installation of the telephone toll system. It seems to me, from his answer, that he has not yet discussed whether any step in that direction is to be taken. It practically means that nothing has been done in the Department, and that its policy is to allow things to drift. I did not expect him to say tonight that he intended to introduce the toll system to-morrow. But I certainly expected him to say whether it was intended to take any step in that direction.
– There is no doubt that it will come to the toll system.
– Has’ the Minister no idea as to the time when it will be established? For instance, will it be done in six months, or twelve years, or fifty years? Perhaps he will tell us that it cannot be done until the expiration of the Braddon section. I do not intend to support the proposal before the. Committee ; but had the salary of the Minister been under review, the probability is that I should have been prepared to vote for a reduction of it, because I feel that the matter of the toll system has not been discussed by him.
– It has been.
– I feel that the deliberate intention of the honorable gentleman is to allow things to remain just as they are.
– Then the honorable gentleman should have given us a more emphatic answer than he did.
– I could not state the exact time when it will be done.
– The honorable gentleman did not say whether it was the intention of the Ministry ultimately to bring all telephones under the toll system. AmI to understand now that that is the intention?
– It is my intention to recommend that.
– The Cabinet has not even come to a determination on that point ?
– Decidedly not.
– The honorable gentleman has not even recommended that to the Cabinet ?
– Can the honorable gentleman say when he will recommend it to the Cabinet?
– Do I understand that, personally, the. Minister is in favour of everybody coming under the toll system?
– I am sure that that must come.
– That is something gained, but not much, I do not intend to support the amendment, but it is my intention to bring this question of the toll system before the Chamber again and again, because it is manifestly unjust to compel some persons to come under the toll system and to give the greater advantages of the flat-rate system to others.
– A little time ago I, as leader of the Labour Party, was waited upon by a number of men who had been employed by the Department in dressing telegraph poles, and who, by some act of the Department, or the Public Service Commissioner, had been deprived of work to which they considered they were entitled. I think that they mentioned that, owing to some act of the Minister, they could no longer be employed in that way. I have already mentioned the matter to the honorable gentleman. If I remember aright all these men were tradesmen, who were employed at 10s. a day, until it was discovered by the Commissioner or the Department that they couldget younger persons to do the work at a cheaper rate. I should like the Minister to state whether there is any likelihood of these elderly persons being employed again on the work.
– The men to whom the honorable member has alluded were temporary employésin the pole-yard. After representations were made to various Ministers, that they, ought to be paid the rate of skilled labour, namely, 10s. a day, I made a minute in regard to their payment, and also the payment of temporary telephone fitters. I directed that the ruling rate outside should be paid inside the Department to temporary labourers over whom I had control. That was the order I issued, after the men had importuned me quite a number of times, because I felt that their request was a right one. Afterwards I had a conversation with the Commissioner, who is strongly of opinion that the work is classified too highly at 10s. a day. His officers agree with him that 8s. or 8s. 6d. a day is enough. He is doing whathe has the right to do under the Public Service Act. He is appointing permanent officers to perform the work at the rate which he has fixed, . and over which I have no control. He considers that the public will be better served by permanent employes, that the rate which he has adopted is ample, and that the people who have been receiving temporary employment have been well treated.
Question - That the item “ Secretary, £1,000 “ be reduced by £1 - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the item “Assistant Secretary, £700” be reduced by £1.
I do this, not because I think that the officer filling the position is overpaid, but because I think that the Government should have respected the recommendationof the Public Service Commissioner, and, if necessary, increased the maximum salary attainable by officers in the clerical division, so that other officers similarly situated might be treated in the same way. I also wish to enter my protest against the centralizationof routine business in the head office in Melbourne, when it could be done more effectually in the capitals of the States, under the direction of the Deputy Postmasters-General.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 190 (New South Wales), £976,964; division 191(Victoria), £684,153; division 192 (Queensland), £446,225; division 193 (South Australia) £262,684 ; division 194 (Western Australia), £288,799; and division 195 (Tasmania), £136,079, agreed to.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to-
That the Standing Orders be suspended in order to allow the report from the Committee of Supply to be adopted, and the Appropriation Bill 1907-8 to be passed through all - its stages without delay.
Resolution of Ways and Means, covering resolutions of Supply, adopted.
That Sir William Lyne and Mr. Mauger do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir William Lyne, and passed through all its stages.
House adjourned at1.12 a.m. (Wednesday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 April 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19080407_reps_3_45/>.