3rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m. and read prayers.
Mr. MAUGER presented a petition from Mr. John Robertson, M.A., of Ascot Vale, praying the House to take steps to demonetize gold, on lines which he desires to place before a Committee.
MILITARY SCIENCE LECTURES.
Mr. BOWDEN. - I wish to know from the Minister of Defence when the lectures of Colonel Foster in regard to the military defence of Australia., which his predecessor promised to publish, will be available to honorable members.
Mr. HUTCHISON. - A copy was laid on the table of both Houses yesterday, and ordered by the Senate to be printed.
Mr. HALL. - I ask you, Mr. Speaker, if a decision has yet been arrived at in regard to an alteration of the position of the Hansard typists, who are now engaged by the session?’
Mr. SPEAKER. - On the day following that on which the honorable member first called attention to the matter, in Committee of Supply, I asked the Principal Parliamentary Reporter to furnish a report on. the subject. That was done, and the report has been passed on to the President ; but, owing to the almost continuous sittings of the two Chambers during the past three days, we have not yet had an opportunity to arrive at a determination. I have not seen the President since yesterday.
HANSARD PERMANENT VOLUMES : PARLIAMENTARY PAPERS.
Mr. BOWDEN. - I wish to know if steps will be taken to have the permanent record of our debates of this session distributed to honorable members earlier than the distribution of last session’s volumes took place. We had to wait some months after the prorogation for them.
Mr. FISHER. - I presume that the indexing of the debates is a slow and tediouswork, and it, of course, precedes the publication. Still, I shall invite the Principal Parliamentary Reporter to expedite theissue as much, as possible. Those who cannot wait for bound volumes can obtain additional copies of the weekly issues.
Mr. SPEAKER.- For the information of the House, as well as the honorablemember for Nepean, may I add that, untilrecently, the rule has been enforced that none of the bound volumes of Parliamentary papers issued at the close of eachsession should be sent out to members until all were ready for distribution. I believethat that was an instruction to the Printing. Office by the Treasury, designed to save expense by preventing the sending out of several parcels to each member, instead of despatching everything at one time. However, arrangements have now been made toavoid the delays which it necessitated, and I think that there will be early delivery of the volumes in. question.
FEDERAL CAPITAL SITE.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS.- As the Prime Minister yesterday spoke of the* possibility of a visit by honorable members to the selected site or sites within the YassCanberra district, will the Minister of HomeAffairs arrange for the. trip before the reassembling of Parliament ?
Mr. MAHON.- It is rather early to- talk of visiting the selected Federal Territory. It is doubtful whether matters will be sufficiently advanced to permit of any inspection by honorable members before the next meeting of Parliament.
Mr. Henry Willis. - Surely Parliament will not meet again before June?
Mr. MAHON. - I am not in a position tomake a statement as to when Parliament is likely to reassemble, but my own. opinion is that honorable members could not with advantage visit the Yass-Canberra district before next session.
Mr. JOHN THOMSON.- Is the PrimeMinister disposed to . follow the example of some of the Governments of the States, and’ waive our rights of exemption from municipal taxation on post offices and other public buildings of the Commonwealth ?
Mr. FISHER. - I do not think that the Government would be justified in waivingCrown rights of exemption from taxation. .
– As a personal -explanation, I wish to say that I have read a, statement in to-day’s newspapers to the effect that yesterday the Minister of Defence made reference to a statement of mine regarding the non-decision–
– It is not competent for the honorable member to discuss anything that may have been said in the other branch of the Legislature.
– Then I will say that I have noticed the report in the pres that I made a charge against the honorable member for Eden-Monaro in connexion with a certain matter. I did not do anything of the kind, nor did I refer to him. I wish that to be clearly understood.
MINISTERS iaid upon the table the following paper -
Naval Defence - Report for 1907 by the Director of the Naval Forces.
Papua - Report for year ended 30th June, 1908.
Ordered to be printed.
Audit Acts - Transfers of Amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial “Year 1907-8 (dated 8t’h December, 1908).
Christmas Deliveries, Sydney General Post Office - New Telephone Switchboard, Sydney - Western Australian South-east Coast Mail Service - New South’ Wales Telephone Extensions - Ballarat-Clarke’s Hill Telephone.
– I wish to know from the Postmaster-General if steps have been taken to prevent delay in the Christmas delivery of letters and post-cards from the General Post Office, Sydney, such as occurred last year.
– Instructions have been given to thatend.
– Has the new telephone switchboard, so long promised, yet been installed in the General Post Office, Sydney, and, if so, will the PostmasterGeneral take steps to furnish an efficient telephone service for that citv ?
–I am not aware of the condition of the switchboard. Had the honorable member given notice of a question on the subject, I should have been supplied with all information. The Department will, of course, give the best service possible.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral yet heard from the Western Australian Government whether it is willing to assist in financing the cost of an improved mail service for the south-east coast of Western Australia ?
– Will the Prime Minister place at the disposal of the PostmasterGeneral a sum of money sufficient for the installation of telephone exchanges in several large towns of New South Wales which have hitherto been neglected.
– I have previously stated that all available funds will be placed at the disposal of the Postmaster-General for the improvement, not only in New South Wales but in the other States as well, of the services supplied by his Department.
– Did not the honorable gentleman say something about £50,000 being available?
– I mentioned the sum of £41,000,of which I think about £30,000 has already been placed at the disposal of the Postmaster-General.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice - :
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow . - -
9th Victorian Light Horse - Married Establishment, Permanent Forces - Discharge Fees - Ammunition Waggons.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister will look into this matter at the earliest opportunity, and his decision will be communicated to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister has not had time to deal with the questions of the honorable member, but will do so next week.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
First Line Transport?
– The answers to honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
I may say that some of these waggons have been delivered quite recently, but only for the artillery, so that thereis still a great deficiency. As to questions 6 and 7, I have not reliable information, but I hopeto be able to obtain it before the Houserises.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
If it is proposed to close the polling booth at Brookfield, New South Wales, and, if so, will he reconsider his decision in view of the fact that the closing of this polling place would cause the greatest inconvenience to a largenumber of electors in that district?
– I am not aware of any proposal to abolish the Brookfield polling; place in the Division of Hunter. If such’ a proposal should be made, it will be acted upon only if the fullest inquiries justify this course.
asked the Ministerof Home Affairs, upon notice -
With reference to the Commonwealth Map -
– The answers to the honorble member’s questions are as follow : -
Motion (by Mr. Thomas Brown) agreed to-
That a Return be furnished giving the area of land privately held in Papua, and granted either in fee-simple or under lease, for each of the following periods : -
June, 1883, to June, 1888.
June, 1888, to June, 1899.
June, 1899, to June, 1903.
June, 1903, to June, 1906.
June,1906, to June, 1908.
The total area of such lands held under fee-simple or in process of becoming such.
The total area of such lands held under lease, and general terms of such leases.
Bill returned from the Senate, with a request.
That the message be considered forthwith in Committee of the whole House.
In Committee -
Department of External Affairs.
Division II. (Administrative). - Secretary, £900.
Senate’s Request. - Reduce the item by£100.
– I move -
That the requested amendment be not made.
The salaries of nearly all the heads of the administrative staffs have been increased ; but apart from that, the Government regard as a deserving one the increase to which the Senate has taken exception. Mr. Atlee Hunt, the officer in question, remains at the salary he received when appointed eight years ago, and I believe that there are very few members of the Public Service in that position. Mr. Hunt is an efficient officer, who is obviously now more able to conduct the affairs of the Department than he was when first appointed.
– But the members of the Minister’s own party in the Senate refused to sanction this increase.
– Although the business of the Department of External Affairs is not so large as that of other Departments, still special ability is required in. the Secretary for the performance of delicate duties.
– I suppose that if the Secretary were to die it would be impossible to get any one to take his place !
– If ever there was slobber, this is !
– I must say that I am surprised at the extraordinary excitement behind me. To agree to the request of the Senate would be unjust to an officer who is doing exceedingly good work. It is not competent for me to make any reference to the debate which took place yesterday in another place, but I may say that statements have appeared in the newspapers which reflect very strongly on Mr. Hunt. I have in my hand a memorandum from him, in which he absolutely denies the statement in reference to an alleged interview with him which appeared in the Fall Mall Gazette - that there was want of discretion on his part in expressing the view that tropical agriculture only could be carried on in the Northern Territory. No such statement, Mr. Hunt says, was made by him, and, therefore, I hope the Committee will not allow themselves to be swayed by prejudice, but will look at the question fairly. Here is an officer who has not the Public Service Commissioner to rely on for increments; and I think he fully deserves the higher salary recommended by the Government.
– - It is most unfortunate that the administrative officers were not placed under the Public Service Commissioner from the first, because I amsatisfied that, if they had been, nearly the whole of them would probably have been receiving higher salaries than they are to-day, even with the recent additions. At the same time, I emphatically object to all these officers being placed on a dead level - to Mr. Atlee Hunt being placed on the same level as several other officers in charge of Departments. There is absolutely no comparison between the work performed by Mr. Hunt and that, for instance, performed by the Secretary of Home Affairs, the Secretary to the Attorney-General, and, especially, the Secretary to the Treasury. Some of the work performed by the Department of External Affairs may be of a delicate character, and require careful handling.
– It is very much more delicate than the work of some others.
– What is the use of talking like that? The Minister has not been in the Department five minutes, and he talks as though he had been there five years. No doubt the work requires a certain amount of careful handling, but, as a matter of fact, it is the lightest in the whole of the offices.
– And the honorable member says that, although he has never been in the Department even five minutes.
– I had occasion to look into what was being done in the Department, and I know that there is no comparison between the work of two or three departmental officers, who work night and day, and that of Mr. Hunt. If the latter is worth -/.goo a year, the Secretary to the Treasury ought to receive over £1,000. Of course,. I admit that there is some reluctance amongst honorable members to agree to an amendment requested by another place - a reluctance that I generally share; but there ought to be a differentiation between the salaries, according to the work and its importance.
– Surely the Minister has a right to submit a recommendation?
– Quite so ; but I have a reluctance to agree to a recommendation of this kind. However, as I should have voted for this reduction if a division had been taken when the item was originally before us, I intend to take the same course now.
– 1 congratulate the Ministry on the magnificent support they appear to be getting from their confreres behind them !
– The confreres of the Government are in front of them this time !
– The honorable member is quite right.
– That is where we have to look for renegades !
– I was about to say that such brutal conduct goes to my heart, and my sympathy wells out in floods to Ministers opposite. And the experience here has round its type in another place.
– I am not quite clear that this office is of so little importance, as suggested by the honorable member for South Sydney. While we assess the work of the various officers in regard to quantity, we ought not to lose sight of the delicacy and quality of the work. I can conceive of no more important duties than those appertaining to the Minister of External Affairs. It may be that Mr. Hunt has not to burn the midnight oil, and toil so perseveringly as do many other officers ; but I venture to say that his work is of supreme importance, and requires a great delicacy and tact in its performance. I cordially agree’ with the honorable member for South Sydney that all these officers should be under the Public “Service Commissioner.
– Cannot they be placed under the Commissioner?
– Yes, by amending the Public Service Act. When that Act was passed, it was supposed that these officers were under the control of the Commissioner ; but, since then, there has been an interpretation to a contrary effect. I venture to say, however, that these officers would be better off if they were under the control of the Commissioner, instead of being directly under the Minister of the Department. The Public Service Act is in danger of breaking down when superior officers are beyond the control of the Minister, and may talk to him as they please. Such a state of affairs destroys the responsibility of the whole Public Service administration, and has already caused some very strange results. I hope soon to see that anomaly rectified. The sooner it is, the better for the service as a whole, for its discipline, and for the superior officers themselves. I cordially agree with the honorable member for South Sydney in that regard. It would be unwise at this time of the session to traverse the merits of this officer. The head of every Public Service Department has received an increase of £100. Hitherto we have treated them all alike, and now for the first time we are asked to make a distinction which cannot be regarded as fair ,or satisfactory. Tf it is intended to differentiate these offices, let that course be taken by itself and away from such irritating influences as now obtain. It should not be done in connexion with the mere voting of an increase to a particular officer. I suggest that the Public Service Commissioner be “ permitted to reclassify the work and the value of it performed by these officers, with a view to altering their status and salary in accordance with his decision. I dislike this haphazard way of attacking an officer because of the personal dislike that some honorable members mav have towards him.
– That cannot be said of the vote taken in the Senate, which was pretty, solid. The honorable member said some hard, things about Mr. Atlee Hunt’s appointment in the first instance.
– I think not, although I may have said something as to the political colour of his appointment. I have not uttered a word as to his qualifications. To make the differentiation proposed will imply a reflection upon him, and I hope we shall leave the reclassification of these officers to a more convenient season. I wish to take advantage of this opportunity of congratulating the Government on their nearness to the shore of the recess. I presume we shall finish our labours to-day, but would remind the Prime Minister that as yet no reason has been given to .the country for his sudden appearance on the Treasury bench. There has been nothing in the nature of the proceedings since his advent to explain the cause of the change of Government.
– What has this to do with Mr. Atlee Hunt’s salary?
– I am anxious to learn the inside of this business. I admit that I am not likely to succeed ; but may I remind my honorable friends opposite who are so frivolous, that the country is somewhat concerned in the matter ? They laugh hilariously at the idea of the country being interested in anything they do, but they will find out before long that the country is deeply interested. I am anxious only for their welfare. I should not like them to find that the first question put to them when they go to the country would be “Why did you turn that Government out, and what have you done since you came in on their heels?”
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the question ? There is only one item before the Chair.
– I think I am perfectly in order in making some general observations with regard to the political situation on a question which practically re-opens the consideration of the Appropriation Bill.
– If I allowed the honorable member to take that course on a specific item, it would be possible for every honorable member to roam over the whole of the Estimates. The honorable member must confine himself to the item.
– I shall ask the Prime Minister, when the proper time arrives, to make some statement to the country before going into recess, as to the pro gramme and intentions of the Ministry with regard to the general government of Australia.
– The discussion on this item recalls events of about seven years ago, when 1 stood up to defend the character and ability of the gentleman whose salary is now under discussion. The Barton Government were charged at that time with acting unconstitutionally in appointing Mr. Hunt to the position of Secretary to the Department of External Affairs. I remember telling the House that I had had considerable experience of his ability as a member of the Bar, and had been much impressed with it. He and I had been three years together over one case, and J had many opportunities of observing his ability as a lawyer and practising barrister. We are all aware of what has piobably been the principal factor in leading to the invidious distinction made by another place between this officer and others occupying similar positions in the service. We ought not lo allow outside influences to interfere with our decision with regard to an office of this kind. We are dealing, not with the individual, but with the office, and should remember that in New South Wales the gentleman who fills an analagous position is called the principal UnderSecretary of State. Assuming, even, that this office is ‘not so important, or does not require such varied .ability, the officer who occupies it has even greater responsibilities, because he is made aware of every sort of communications with the Home Government, -and with the States, and his position ought to be highly re- ‘spected in Parliament. Although I championed him on the occasion of which I speak, with all the vigour of which I was capable, there have been occasions on which I have been slightly disappointed in him. He has often shown a want of balance. He has not quite grasped the secret that men in his position must know no party, but should discharge their duties as permanent officers, irrespective of political considerations.
– Then he was not so great as the honorable member first represented.
– I never said that he was great. There is a vast difference between greatness and ability. Although I still recognise his ability, T feel that on many occasions he has shown a lack of that balance which ought to characterize men in his position, and has yet to understand that a man holding an important permanent appointment in the Public Service of a country like this should be quite uninfluenced by party feeling2 and display the same courtesy towards members on one side of the House as towards those on the other. I do not think he . has always done that; but we ought not to visit such a shortcoming upon the office. The honorable member for Ballarat, the honorable member for South Sydney, and the honorable member for Wide Bay, who have all had Ministerial experience of Mr. Hunt’s ability, have expressed satisfaction with him. If he is fit to fill the position, lie is entitled to be treated in the same way as are other gentlemen occupying analogous positions in the service. If he is not fit for the position, he ought not to be there at all; but we should not confuse the office with the officer. Rather should we hold the office up for the admiration of other officers in the service who may aspire to reach it. We know that reasons quite outside the importance of the office have actuated the reduction requested by another place. We ought not to allow those reasons to operate, and the Government do right in vindicating their position as having control of the financial administration of the country. I do not agree with some of the observations made with regard to the necessity of putting the heads of Departments under the Public Service Commissioner. A departmental head has from time to time to advise the Commissioner as to the status of subordinate officers in his Department. We should make a very grave mistake if we deprived the head of each Department of that individuality and independence which he must possess, in order to be able to meet the Public Service Commissioner on terms of equality, and to discuss, quite independently, with him the merits of his officers. I take the continuance of Mr. Hunt in bis present position by the honorable member for Ballarat, the honorable member for South Sydney, and the honorable member for Wide Bay - all of whom seem to thoroughly approve of the way in which he performs his duties - as a strong credential in his favour. So long as he is considered fit to hold this position, we ought to look to the office itself, and see that it is not lowered in status, or in any way depreciated, by the salary attaching to St being reduced below that received by other heads of Departments.
.- If I were in search of a reason for dissenting from the view taken by the Minister of External Affairs, I should seek no stronger argument than has been advanced by the honorable member for Parkes, who has pleaded that we should consider, not the man, but the office. If the office is of such importance as he says it is, by all means let the salary go with it; and if the occupant of that office is unfit to hold .it, then let us get rid of him. It might be inferred, from the argument advanced by the honorable member, that those who favour this reduction are opposed to the office being ranked as high as it is, and that it is upon that ground we feel justified in agreeing to the request. The honorable member says, in effect, “I admit that Mr. Hunt is wanting in ballast, that he has failed to recognise His duty towards Members of Parliament, and that he may not be all that we expect of a man occupying such an office; but I plead with honorable members to let him have this salary of ^900 per annum.” Mr. Hunt worked very hard with the honorable member in New South Wales to keep the celebrated McSharry case going as long as possible. If we need any proof as to the justice of opposing the proposed increase, we have only to look at the report on Papua, which was prepared by Mr. Hunt, and to compare it with the disclosures that were made almost immediately after his return from the territory. We sent him there to obtain information to guide us, but what did he do?
– That might be a ground for trying to remove him from his present position.
– If we desire that he should be removed, we must indicate that, in our opinion, he is not worthy of the office. We may think that the office itself should carry with it a salary of ,£900 per annum, but that the present occupant of it is not worth such a salary.
– Let us get on; the honorable member is not going to vote for the reduction,
– I am. Unlike some members in the Opposition corner, I do not speak in one way, and vote in another. I have no regard for personal friendships. I’ agree with what the honorable member for Parkes has said as to the undesirableness of heads of Departments being placed under the control of the Public Service Commissioner. It is sometimes said that the Commissioner is the Czar of the ser- vice, and he certainly would be if all heads of Departments were under him. I shall not discuss that phase of the question further, but will content myself with the statement that I intend to vote for the requested reduction, believing that the occupant of this office is not worth ^900 per annum. The Minister of External Affairs said that his present salary was granted to him nearly eight years ago. In my opinion he should never have received it,” and was a very lucky man to get it.
– It is n°t only invidious, but painful, to have to speak in favour of a requested reduction of this character ; but that should not deter honorable members from doing what they believe to be their duty;. I have shown my bona fides in this matter by voting for every proposed reduction of increases granted to heads of Departments, and therefore cannot be accused of desiring to single out any individual officer for special treatment. What other opportunity have we of showing our appreciation or otherwise of the services of any officer than pre.sents itself in connexion with the consideration of the Estimates ? It is not unusual, however, to find an honorable member, on taking office, warmly defending an officer for whose services he has previously expressed a want of appreciation.
– I think that it is unusual.
– The right honorable member has had such a limited experience of changes of Government that few opportunities have presented themselves to him to observe those alterations in demeanour and action that I have indicated. It is not unusual to find an honorable member after becoming a member of a Ministry displaying less anxiety to carry out the procedure that he has urged previous Ministers to adopt. As to the results that have accrued to the Commonwealth from the occupancy of this very high office by Mr. Hunt, I may say at once that we have had reason to regret on more than one occasion that it is held by him. He was sent to Papua for the special purpose of inquiring into complaints that had been made in this House, and on his return assured the Ministerial head of his Department that there was no foundation for them - that the administration of the Territory was proceeding most satisfactorily. Within a few months of the presentation of that report, however, it was necessary to have another, and an expensive inquiry made, and it clearly proved that the whole Papuan service was a seething mass of discontent. That one incident alone, in my opinion, would have justified the Minister then in charge of the Department in dealings in a summary fashion with an officer who had proved himself so incapable of carrying out one of the ordinary” duties of his office. It is not pleasant to have to make such observations, but I ask honorable members to recollect that the occupant of this office, in a friendly and social way, comes in direct contact with honorable members to a greater extent than does any one else in the service. I do not say that he takes advantage of his position in that regard, but the fact that ,he does come in such contact with honorable members gives him more friends and supporters in this House than he would otherwise possess.
– The honorable member has no right to talk like that.
– I derive no pleasure from making such statements; it is only a sense of duty that compels me to speak as I do. I feel that I should be wanting in my duty if I did not make these statements to the House, and explain the position that I take up. It is very desirable that officers occupying high positions in the service should be as far as possible dissociated from the House and its precincts ; those members of the Public Service who occupy high positions should not take advantage of the forbearance of either the Committees that govern and control this House, or honorable members themselves.
– I have never heard of this officer doing so.
– I invite the right honorable member to examine the records of the House Committee as to the action that it was compelled to take in order to protect a portion of the House from incursions that were not desired by honorable members.
– I have not heard of it. ‘
– The right honorable member is not a member of the Committee, and has not had to do with these matters. I shall support, as I would have supported, had they been moved in this Chamber, reductions in the salaries of highly-paid officials. No member of the public will be satisfied to learn that our highly-paid officials are receiving increases, while nothing is being done to improve the position of those who are under-paid, and while it is so difficult for honorable members to secure attention to their legitimate demands. It seems to me that the only explanation of the present state* of things is that* the permanent heads of Departments are recommended for increases of salary because they are fortunate enough to have the ear of Ministers. So long as the inequalities of the service remain, and the people of the country are compelled to go without conveniences to which they are entitled, I shall not vote to increase the salary of any highly-paid official.
– When we were considering the Estimates, I found fault with the system under which, while the Public Service Commissioner is made responsible for fixing the rates of pay and conditions of employment of the lower ranks in the service, the heads of Departments are not under his control, but under that of their respective Ministers. That seems to me a vicious arrangement, creating a divided authority, and there has been at least one instance of friction as its outcome. The case to which I refer was the subject of debate in a previous session, a new position being created in order to enable an increase of salary to be given to an officer which the Public Service Commissioner said that the Act did not allow him to receive.
– To what case does the honorable member refer?
– To that of a very able officer, against whom I have no complaint. I ami speaking only on the question of principle. .1 regret that I was not in the Chamber when the particular item, now being discussed, was first called on. Had I been present, I should have moved a reduction in the proposed salary, as I did in the case of the salary of the amiable and estimable Secretary to the Treasurer. In doing so, I should have been animated, not by any feeling of resentment, but by the need for altering a system which I regard as bad. However, the Prime Minister has assured us that the whole matter will receive his consideration during the recess, and that he will intimate the result when Parliament meets again. This Government has been so short a time in office that Ministers have not been able to re-cast the Estimates, and have therefore accepted those of their predecessors. We should not be asked to make a special set upon an individual officer, nor to discuss his quali fications. It is one thing to discuss a* matter of principle regarding an office, and: another to express an opinion as to thefitness of an officer for the position which he holds. I do not feel that I have sufficient knowledge of the gentleman who fillsthe position of Secretary to the Department of External Affairs to say whether he earns the salary allotted to him. His office is a very important one. In New South Wales the position of permanent head: to the Department dealing with External Affairs was considered the most important in the Public Service, and the gentleman’ filling it was distinguished from the other permanent heads by the title of Principal Under-Secretary. While the work may not be as onerous as that of the Secretary to the Department of Trade and Customs or to the Treasury, it is very important. The Department controls our relations with theouter world, and administers measures of vital importance to Australia, including the Immigration Restriction Act. The head’ of such a Department should be a superior man, and should be as well remunerated as any officer in the service. But it is a different thing to speak regarding the capability of anindividual officer. Prejudice against such a man may result from his want of capacity ; but it may also be due to the fact, that he has carried out his duties without fear or favour. If there is any doubt asto. the ability of the present Secretary to the Department of External Affairs, .the matter might be referred to the Public Service Commissioner, who is qualified by hisposition and experience to report on such a subject; or a Commission or Committee might be appointed to investigate it. Either course would give the officer concerned the opportunity to reply to any charges brought against him, which is only British justice. The Secretary to the Department of External Affairs has always treated me courteously - as have all the other officers of the Public Service - and has readily supplied me with information which I have sought, when he was in a position to do so. I do not suppose that I have been treated differently from other honorable members. I was greatly disappointed with this officer’s report on Papuan affairs, because his conclusions were not sustained by after events. We ought, however, to hear his reply, and must remember, too, that he paid only a flying visit to the Territory, and when there, was surrounded by officials who for the time being sunk their personal differences to make the position of affairs appear satisfactory. It may be his misfortune rather than his fault that he did not obtain a proper insight into the real position of affairs there. But whilst I am opposed to allowing the salaries of the higher officials to be fixed by their Ministerial heads, instead of by the Public Service Commissioner, and, during the consideration of the Estimates, took every opportunity to express my view that this should he done, I will not single out one particular salary for reduction without hearing more in condemnation of the officer concerned. I should be prepared to support an investigation should a doubt be expressed as to his qualifications ; but I will not condemn him unheard by voting for a reduction in his salary before he has had an opportunity to make any explanation.
.- Mr. Atlee Hunt occupies a most enviable position, as the only person, in the eyeof the -whole people of Australia, of sufficient importance to bring about a difference of opinion between the two Houses. The Senate passed our Estimates with this one exception ; and I cannot hel p observing that most of the objections to the proposed increase come from the parties of the Ministers who are responsible for the recommendation. Surely that is father significant; because, if a Ministry cannot be trusted to know whether one of its high officers is worth an extra £100, they are hardly to be trusted . in the transaction of any public business.
– Why trust a “Minister to deal with the highly-paid officers, and not trust him to deal with the lower-paid officers?
– I admit that there is a great deal to be said for all these officers being placed under the Public Service Commissioner; but there is also much against the suggestion. There would be practically nothing to say against the present system if Ministers were more considerate of the difficulties of the Public Service Commissioner.
– The division of authority does not lessen those difficulties.
– But they would be lessened perceptibly if Ministers saw that the recommendations of the Commissioner were upheld generally. For instance, in the Department to which the honorable member for Calare referred, the recommendations of the Public Service Commis sioner, in regard to appointments in the subordinate ranks, have been scouted, and for that deplorable state of affairs I blame the Ministers., andnot the system. The present discussion shows clearly that the attack is not so much on, the value of this office as on the suitability and competency of the officer to fill it. There is a proper way to proceed in a case of this kind. If honorable members desire to pass any censure on an officer, the usual course is to reduce his salary by £1, in order to indicate that the attack is not on the value of the office, but on the capacity of the officer. I cannot support this proposal to reduce the salary by £100, especially in view of the fact that other chiefs of Departments have received similar increases. I should be very sorry to place myself in the invidious position at this late stage of the session of picking out the head of one Department for such treatment.
Mr.Frazer.–We tried to reduce the salaries of other heads ; but no proposal was made in regard to the salary, now under discussion.
– Honorable members were defeated in regard to the other salaries. We ought to have regard not so much to the amount of work, as to the importance of the work; it is brains more than the time occupiedt hat we ought to consider. For instance, members of this Chamber regard themselves as patriots for working for their beggarly stipend.
– We received only£400, while this officer was paid
– We may be in session a short time or a long time, and we are not paid according to the time occupied, but according to the supreme importance and dignity of our work. The work of the Department of External Affairs, as performed by the Secretary, is extremely important, and ought to be worth £900; and, if the officer is not worth that salary, then the proper course is to see that the Minister replaces him. But I should be very sorry to be called upon., or call upon this Committee, to express an opinion on such a point, because I do not regard it as fair to the officer, who cannot reply to the ex parte statements made here.I hope the Committeewill resist the request of the Senate.
.- I suppose we may take it for granted that the present Minister of External Affairs recommends the increase of this salary ; and, while I know nothing about the work of the officer, I have sufficient reliance on the Government to know that a recommendation of the kind wonld not be made except on very good grounds. Before I entered ParliamentI often read the Parliamentary discussions about increasing the salaries of: higher officers at the expense of lower officers, and so forth ; and I then regarded the reports as representing neither more nor less than election placards. What I have heard to-day. from many honorable members on the Government benches, in opposition to this proposed increase, strengthens the opinion I then formed. When the Labour Party desire any of their friends to be appointed to a position, they experience no difficulty in finding the money to pay him. Was not the appointment “of Mr. Staniforth Smith to a position in Papua neither more nor less than a reward for services rendered to that party?
– We would have had his scalp at any moment of the day !
– I do not know that Mr. Staniforth Smith did any good to the Labour Party; so far as I know, he was an opponent.
– The Labour Party are, I think, greatly indebted to Mr. Staniforth Smith for the work he did for them in another place.
– -Order !
– If we require brains and good work, we must pay for them; and a good salary insures the services of the best men. I object to the innuendo that Mr. Atlee Hunt has toadied to members of Parliament.
-Whatever Mr. Hunt mav do, he does not do that.
– Do we not all try to put our best face on before our employers? Do we not endeavour to make friends with our constituents in order to secure their votes? A man cannot toady to a superior, unless that superior is prepared to be toadied to; if a servant oremploye is treated with proper dignity, there can be no toadying. I feel satisfied that this increase was not recommended without consideration; and I fully believe that there is some hanky-panky business in the opposition to it. Once the Labour Government get into recess, we may find a reorganization of the whole Public Service; but I do not think that they can do much harm; and, in this particular instance, I intend to support them.
– The mistake that most honorablemembers are making is to introduce theofficer himself into the discussion. A public office is a public trust ; and it is theoffice, and not the occupant, that should come under review. We claim, however, that£8oo per annum for an office, wheremost of the work consists in pushing a bell, is high enough. The standard which applies to a private individual in the management of a private trust should apply to a public officer in a public trust; and’ we assert that Mr. Hunt never received a higher salary than he is receiving now.
– He is not the only one in that position !
– At any rate, that remark applies neither to the right” honorable member nor to myself. I should’ be very sorry if I could not earn morethan the salary of this office ; I havemade more in an hour, sometimes, by only pushing a bell, because a man gets rich, not” by working himself, but by working others. The Minister said that the honorable member for South Sydney had not been> in the Department of External Affairs for ten minutes.
– I said that he had’ never been there at all.
– I point out that some of the most marvellous achievements in the history of the whole world - achievements on which the progress and civilization of the world rest - have been accomplished in less than ten minutes’ investigation. It is a mistake to imaginethat because a thing is done quickly, it is necessarily badly done. Perhaps thehonorable member for South Sydney wai so much master of the situation that he was able in ten minutes to tell the permanent Secretary of the Department what he had not learned in twenty years. I wish to separate the man from the office. £8oo, or $4,000, per year, is every penny that the office is worth. There isa vast difference between the headship of that Department and a position such as that occupied by Mr. Garran. The oneman has to be continually delving intohistorical documents, seeking out the decisions of antiquated or fossilized legal proclaimers, while all that the other has to do is to touch a bell, and some one else does the work. There is in me nospite, ill-feeling, or unspirituality against the gentleman who occupies this position ; but the morai, no less than the material, progress of the human race must ultimately find its positive declaration regardless of individual suffering or individual ambition. First-class ambition and third-class ability cannot be recognised in this House. I shall therefore vote against the proposed increase.
– 1 regret exceedingly that this motion is before the Committee. 1 recognise fully the’ constitutional power of the Senate to return the Bill at any time to this House with any request that it desires to make; but the power to make a request and the exercise of that power are two very different things. If there is one measure in regard to which .great care should be taken in exercising the constitutional power of making requests, it is the Appropriation Bill. In the amendment of other Bills, or in making requests with regard to large financial operations, the power not only can be, but should be, exercised by the Senate. But when, in a Bill covering several millions of pounds, that Chamber exercises its power with reference only to one amount of £100 in the salary of an officer, it seems to me that it is not acting in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution. I also regret that comparisons should be made in this House of the value of this office as compared with the Head of the Treasury and other offices. The office of Secretary to the Department of External Affairs, which it was anticipated would usually be the Prime Minister’s Department, conducting, as it does, correspondence with the Mother Country and other parts of ‘ the Empire, and, as far as the Constitution permits, with the rest of the world, is second to none in importance. It is a confidential office of the most pronounced character, and requires a man of considerable ability and education fully to perform its duties. I quite recognise that other offices are very important. The Treasury has been mentioned. No one has a higher regard for the present Secretary to that Department than I have; but, after all, his is a technical office, and the keeping of accounts does not rank higher than the secretaryship of the chief bureau of the Commonwealth. In the changes of Government it has happened, upon two occasions at least, that the Department of External Affairs has not been associated directly with the Prime Minister. But it must be associated practically with him to a large extent, because no matters of importance connected with diplomacy or correspondence with the Mother Country can be carried out by any Minister without reference to the Prime Minister. It is fitting when the Prime Minister is also Minister of External. Affairs; but I can well understand that that cannot always be the case. A salary of £900 for -the secretaryship of the chief bureau of the Commonwealth is low. More is paid to under-treasurers and other heads of State Departments; and assuming, that the officer is competent, the salary cannot be regarded! as high for the ‘office. I have again to express my regret that the Senate has exercised its constitutional power in regard to this matter. That Chamber should practise great selfdenial in regard to the exercise of its power in relation to the Appropriation Bill. I deplore the introduction of personal matters into the debate; but,, as they have been introduced, I can only say that whenever I have had the opportunity of coming intocontact with this officer, he has always been, what he should be. I have not the slightest doubt that he is a competent officer, by reason of his professional knowledge - for I believe that he is a barrister-at-law - and educational advantages. I shall have much pleasure in voting with the Government on this question, and hope that another place will see that the request is oneupon which, having regard even to its constitutional powers, it should not further insist. I trust that what is evidently the desire of the majority of this Committee will prevail also in another place.
.- The sending back to this Chamber of the Appropriation Bill would have been very useful to’ certain leaders of parties, if they had still wanted to get a hammerlock upon the Government; but, apparently, the right honorable member for Swan sees no opportunity now of doing that. Nothing more distasteful or objectionable could arise in this Chamber than a discussion of the merits or demerits of a particular officer. I have always objected to either paeans of praise, or choruses of blame in regard to individual’ members of the service. If an officer doeshis work well, there is no necessity for Parliament to go into rhapsodies about his powers- and abilities. He should be paid’ for his work. I take the attitude that thu Public Service Commissioner should have charge of the permanent heads of
Departments, in the same way as he has even of the humblest messenger in the service. I cannot see why any Minister should have the power of patronage in regard to officials under him. Let all the officers be put under the Public Service Commissioner, who is supposed to be the adviser of Parliament, and the protector of the finances of the country. I trust that the Ministry of the day will learn from this episode the lesson that they should never again attempt to increase the salaries of the permanent heads, however desirable such an action may appear to be. They should amend the Public Service Act so that the question may be relegated to the Public Service Commissioner. It seems hard lines that the present occupant of this office should be made a scapegoat. The increases for three other heads have been agreed to, and it would be cruel to single out an individual for exceptional treatment. I cannot conceive of a more powerful criticism of an officer, short of his complete dismissal, than that would be. If the House allows the Senate to carry increases tor three permanent heads, and to refuse similar treatment to a fourth, it will declare, in effect, that the Department of External Affairs has a .minor status. That would be a cruel position in which to put the Minister in charge of the Department, and a direct insult to the office itself. I certainly should have voted, as a matter of principle, for agreeing with the Senate’s request, as an attack, not upon the particular officer concerned, but upon the principle of Ministerial patronage ; but the honorable member tor Calare arrested my attention this morning when he said that he did not believe in specializing against one officer. The only thing that 1 know against the present occupant of the office is that he was a schoolmate of mine; but 1 hope that that consideration will not influence other honorable members adversely to him. It only shows how objectionable it would be for me to take up an attitude of personal antagonism towards him. Whether . I consider that he is, or is not, fit for the office that he holds, is another matter; but he is there, and the Public Service Commissioner is the only man who can gauge accurately whether he is fulfilling the duties that the office demands. I am always in favour of big salaries; but I want big men in return for them, lt seems absurd to speak of cutting off £100 in order to supply money for neglected works. In any case, Parliament is not the proper place to decide whether an officer is competent or incompetent. There may be junior officers who ought to be recommended for an increase, but the danger under a system of Ministerial patronage is that they are not brought immediately under the Ministerial eye. A Minister, because of his constant association with the permanent head of his Department, may be led to say, “This is an excellent man. He has relieved me of many difficulties, and has saved the Commonwealth thousands of pounds. I will recommend him for an increase.” The Deakin Administration recommended certain permanent heads of Departments for an increase of salary, and that recommendation was indorsed by the present Government. Later on a future Administration may take up the same stand and recommend a further increase. Where is this practice to stop? In the Department of Trade and Customs a new office, that of Assistant Comptroller, has recently been created, and it is filled by a very capable man, Mr. Lockyer, who receives the first-class salary of £1,000 per annum.. The permanent head of the Treasury, however, notwithstanding Ministerial patronage, receives only £900 per annum. Surely his office is more important than is that of the Assistant Comptroller of Customs. I do not say that ,£1,000, per annum is too high a salary to be paid the Assistant Comptroller, but I certainly think that ^900 per annum is not enough for the permanent head of the Treasury. I do not believe in cutting down salaries, but I have a most pronounced objection to salaries of the heads of Departments being increased by Ministerial patronage. Mr. Atlee Hunt has been placed in a most unenviable position by being singled out for special treatment, and it seems to me that, since the increases proposed in the case of other heads of Departments have been agreed to, the proposed increase in his case should be adopted.
.- I voted on principle for every proposal to reduce the increased salaries of heads of Departments for which the Estimates provided, believing that there was no warrant for them. I conceived it to be my duty to take into consideration the fact that in many parts of my constituency people are denied a mail service, although it would cost only from £20 to £50 per annum. While the postal service is starved, there is no reason why we should increase the salaries of the higher paid’ officials of the Departments. But, whilst that is so, I do not think it would be fair to single out Mr. Atlee Hunt in the way suggested, when all the other proposed increases have been agreed to. I was prepared to vote, and did vote, for the abolition of the proposed increases of salaries to heads of other Departments on the understanding that all would be treated alike, but as those increases have been granted in all other cases I shall not support this proposed reduction.
– Is the honorable member game ?
– I have proved on more than one occasion in this House that when it comes to the point I am gamer than, are some honorable members. So far as my personal experience of Mr. Hunt is concerned I have no fault to find with him. During the deportation of the kanakas I was frequently in touch with him, and must say that that work was carried out most thoroughly, and in a manner satisfactory to the Commonwealth as a whole and to Queensland in particular. I should like in this connexion to pay a meed of praise to the officers of the Queensland Immigration Department, and more especially to Mr. Brennan, who had local control - subject of course to the supervision of the Commonwealth Department in Melbourneof the work of deportation. The officers of the State Department discharged their duties in a way that reflected the greatest credit on them. It is somewhat unfair to judge Mr. Atlee Hunt on the Papuan incident without giving him an opportunity to reply.
– He could send in a report.
– He should be asked to furnish a report on the subject. I am quite willing to vote for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the whole matter.
– The report on Papua which was presented by Mr. Atlee Hunt reflected on the information that the honorable member gave to this House.
– I do not know to what the honorable member specially refers. I rose only to explain my position and to clear myself of any charge of inconsistency that might be made against me for voting against this requested reduction, although I voted against other increases.
.- My position is exactly that which has been taken up by the honorable member for Herbert. I voted for every amendment to leave out the proposed increases to heads of Departments, and I did so on principle, and not because of personal considerations. I believe that there are only eight heads of Departments outside the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commissioner, and I understand that four out of the eight have received an increase of salary. In other words, 50 per cent, of the heads of Departments who are not subject to the Public Service Commissioner have been granted an increase of salary, whereas the Minister is unable to say that 5 per cent, of those under the Commissioner’s jurisdiction have received an increase.
– The honorable member must spread the increases in these cases over a period of over eight years.
– No / I am speaking of what has happened in only one year. I repeat that provision has been made or* these Estimates for increasing the salaries of 50 per cent, of the officers outside the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commissioner, whereas not 5 per cent, of the public’ servants under the Commissioner - diemen who help to build up Australia - havereceived any increase. I should like tobring under the notice of honorable members the treatment that has been extended to a number of supernumeraries in< the Government Printing Office. When I speak of supernumeraries I have in mind twenty-three men who have been employed’ in the Government Printing Office for no less than twenty years, and seventy-nine who have been employed there for ten years. To certain of these officers the impertinent offer of four hours’ pay in lieu of leave has been made. That is the way in which thesemen, simply because they are low down onthe ladder, have been treated. As to Mr. Hunt, I may say at once that I have alwaysfound him ready to answer any inquiry and scrupulous in his efforts to obtain information that I desired, although it was sometimes difficult for him to secure it. I am, perhaps,, the only honorable member whosaw how the kanakas were returned to their islands, and I can certainly indorse all that the honorable member for Herbert has said’ in regard to the excellent way in which that work was carried out.
– The manner in whichthey were landed depended. I suppose, on the weather ?
– Three separate visits were paid to one island in order to land’ two kanakas, because, on the first two occasions, the weather was not such as would- permit of their being landed in safety. I -have always found Mr. Hunt courteous and obliging, and I am not prepared to single out one of four heads of Departments and say that in his case alone shall no increase of salary be granted. I appeal to honorable members to say whether they are prepared to allow the present system under which heads of Departments are beyond the control of the Public Service Commissioner to continue. My view is that as the Commissioner is considered fit to have under his control officers who will ultimately become heads of Departments, there is no reason why the present administrative heads should not be under him. If a Bill to amend the Public Service Act is introduced next session to carry out this reform, I shall support it.
– Do the Government propose to introduce a Bill to amend the Public Service Act?
– A Bill to amend it in that direction will not be introduced with my consent.
– If that is the view that the honorable gentleman takes, then I am much deceived in him. If it is right that the poorly paid men in the service should be under the control of the Commissioner, those receiving high salaries should also be under his control. If the honorable gentleman is prepared to deny to the poorly paid men in the service treatment that he would extend to the highly paid officers, my vote will speedily be cast against him.
– The honorable member misunderstands me. All that I said was that I should not be in favour of so amending the Public Service Act as to bring administrative heads under the control of the Commissioner.
– My contention is that what is good for the administrative heads is good for the lower paid men in the service. I have shown that 50 per cent, of the administrative heads of Departments have received an increase, and that the honorable member is unable to say that an increase has been granted to 5 per cent, of the lower paid men in the service.
– It is unfair to put the matter in that way.
– When one comes in frequent contact with a man or woman, kindness of feeling is created by the personal equation. A Minister, seeing that his permanent head is doing good work, is inclined to treat him well; but this is unfair to men who have no chance of coming under the notice of the Ministerial head, and for whom, never seeing them, he has no especial feeling. I would place all members of the Public Service under the Public Service Commissioner. Surely it would not be said that that officer cannot fix the salaries of the higher as well as the lower officials. At the same time, I shall not be a party to singling out for special treatment one of several permanent heads for whom increases have been proposed. I know the present Secretary to the Department of External Affairs to be an able and courteous gentleman, who has never failed to give me information which I desired, and I think that he should not be treated differently from his fellows. I shall never be one to give a personal vote in regard to any public servant.
.- The zeal which the Minister of External Affairs displays in advocacy of the proposed increase of the salary of the Secretary to his Department was worthy of a. better cause. Permanent heads have the ear of Ministers because they come in close contact with them daily. We do not find honorable gentlemen fighting for increases of a few shillings a week to the officers who are not highly paid.
– Increases to a very large number of officers were agreed to on this year’s Estimates.
– Hear, hear !
– I am pleased to know that, though I have never heard a Minister fight on the floor of this Chamber for , an increase of 5s. a week to the lower-paid or less highly-paid officers of the service. When the Labour Party proposed a minimum wage of £2 2s. per week for every employe over twenty-one years of age, the ‘ ex-Treasurer said that it would ruin the country to fix that rate.
– I have given the public servants as much as .£180 a year.
– Because the honorable member had to do so.
– Nothing of the ‘ kind.
– I remember that the honorable member opposed the fixing of a minimum of j£no a year.
– If the honorable member does as much for the less well-paid servants of the Commonwealth as I have done, he will do well.
– I do not think that they have to thank the honorable member for much. He tried to block the minimum wage proposal.
– I passed it. The honorable member had little or nothing to do with it.
– My vote is of as much value as that of the honorable member, who, like others, thinks that we have no right here. The honorable member for Laanecoorie told us this morning that when the House Committee proposed an increase of 5s. a week for some of the less wellpaid attendants here, it was objected to on the ground that the state of the public funds did not permit. These are officials who are not under the control of the Public Service Commissioner. While honorable members are eager to give another £100 to an officer already in receipt of £800 a year, they will not give increases to men who have to keep wives and families on £2 5s. or £2 10s. a week.
– The matter to which the honorable member refers is under the control of Mr. Speaker.
– When increases were recommended, the objection was taken that funds would not permit of them being paid, although they would not have totalled more than £150 a year, and would have brought joy into the homes of the men for whom they were recommended. Although the Minister of External Affairs has been in office only a few days, he tells us that the Secretary to the Department is one of the most capable men in the service. Let me remind him of what he has said in private. When he read that gentleman’s report on New Guinea, and the report of the Royal Commission, he said, “This looks very fishy. Either the Commission is wrong, or Mr. Atlee Hunt is wrong.”
– The honorable member is mistaken.
– When the honorable member becomes a Minister we shall not remind him of what he said as a free lance.
– I shall never repudiate my statements.
– I did not make the statement which the honorable member has attributed to me.
– I shall take an opportunity to relate circumstances which will recall it to the honorable member’s mind. The ex-
Treasurer told Mr. Speaker that there were” not funds available to give increases of 5s. a week to attendants here - men getting a little more than £100 a year.
– It is the social position that tells?
– I do not think that. I believe in paying good salaries and good wages. This particular office is worth £1,000 a year because of the importance of the Department which controls our relations with the outside world, and if the Committee is determined not to make the amendment requested by the Senate, I shall, like a good democrat, bow to the will of the majority.
– The honorable member for Maranoa, to support his position, has cast aspersions on other honorable members, though I hardly think that he meant everything that he said. It is not a fact that I have opposed the granting of increases to the lower grades of the service.
– Did not the honorable member oppose the minimum wage proposals?
– No, and as Treasurer I never refused to provide for increases recommended by the Public Service Commissioner.
– There is no doubt about that.
– Recently I increased the salaries of some public servants to £180 a year, and received the thanks of the Western Australian Public Service Association for my action. I had charge of the first Public Service Bill, and did not oppose the minimum wage. I have always been in favour of giving good wages and salaries to the public servants, though I do not mind saying that if their remuneration is made too high, they must some day expect a repetition of what is known here as Black Wednesday. I should be the last to desire anything of that kind.
– The honorable, member will admit that he provided in the original Public Service Bill for the retention of Ministerial control?
– I did originally.
Motion agreed to.
Requested amendment not made.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 3.55 p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate with the message that the Senate did not press its request for amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 22nd December.
Close of the Session: Duration of Recess.
L3-58]- - I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I beg to express my appreciation of the courtesy extended to me by honorable members during my short term of office, and of the way in which they have devoted themselves to the business of the country. Some questions have been asked regarding the business to be taken next session ; but I think it would be inadvisable to go into that matter now. Ministers fully comprehend the duty which devolves on any Government in relation to the public business. It is my feeling that, circumstances permitting, Parliament should meet earlier than usual in the coming year ; and I shall take an opportunity to consult my colleagues on the point. In view of the important questions that must undoubtedly be considered next session, I hope that honorable members will hold themselves in readiness to assemble at a date earlier, perhaps, than that on which any Government have called Parliament together on a like occasion. Our meeting will probably be at least a month earlier than usual, with a. view to the completion of the important business which remains to be dealt with before the expiration of this Parliament.
– I congratulate the Prime Minister on the definiteness of his last sentence or two, from which we may, perhaps, glean a little comfort, and, may be, a small gleam of light - for which small mercy, many thanks ! I recognise to the full that the Prime Minister has a perfect right to control the action of his Government; and he may be congratulated on the strictly technical and constitutional fashion in which he has conducted the business of this Chamber. To put the matter plainly, the honorable gentleman may be congratulated on the utter absence of anything approaching political heterodoxy. From the very moment he took office, he has behaved himself as a Prime Minister should, according to old methods ; he has not departed one iota, so far as I am aware, from the procedure adopted by prudent Prime Ministers in days gone by. We may, I think, congratulate ourselves on the absolute safety of this Government in the conduct of the business of the House.
– That is our strong point - safety !
– Here, again, is proof of what I have stated many times in this House, though my honorable friends opposite have not always appreciated it. I have always regarded the Labour Party as the Conservative Party in the House; ana the last two weeks have abundantly proved the truth of that view.
– The revolution is only postponed ! ‘
– My impression is that the pillars of the State are still secure - that the heavens are above us, and all is going well. I have no fault of any description to find with the Prime Minister’s conduct of public business during the brief time that he has occupied the Treasury bench. I can only express the sincere Hope that my honorable friend’s supporters outside will be equally pleased with the results of the change of Government. I can see, in what has taken place, an earnest of what is to come in the way of safe and steady government for Australia. Leaving that matter, I desire to say that I am glad the session has come to an end, and that our arduous labours are to give place to labours, perhaps, in another direction, because we know that there is rest and recreation in change of occupation. I have to thank you, Mr. Speaker, for many courtesies, and for the urbanity and ability with which you have always conducted the business of the Chamber. If now and again it is the misfortune of some of us to hold opinions contrary to those of the authorities that be, the fact makes me none the less cordial in my acknowledgment of your great services, and the impartiality which you ever display. I have also to thank the Chairman of Committees for his courtesy, and the officers of the House for the abundant and willing help they at all times. render. My thanks are also due to the attendants of the House, and, indeed, to all concerned in the conduct of the business here, for their efforts tomake our course run smoothly, and facilitate the business we come to transact:
– Are we to receive these words with musicial honours?
– I should think so, since we are all so happy, and of the same frame of mind, particularly in regard to getting into, recess. We have come to the shore - the landing is now being effected, and it certainly is a matter for jubilation–
Mr.Frazer. - We have tohold the fort,” for you “are coming”!
– I shall say no more beyond expressing the hope that we mav meet again, benefited by our rest and recreation, and willing to assist in the conduct of affairs, so iong as we see displayed that prudence and moderation so conspicuous during the last month.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat) [4.5).- On an occasion such as this, it is customary for honorable members in various parts of the House to join in the felicitations which are tendered to you, Mr. Speaker, to the Chairman of Committees, to the officers of the House, of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff, and the officers of Parliament generally. To you, sir, and to them, on behalf of myself and those who are associated with me, I beg to offer our wishes for a Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year. In the course of the very pleasant remarks made by the leader of the Opposition when alluding to the extremely decorous and correct conduct of the Prime Minister and the Government during their tenure of office, he fell upon a phrase which inevitably suggested a well known couplet. He said they had proved perfectly orthodox. He might have said, substituting “conduct” for “ doctrine,” that -
They proved their doctrine orthodox, By apostolic blows and knocks.
If the Government have proved it in that way, it has been by receiving, and hot by bestowing them.
– And from the rear in particular.
– That does not imply any retreat on their part. They are to be congratulated upon having borne with philosophic calmness the assaults which fall of necessity to the lot of every Administration that occupies those benches. Particu larly must they be expected in a Parliament such as the present is, which is now becoming not only burdened, but overburdened, with many arrears of important work. I was very glad to hear the statement of the leader of the Government that it is proposed to make this recess shorter than usual, and to summon Parliament early, with a view to the work which we have in hand. It must be remembered that we carry over from this session quite sufficient proposed legislation to occupy a full ordinary session next year. In addition, I understand that the postponed Premiers’Conference is likely to be held during the recess, and at that we shall perhaps see the propositions submitted by the various States Premiers put into something like a final form. We have to recollect that the next session will be the last in which the Commonwealth Parliament will be afforded an opportunity of considering these financial proposals, and all that depends upon them, before we go to the critical election, at which the constituencies must decide between the new forms of arrangement suggested for the distribution of the Customs and Excise revenue. With these will come a full consideration of the services in the Commonwealth and the States affected by that disposition of revenue. With it will go a grave consideration of the transfer of the States debts and the possibilities of financial unity in the future, with many other problems, which could profitably employ a whole session. It is for these reasons, and I am sure with a full appreciation of the situation, that the declaration of the Prime Minister was made. Every one will feel that a Government which has taken office at the close of a session is entitled to time in order to study these proposals and any others which they may think it their duty to submit to Parliament. No one would wish to curtail their opportunities in that direction, but it is our misfortune that we must look forward to the next session being both prolonged and occupied with work of the utmost importance to the present and future of the Commonwealth. That is why it is essential, as the Prime Minister has indicated, that we should meet as early as possible to do our part in it.
– And a change of Government would take a little time.
– The last took very little time. It occupied the shortest time on record. I hope it is realized that my colleagues and I consented to it with1 rapidity for the very purpose of saving time and enabling business to be proceeded with without delay.
-I was referring to the next one.
– The honorable member, looking to the future with a prophetic eye, sees a change of Government. Having regard to past experience, it is quite possible that we may live to see another change, or possibly changes of Government. When these may happen it is idle to speculate. I am surprised at the suggestion coming from any one on this side of the House. It may be necessary for the Christmas cheer of honorable members in other parts of the Chamber to be thinking of a change of Government, but the last thing that the honorable member and those associated with him can be dwelling upon is surely the existence of any such possibility!. After the public conversion of the leader of the Opposition to-day, for he had nothing but eulogies for the Government, we have the clearest indication that he and those associated with him mean to crowd us out of this corner. With such halcyon Christmas expectations, permit me to add my felicitations to those which have already been expressed.
– I am loth to intervene after the pleasant wishes expressed by the leaders of parties, and should not have done so but for my desire to bring publicly under the notice of the Minister of Trade and Customs the allegation that for a considerable time grave irregularities havebeen occurring in connexion with the importation of goods into the Commonwealth. It had been my intention to have the, matter publicly debated, but the state of public business did mot allow me to do so. I hope that during the recess the allegations of undervaluations, and of differing valuations of the same goods in different capitals and different ports, by which it is stated that the Commonwealth is being deprived of considerable revenue, will receive, not only careful investigation at the hands of the officers of the Department, but the closest personal examination by the Minister himself. I know that the” Minister has had no opportunity of . giving the , matter his personal attention, but I hope he will do so in the recess.
– - I shall do my utmost to clear up any doubts regarding the under-valuation of imported goods.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay- Treasurer) the leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Ballarat for their kind remarks regarding the Government. We have done our best, and, if we have done it cautiously and in an orthodox manner, it must be remembered that that is the only way in which persons placed in our position could do it. A leader with a party majority behind him may take any course that he pleases, but, with the House constituted as it is at present, any leader occupying my position must walk circumspectly and in such a way as to preserve his independence above all else. If we are to pass a Referendum Bill, which must be passed within six months of a general election, this Parliament, whatever party is in power, must sit next session right up to December. The prospect of a prolonged session, therefore, confronts any Government that may occupy this bench. I wish to indorse the remarks made regarding the services rendered by you, sir, by the Chairman of Committees, and the officers and attendants of the House. We have every reason to be proud of both officers and attendants, who, I am sure, extend every courtesv to every honorable member, irrespective of his position or party. I may be permitted to wish them all a happy Christmas. While we cannot, perhaps, rely upon the long continued existence ofthe happyfeelings which now obtain, I hope that every member will at all times conduct himself with that dignity and good feeling which are expected of a representative of the people in the national Parliament.
– Before putting the question, I should like, with the permission of the House, to refer to the remarks that have been made by honorable members, and more especially to the very kind observations of the leader of the Opposition, with reference to myself. No honorable member can hope to occupy this Chair, and rightly perform the duties attaching to it, unless he enjoys the confidence of honorable members of all parties. That confidence I am glad to have received hitherto, and I hope that when I cease to possess it, I shall have the wisdom to quit the Chair. To the Clerks, the Hansard staff, and, indeed, to every member of the House staff, from the highest to the lowest, I tender my thanks for the services they have rendered, and, in conclusion, desire to wish honorable members a Merry Christmas and a very Happy. New Year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Australia to wit. Dudley, Governor-General .
By His Excellency the Right Honorable William Humble, Earl of Dudley, a Member of His Majesty’s Most Honorable Privy Council, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief of the Commonwealth of Australia.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 December 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19081211_reps_3_48/>.