4th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In reference to a paragraph in this morning’s Argus, I ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether it is a fact, as there stated, that work on the Federal Capital site will be closed down to-day, or that the men employed there have been considerably reduced in numbers? Further, has there been any delay in the payment for resumed properties?’
– Inasmuch as the roads that were needed have now been put into first-class condition, we do not require so many men as were engaged on roadmaking, and are letting some go. That is all weare doing in the way of reducing the number of men employed on the Federal Capital site. The only estate that we have purchased is the Acton estate, and matters are not sufficiently advanced to enable us to pay for it yet.
– Is everything being pushed on expeditiously?
Mr. KING O’MALLEY laid upon the table the following paper : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at Jervis Bay, New South Wales - For Commonwealth purposes
– I wish to draw atten tion to an error in a” division list appearing in the Votes and Proceedings and also in the Hansard record for the 30th . November. It is the first time in this Parliament, so far as my recollection extends, that a member’s name has been omitted from the official records of a division. On Thursday last I voted in the division recorded on page 139 of the Votes and Proceedings, and page 3525 of the proof issue of Hansard, but my name does not appear. I presume that the omission is due to the prolonged hours which the officials are now obliged to remain on duty.
– I shall see that the matter is attended to.
– I find, on inquiry, that the tellers wrongly marked the name of the honorable member for Melbourne in place of that of the honorable member for Coolgardie. The error has been rectified.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a recent copy of the Bundaberg Daily News, a journal circulating in the sugar districts, in which the opinion is advanced that, in the event of a shortage in the sugar production of Australia, the Commonwealth should take control of the business of making up the deficiency ? Will the Government take the matter into its consideration ?
– I have not seen the report referred to. The policy suggested will have to be taken into serious consideration.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What are the names of the applicants for the recent vacancy for Deputy Postmaster-General for Western Australia?
– The Public Service Commissioner has furnished the following information -
The names of the applicants are - E. W. Bramble, T. G. Brent, J. C. T. Vardon, F. Whysall, ]. J. Lloyd, A. W. Piesse, R. W. Arnott, E. Broad, E. Woodrow, and F. Currey.
Debate resumed from 1st December (vide page 3587) on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I have said that the members of the Public Service who object to arbitration must consider that they get more than they deserve, or more than their position warrants. They are aware that Parliament has endeavoured to improve their position. I admit that in the past they have not always received what they should have got, because of the need for economy, but the Public Service Act was passed to put them in a better position. They have now had experience of the ad ministration of the Public Service Commissioner and his Inspector’s, and they make no secret of the fact that they are not satisfied, and that the Commissioner studies, not the interests of the Service, but how to economize irrespective of the effect on the Service. Parliament could, of course, deal with their grievances, but the matter would require long discussions, during which things would be said not complimentary to many of the branches of the Service. Parliament is really not the tribunal to deal with matters of such detail, and the public servants say that they are unable to get redress from the Public Service Commissioner. They are therefore asked to take their complaints to an Arbitration Court, where they will not be trammelled in any way. Their organizations will be able to bring before the Court the facts of* their present position, and the manner in which the Service has been starved in the past. They may not have had to complain on this head during the past two or three years, but for seven or eight years before that, their increments were stopped, and their advances kept back. They can bring their grievances before the Court without being compelled to employ lawyers. The able men at the head of their organizations will be in a position to appear for them. They will know what is desirable in the interests of their associations, and will be able to point out the difficulties under which their members labour, not to Parliament or to an official who may have other things to consider besides the well-being of the officers of the Service, but to a court which will be called in for the specific purpose of considering their case. There will be present no lawyers and no antagonistic employers to fight them in any unfair way, or take a mean advantage of them. I hope that the cases of these men will come before a Judge who is associated with the regulation of industrial wages and condi-; tions generally, so that they may be considered in all their phases, and not merely in the purely official phase, as has been the case in the past. For instance, we know in the Public Service men who are mechanics. On a previous occasion I exhibited in this Chamber a model of a telegraph pole and arms, and every honorable member from either side who saw it, admitted that it was not labourers’ work.. Yet the Public Service Commissioner classes all work of that character as un-
SKilled labourers’ work. This has been going on for years, showing that the Commissioner and his officers are either unable to tell the difference between skilled and unskilled work, or are trammelled by the Public Service Act. I have known Postmasters-General to direct that higher wages than the Commissioner had awarded should be paid to certain men doing temporary work, but the Commissioner overcame the difficulty by decreeing that there were too many casuals employed, and by having the positions made permanent, whereupon the wages were brought down to the level of the pay of the permanent hands. In that regard I allude particularly to the pole dressers. We have among the linemen, cable jointers, cable layers, and others, highly technical tradesmen, yet the Public Service Commissioner and his officials will persist in saying that their work is not worth more than the wages of an ordinary labourer. There are many similar anomalies in the Clerical and General Divisions, where the work involves a great deal of trust, and necessitates great physical as well as mental capacity ; yet it is impossible to raise those men’s wages and conditions above the ordinary rates paid in the past to unskilled labourers. Personally, I hold that very little work is really unskilled, but that is a question into which I will not enter now. I may be blaming the Commissioner wrongly, but he has always been the wall against which I come up when I have endeavoured to improve the lot of the different workers I have mentioned. He is really no judge of what work of that kind is worth.
– Perhaps he acted after carefully taking evidence.
– The honorable member is quite correct. He has accepted the evidence that he has received, but unfortunately it is the evidence of officials.
– Not necessarily.
– Yes ; he takes it all from his officials.
– Would not the evidence tendered before the Court be also the evidence of officials?
– The officials would undoubtedly give evidence, as it is necessary that they should in the interests of the Department, and to justify the stand which they have hitherto taken ; but other evidence would be taken from men who were not officials, and the decision would rest, not with an official, but with an outside arbitrator.
– He would be an official also.
– I hope the President of the Arbitration Court is not an official in the sense that we understand the word.
– The Public Service Commissioner is in an independent position.
– The aspiration of every manager or foreman, or supervisor is to run the Department under him’ as economically as possible for the sake of his own reputation and advancement. He cares little in most cases as to the positions of the men whom he is supervising. That has always been the rule. There have been men, who have raised themselves above that petty stand-point, but they have always been beaten in the end by the strength of the official side. There are, in the Public Service, associations which have decided that they do not want to go before the Arbitration Court. One rather big organization has asked its members, before handing themselves over to the Arbitration Court, to let Parliament itself assess their wages, conditions, tenure, and so on. They are therefore asking Parliament to do something which will make the Arbitration Court unnecessary in their case, and I say at once I cannot see eye to eye with them. For years before the last election that organization and its members individually advocated,’ with myself, the very thing, or something like it, that we are giving them by means of this Bill. Now that they have changed their minds they are asking me to change mine. We have always been able to say of our party that what we advocate on the hustings we endeavour to put into force in Parliament. We do not say the time is not opportune. We believe that when we have the opportunity the time must be opportune, and many of our political opponents who never vote for us have, at any rate, admitted that they respect us for always endeavouring to carry out what we preach upon the hustings. What I say to those associations, and to the individuals in the Service who do not want the Arbitration Court at this stage applied to them, is that even if they can change their minds in a short space of time as to what they want and what is desirable for them, it is impossible for me to change mine, because when the opportunity occurs I intend to carry out the promises I made at the general election, irrespective of what the result may be to me.
– Was this proposal advocated by the Labour party generally?
– It was advocated without dissent on our part. Some fourteen or fifteen years ago many people still clung to the old system, and were rather averse to compulsory arbitration, but that opposition has gone by the board, save for the attitude of a few extremists in every State, who would fight the honorable member as well as myself, and who, one would think, did not like to see difficulties settled. Even if all the associations were now opposed to the proposal, I should have to say to them, “ I cannot agree to do that which you want me to do at this stage, because, if I did, I should be unworthy of the trust reposed in me by the people who returned me, since I should be practically breaking my promise to carry out all the principles I advocated whenever the opportunity occurred to give effect to them. I believe that this system of dealing with the grievances of the public servants will be found better for all concerned. It will be better for the service itself, for our public servants, for the general public, and also for members of Parliament. Honorable members might feel at times that they were called upon to do something which, perhaps, was not quite as fair as they would like it to be, and taking it all round I think this is the most suitable system that could be devised. Under it, an outside man - the President of the Court - would be able to hear the claims of public servants, and on the evidence submitted to him would be able to say either that they were being treated as well as they ought to be, or that Parliament should pass further legislation to do justice to them.
– The proposed new system may be more satisfactory from the point of view of honorable members, but will it be better for the State?
– It would suit me personally to agree to everything that the Public Service demanded, so that, so far. as I am concerned, I am not affected in the direction suggested. I admitted on Saturday last that in supporting this measure I should be taking a step that might do me some harm, but I intend to carry out my promises to the people. Quite apart from that, however, I think that this Bill will be in the interests of all concerned, and I shall therefore support it. There may be one or two little details in respect of which I shall desire an alteration, but apart from them I think the Bill is deserving of the support of the House.
.- The outstanding feature of this proposal is that many of those directly affected have presented a petition in opposition to the Bill, and that no other communication from any section of the Public Service has reached us in regard to it. That is an extraordinary fact which, honorable members cannot choose to overlook. Those concerned, so far as they have been heard, are adverse to this Bill, and they undoubtedly are among the best judges of what is most to their advantage. No stronger condemnation could be given than that of the persons supposed to be benefited by this Bill than their protest that it is not a beneficial measure so far as they are concerned.
– They would vote the Public Service Commissioner out of office to-morrow if they had their way.
– That is perfectly irrelevant to the proposal before us. This Bill is directly challenged by more than 4,000 of those directly interested in it.
– By only a certain section of the Public Service..
– The honorable gentleman may say so if he pleases, but taking into account that the remaining members of the service have either tacitly accepted the statement made in their name, or admitted that they cannot refute it, we are confronted by a situation without parallel in this House. That disposes to a large extent of the necessity of discussing the Bill in detail.
Turning from this point for a moment, let us consider the opportunity that will be afforded public servants of making an appeal to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. Although there is in the Bill a clause by which the President can be relieved of many inquiries, the fact is notorious that the Court’s list is already overburdened, and that there are many cases awaiting a hearing that will require to be postponed for months. Then, again, we have had many illustrations of the difficulties surrounding the Court. Of some of these the President has repeatedly complained, and there are others obvious to any one who pays the most cursory attention to the appeals to its jurisdiction. In these circumstances it becomes comparatively easy to understand why so powerful a section of the Public Service proposed to be affected see in the appointment of this Court no remedy for their grievances, but probably their further postponement with an uncertain issue. Surely the complainants have a large amount of reason on their side, even taking into account the palliatives that are proposed to be introduced in this Bill.
A further difficulty is that if this miscellaneous body of public servants is to be dealt with, it will require to put its plaint in sections. In other words, certain sections or occupations of the same character -will require to be grouped in order that those concerned may be heard. As I am informed, the public servants who come under this measure consist of quite a number of sections, and also of relatively small numbers in such small groups as to scarcely deserve even that title. Do honorable members realize that all the Court can be expected to do at its very best is to deal with classes, and to moke some appropriate provision, as time permits, and when all evidence has been taken for each particular group ? This not only multiplies delays which are natural and –apparently inevitable, but reminds us that, although those in whose interest this measure is introduced constitute a large portion of the Public Service, they are subdivided and enjoy contrasted conditions in such a degree that long before the whole of them can be dealt with by this Court, a great deal of water will have run under the bridge, and a great deal of time and expense will have been, if not wasted, largely misemployed.
My own impression is that the public servants of the Commonwealth are as well treated as public servants anywhere, and certainly better treated, as far as we can judge, than the public servants of the States, whose administration in this respect has been declared a model. This is not to say that, in a service so large and so various, there are not causes of complaint; that would be to expect a state of things superhuman. But this House has never been reluctant to grapple with problems connected with the Public Service, and has never failed to deal generously with the service.
– The public servants do not think so.
– The fact remains that this Parliament has been, according to its lights, liberal, generous and fair in all its dealings with the public servants.
This would be the proper place if I had not already noted - and I do so again merely in passing - and now call attention to, the fact that we have to regard this proposition from the stand-point of Parliament. We must recognise that the introduction of an outside tribunal, standing between Parliament and its employes, marks, so far as I am aware, a new departure in constitutional history, and one which reflects very seriously on Parliament itself. What use may be made of this or other precedents, if there are any to follow, of a similar character, I do not foretell j but I do know, that this is a novel departure, that it is a diminution of the authority of Parliament, and that it tends to establish a hitherto unknown relation between Parliament and those whom it employs to give effect to its legislation. Those aspects of the question, as I have said, have already been alluded to by myself and others ; and, at this stage of the session, I shall do no more than once again call attention to them as properly speaking the very first and most serious factors of this problem.
Personally I am inclined to approach this question from a new aspect, by putting a plain query as to the wisdom of the methods which this House adopted in 1901, and has since emphasized. We then established what, at the time, I ventured to term a mechanical system of grading and promotion in the Public Service. Despite all our good intentions to the contrary we then in effect reduced the prospects of our public servants, speaking generally, to a narrow outlook and small prospects. As members of that service they have had comparatively very little encouragement to use their own initiative or special abilities in the interest of the country that employs them. So long ago as 1901 I ventured to express the very strong opnion that we were ham-stringing the Public Service by the in- traduction of .methods framed so as to equalize each class or section within itself rather than to increase the prospects of the individual. No matter what energy he might devote to his duties or what special abilities he might posses, even the man of exceptional qualifications is far more handicapped in our Public Service than he is in private employment.
– That is a debatable question.
– An employer or his manager in any undertaking, however large, is always on the lookout for exceptional ability, ready to pay’ for it, and to place that ability where it can be of the most use. All of us have friends in the Public Service, and know something of the inside working of the Departments. Can we say that there is any incentive worthy of the name in our service to-day to a young man to throw his heart and soul into his work?
– None whatever.
– Is there any encouragement to a young man to prove that he is capable of doing his work better than those associated with him? They are all progressing by the same even stages, and will finish pretty much at the same goal.
– The prizes are very few.
– They are not so few, if the positions, which are prizes, did not seem to fall, so steadily in regular order simply to those in seniority who have no serious black marks against them. Seniority over-weighs everything in most public services ; and, so far as I know, in our Public Service more than any other. That is mainly because of the excellent intentions actuating many honorable members seeking to make sure that the mass of the employes receive at least a living wage. That idea, of course, is very good; but honorable members must not forget that the mere prospect of a living wage from start to finish is nothing like sufficient encouragement to men to fit themselves better for their duties or to make those sacrifices which in private employment would place them, if they deserved it, at the head of the roll. These in the Public Service, unless a man is exceptionally fortunate, may leave him straggling far behind. The appeal behind the .Bill and the appeal in the petition are somewhat of the same character. The dissatisfaction in the Public Service, so far as our energetic and able men and women are concerned, is that of public servants who feel that they are not being permitted to do their best - that they have not sufficient incentive. If that cause of stagnation were removed, I do not say all their complaints would be removed, but these would lose, their impetus ; men of the progressive type would not be so disheartened. In a huge service such as that of the Commonwealth, we find ourselves more and more dropping into ruts and proceeding by routine. While we multiply the number of public servants, the high positions cannot be multiplied in anything like the same ratio, and the chances and prizes rewarding merit become, of course, proportionately fewer.
I have dealt with this question long enough, but am sure that in this series of facts is to be found the clue to a great deal of the disquiet which we are at present endeavouring to cope with by homoeopathic measures of this kind. Personally I expect no real practical success from these proposals. It may apply to some of the large groups, and give them some modified advantages. Even of that I should be loath to prophesy. But I do consider that those who are forcing the .Bill through at this period of the session will hereafter recognise it. Just now it looks to them like a convenient means of passing on the burden of responsibility to somebody else - of enabling them to get rid of the anxieties, of facing the almost perpetual complaints of friction which arise in the Public Service - but, instead of improving matters, this Bill takes the longest way round, instead of the shortest cut, to deal with Public Service grievances. Where real grievances exist, let them be remedied. I am perfectly satisfied that Parliament would take the necessary steps to remedy them. But to refer our public servants to an already overburdened Court will, it appears to me, be a fallacious, and largely a fruitless, endeavour.
The absence of verve and spirit in the service is the symptom about which we ought to be most concerned, and with which it ought to be our aim to cope. As it is, this proposal, although it takes a judicial form, is another resort to what is a wholesale, and, in a sense, a mechanical, method of tackling a problem which can only be solved effectually by dealing with the public servants as individuals, and by offering them something like the same prizes and rewards which are to be won outside. As a matter of fact, the prizes offered in our Public Service are not comparable with those which exist in businesses not a fraction of its size. We shall find that we are not doing the best for the country, or for our public servants, by the introduction of mere palliatives of this character, which, if they operate at all, will operate only in a very limited area, and for a very short time. These, the true grievances from which members of our Public Service suffer, require to be cured before we can expect to get the energy and ability of this country devoted to public affairs in the same way as they are devoted to private enterprise.
.- I propose to deal by way of preface with the remarks which have just fallen from thelips of the Leader of the Opposition. He seems to have focussed his attention more upon the individual advancement of members of the Public Service than upon their advancement as a class. I respectfully submit that the dissatisfaction which exists in the service to-day arises from bodies of men who are not so much concerned with their individual advancement as they are with their general advancement. No matter where we may look, that is the trouble which we have to face. In taking up the attitude which I am adopting to-day, I trust that honorable members will not think that I am influenced by personal motives. It cannot be said that there is any large body of public servants in my electorate. If there be, I am not aware of the fact, nor do I know what their political creed may be ; neither do I care. It is a delicate position for an honorable member to find himself arrayed, not against his own party, but against the Ministry which that party supports. But that is the position which I occupy to-day. Though I cannot vote against my party, I shall not vote with it upon this Bill. I cannot help feeling that the proposal which is embodied in it is nothing more nor less than an attempt to evade dealing in a comprehensive way with the Postal Commission’s report, which concerns so many public servants in Australia. After the exhaustive inquiry which was conducted by that body, I was hopeful that before the termination of the session the Government would have given careful consideration to its recommendations, and have made them the basis of a reconstruction of that branch of the Public Service. But instead of doing that, it seems to me that they are merely attempting to shelve the trouble by throwing upon another party the burden of dealing with it. I had further hoped that there would have been something in the nature of an amending Public Service Bill submitted this session. I had looked forward to the possibility of the abolition of the office of the Public Service Commissioner, or, at any rate, to a delimitation of his duties. I thought that the report of the Postal Commission would have been made the basis of certain reforms in that Department, and that these would have been followed by an amending Public Service Bill. After these matters had been dealt with, I was quite prepared for the introduction of a Bill of this character. To the measure in itself, I take not the slightest exception. I do not see why our public servants should occupy a better position than is occupied by any ordinary body of workers.
– They should occupy an equally good position.
– Undoubtedly. Consequently, I was prepared to support a measure of that character. But if this Bill be carried, what position will the Public Service Commissioner occupy? I submit that, to a large extent, there will be no need for his official existence. Sub-clause 2 of clause5 provides -
The Public Service Commissioner and the Minister of any Department of State affected by the claim shall be entitled to be represented before the Court, either jointly or separately, in the hearing and determination of the claim.
Now, if they can be represented jointly or separately, why should the office of the Public Service Commissioner exist at all? Why cannot Ministers become the heads of their Departments ? Why should they not be the responsible persons, and, if public servants come before the Court, why should they not be made a party to the dispute in which they are interested? I repeat that, if this Bill be carried, the Commissioner will become an officer of very little value to the service. There will be no necessity for his official existence. Ministers controlling their own Departments will be the logical outcome of the measure.
– If the office of Public Service Commissioner be abolished, how would appointments be made?
– There would be nothing to prevent us appointing a subordinate officer to make such appointments as might be necessary.
– Would the honorable member make the appointments subject to political influence?
– I do not wish to see political influence exercised in any Department. But, at the present time, I am afraid a great deal of social influence is being exercised in connexion with appointments in our Public Service. I know of men who come to me day after day telling me of appointments which are about to be made. To them I have put the question, “How do you know?” and their reply has been, “ We heard So-and-so talking about them.” I have then inquired whether I was at liberty to use their names in the matter, and the reply has been, “ For
God’s sake, don’t. If you do so, we shall be marked men in the service.” One honorable member opposite devoted special attention to clause 7 of the Bill, which vests in the Court the power to refer any claim to a State Court, or to a police, Stipendary or special magistrate of the Commonwealth or of a State, for investigation and report, or for hearing and determination; and which further provides that the award of the person to whom it was referred shall have effect as the award of the Court. He contended that the delegation of these powers would result in a lack of uniformity. It was the honorable member for Bendigo who took up that attitude. But when the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was recently under consideration, the contention was that it would result in too great uniformity, and that because of different local conditions, uniform awards ought not to be made in the case of all industries. But here we find that exactly the opposite position- is taken up, and uniformity is contended for. All the public servants are apparently to be placed upon practically the same footing. I do not see why that should be so. There are varying conditions in a continent so vast as Australia with respect to cost of living, house rent, and the inconveniences of one district as compared with another, that might reasonably justify the payment of varying rewards for their services to two officers doing practically the same class of work in different parts of the Commonwealth. I think that in the circumstances the doctrine of uniformity cannot be fairly applied to the Public Service of the Commonwealth as a whole. I think that under clause 15, if the Bill be carried, the general interests of the public servants will be conserved. If they are dissatisfied with an award they can appeal to Parliament, and honorable members will see that their statutory rights are recognised. In the circumstances they may well be fairly satisfied with the provisions of the Bill. I repeat, however, that I cannot at this juncture vote for this measure. I wish to see the Postal Commission’s report made the basis of any reform in connexion with the Postal employes, and I wish also to have an amended Public Service Bill passed before I am called upon to vote for such a measure as this. I shall not vote against my party or the Government I support, but I certainly cannot vote for this Bill at this time.
Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON (Lang) this question. I listened very carefully to the remarks of the Attorney-General in introducing this Bill, and it seemed to me that he was very dubious as to the wisdom of its provisions, and as to its practicability if put into actual operation. I also listened to the speech of the honorable member for Gwydir, who contradicted everything the Minister said in its favour, and referred to several very important points which the Attorney-General had either intentionally or inadvertently omitted to mention. It might not, perhaps, have been quite convenient for the honorable gentleman to remember all the provisions which are likely to militate against the success of the measure. After listening to the honorable member for Gwydir, I came to the House to-day almost anticipating that the Government would announce the withdrawal of the Bill. But in spite of the fact that the honorable member for Gwydir riddled it fore and aft, and left it without a leg to stand upon, the Ministry are cheerfully proposing to proceed with the measure.
– Not cheerfully; lugubriously.
– Perhaps “cheerfully” was not the right word to use. I challenge the title of the Bill, which I think has been wrongly chosen, since it does not fit the provisions of the measure. I think the proper title of the Bill should be “The Commonwealth Public Servants’ Salaries Reduction Bill.” That, at all events, would give some indication of the actual effect which I think its operation is likely to have. Even if we pass this Bill, this Parliament will, after all, be the final tribunal of appeal. This right which attaches to Parliament cannot be taken away from it. There is a vast number of the public servants who desire that the appeal to Parliament shall be retained, unless we are to believe that the petition which has been presented to this House, signed by so many thousand persons in the Public Service, does not represent the general feeling amongst the employes of the Post and Telegraph Department. A large number of the public servants have gone to the trouble of getting up a petition, in which they appeal to Parliament not to delegate its power as a final Court of Appeal to any other body.
– Does the honorable member think that these public servants were coerced into attaching their signatures to the petition ? That is the kind of thing we usually hear.
– Honorable members opposite might put forward such an argument, but I do not think they could substantiate it. I believe that they will not suggest any such thing in this case, because a considerable number of the public servants might, at an inconvenient time, ask them some very awkward questions on the subject. The petition to which I have referred should have weight with honorable members on both sides. I think it will be admitted that honorable members-, no matter on which side they may sit, are anxious to deal, not only fairly and justly, but even generously, with our public servants. They will find in this Parliament a much more sympathetic Court of Appeal than they would be likely to find in any outside Court that might be set up for the consideration of their grievances.
– Parliament would still remain the final Court of Appeal.
– I have said so, and it is therefore absurd to propose under a Bill of this kind to bring the public servants under a Court whose awards cannot be binding on the Parliament, but only upon the public servants. This is a one-sided power in which the elements of equity and justice are absent. The Court will not be able to enforce an award against the Government, since the Government means Parliament, while Parliament means the people. The Government hold the purse, Parliament controls the Government, and the public outside control Parliament. It is practically a question of what Parliament will agree to. If, for example, the Arbitration Court makes an award, increasing the wages of public servants beyond what Parliament considers justifiable, how can it enforce that award ? The Court will at once break down if the terms of its a.wards are such as Parliament will not be willing to concede. It should be remembered that Parliament, in any case, has the power to concede increases claimed by public servants, no matter through what agency the claim is put forward, whether by the Public Service Commissioner, a board of inspectors, a board of management, or an Arbitration Court. It will be seen that the argument in support of bringing the public servants under the operation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act at once falls to the ground when we realize that the Court has no power to enforce an award except as binding on one of the parties to the dispute - the employes. The main argument of the Attorney-Gene ral was that this Bill places the Government as an employer in the same position as a private employer. But a man of the Attorney-General’s astuteness and keen perception could not fail to realize that there is a fundamental difference betweena private employer or body of employers, and the Government of the country.
– The Bill recognises that.Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON. - And in recognising that difference it discloses the weakness of the whole position, and destroys the main argument of the AttorneyGeneral upon which the measure rests. Private employers can be brought under the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court, and awards can be made binding upon: them, notwithstanding their own laws or rules of management, or regulations framed under them.- But clause 15 of this Bill provides -
Except as provided in this section, this Act shall not empower the Court to make any award or, order or give any direction which is not in accord with the laws of the Commonwealth and the regulations made thereunder.
That provision prescribes limits within which the jurisdiction of -the Court may operate. The Court does not need to take any heed of the rules, regulations, or conditions of management of any private business. It can set them aside if it chooses to do so. But the Court cannot make an award against the rules of management prescribed by Parliament. It can only make awards subject to the limitations imposed by the laws of the Commonwealth, and the regulations made thereunder. Of course in sub-clause 2 of the same clause the Court is given power, where it thinks proper to do so, to make an award which in the opinion of the President of the Court is not or may not be in accord with a law or regulation of the Commonwealth relating to the salaries, wages, rates of pay, or terms or conditions of service or employment of employes ; but in that case the President shall send to the Prime Minister and to the Attorney-General, with a certified copy of the award, a statement of the laws or regulations of the Commonwealth, with which, in his opinion, it is not, or may not be, in accord.
But though the Court is thus given power to make an award in conflict with the law, it cannot compel its observance by Parliament. The effect of that sub-clause is to make the President of the Court simply a committee of inquiry. We could appoint a Committee of this House to do all that the Arbitration Court is given power to do.i Is not this an attempt to throw dust in the eyes of the public servants by making; them believe that they are going to get any substantial advantage from a Court of this kind? There is nothing which this Court can do which cannot more effectually be done by local Wages Boards, or by committees appointed on the spot to inquire intothe grievances of public servants. There is nothing serious about the proposal. It will not do what the public servants believe to be the intention of the Government responsible for introducing this Bill. I also point out how the measure may work in connexion with the principle of preference to unionists. On a recent occasion a member of the Government, with the subsequent approval of his colleagues, announced that preference was to be given to unionists in connexion with casual employment in the Public Service. Everybody recognised that although that might be objectionable, nevertheless, according to the declaration of the Prime Minister, it was the declared policy of the party in power. It was also recognised that it is only a question of a little while when the principle will be made to extend not only to temporary employes, but also to permament public servants.
– How can it be applied in that way?
– The question of how the principle can be applied does not now arise. It is not my business to show how it is to be applied. That is a task for Ministers and their supporters, who proclaim it as their policy. It is for them to show how preference to unionists can be applied to public servants without causing injustice. I am afraid that it wouldbe found to be a very tough problem indeed. But if that extension of the principle is recognised by the present Government, and the order to give preference is extended beyond casual employes to those employed in the permanent service, what is going to happen if, by an award of the Court, preference is refused, as was the case in connexion with the Seamen’s Union quite recently? What would the Governmentdo in a case where the Court, by its decisions, supersedes the will of Parliament? What is going to happen if Parliament says, “ We must have the principle of preference to unionists recognised in the Public Service,” and the Arbitration Court refuses to award preference? The Government then must set the bad example of flouting the decision of the Court. These are instances of the kind of difficulties likely to arise under this measure. It is not for me to suggest in what way the Bill can be improved. It is a Government measure, and they must take the responsibility for what it entails. But, as I share in the general desire of honorable members, irrespective of parties, to see our public servants treated fairly, justly, and generously, and to insure that their conditions shall be as comfortable as they can be made, at the same time having regard, on the other side, to the interests of the community at large, I am firmly of the belief that what is proposed to be done could be much better attained by appointing an impartial and disinterested Board of Appeal. The board would need to be different from that which we have now. The Commission recommend the appointment of a board of management for the Post and Telegraph Department, consisting of a general manager, an officer familiar with postal work, and one familiar with telephonic and telegraphic work, to control the whole Department, including staff and works. It makes other recommendations - though too many to be quoted. I think there is much in the recommendations of the Royal Commission to be seriously entertained. If a travelling committee could be appointed, either permanently, or as the occasion arose, to inquire into alleged grievances, they could make their recommendations to the board of management, or if we had three commissioners appointed in place of one-
– That work could be done by the ordinary inspectors.
Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON.All that is required really is an amendment of the Public Service Act to make these or other suitable provisions, perhaps to widen the scope of the powers of the Commissioner, or if it is thought that too much responsibility is placed on the shoulders of one man, two other commissioners might be appointed to assist him in the work, and two of the three could travel from State to State, keeping their pulse on the whole of the Public Service, and acquainting themselves with the conditions in the various Departments. By that means, I think that a larger measure of relief in the way of redress of grievances could be secured than can be obtained by bringing the Public Service within the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court.
.- I do not know that one can feel very greatly in love with this measure. At the same time I, in common with other honorable members, am looking out for some means to relieve the Public Service. There is a considerable amount of discontent at the present time, and so far as I can gather, it arises from the fact that the officers in the various Departments are not having their grievances attended to - I was going to say in the manner which they would like - in a manner which they appreciate. I should like to see some door opened by which, we could in some way get out of the difficulty. I believe that there are honorable members, though comparatively few in number, who would like to see the office of the Public Service Commissioner abolished. I cannot go so far as that, because I recognise that in regard to appointments to the Public Service responsibility must centre in some person or persons. There are certain examinations which have to be carried out, and there must be some man who must take a hand in the appointments to the Public Service. Otherwise, we should find ourselves reverting to a system which was not appreciated by the public, or I think by the public servants, and that is political patronage. I have not that dread of political patronage which is felt by some honorable members, not that I wish to see the system reverted to. Other forms of patronage are suggested to my mind - official patronage, social patronage, and quite a number of other forms of patronage - which are more detrimental to the public and the service generally than was, I believe, the old style of political appointment, which I think was bad enough. Member after member on the Opposition side has said that this is a Government Bill, and therefore he does not feel called upon to make any suggestion. The honorable member for Lang thought that a board might be inaugurated to travel from State to State, and I presume, to sit in the State capitals and the large provincial towns, and hear the grievances of public servants. I am not enamoured of a suggestion of that kind. We need to be very careful, otherwise we shall have this country run by commissioners and boards, instead of by Parliament, as it ought to be. Instead of creating another board-
– This Bill encourages that idea a bit.
– No, it wipes’ it out. It makes use of an existing tribunal, where public servants can .take their grievances and appear, as they cannot do now.
– This is to be their final tribunal.
– Parliament will always be the final tribunal. Hitherto public servants who have had the temerity to advocate their cause, or to espouse the cause of their fellow men have, as a rule, become marked men. Very often they have been sent to Coventry for taking that course, or their promotion has never come along. I do not suggest that the tribunal referred to in this Bill is the most model method of transacting this sort of business. At any rate, it is an attempt to try to relieve ourselves from a position which, in my humble judgment, has become practically intolerable so far as public servants are concerned. The honorable member for Dalley said he would very much like to see the recommendation of the Postal Commission brought into full force. As far as one great Department of the State is concerned, I presume that he is favorable to the creation of a board of management, as suggested by the Royal Commission. I cannot say that I am in love with that proposal. The honorable member who presided over the Commission, and had a great deal to do with the drawing up of the report, should certainly be very thankful that 1 20 or 130 of their suggestions have been’ adopted by the Minister or the Public Service Commissioner. The honorable member for Gwydir and his colleagues should, I think, be abundantly satisfied, for no higher commendation could be given to a body of Commissioners than the adoption of the bulk of their recommendations. I am rather averse to the creation of a board of management for the Public Service. I cannot say that I favour the idea at all. At the same time, the honorable member for Dalley said he would like to see the report’ of the Postal Commission adopted in the main, and the methods therein suggested carried out, accompanied by a substantial amendment of the Public Service Act. He suggested a certain sequence of reforms. To a certain extent, they appeal to my mind, but I cannot go as far as he does. We have a very large section of the public servants who, if I understand their feelings aright, are dissatisfied with the present system. During my election campaign, I was questioned in regard to the matter by employe’s of the State and the Commonwealth. They inquired whether I was favorable to the idea of Government employes being brought under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act,, and I replied that I was. I said that I did’ not believe in making any distinctions between those who work inside the Public Service fence and other persons. If there are privileges to be obtained, and grievances to be redressed, and public servants can better gain the concessions and get the grievances redressed before the Arbitration Court, they have a perfect right to appeal to that tribunal.
– Does not the honorable member think ‘ that the Commonwealth should set an example to outsiders in regard to pay and conditions?
– Every time.
– Why- send the public servants to the Arbitration Court?
– The honorable member for Lang gave to this measure a name with which I quite disagree. He said, that it is, in effect, a Salaries Reduction Bill. It is rather a Salaries Maintenance and Increase Bill. That is the name which I would give to it.
– It would be false.
– I do not think so; because I believe that the temper of this Parliament is such that even if the Arbitration Court recommended reductions in the salaries of certain sections of the Public Service, Parliament would not assent to the recommendation.
– As the Court of Appeal, we should throw it out.
– We should.
– Would you do that if the recommendation was correct?
– Oh, “if.” The speeches of honorable members on the other side in regard to practically every measure have bristled with “ ifs.” Clause 14 of this Bill reads -
Every award made under this Act shall be expressed not to come into operation until a future date, not earlier than after the expiration of thirty days after the award has been laid before both Houses of the Parliament.
Each House will have an opportunity of reviewing an award.
– That means challenging a Judge’s decision every time.
– No. I do not regard the matter in that light at all. The Court will sit as a Board of Inquiry. If the Public Service Commissioner appears as the defendant, and the postal employes or the members of some other branch of the Public Service appear as the complainants, the Judge will hear the evidence of both sides, and give an award accordingly. That award will come before both Houses of Parliament ; and, therefore, there can be no alteration of the conditions of the Public Service without the approval of Parliament. At present, if the Public Service has any appeal at all, it is from Cæsar to Caesar. Virtually, there is no appeal from a decision of the Commissioner in regard to salaries, increments, and conditions. The letter-carriers form a section of the Public Service which is not fairly treated, and I hope that the Government will see that justice is done to their claims.
– A great many in the Public Service have petitioned against being brought under the Arbitration law.
– A large number of letter carriers are desirous, if they cannot obtain redress otherwise, of being brought under the arbitration law. The honorable member has been long enough in public life . to know that considerable allowances must be made in regard to petitions. A large section of the ‘Public Service, during the election campaign, and since, has expressed the opinion that it will be better to be under the arbitration law than to be left entirely at the mercy of the Commissioner. Bank clerks and other persons engaged in the lighter kinds of employment, who for years were of opinion that to join a union was mfr a dig., are now forming unions ; and the most intelligent body of men in the community - the school teachers - have, in two or three of the States, formed unions. Even the gentlemen of the press, who write stinging articles about members of Parliament, have organized themselves. This is evidence that Unionism is advancing. A great many persons in the Public Service will be glad to have their grievances redressed by the Arbitration Court. I have mentioned the letter-carriers, because men who for twenty-five years have been faithfully discharging their duties deserve great consideration, and should receive the maximum salary fixed by the Commissioner. Although it is said that he is guided by expert advisers, he has, in several instances, declined to grant the requests of those engaged in work of a strictly technical character. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports complained that he would not recognise pole-dressers as being engaged on more technical work than that of ordinary labourers ; and I have the same complaint to make in regard to his attitude towards the assistant ‘armourers, whose work is highly technical, and of exceptional use to the Defence Department. Such men are worth more than 8s. 6d. a day. At present, the big foot of the Commissioner is on their neck, and they are being kept down. They should be able to place their case before the Arbitration Court. I believe that many grievances will be rectified as the result of this legislation, because the man who is responsible for them -will think it better to redress them than to allow cases to go into the Arbitration Court. Sitting behind closed doors, he can do as he likes ; but he will not dare, when statements can be made in the light of day, to withhold increases of salary and better conditions from those who deserve them. Some of us know that, in times of panic, Parliament treats the Public Service, and particularly the lower ranks of it, very badly. In the early nineties, we had to submit -to a special tax because Parliament caught the fever of retrenchment which was in the air. Some of the more poorly paid men in the Public Service have been penalized to an extent which would not have been tolerated outside.
– Just the opposite was done in South Australia.
– The honorable member cannot tell me that. I notice that the State school teachers of Queensland, who have been labouring under disabilities for some time, approached their Minister recently with a request that, if possible, some of their grievances might be redressed, and their salaries increased. The Minister’s reply was to the effect that Queensland was not enjoying such a good season this year as last, and he could not guarantee that Parliament would grant any increases of salary; but he would say that, although the season might be bad, Parliament would not make any reduction of their already poor salaries ! That was giving them very poor comfort. A Court of this kind will have a steadying effect upon any Parliament that is inclined to give way to panic, although I think that this Parliament is so constituted that there is no danger of any reduction being made in the salaries of the lower paid public servants. In fact, I am certain that if a full statement of the way in which many of the more poorly paid public servants are now suffering could be put before the House, members on both sides would readily assent to increases of salary being granted. I hope that the effect upon those in authority in the Public Service of bringing in the Court will be that generally they will exclaim, “ Don’t shoot;
I will come down.” The employes are dissatisfied with the Public Service Commissioner, and are looking for some other method of having their grievances attended to.
– Why are they dissatisfied? You have not mentioned the cause of their dissatisfaction.
– Some of them are dissatisfied with the way in which the Public Service Commissioner treats them.
– Are they dissatisfied with their classification?
– I know that owing to the increased cost of living many of them say they are getting too small a salary to bring up a family in decency and comfort. Men who have rendered twenty-five years’ service to the, public are receiving now only from ^140 to ^143 a year. That is very poor remuneration, for men who have passed the meridian of life and are practically going down hill. There seems to be no hope of obtaining redress from, those at the head of the Public Service at present.
– Do you think the Court would grant an increase on the basis of the wages paid outside?
– It would be very difficult to compare work such as that of letter-carriers and others in the service with outside work.
The provision that the Judge may delegate the hearing of some of the cases to other persons does away with the contention of the honorable member for Ballarat that the Court is already overloaded with work, and that, therefore, the public servants could not possibly look to it for redress.
– I called attention to those particular exceptions, and said that despite them the public servants would find that the hearing of their claims was blocked.
– If, for instance, the letter-carriers of the Commonwealth, who have an association which is as wide as the Commonwealth, are dissatisfied with their pay and hours of work, and their case is placed before the Arbitration Court, once the award is given, and Parliament approves of it - and Parliament must do so, because Parliament has charge of the public purse - it will satisfy the letter-carriers throughout the Commonwealth.
– I am not sure that the legal reading which many people give to this Bill is correct.
– I, as an amateur, simply take the clauses and read them in a common-sense way. It appears to me that the provisions regarding the delegation of the Court’s powers afford a method of avoiding a glut in the work of the Court.
– Do you approve of State officers dealing with the rates of pay of Commonwealth officers?
– Where it is necessary, and the State officers can perform the work satisfactorily, I do not mind it being done. I agree with the honorable member for Ballarat that there is not sufficient incentive given to men, particularly to young men, when they enter the Public Service. When a bright young fellow asks me to obtain an opportunity for him to enter the service, I inquire what he is already doing, and wherever possible I tell him emphatically that I believe he would succeed far better outside than inside the service. It seems to me that when an intelligent man enters the service, the hobbles are at once put on him, and he is restricted in every way. I understand that in America a lad who enters an office or factory is informed by the manager, or foreman, that he will be rewarded for any suggestion which he can make for improving the business.
– If he does that here, he loses his job.
– Yes, here, again, the big boot seems to be placed on the neck of those who make suggestions. Every man who enters the Public Service ought to be told that any good suggestion he makes will be acted on, and that he will be rewarded for if. I am rather proud of many of the fine young men who have entered the Public Service, arid I sometimes think that their parents made a great mistake in not inducing them to go into outside employment. I had seven years’ experience in the service, and never felt more fettered in my life. I believe it was because I was an agitator, and tried to improve things there, that I was summarily ejected. A retrenchment scheme came along, and, in spite of the fact that I had received promotion a little while before, I was selected as one of the victims. I was ignominiously pitchforked out of the service, and made a vow then that so long as I could earn my crust outside, I would remain outside ; and I did so, until I was put back into the Public Service, although in a different sphere, at the last election. We are trying, by means of this Bill, to find some door of escape from the difficulties in which the Public Service now finds itself. I do not say that this is the best possible method to adopt. The honorable member for Ballarat described it as a palliative. Perhaps it may be termed that; but if it will make things only a little better than they are at present, it will be better than nothing. I, therefore, accept the Bill, in the hope that it will make even more improvements than some of the more pessimistic imagine to be possible. I trust that it will mean better and more loyal work in connexion with the Public Service, because, next to an honest Parliament and pure administration, a country can have no greater blessing than a hardworking and loyal Public Service. W.e should do all in our power to secure such a perfect service for the Commonwealth. There are in the Public Service, as in other walks of life, some men who. do for them what you will, will never be satisfied. We cannot hope to meet the desires of such a class ; but, for the general body of public servants, whom I admire, I believe this Bill will provide, at all events, a partial solution of some of the difficulties under which they are labouring, and I shall therefore support it.
– Unlike the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, I am, on principle, strongly opposed to this Bill., As the Leader of the Opposition has said, it is unique. It proposes a departure which I do not think has been attempted before in connexion with the Public Service, and I should be exceedingly sorry if the Commonwealth were the first to undertake it. The Public Service should be complete in itself. The officers of the service, if they think proper, should have their associations entirely within the ser-. vice, and entirely dissociated from ordinary unions and other industrial associations outside. I am not surprised that some honorable members do not share the views of the Minister in charge of the Bill, and most of those who support it in regard to what it is likely to accomplish, since I do not think it will operate in the interests of the Public Service as a whole. I feel confident that, when the Bill is understood by the public servants generally, it will be appreciated by only a very small proportion of .them. I speak from six years’ experience in the administration of the biggest public Department in South Australia, and I believe that this Bill proposes nothing more, in the first place, than a surrendering of Ministerial responsibility, and, in the second place, a shirking of parliamentary responsibility. This Parliament ought to be in a position to understand the details and conditions of the Commonwealth Service infinitely better than can .the President of the Conciliation, and Arbitration Court. Apart from the fact that he is now altogether overworked in meeting the demands made upon him from outside industrial organizations, that must be so. But what we require to do is to make more complete the system under which we are working. I believe in the principle of control of the service by a Commissioner, and having regard to the extreme difficulties surrounding him, the Public Service Commissioner has so far done commendable work. I do not consider, however, that the work performed under him is perfect, nor do I think that there is complete satisfaction throughout the service under the work that he has so far accomplished. We know that the reverse is the fact, but I feel confident that we might materially improve the routine by which the Public Service Commissioner obtains his information. When we improve the sources of his information, and more particularly the methods adopted by officers immediately under the Commissioner, I think we shall very soon arrive at a position which will give to the Commonwealth a contented service. It is common knowledge to honorable members that the officers associated with the Public Service Commissioner are not acting on what are recognised in any big concern in Australia as common-sense lines. The State Inspectors are far too autocratic and independent in the methods they adopt by which the Commissioner is enabled finally to determine big questions affecting the classification of the service, and the various interests of the officers. Take, for instance, the Post and Telegraph Department. Who ought to be in a better position to advise the Commissioner in respect of officers in that Department than the Deputy PostmasterGeneral in each State? Who- could advise the Postmaster-General better than the leading officers in the several branches of that Department? It is well known, however, that the Deputy PostmastersGeneral have very little to say in the way of recommendations or otherwise as to the distribution of officers in the Department. In my opinion, the Deputy PostmasterGeneral in each State should have everything to say so far as recommenda- tions are concerned. His recommendations filtering through the Commonwealth Inspector for the State to the Public Service Commissioner should be taken on their merits for what they are worth; but surely he is in an infinitely better position to know more of the inner workings of the Department than is one man who has to deal with the service from one end of a State to the other. It is in that direction that a great deal of the weakness of the Department exists. Honorable members remember the former Deputy PostmasterGeneral for South Australia - one of the finest men Australia ever knew - the late Sir Charles Todd, who brought the Department of that State to a condition of the very highest efficiency. It was an example to every State ; but nothing did more to break that grand old man’s heart than did the new system under which the operations of the Public Service Inspector for the State were such as to practically ignore him - a fine old servant who knew the Department from too to bottom, every man in it, and every detail of it.
– The honorable member is now getting back to the idea of one-man control.
– On the. contrary, I am getting away from it. The reason that Sir Charles Todd was such an admirable administrator was that he took into association with him every good man in every big office in the State. There is a great deal of friction in the Public Service, and a good deal of shortcoming in the results that we ought to expect, because we have not the right man in the right place. If we are to have a Public Service achieving the best results, and giving the best conditions for the employe’s, we must have the right men in responsible positions, and not despise any source of information from top to bottom. When it is known in the service that merit has some recognition by the head, and in this Parliament, we shall have contentment and loyalty ; but when the public servants are chafing under restraint, with a consciousness that there is no real recognition of merit, and that there is too much autocratic business, not .only at the top, but a step or two below, we have conditions such as are giving rise to discontent and trouble. This can be rectified; and it is the business of the House to rectify it. A great Public Service ought to be complete and exclusive - complete in itself - and it ought to be the best employer, obtaining the services of the best men. If the men are not good, we are not getting a fair return, and they should be got rid of, as is the case in outside business. I differ from the honorable member for Maribyrnong when he declares that Parliament is an unsympathetic Court of Appeal for the public servants.
– The honorable member did not say that Parliament is unsympathetic.
– He said that Parliament, and other deliberative bodies, in bad seasons passed panic legislation which operated against the Public Service.
– I spoke out of the fulness of my heart.
– I am convinced of the honesty and sincerity of the honorable member ; but there is another side to the question. In the early nineties, Australia was undergoing a time of distress greater than any experienced before, and greater, I hope, than will be again experienced for generations to come. Whilst most Parliaments appeared to be unsympathetic, they were really not so. In South Australia, the principle laid down was that the low-wage men were not to be touched, and that up to a certain sum, increments were to proceed.
– There was retrenchment even in salaries below £100
– The practice was as I have stated in South Australia, and the Minister of Home Affairs will agree that it was a sound one.
– Hear, hear !
– All the retrenchment was a matter of. compulsion, and was distressing to Parliament, as well as to the public servants. Does the honorable member for Maribyrnong think for a moment that men like the late Mr. Kingston, Sir Frederick Holder, and others, would impose such conditions on the Public Service except under a sense of the greatest and strongest necessity? While Parliaments were exercising enforced and rigid economy, to men employed outside the service it was not a question of getting less, but a question of getting their daily bread ; in all the primary, and secondary industries, depressing conditions prevailed. I am sure the honorable member for Maribyrnong will not willingly reflect on the Parliaments by describing them as unsympathetic to the public servants, when there was such great need experienced in out side employment. After all, while the Public Service has its drawbacks, it has its attractions. I admit, with previous speakers, that the brightest intellects have hot the chance, by ten to one, in the Public Service that they have outside - that promotion in the service is very slow indeed. Seniority is exceedingly difficult to set aside without very” strong reasons - it is difficult to promote a bright promising man over the heads of men many years his senior. Yet that is the principle which applies in all big undertakings outside the Public Service; and that is why outside employment affords infinitely greater attractions to brains. We must remember, however, that inside the Public Service there is the sense of security.
– It is not always secure ; the public servants of Victoria practically squared the ledger in the bad time, owing to special retrenchment and taxation by Parliament.
– The public servants of Victoria did not square the ledger by a long way, because for a considerable time after the bad times, the Railway Department had hundreds of thousands of pounds to make up. While the public servants took their part, the honorable member knows very well that, throughout all the producing areas, the greatest distress prevailed. If the pinch came on the public servants, it also came on the men who had to pay the public servants. This is going to be a very great question indeed. I forget the relative figures; but I think that about one out of every seven male adult workers in Australia is a member of the Public Service in some capacity or the other, and has to be paid by the other six. While Parliament has a duty to the Public Service, it also has a duty to those who find the wages of the Public Service.
– The public servants are also taxpayers, and help to find the money.
– Quite so; I am simply pointing out that we stand as the representatives of the service 011 the one hand, and of the great body of taxpayers on the other ; and that representative position we ought to hold and not surrender in any part. Parliament ought to be the final arbiter - the final Court of appeal every time for the Public Service.
– So it is.
– In my opinion, it is a mongrel sort of proposal. Under certain conditions, if those who appeal to the Court are satisfied the award is right; but if they are not, they may’ come to Parliament. It is “ Heads I win, tails you lose.”
– The provision is that, before an award can have effect, it must be approved by both Houses.
– That is what I dislike about it. There are other conditions under which the Judge of the Arbitration Court has no power to make an award, but was merely to indicate what his award would be, and to submit it to the Prime Minister, or the Attorney-General, with a statement showing where it might come into collision with existing law. This statement is to be laid on the table of the House ; and for what reason ? Like municipal by-laws and other regulations, it is laid on the table to be challenged - the House is entitled, every time, to challenge the decision of the President of the Court - and that, in my opinion, is not a good principle. There will be a lot more said about judicial authorities in this House than has ever been said before; and that is not a state of affairs I desire to see. I do not wish to see that sort of thing brought about. None of my sympathies is with this Bill, but my sympathies are with the Public Service, and it is about time we set to work to rectify a number of the anomalies under which the Public Service Commissioner is working. Above everything, we ought to insist that this Parliament shall create and maintain such conditions in our Public Service as will not only make it attractive to the best men and women, but as will get out of that service the very best” results for the taxpayer. Then there will be mutual satisfaction.
.- In addressing myself to this Bill, I cannot help thinking that it is the outcome of an assumption that a certain amount of discontentment exists in our Public Service, and that our public servants are suffering injustice. The honorable member for Ballarat was Prime Minister at the time the Postal Commission was appointed, and he knows that a very great deal of pressure had to be brought to bear upon him before he would consent to the creation of that tribunal. His Government desired a departmental inquiry to be made into the alleged injustices under which public servants were labouring, with a view, if possible, to remedying them. It was only because of the pressure which was brought to bear upon him that he finally consented to the appointment of a Royal Commission. I did not agree with the proposal to appoint that body, because I did not think that the disabilities under which public servants suffered were as great as they were alleged to be, or that they were being made the victims of certain regulations framed by the Public Service Commissioner, in whom I have always had a great deal of faith. Mr. McLachlan is a very fine officer, who has done admirable work. He had to undertake the Herculean task of organizing our Public Service in six States, and he has performed it well. Of course, no man’s work is perfect; but Mr. McLachlan has been gaining experience during the past ten years, and he has profited by that experience, as has also the Commonwealth. As the years go by, he is correcting Public Service anomalies. The dissatisfaction which exists in the service to-day is not so great as it was, and I have no hesitation in saying that some of the grievances of civil servants are manufactured. To-day I had a circular put into my box from the Letter Carriers Association, which has representatives in all of the States. The circular reads -
On behalf of the letter carriers of the Commonwealth we desire to ask, that prior to being brought under the provision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, Parliament shall schedule the salaries, hours of duty, and condition* of labour generally of letter carriers.
What would that involve? If this Parliament agreed to anything of the kind, where would it end, and how long would satisfaction be guaranteed? We should immediately have similar requests from other associations, and the same . organization, twenty-four hours later, would probably ask for something else. Thus it would be impossible to arrive at any finality. Of course, there are many features in the Postal Commission’s report which are of an admirable character. The members of that Commission devoted a great deal of time and attention to the matters submitted by this Parliament for their consideration. On the other hand, some of the grievances under which public servants are supposed to labour are not of a genuine character. A little time ago I read the report of a meeting in this city of an association which is connected with the Postal Department. At that meeting a resolution was carried to the effect that a. designation which had been given by the Public Service Commissioner to certain officers should be altered.
It appealed that some time previously there had been some officers who were called senior sorters. Subsequently their designation was altered to a more euphonious title. Then the Public Service Commissioner had altered their title back to the original one. The association thereupon passed a resolution affirming that it should be again changed to the more euphonious one, although the alteration would not have affected .05 per cent, of the officers in the Postal Service. Those honorable members who were in this House when the Public Service Bill was passed, and who had had some experience of the way in which some of the Public Services of the States had been conducted, hailed it with a great deal of satisfaction. We are all familiar with what has recently been described as the brother-in-law industry. We all know that in Queensland that industry has been developed to the fullest possible extent. In that State men were pitchforked into positions which they were absolutely unfitted to occupy. The same thing has happened in New South Wales, where the Public Service has been hampered by the inefficiency of men who had been placed in their offices by former Governments. I have in my mind’s-eye men, who, to my own knowledge, were totally unfitted for the positions which they filled. Some have now been superseded by others, but many still remain. There is one weak point in our Public Service Act with which the Public Service Commissioner has to deal. I know of one instance in which a man who was in receipt of about ^450 per annum was incapable of performing his duties. His work was practically done by a subordinate. Finally the officer retired, and his subordinate, who was receiving only £250 per annum, continued to do his work for months, when he was superseded by another officer. It seems- to me that, In such circumstances, he should have received promotion to the position which he had filled so ably and satisfactorily. That is one weak point in connexion with the reclassification scheme which ought to .be remedied. But I do not think that this Bill will remedy it, and I am not wholeheartedly in favour of the measure. I say that members of this Parliament who have had a knowledge of what occurred in the Public Services of the States welcomed the Commonwealth Public Service Act as a measure which would provide for a more efficient and better conducted service for the Commonwealth. There has been some mention of favouritism, and we know that it was rampant in the State Public Services. I regret to say that it is not entirely non-existent in the Commonwealth service. I do not know where the influence comes from, but there is evidence of its exercise in the promotion of certain persons. I do not say that these people are incapable of fulfilling the positions to which they are promoted, but it is difficult to account for their promotion, except on the ground of influence. I do not suggest that the Public Service Commissioner is in any way responsible for this, but we know that sometimes it is said that the head of a Department, or of a branch of a Department, has got what is known as “ a set “ upon a man. Where that is the case, it is admitted that that man’s chance of promotion is hopeless, no matter how efficient he may be ; in fact, his very ability may act as a handicap instead of as a help to him. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports referred to this matter. He brought forward a model of certain telegraph poles, and complained that the men who made these poles are not classified as they ought to be. This is a question of favouritism. The handy man may not be a favourite with the foreman, and may be left behind, while another, who is a favourite, is promoted. This is a difficulty, however, which has always existed, and will continue to exist. It is due to the weakness of human nature, and it cannot be remedied by a Public Service Commissioner, by the adoption of the recommendations of the Postal Commission, or by this Bill. The honorable member for Wakefield has referred to the difficulty experienced by the brightest intellects in getting on in the Public Service. It must be admitted that where the prizes are so few, it is impossible for every man to secure one. I have three sons of my own, and I would not permit one of them to enter the Public Service. I say that the man of bright intellect should remain outside the Public Service if he wishes .to have a good chance of success in life. These bright intellects who have been spoken of are, I am afraid, few and far between, and, perhaps, there are not many in the Public Sendee.
– They are mostly in Parliament.
– I thank the honorable gentleman. The honorable member for Wakefield has referred to the security of the Public Service, and we know that the work is not too strenuous, but I think it will be generally admitted that, given the capacity to get on, there is not the same opportunity for success in the Public Service that there is outside.
– The average in the Public Service is good.
– I believe the average is excellent. I admitted in my opening remarks that we have a good service, and I believe 1ihat the dissatisfaction which is alleged to exist has been, to a great extent, manufactured. Though some of us may not be prepared to admit it, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that this Bill is introduced to supply a buffer between Parliament and the Public Service. It has been found that the Public Service Commissioner has not served that purpose sufficiently well. Possibly, the recommendations of the Postal Commission would not be an improvement, and certainly the conditions established by this Bill will fail as a buffer. I say that if this Bill be passed with clause 15 in it, the position, if anything, will be worse than it is now. Under that clause, anything that comes into conflict with a rule or regulation already made must be submitted to this Parliament. How many rules and regulations have been made under the Public Service Act? There must be hundreds of them. There are so many that I do not think it is possible for the Arbitration Court to make any award which would not come into conflict with some regulation which has already been presented to this Parliament. Then we should find the pressure which is brought to bear in the State Parliaments in connexion with the Public Service brought to bear here in an infinitely greater degree. Previously, the Public Services of the States and of the Commonwealth were, to a great extent, disorganized. But now that the Public Service of the Commonwealth is organized in the most perfect manner, the pressure that would be brought to bear upon Parliament would be proportionately greater. In the circumstances, this Bill,with clause 15 in it, cannot be expected to effect the purpose for which it has been introduced. No one will contend that there are not individual cases of grievance in the Public Service. I suppose that every member of this Parliament has had an individual grievance brought under his notice which, upon examination, has proved to be genuine. But I believe that examination will show that if the grievances of organizations do exist at all, they are of a very much slighter character than is suggested. We all know that there are num bers of individual grievances which ought to be remedied, but I do not think that this Parliament is the place in which to seek a remedy for them.
– Will any system that can be devised do away with individual grievances ?
– I honestly do. not think so. Honorable members will remember that we were informed of individual grievances in the case of men in the Post and Telegraph Department, who were called upon to work in contract offices for as little as 10s. per day. Cases were quoted of postmasters in Victoria, married men with families, who were getting as low as £60 per annum. When we made provision for the minimum wage of £110 those men were exceedingly grateful, though whether their gratitude was of ‘the kind that anticipates favours to come, we do not know. These individual grievances will continue to exist and I agree with the honorable member for Wimmera that no system we can evolve will remedy them entirely. The honorable member for Lang referred to preference to unionists, and by interjection, I asked the honorable member how preference to unionists could be applied under this, or any other Bill, to public servants who are already classified.
– The Government say that it is their policy.
– That we have given preference to unionists in casual employment is undoubtedly true, but there never has been a proposal made that by preference to unionists we should override the results of the examinations by which alone persons may secure employment in the Public Service.
– I expressly excluded those in the service.
– It is not likely that any such proposition would be made. If it were, I would not be one to support it. In my opinion, the Commonwealth Public Service owes its efficiency, and I say that it is highly efficient, to the method of competitive examination adopted for entrance into it. I understand that the .examinations are getting stiffer every year. I believe that there is one section of the Postal Department in South Australia, the members of which are suffering from a real grievance.
– The honorable member refers to the deferred payment difficulty?
– Yes. Whether that is a matter which this Parliament should attend to, or which should be dealt with by the High Court, I am not prepared to say, but I am credibly informed that the public servants to whom I refer have a serious and a real grievance. What is happening at the present time in the Commonwealth was foreseen twenty years ago by Max Nordau, when he wrote his Conventional Lies of Civilization. At that time, of course, he had no idea that Democracy would be realized to the extent that it has been in Australia. He wrote in a country where a limited franchise prevailed. He did not realize a country in which there would be the universal suffrage which we have in Australia. But he remarks - and the observation is being borne out now - that out of a Democracy a bureaucracy would grow up, which would largely affect, if it did not succeed in dominating, the Government of the day. That is what we are witnessing at the present moment. The bureaucracy in this country is becoming very powerful. The public servants have votes. Their brothers, wives, sisters, cousins, aunts and other relations also have votes. They can use them, and there is no doubt that they do so.
– Would the honorable member apply that remark to industrial unions and organizations?
– Of course, the remark applies to them also; but it applies particularly to the public servants and their organizations, which are becoming so strong that in time this Parliament will have to look to it that it is not entirely dominated by the public servants. I again emphasize my objection to clause 15 of the Bill, which I should like to see struck out.
– We could not allow the Court to interfere with the law.
– That is so, and the Court cannot interfere with regulations which have been made under the law. Those regulations are as authoritative as Acts of Parliament.
– What is done by Parliament cannot be undone by a Court.
– If a question were submitted to the Arbitration Court, and the Court’s decision conflicted with some regulation which existed under the law, the question would have to be submitted to this Parliament. ‘
– It is logical that if Parliament passes a law, or approves of a regulation, Parliament alone should have the power to alter the same.
– Then there is nothing for it but for the award to be submitted to this Parliament. If that were the case, we should be subjected to outside influences to which I take the strongest objection.
.- I have listened with a great deal of pleasure and interest to the remarks which have fallen from, the honorable member for Herbert, and I also listened with satisfaction to the speech of .the honorable member for Gwydir on Friday. That speech was full of destructive criticism. As I listened to it, and read the Bill which is now before us, I thought that possibly the best thing that could happen would be to ha.ve this measure printed with the word “ dangerous “ in big red letters across every page of it.’ Every person in Government employment is to have an opportunity of bringing his case, in conjunction with the cases of others, under the purview of the Arbitration Court. But there is one exception, applying to the Military and Naval Forces. Why should this exception be made? I apprehend that there can be but one answer. The Military and Naval Forces are excepted, because to every thinking man it must be clear that to allow them to appeal to the Arbitration Court would be subversive of all discipline. But I maintain that the whole army of civil servants should equally be subjected to proper discipline, under proper authority, by persons intrusted with the power of; controlling them. The whole Public Service of this country is as much an army, and should be as much subjected to discipline, as are those in the Military and Naval Forces. Consequently, I discover in this particular aspect of the Bill one of its weakest features. It is obvious to every one that our army of civil servants can only be controlled efficiently, and that its members can only properly discharge their functions, under a properly regulated system of discipline. This Bill is dangerous, because it undermines that proper system. I find that there is to be conferred upon the Arbitration Court power to delegate its authority to minor Courts. Under clause 7- the Court may refer any claim of which it has cognisance under this Act, or ani, matter arising out of the claim, to a judge of a State Court, or a police, stipendiary or special magistrate of the Commonwealth or of a State, or other person authorized by the Governor-General in that behalf, for investigation and report
So that it is quite obvious that there is no intention that the merits of cases brought before the Arbitration Court shall be decided by that Court. A great number of cases will be decided by subsidiary Courts presided over by Judges and magistrates of different degrees and of different calibres. That is a dangerous provision. We should require uniformity in treatment regarding our Public Service. Decisions which apply in one part of the Commonwealth ought to be exactly those which apply in another part. If the grievances of the public servants are to be adjudicated upon by a Court, it is surely necessary that that Court’s decisions should be uniform. Under the provision which I have quoted that is impossible. Then it is provided under clause 13 that after a decision has been arrived at by a minor Court - no award, order or direction of the Court made under this Act shall be challenged, appealed against, reviewed, quashed, or called in question, or be subject to prohibition or mandamus, in any other Court on any account whatever.
That, it appears to me, confers very large and extended powers on the minor Courts. It permits no appeal from the minor Courts to a higher Court. Whatever conditions are arrived at by the minor Courts stand, and can only be reviewed under subsequent provisions, which allow the cases to be brought under the purview of Parliament.
– There may be an appeal to the Court under clause 7.
– According to subclause 2 of clause 7, the report of a minor Court may be final. It is not my intention to review the Bill at further length, and I think that I have pointed out a substantial objection to it. I desire to offer a few remarks regarding the Public Service. There is no question that there are very grave difficulties and very many grievances in the Public Service. The cause of all the grievances is that no matter how keenly intellectual or industrious a public servant may be, he finds it almost impossible for him to get his merits recognised: That is not the case in private employment. Very often in the largest commercial and manufacturing concerns we find comparatively young men at the head of affairs, and old men men occupying subordinate positions. One of the essentials in regard to the Public Service is that there should be some recognition of seniority. From one point of view that does appear to be neces sary, but from another point of view it is absolutely fatal to any hope that the true and great grievance under which the Public Service suffers can be redressed. Until we have the control of the Public Service fixed in some body which has not only the power, but also the capacity to discriminate between merit and demerit, between energy and lassitude, we shall never have anything like satisfaction from the point of view df either the public or the Public Service. The trouble exists, and the question is how are we to get rid of it? The outlook seems to me almost hopeless. I commend the honorable member for Herbert for pointing out the important fact that the Commissioner has been in his position for a number of years, with the result that he has secured a fund of very valuable information and knowledge, which is increasing day by day, and which he is applying in a practical way. His decisions, of course, may not always be satisfactory to those whose cases have been adjudicated upon, but he possesses knowledge which the public servants cannot possibly possess. I venture to say that in view of the knowledge which he has at hand, or the knowledge which may be accumulated by any other -gentleman who may be appointed to the position, his decisions are more likely to be sound than are the decisions of a Court which receives ‘ex -parte evidence only, and bases decisions on such evidence. I maintain that the Bill is particularly dangerous from this point of view, that it comes between the employer and the employe. By our legislation we have taken away from private employers the control of their servants in many particulars. That is not, I think, quite fair to them in many ways. But when the same method is applied to the employes of the State it becomes a menace. Somebody has to rule, and Parliament is at the apex.
– Who is going to keep discipline?
– This Bill invests the Court with a power which for the time being gives it an influence superior to that of Parliament. The Public Service Commissioner, acting on evidence and knowledge, decides the case of some men in a certain direction. The Arbitration Court comes along, and, superseding him-, arrives at a decision which cannot be recognised as sound, in view of .the fact that the only official who is capable of knowing the facts has given a decision of a different kind. Then there lies an appeal to Parliament. If public servants are not satisfied with the decisions of the Arbitration Court, what is more reasonable to expect than that they will appeal to Parliament? We shall then find ourselves in this position, that either we have to cause dissatisfaction iri. the ranks of the men by upholding the decisions of the Court, or we have to flout the Court which we created. Surely the Attorney-General must recognise that that is a dangerous position to bring about, and it will be brought about in spite of the vigorous protests of honorable members on his own side. We have had the spectacle to-day of a Ministerial supporter rising in his place opposite, and proclaiming that he is not in favour of the Bill, and cannot see his way to vote for it. His sense of extreme loyalty to the Government led him to say, “ Even though I cannot support the Bill I cannot give a vote against my party.” Do honorable members perceive the strain which the Attorney-General is putting on his own supporters?
– There is no danger. Our backs are broad and we will carry it.
– The honorable member can carry a lot, I know. This cannot be regarded by the Attorney-General as a party measure because his own supporters are very largely opposed to it. Tn great part those who are not opposed to the Bill are lukewarm, while on this side I do not think there is a solitary member who regards it with favour. They all regard it as a dangerous experiment, which can only result in unfortunate positions arising between the Commonwealth and its employes.
– I look at this measure from the point of view of the Public Service, and as regards their interests I think it is a very dangerous one to ‘ pass. Hitherto, they have had sufficient influence to prevent Parliament from doing any injustice. If an injustice is brought before Parliament, men will always get fair support in having that injustice redressed. I consider that the Bill will only be used by the Government in times of depression. When times are bad a weak Ministry will apply to the President of the Arbitration Court to reclassify sections of the Public Service, and virtually to reduce salaries. If the Government had not that idea in their minds there is no necessity for a reference to the Arbitration Court. If it is fair to increase salaries, Parliament is quite able to do it. As a matter of fact if we are going to (delegate everything to Boards and Arbitration Courts there will soon be no necessity to have Parliament at all. By degrees, boards and commissions are being given control of the large Departments of the States and the Commonwealth; and if this continues, the management of the country’s affairs will practically cease to be in the hands of Parliament. Were I a public servant, I would rather have my grievances considered by Parliament than by a Judge. If a case goes into the Arbitration Court, the Judge will view the complaints in the light of his commercial and legal knowledge. On the one side will be the representatives of the Government, with the public purse to pay their expenses, and on the other the public servants, who will have to contribute out of their own pockets the expenses of supporting their case. We know how costly arbitration proceedings have proved.
– They will not be costly in this Court.
– Why not? A Judge will have regard, not merely to the statements made by the public servants who come before him, but also to the facts in regard to employments similar to theirs outside the service.
– That is the trouble.
– That is a danger which the public servants will run. Taking into consideration the number of days for which men in private employment are out of work, and their loss of time for various reasons, the average public servant is probably better paid than they are. In supporting this measure, the public servants are putting a halter round their necks.
– They do not think that they are receiving more than the men outside the service.
– Probably not; but when they take cases into the Arbitration Court, and evidence is called respecting the rates of pay ruling outside, it will probably be held that they are better paid. The Minister in charge of a Department should be able to make himself acquainted with its grievances, and to rectify them, or to advise Parliament how to rectify them. A Minister who cannot do that must be very weak. Surely members of Parliament are not afraid of being called on to do justice to the Public Service? They do not wish to shelter themselves behind an Arbitration Court. If public servants who are my constituents have grievances to be ventilated.
I am willing to voice them, and no doubt other honorable members take the same stand. The Public- Service Commissioner is honestly trying to do his best; and, although he may not be regarded with favour by all sections of the service, the Judge of the Arbitration Court who decides against any petition submitted to him will also be unpopular. It must not be forgotten that the awards of the Arbitration Court will have effect for a number of years. All the awards which have hitherto been made apply for fixed periods, and it will be so with awards dealing with public servants. Consequently, although there may be discontent now, there will be much greater dissatisfaction when the Bill comes into operation.
.- Honorable members have not shown much enthusiasm for the Bill, which appears unlikely to give satisfaction to either side of the House, or to the Public Service as a whole. The arguments of the honorable member for Echuca call for more consideration than has been given to them. He pointed out that the Bill does not apply to the Naval and Military Forces. The reason given for that is that the stability of the State rests on these forces. No doubt that is so in times of peril, but in ordinary times the stability of the State rests on the Civil Service; arid that is a reason why it should be under the jurisdiction of tribunals immediately associated with the Administration and Executive of the country. The Public Service Commissioner is virtually in the position of a Judge; and to vest his powers in an Arbitration Court is to divest Parliament of much of its responsibility, and to take a downward and retrograde step. Such a course will prove detrimental to the interests of the public servants, and harmful to the public interests. The provision requiring the awards of the Court to be laid before Parliament will very rarely lead to them being reversed or altered. As a general rule, the Ministry will regard these awards as the decisions of a properly-constituted tribunal, created to settle disputes among all classes of employers and employe’s, including the public and the Public Service ; and, unless they come into serious conflict with the Statute law of the country, they will not be interfered with. When the public servants bring a case into the Court, the nature and conditions of their employment will be compared with those of similar employment outside.
The Commonwealth should set an example to the whole of the employers of Australia in the pay and conditions of the Public Service.
– And the opportunities afforded
– And in the opportunities for promotion. The work should be classified in a way which will give satisfaction, as nearly as that can be attained. If we pass this Bill, we immediately place the public servants, who are the soldiers of the State, or, as it were, the upholders of our civic authority, in a condition of absolute equality with those outside the service. In that way, I believe it will make for inefficiency in the service, instead of maintaining that high efficiency which it is our duty to preserve. In the circumstances, I cannot but regard the measure as retrograde, against the best interests of the service, and detrimental to the enforcement of proper discipline. It will place the public servants in .the position of having to associate themselves with outside organizations, and that will be very bad for the maintenance of authority within the State generally. I can see how the necessity will arise in some instances, if the Bill is passed, for the public servants, 16,000 or 17,000 strong, to affiliate themselves with outside organizations, and then, with the enforcement of the principle of preference to unionists by pressure from outside, we shall have a condition of confusion and internal dissension arising within the Departments, and tending generally to the disadvantage of the Executive power of the realm. For these and many other reasons which have already been advanced it is a great misfortune that this Government should have so far forgotten what is due to their own position as to hand over their great Executive responsibilities to an outside body. Such a step must necessarily make for the inefficiency of government, and tend to the serious disadvantage of the Public Service itself.
.- I do not know that anything need be said against this Bill by the Opposition, seeing that so many honorable members on the Government side have condemned it. No less an authority than the honorable member for Gwydir, who ought to know something about the public servants of the Commonwealth, if anybody should, condemned it in no uncertain tones on Friday last. He adduced strong evidence in support of his contention that, if the Bill were passed, one of its principal objects, which was the elimination of the discontent that is supposed to prevail throughout the Departments, would not be effected. He said that, although the Bill would mean a change of method, the trouble and discontent would be as rampant as ever. If that is so, the Government have not introduced a measure which will be very beneficial to the public or to the public servants themselves. I should have liked to have some evidence of the feeling of the public servants themselves towards this idea. All we have to guide us in that regard is a petition signed by 4,000 members of the service, asking Parliament not to pass the Bill. They claim that, if passed, it will rob Parliament of one of its prerogatives, and deprive them of their ultimate appeal to Parliament, which they have always regarded as one of their chief privileges. Some of those who advocate the Bill say that the Public Service Commissioner is practically in the same position as the manager of a big private concern. I cannot admit that. The Public Service Commissioner is in an independent position. His duty is not alone to look after the interests of the public, as represented by the Government, but also to do justice to the civil servants themselves. He is in as independent a position as a Judge, and he ought also to be as impartial. From the few opportunities I have had of investigating the conditions of the service, I believe that no man could possibly give satisfaction to the large army of public servants that he has to control ; but no one could have done much better, in the circumstances, than the present Commissioner has done. He is in a most difficult position, but he has done his duty as well as any man who could possibly have been put there. I fail to see how the case of the public servants is to be very much bettered by bringing them before the Arbitration Court. They will be taken before one man, although that man is a Judge. He may have the chance to hear evidence which is not brought before the Public Service Commissioner; but it is open to the Commissioner to obtain practically all the expert evidence that the Judge could obtain. The Commissioner, therefore, having a better personal knowledge of the working* of the Departments, must be in a far better position than- the President of the Arbitration Court, who has never had a Public Service training, to give a decision affecting Public Service conditions. We are not really bettering things by giving the public servants a chance to go before the Arbitration Court. If any injustice has been done to them, we ought to remedy it ; but I do not see how this Bill will effect any benefit in that regard. Under this Bill, an award of the Court will stand unless it is contrary to some law of the Commonwealth, or regulation made under a Common wealth law. It would be hard in the first place to find an Act of Parliament or regulation thereunder with which an award of the Court would not conflict, and where there is such a conflict Parliament will still have the final decision. Is it not reasonable to assume that in such cases honorable members will be sought out by members of the Public Service, and that we shall have a certain amount of lobbying such as takes place during a Tariff debate? On the other hand, if an award of the Court does not contravene a Commonwealth Act or regulation, Parliament will have no further voice in the matter to which it relates. Under such an award, it would be possible for salaries to be fixed by an outside tribunal, and fixed at such a rate as might inconvenience the Treasurer of the day who, in framing his Estimates, had not allowed for an increase being made. I do not want to condemn this measure, but 3o not see much to recommend it. If it proposes the only means of adjusting grievances with which the Commissioner cannot deal, I shall not be against it, but I fail to see how it can possibly achieve the end at which it aims. Members of the Public Service will have to form themselves into organizations in order to take advantage of it. But what is to become of any two or three officers with individual grievances., who belong to a class so small that they cannot form themselves into an organization ?
– Precisely the same thing will happen to them that happens to one or two individuals in private employment.
– How will they obtain redress of their grievances ?
– They will seek redress in the usual way from their heads of Departments, Appeal Boards, and. finally, the Commissioner.
– Then the individual member of the service, following an occupation in which only two or three persons are engaged, will be no better off than he is at present. I fail to see why individuals should be disadvantaged. If the question could be looked into, we should probably find not only groups of employes, but individual members of the service, labouring under grievances, and I believe there is a good deal in the contention that public officers are not always advanced according to merit. The time has come when this Parliament, instead of surrendering any right it possesses to deal with the Public Service, must endeavour to produce a better scheme than that under which it is now working. Our Public Service is becoming somewhat unwieldy. Having regard to the smallness of our community, it is growing to an inordinate extent. The cost of the service is also increasing. It may be that the expenditure on the Public Service is justly increasing, because a good many officers have been deprived of increments which they ought to have obtained some years ago. But we are creating an army of public officials, and, sooner or later, if we are to keep that army doing effective work, we shall have to find a better method of classifying or organizing it than we have at present, so that the public may secure an improved service, while public servants themselves will be able to see that Parliament is determined to assist them- in the performance of their duty, and to secure for them advancement according to merit.
– We should set an example to the private employers of Australia.
– I hope that we are doing so by trying to pay our public servants the best rates of wages. Another reason why they should not be brought within the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court is that their position is not analogous to that of individuals in private employment. Instead of requiring them- to go before the Court, and to produce a volume of evidence involving, perhaps, much cost, it might, perhaps, be much better for us to appoint a Board consisting of men who had been in the service, and who would have a better knowledge than any Judge could have of their work, and a better idea of the pay they ought to receive.
– The Opposition are gluttons for Boards.
– We are perhaps getting too many Commissions and Boards, but if the Public Service Commissioner is unable to do justice to the service, I fail to see why other steps should not be taken in order that justice may be done.
– Would the Board which the honorable member suggests come to a determination apart from evidence?
– No. It would have power to summon before it any witnesses it required.
– And the Court will have the same power.
– The Court will be in no better position than the Commissioner, who has a more intimate knowledge of the service.
– The difficulty is that under the present system only one side of the trouble is heard.
– A Board such as I propose would hear both sides. I think, however, that the honorable member for Maribyrnong does the Public Service Commissioner an injustice. I am sure that the Commissioner is trying to do his best in the interests of the public, and those under him. It seems to be the fashion for honorable members opposite to condemn the Public Service Commissioner ; but I believe that that gentleman has done work equal to that which could be done by any single individual placed in the same trying position.
– We do not wish the Public Service Commissioner to be placed in a difficult position.
– Honorable members opposite desire to have an Arbitration Court for public servants, simply because some of them made a pledge to their constituents that such a tribunal would be created. There are, however, honorable members opposite who made no such pledge, and who regard the question with a calm, judicial mind. It is unnecessary for me to condemn the measure, because the most destructive criticism of it has come from honorable members opposite, particularly the honorable member for Herbert and the honorable member for Gwydir. If a speech in the House could secure votes, it would be that of the honorable member for Gwydir.
– What does the honorable member mean by his reference to a pledge ?
– I do not mean that honorable members opposite are pledged as members of the Caucus, but that as candidates, or private members, they so pledged themselves on the hustings. When they did so, however, they could never have really thought of this concrete measure being presented for our acceptance. However, as honest men, they are sticking to their private pledge; but it ought to teach them a lesson. They ought to follow the example of the two honorable members I have mentioned, when we should probably have many others joining honorable members on this side in opposition to the Bill. The AttorneyGeneral has not satisfied us that there is any present necessity for it ; and he certainly gave us no indication of any wish on the part of public servants for legislation of the kind. I suggest that the AttorneyGeneral should withdraw the measure, and give the matter further consideration.
.- This measure has been so ably attacked by honorable members opposite that not much is required from us in further condemnation of it. Several honorable members of the Ministerial party, particularly the honorable member for Gwydir, have simply riddled the Bill with criticism, and have shown it to be ridiculous from every point of view. If the Bill is carried, it will only be by the forbearance of Ministerial members in not voting against it, because, if all who have declared themselves, voted with the Opposition, there would be no chance of the measure passing. If it is placed on the statute-book, it will be by a minority vote; and that, in my opinion, is a bad thing. I am sure that the electors would condemn this proposal if it were put to a referendum; and the Attorney-General ought to regard the situation as grave, and requiring the fullest consideration. I trust that the Bill will be withdrawn, because it does not appear to have given satisfaction to members on either side of the House, nor to those whom it is expected to benefit. The honorable member for Gwydir challenged the Bill as being ultra vires of the Constitution ; and it seems to me very doubtful whether a dispute between the public servants and their employers, the Parliament, can be regarded as an “ industrial dispute” extending beyond the limits of a State. Whatever the Bill may say, the High Court will decide the constitutional question on its merits. I hope that some day we shall have introduced a measure to give power to the High Court to consider any proposed measure and decide whether it is within the Constitution. This would save a great deal of the time of Parliament, and much expense to the public. The Commonwealth Bank Bill is, I am told, of very doubtful constitutionality. I have, myself, seen a legal opinion to the effect that it is clearly ultra vires - that, while this Parliament has power to pass banking legis lation and regulate banking operations, it has no power to start a bank itself. There is, I believe, such a law in Canada.
– I believe we passed an Act to that effect last session.
– A measure cannot be submitted to the High Court until it has been passed.
– My suggestion is that much time and money would be saved if we had a law under which the High Court could be consulted on any Bill in regard to the constitutionality of which there is a doubt. But even the persons who are expected to benefit from this Bill have forwarded to Parliament a numerously-signed petition, in which they declare that, from many points of view, they are averse to it. They point out that, under clause 5 of the Bill, any proceedings before the Arbitration Court would be costly, burdensome, and lengthy. I think that even the AttorneyGeneral will recognise that to bring a dispute before that tribunal would involve tremendous expenditure, time, and trouble, all of which would be obviated under the present system. It has not yet been demonstrated that the existing system is a failure. We all know that in private enterprise an employer very often appoints a manager, who, to a great extent, regulates the wages to be paid to his employes. A similar procedure has been adopted by this Parliament. It has practically appointee! a manager of the Public Service in the person of the Public Service Commissioner, who, acting under certain instructions, prescribes the rate of remuneration which shall be paid to our employes. Under such a system, a certain amount of friction is inevitable; but I submit that it can be dealt with by Parliament itself. This Bill will remove our public servants further from this Parliament; and I do not think that is a good thing. In private employment, an employ^, if he feels that he is being badly treated by a manager, can always appeal to his employer. The same rule ought to apply to our public servants. They ought to have the right of appeal to Parliament. The work which has been done by Mr. McLachlan has been exceedingly well done. He is a singularly able man. I have never yet met any person who is satisfied with his position in life, and I do not expect to.
– The honorable member believes in the glorious gospel of discontent.
– Absolutely. There is no other gospel. That is the basic trait of our race. Amongst Eastern races, such as the Turks, we find the people absolutely contented. But in our Public Service we shall aways have discontent, because every man feels that he is doing more than his share of the work, and getting less than his share of the pay. I know that the same idea extends even to the sporting world. I recollect that, when I was rowing, I used to think I was doing most of the work, and when I gave expression to my feelings I found that 1 was very unpopular. Precisely the same feeling permeates our public servants. But when 4,000 of them petition Parliament to continue the existing state of things, it makes me think that the present system must be an admirable one.
– The honorable member thinks that they have not so much to complain of, after all ?
– That is so. I do not think that their position will be improved under this Bill. The great trouble experienced in all big concerns is the maintenance of discipline. When trade unions were first established, I had an idea that the union bosses would enforce discipline - that they would tell the men that they must do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.
– We have no union bosses.
– I am referring to the secretaries of the ‘various unions.
– They are representatives, not bosses.
– I expected that they would tell the unionists that good unionists ought to do good work. But that was about the last thing they dreamed of doing. They had no hesitation in telling them that they ought to get higher wages and shorter hours ; but the employer had still left to him the unpopular duty of saying when their work was not properly done. The question which we have to consider is, “ Will the work of our Public Service be better performed by allowing its grievances to be referred to the Arbitration Court than it is under the existing system?” I do not think that we have any justification for abolishing the present state of affairs. I recognise that there is bound to be a clash between automatic promotions and promotions by merit. But we cannot have both systems.
– I had almost concluded my remarks when the House adjourned for dinner, but I wish to say that already there are symptoms that the work of the Arbitration Court, controlling as it does the whole of the industrial affairs of this vast Commonwealth, has become so enormous as to impose a very heavy burden indeed on the physical powers of the President of the Court. In spite of this fact, it is proposed by this Bill to add to his labours the practical control of the whole of the Public Service of the Commonwealth. When the Commonwealth railways which have been projected are constructed, there will be, if this Bill passes, a still further enormous number of public servants who will have to look to this Court to fix their wages, hours of labour, and industrial conditions. That should, of itself, be sufficient to condemn this Bill. If the Arbitration Court is to control and regulate the industrial life of the country, it is unreasonable to add so extensively to its work. Congestion in the business of the Court is bound to follow. >Ve have seen what has happened in the Arbitration Court of New South Wales, and of other States and countries that have adopted the same method for the settlement of industrial disputes. I am sure that, in the circumstances, the Government are ill-advised in proposing to add so largely to the duties to be performed by our Arbitration Court. This Bill has been condemned by honorable members opposite, as well as by the Opposition, and protested against by over 4,000 civil servants who signed the petition which has been referred to. The question then is, who wants this measure? There has been no demand for it from anybody. The machinery already in existence for regulating the salaries and conditions of work of the Commonwealth Public Service is working fairly well, but suddenly we have in this proposal - this bolt from the blue - a complete reversal of the present policy. I am afraid that the result will be that the existing machinery for this purpose will be greatly injured by the superimposition of the provisions of this Bill. If there be confusion under present circumstances, this can only tend to make that confusion worse confounded. I believe that the Government will be well advised if, upon second thoughts, they see their way to withdraw this measure. I have advanced various arguments for its rejection, which I hope the Government will take into their very serious consideration.
.- I have only a few remarks to make on this Bill. There are two statements which have been made by supporters of the measure, to which I desire to refer, because I think that in them we have probably the real reason for its introduction. One of these statements was made by the honorable member for Denison, and the other by the AttorneyGeneral. In the beginning of his speech, the honorable member for Denison said that the Public Service of the Commonwealth is to-day reeking with discontent. The Attorney-General, at the conclusion of his remarks upon the Bill, made a reference, the full significance of which I did not appreciate at the time. The honorable gentleman said, in effect, that the Government, since coming into office, have increased the remuneration paid to the public servants to a very large extent. When we consider that, according to these statements, although the Government have, since taking office, increased very largely the total amount of remuneration paid to the public servants, the service is, nevertheless, reeking with discontent, we have, I think, disclosed the real reason for the introduction, of the Bill. What has happened is this: . During the time when my honorable friends opposite were in the cold shades of Opposition, they made a great number of extravagant promises to the public servants as to what would happen if they were returned to power. They have, no doubt, endeavoured to carry those out. But, having gone just as far as they dare, and still having failed to allay the discontent alleged to exist in the service - and, in fact, we have the statement from the public servants themselves that it was never so bad as it is to-day - they promptly seek to shelve their responsibility in the matter by handing the whole service over, body and soul, to the Arbitration Court. I think we have here the reason for the anxiety of the Government to get rid of their responsibility to fulfil the promises they have made, and also the reason for the petition from the civil servants, who very naturally looked forward to the fulfilment by our honorable friends opposite of the whole of their pledges to them- in respect of matters under which, from time to time, they have felt themselves aggrieved. They naturally object to the Government shelving their responsibility by handing over the service to th”e Arbitration Court. There will always be a certain amount of discontent in any Civil Service. The great difficulty in the management of any great service is the due recognition of individual ability. One man is, no doubt, more able than another, but the able man is apt to get lost in the ramifications of a great Public Service. There are certain public servants whom I know to be smart, clever, intelligent men ; but it is extremely difficult for those men to so bring themselves under the notice of the powers that be, that their ability can be properly recognised. That is a difficulty we shall always have to face; and the greater the number of our public servants, and the greater the ramifications of the service, the more that difficulty will be accentuated.
– Does the honorable member think that special ability is recognised in other walks of life - in banks, for instance.
– It is in a greater measure than it can be in the Public Service. Those engaged in private enterprise realize that it is to their advantage that they should as far as possible seek out merit wherever it is to be found, and recognise it. But in the Public Service there is no such incentive to recognise individual merit. That is one of the great difficulties we.ha.ve to contend with. There is a sort of recognised rule that if a man is senior to another he should have precedence in promotion, and that his junior should await his chance.
– Are the complaints to-day those of individuals or of organizations?
– It is very largely owing to the individual discontent that we get organic complaints. An organization is composed of individuals. Any one who thinks the subject out for himself must come to the conclusion that this Bill will rather militate against than be in favour of the recognition of individual merit.
– Will not placing the matter in the hands of the Court prevent that ?
– I think that it will tend more and more to the working of the service on an absolutely mechanical basis. It will tend lo level things out. Instead of allaying discontent - which I admit does exist at the present time, though it has been fostered to a very great extent by promises made by honorable members opposite - the Bill will increase it. There are many classes in the Public Service, and there are grades within classes. The Public Service Commissioner, to whom was intrusted the task of classification, has been spending some years upon that work. However much we may differ from him in his conclusions, we can all admit that he has brought to bear a great deal of ability and knowledge. He has done excellent work. I do not say that everything he has done has been perfect. There may be some classes in the Public Service which have been overlooked. There may be some kinds of work to which full credit has not been given. It is clearly the responsibility of this Parliament in such cases to relieve the situation. But a great number of the complaints that have emanated from the public servants from time to time have arisen more from the limitations of the Public Service Act than from any act of .the Public Service Commissioner. If honorable members care to turn up a number of the complaints that have been investigated, and ascertain what the causes have been, it will be found that, particularly in the lower grades of the service, the limitations imposed by the Public Service Act itself have been more responsible for discontent than anything else. Wherever discontent can be shown to exist, it is the responsibility of this Parliament to do its best to remove it. But I do not believe that this Bill vill conduce to that discipline which is necessary in controlling a great body of men. We shall weaken the position of the officers of the Department by practically taking control out of their hands, and handing it over to a separate body. Much has been said about the Public Service Commissioner hearing only one side and giving his decisions upon partial evidence. I have a very lively recollection of seeing pamphlets distributed amongst honorable members, in which has been given a resume of evidence laid before the Public Service Commissioner by the great body of large sections of our Public Service from time to time. I thought they stated their case very fully, and, with one or two exceptions, fairly, and in such a manner as no one could take exception to. Also we have seen the replies of the officials, likewise submitted to the Public Service Commissioner. The Public Service Commissioner has before him precisely the same evidence as the Arbitration Court will have. He has replied to it, and stated fully and distinctly his reasons for coming to his decision. What more could an Arbitration Court do? It can only hear evidence from both sides, and decide upon it. The Government, in setting up another tribunal, are merely, duplicating machinery which already exists, and duplicating it in a way that is not in my opinion in the interests of the service itself. Now they have an opportunity of appealing to a man who knows the whole ramifications of the service from A to Z-.
– Appealing to him?
– Certainly; and they have appealed to him over and over again. Wherever the Commissioner has felt that an appeal was justified he has met the officers fairly.
– They are still dissatisfied.
– Will everybody ever be satisfied? At present they appeal to a man who certainly does know the whole ins and outs of the service.
– For the past nine years the Commissioner has been doing nothing else than study the service. He has given his whole time and attention to it. I do not think anybody can say that Mr. McLachlan is not a man of exceptional ability. I think that he is exceptionally fair. He does try to come to a just and equitable decision at all times upon the different subjects which are submitted to him. And though, as I say, he may not have, probably has not, been able to do absolute justice in every case, I would point out that no man is at any time able to satisfy everybody. No man is in a position that he will not, perhaps, make mistakes at some time. But, taking it all in all, the Public Service Commissioner is in an infinitely better position to finally determine and arbitrate between a great body of. employes on the one hand, and the officials of the Departments on the other, than is the Judge of the Arbitration Court, or the head of the body to whom it is contemplated under this Bill to submit any particular dispute. He is in a far better position than is any such man to determine on the evidence which is submitted to him what the verdict should be. I hope that those honorable members opposite who have had the courage to voice their opinions against the Bill on the floor of the House will also have the courage to vote when a division is taken.
– I do not desire to prolong this debate, because we have a great deal vo do and not very much time at our disposal. It seems to me that we are legislating in a direction for which there is not much de- mand. If the demand were great, of course, a remedy ought to be provided ; but the theory of our legislation is that we handed the Public Service over, to a very large extent, to the control of one man. We have heard very recently a good deal about trusting one man. But this experiment of having one man at the head of the Public Service, instead of two or three, as was contemplated at first, was deliberately agreed to, and I think that it is almost wonderful that it has worked so well. There is no doubt some dissatisfaction, but there always will be where a large number of persons are employed. It is not possible to please everybody, especially in regard to salaries. I do not suppose that there is any one who thinks that he is sufficiently well paid. We have been relieved a great deal through having the controlling power vested in the Public Service Commissioner. I was under the impression that we were well satisfied, taking it altogether, with the system. It placed the service, no doubt, in a somewhat difficult position bymaking it too mechanical; but there are a great many advantages in that there is a regular means by -which public servants know exactly, or very nearly, . what they will receive. I think that the Government, in tacking the machinery which they wish to bring into force on to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, will overload that Court. There is no reason why this matter should be brought under the jurisdiction of that Court. It has nothing to do with sub-section of section 51 of the Constitution, dealing with “ conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one’ State.”. I do not think that any one ever thought that the Public Service was an industry. But we are asked to make it an industry, and to use the machinery of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, established under the Constitution, to deal with differences and disputes in the Public Service. That is, I think, very inadvisable, and very unwise. If we want to deal with the Public Service, let us do so ; but let us keep it away from industrial disputes which extend beyond the limits of any one State. Let it be dealt with by a. . Court of its own ; in fact, we have a Court at present. The Public Service Commissioner is placed in the position of a Judge. He may not have the legal qualifications of a Judge, but he is placed in an in dependent position. His tenure of office is secure enough to enable him to be independent, and to do that which he thinks is right in the interests of the country; and although the Government may refuse to do what he recommends, they have no power to make him do that which he does not desire fo do. I am not aware that this Bill has been asked for by the Public Service as a whole. If it had been asked for, that fact would have had a great influence with me, because I would have had to come to the conclusion that the present machinery was giving dissatisfaction, and had broken down; and would have had to look about to see whether the dissatisfaction could not be allayed by the substitution of some other machinery. But I am told that 4,000 officers have petitioned us to stay our hands, and those who think otherwise by their silence have led us to believe that they acquiesce in the views of the 4,000 who have protested. I think that the proposed appeal to a Judge will really be an appeal from one Judge to another Judge. The latter may have a greater legal knowledge, but I question whether he will have one-half as much knowledge of the subject as the Judge who is appealed from. He will go on the evidence, whereas the man in power - the Commissioner - will not only go on the evidence, but on his experience of the last ten years. At first sight, of course, it does appear as if the Bill lessens the control of Parliament ; and practically it does that. At the same time, I do not thinkthat Parliament is a good tribunal to directly arrange the salaries of public servants. If it was, we should not have appointed the Commissioner and made him independent of the Government. There was a substantial reason for making that appointment. We desired to destroy political influence, or what was called patronage ; and we placed one man in a high position, with very great power, and told him to do right and justice, and to relieve Parliament of the difficult duty of arranging the salaries of public officers. That is what we required the Commissioner for. We wanted to get away from the evil which was said to exist, and Which probably did exist to some extent, though not nearly to the extent which people think. The evil of patronage and favoritism - what honorable members opposite want to show to unions favoritism and preference - we did not want preference and favoritism in the Public Service, and therefore we passed a Public Service Bill. We created a Commissioner for the verypurpose of doing away with the patronage of Ministers and members of Parliament, and having an independent man to do justice to the Public Service and the country.
– You did not sweep away patronage or favoritism - you merely changed the form.
– We desired to do it, I said. I feel sure no honorable member wishes to injure the Public Service; but I do not think it will be in as good a position when the Bill has been passed as it is in now. Under the measure, if an organization is not receiving from the Commissioner what it thinks itself entitled to, it will be able to ask the Arbitration Court to override the Commissioner’s decision; but if the award of the Court should conflict with the law of the Commonwealth, it will be for Parliament to say whether it should have effect. It is not likely, I think, that there will be many appeals to the Court ; but if appeals are made, the probability is that the public servants will not get more from a Judge than they get now from the Public Service Commissioner. This officer has been connected for many years with the Public Service, and, if anything, his sympathies are naturally with those with whom he has been so long associated. A Judge, when appealed to, would compare the conditions ruling in the service with those outside ; he would compare the salaries paid in mercantile offices and banks with those paid to the departmental clerks ; and, having regard to the uncertainty of private employment, and other facts connected with it, I do not think that the public servants would seem to be at a disadvantage. Every employe of the Commonwealth receives £110 a year on arriving at the age of twenty-one ; but I do not think that the pay is so good in private employment. Of course, the Public Service should be well paid ; but it must not be forgotten that the employment is constant, and if the rates were too high, there would be great discontent in the general community, because persons outside closely scrutinize the lists of salaries and wages paid in the service. The Public Service has a tribunal to appeal to in Parliament, which has always shown itself favorably disposed towards it. Seldom, if ever, have salaries been reduced in this Chamber, members trusting implicitly to the Commissionernot to fix rates higher than the services for which they are paid are worth. My fear is that, if the Bill becomes law, the Public Service will become more machine-like than it is now. One of the difficulties is to get our officers out of the rut of seniority.
– Hear, hear!
– Were the Minister to promote a deserving officer over the head of seniors, it would create great dissatisfaction ; and, no doubt, as much complaint could be found with a system of promotions which was not governed by seniority as with that which now prevails. But we should try to devise some method which will give opportunities for genius, talent, or marked ability, to get promotion. With promotion according to seniority only, mediocrity must be the rule. I predict that the passing of the Bill will make the public servants more dissatisfied than they are now.
– The Bill is another attempt by the Government to give effect to its election promises. It promised benefits to certain sections of the community if they would support the Labour party, and the support having been given, the rewards are now being distributed. As with other attempts of the kind, those who hope to gain will be bitterly disappointed, because the Public Service, when divorced from the control of Parliament, will be worse off than it is now. The public servants will rue the day when they trusted to those who are giving them something different from what they asked for. In my view, the Government is evading its duty in not endeavouring to place the Public Service on a proper footing. Ministers are going to refer members of the PublicService who are asking for relief to the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. They say, in effect, “ We do not want any more of your troubles brought here on the floor of the House ; we do not want to give up days to the discussion of the recommendations of a Postal Commission. We want to go on our own way undisturbed, by night or by day, by visions of your vengeance. We want you to go to a Court without a conscience, a Court which has neither a body to be kicked nor a soul to be damned, and it is from that Court that you are to get the relief you ask for.”
– Is that your opinion of the Courts of your country ? If so, it is a very low estimate.
– It is my opinion of the kind of Court which these unfortunate people are to get when this Bill is passed into law. I have not referred to the Courts of my country, but to the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, in this extended relation. This is a remarkable reversal on the part of the Government and their supporters. If there is one thing more than another which they have sought to impress upon the people of this country, it is that Parliament is the true palladium of the people’s liberties. It is, they have said, in Parliament that you get the final Court of Appeal ; it is to Parliament that everybody should have the ultimate right to carry their grievances. And yet they are going to take away that right, because it will undoubtedly be taken away from the public servants by this Bill. Honorable members may endeavour to abstract some comfort from those clauses referring to Parliament, but they will inevitably find when the Bill is carried into effect that the undoubted disabilities under which many of the public servants are labouring will not be dealt with either expeditiously or satisfactorily. Then there is the point of Parliament giving up the right to fix the salaries of the members of the Public Service. That will be done if we hand this work over to a Court. I do not know whether honorable members will maintain that Parliament can still fix the salaries, or whether they are prepared to accept this resignation of one of the highest, as well as one of the most prized, functions of Parliament - the control of the public purse. It is to be given over to this Court, which is to do pretty well as it pleases with regard to these matters.
– There is an ultimate control in the Bill.
– My honorable friend does not agree with anything I have said, and, therefore, there is no use in him talking about an ultimate control. If he believed that anything I have said is correct, he would not support the Bill.
– I am not supporting the Bill at the present time.
– The honorable member has not declared himself in my hearing. If he is voting against the Bill, I wonder he is now defending it.
– I am not voting against it ; I am not voting for it. That is the difference.
– That is a remarkable frame of mind, which I cannot pretend to understand, and shall not endeavour to dissect. I shall allow the honorable member to remain in the peculiar atmosphere in which he has evidently placed himself. This giving up of the right to control the public purse is a most important step, to which the very party who propose to take it should be the last to agree. We are told that they are the true Democracy, and that others represent an old-fashioned, out-of-date Conservatism which should be relegated to the limbo of forgetfulnessi and should have neither part nor parcel in our deliberations.
– Hear, hear !
– And yet the honorable member for Maribyrnong, with the utmost carelessness, not to say callousness, proposes to give up a liberty and a power which some of my ancestors, at any rate, bled and fought for, in order to obtain and preserve.
– Let us go to Turkey.
– I believe the condition of the Public Service in Turkey will be preferable to that of the Commonwealth Public Service when this Bill is carried into effect. It will be carried, undoubtedly, and we shall have an opportunity, in the near future, of seeing it working, just as we are seeing some of the other results which have followed the precious legislation brought in by the present Government.
– Some of the glorious results of which some of you will be proud.
– I allowed the honorable member to speak for himself ; I shall be glad if he will extend the same courtesy to me. A great deal has been said here, and more outside, about the abolition of favoritism and patronage; but this Bill gives an exhibition of favoritism and patronage which it has never been my fate to see in any Bill previously presented to Parliament. Honorable members may, perhaps, view with entire equanimity this breach of the Public Service Act. Perhaps it is not a breach, because Parliament has the power to do as it pleases; but it might as well have been placed in the forefront of the Bill that a portion of the Public Service Act was being repealed.
– I wish it were so.
– It is so, because the Public Service Act provides that only in certain circumstances can certain offices be filled. And yet this Bill provides that a certain officer shall be taken from a certain position and appointed to a very much higher position, at a much higher rate of salary, which, in its turn, will become much higher later on, without any competition. Where is the boasted desire of the Labour party that all positions in the Commonwealth shall be subject to competition? Where is the magnificent standard they have raised, by which merit, and merit alone, was to govern appointments ; every appointment in the Commonwealth being open to every individual in the Commonwealth, and equal opportunities being given to all? In this Bill a provision is made which absolutely shuts out every member of the Public Service, or any member of the public, who desires to occupy the position of Registrar in the newly constituted Court. Not only is that done, but the person who, at the present time, does similar work, is confirmed in his appointment to the new body, and his salary is provided for at a rate which has caused some members of the Public Service to gasp with astonishment. I do not know this officer. I did not know even his name until to-day. I have no knowledge of his capacity, or anything of that sort; but I have his record here, and I think it just as well that it should be known. If honorable members look up the list of the officers of the Commonwealth, they will find that this officer’s name and position are specified as No. 26, under the Attorney-General’s Department. He was born in 1872, and entered the Postal Service in Victoria, being first appointed on 4th October, 1887. He was a telegraph operator.
– Who is he?
-I do not know whether it is necessary to mention his name. He is provided for in the Bill, and his position will appear on the Estimates. He was in C division, and his salary, when he was transferred to the Commonwealth, was £200 per annum. In 1901 he became clerk and industrial registrar. He remained in the second subdivision of the third class or grade of C division, and his salary on 1st July of last year was raised to £335 per annum. It is now proposed under this Bill, without giving an opportunity to any other member of the Public Service, or to any member of the public, to apply for the position, to raise the salary of this officer from £335 per annum. to £600 per annum.
– All at once?
– Not only is the increase made in one rise, but it is to be retrospective, and is to date from July last.
– It will be a tardy making of some amends.
– For what?
– For the under-payment of that officer.
– The honorable member probably knows more about him than I do. This gentleman has certainly been called upon to undertake responsible work, but he has had very able assistance from a much underpaid officer, who has also done very valuable work.
– In his judicial capacity as registrar, he has had no assistance whatever. He is clerk to the High Court, and this additional work, with all its responsibilities, was put upon him. He has had no compensation for, or recognition of, it.
– The AttorneyGeneral must be to blame. As the head of his Department, he, presumably, was made acquainted, before the honorable member entered this House, with the claims of this officer, and yet, last July, he gave him only a paltry addition to his salary, bringing it upto£335per annum. Few officers in the Public Service would complain if their preferment had gone on at the same rate.
– He is worth every penny of the salary to be paid him.
– The honorable member again is speaking from personal experience.
– This officer’s deputy in New South Wales receives £800 a year. That is an extraordinary anomaly.
– Whose fault is that?
– I am not saying that it is any one’s fault.
– I dare say that the honorable member brought this matter before the Attorney- General, who, I think, might have provided in the present year’s Estimates for this increased salary. No provision, however, has been made.
– Yes ; provision is made for a salary of £600 a year.
– Even then he will be receiving £200 a year less than his subordinate officer.
– That is provided for, because this officer is to receive increments at the rate of £50 a year. It is a remarkable commentary upon the methods pursued by the Government that they have had toplace in a Bill what the honorable member for Batman calls “ a tardy recognition of loyal service.”
– Why complain of the recognition now being given to the officer ?
– I do not complain, but I want to know whether the AttorneyGeneral gave us any information about this matter in submitting the Bill to the House*. This is an important departure from principle. In addition, it means the repeal of an Act of Parliament. We are asked to do by Act of. Parliament what cannot be done except by repealing another Act. The Minister who introduced this Bill might have been more candid to the House. He might well have given us more information with regard to this matter, instead of allowing it to go by default. Those who have spoken so warmly in defence of this officer have evidently far more information than I have concerning him. As I said at the outset, I know nothing of the officer save that which I have discovered from the records, nor have I had the advantage of discussing the matter in Caucus. I have not been brought into personal contact with him. The Attorney-General, however, must have been, not only since his accession to office, but before, and he may have conceived such an opinion of this gentleman’s capacity that he is prepared to pass an Act of Parliament for the purpose of giving him what is called “ tardy recognition.” I urge, however, that we should not depart from the principle that we laid down at the very inception of the Commonwealth Parliament, that all such appointments and preferments should take place openly and in the light of day, and that there should be no attempt to smuggle them through this House, or grant them by means of regulations. We are entitled to have every position of profit - because this is a position of high profit - thrown open to the competition of the whole service. An opportunity should be given to every officer who feels that he is capable of undertaking work of this character, to submit his claims for the position ; but we have not had anything of the sort. Judging by their interjections, some honorable members opposite have in their minds fixed ideas regarding the claims of this particular officer.
– We have nothing of the sort.
– It is the office, not the officer, with which we are dealing.
– I think that the honorable member’s interjections go to show that he has a personal knowledge, and a very keen appreciation, of the individual who has been selected for this high and lucrative position.
– Hear, hear 1
– We are entitled to rely, not upon the knowledge or prescience of a section of the House, but upon that splendid principle which we laid’ down a number of years ago, that merit alone should be the avenue to preferment and promotion; and that there should be equality of opportunity to every member of the service. I challenge the Government upon this matter. They have departed from that very healthy and wholesome rule, and, in doing so, have done incalculable injury to a principle on which they are so fond of declaiming upon the public platform. We do not secure equal opportunity ‘ for all when a position of great dignity, responsibility, and honour, such as this undoubtedly is, and carrying with, it a handsome remuneration, is taken by the Government from a competitive basis and placed entirely at the disposal of one man.
– How did he get his present position ?
– He was appointed, I presume.
– On merit, I presume; and he ought to be paid according to his worth.
– The honorable member thinks that the old Conservative method, to which he has been accustomed in his own State, should obtain in respect of the Commonwealth service. We have, however, done away with that. The old ideas of promotion according to seniority, and that directly a man places his foot on the lowest rung of the Public Service ladder he must proceed straight to the top, no matter what happens, has been exploded. We have always expressed the sentiment - although we have not been able to get a concrete example of it - that merit should govern these promotions.
– The honorable member has not shown that that is a concrete fact. ‘
– And the honorable member is asking that ii shall not be a concrete fact. He holds, apparently, that, because a man enters the service and is placed in a certain position, he should pass automatically into a higher position as soon as one offers. That is the only possible inference to be drawn from his interjections. But we are not acting fairly by the rest of the service when we depart from the healthy principle to which I have referred, and which I think should be upheld strongly by the present Attorney-General. I repeat that I know nothing about this officer. I have not even the advantage of the knowledge of him that honorable members opposite possess. I hope that no attempt will be made to suggest that I am attacking the individual. I certainly am not. I am attacking a monstrous breach of principle - a departure, in these early days of Labour Government, from that wholesome competitive system which our Public Service Act was intended to secure - under which it is held that merit shall not prevail, but that the man who is best known to those in authority shall be appointed to a new position. That is neither fair nor just, and, above all, it is a remarkable reversal of form that the Attorney-General and the Government will find it extremely hard to explain when they are asked to give reasons for a Bill by means of which positions may be given to those who cannot be regarded as other than favoured individuals.
.- I intend to vote for this Bill, because it will have the effect of placing all citizens on an equality. A measure was introduced in the Victorian Parliament, which put public servants and . policemen in a position most unfair. The constable, who arrested a prisoner, was deprived of his political rights, while the prisoner, after serving his sentence, could exercise his rights. After a trial, that system, even with a dominant press in its favour, was swept into oblivion by the unanimous vote of both Houses of the Parliament - an instance without parallel in the legislative history of Victoria. I shall not allude or reply to many remarks made by the honorable member for Gwydir against the present system under the Public Service Commissioner. I am sure, however, that the honorable member for Laanecoorie will agree that under the Commissioner there was a transaction which cast a stigma on the whole medical profession of Australia. I speak under correction, but I believe there are thirty lady doctors in Melbourne and suburbs, and as many in New South Wales ; and yet the Public Service Commissioner sent to Western Australia for a lady doctor to fill a position in this city. This can only be regarded as an insult to every medical *?.dy in Australia to-day.
– This Bill will not correct that sort of thing.
– I understand that this Bill will permit an appeal to the Court for justice in a case of the kind.
– Of course, I cannot help running counter to the opinion of legal gentlemen; but, at the same time, that is my opinion of the position. I am sure that, if a referendum of the whole of the people were taken, they would agree that every citizen, or section of citizens, should have the right of appealing to Parliament for redress - that, throughout the length and breadth of the land, every citizen should be able to appeal to the same law. I am making no attack on this lady doctor - I should not object if she were paid £10,000 a year - but I protest against an appointment being made in this way ; and any motion from the other side to have a Committee of inquiry would meet with my support. I understand that this lady doctor was employed by the Western Australian Government, and yet, by some influence, never yet made public, she is given a position in Melbourne, with the duty, amongst others, of examining claimants for old-age and invalid pensions, and public servants who are away from business on the score of ill-health. I am sure that if the Leader of the Opposition were here now he would acquiesce in the statements I am making. I have now made my protest ; but this case will ever recur to me when I am thinking of the Public Service Commissioner. I am not going to say that it is a wonderful coincidence, or anything of that kind, but I understand that the Public Service Commissioner lives in the same street as certain relatives of this lady. As to the prerogative of Parliament, the voice of the Opposition, in the case of the Commonwealth Bank Bill, was raised strongly against our having any power whatever. The whole cry was to take away the control from Parliament, which was said to be unable to properly manage a concern of the kind. In the case of the present Bill, Parliament is the only place where the public servants can get justice; and, even if the voting were equal, it would be worth while giving the system proposed a trial. If it be shown that, in operation, the Bill inflicts any injustice, it will be quite easy to bring in an amending measure. A Parliament can act only during its three years of life ; and we know that Tom Paine said that no kings, aristocracies, or Parliaments, have the right to impose laws on future generations - that one generation has no right to make laws like that of the Medes and Persians, but .that each generation should be able to fix the laws under which it is to be governed. Any law can be altered by a succeeding Parliament, which rises, phoenix-like, from the powers of the people. Any public servants who may resent the proposed change ought to remember that it was the Labour party, particularly in the State of Victoria, that restored to them their full rights of citizenship ; and Parliament is to be wholly trusted. I hold in my hand some documents brought under the notice of the Minister of Trade and Customs. They refer to a brilliantly intellectual young man, who, after passing an examination, was entitled to a position in the Public Service. He went to a medical man, who found that the thyroid gland was slightly enlarged, and certain other symptoms which other doctors could not find. The following is the certificate given by Dr. O’Hara, a famous surgeon of this city -
I have to-day, nth March, examined Stanley Cassidy, aged 19. His pulse is 84 ; temperature normal; pupils equal and acting; reflexes normal ; urine, sp. g. 1018, slightly acid, no albumen, no sugar. His thyroid gland is slightly enlarged. The enlargement is general, but in my opinion it does not constitute a goitre. He has no symptom of excessive ophthalmia. In my opinion, Mr. Cassidy is quite fit to undertake the duties of a public servant, and the fact that he has passed as a first class life for the Australian Mutual Provident Society three weeks ago strengthens this opinion.
That document is signed not only by Dr. O’Hara, but also by Dr. Stirling and Dr. Kent Hughes, three of the most brilliant medical men in Melbourne, or in the Commonwealth.
– Does the honorable member propose to connect his remarks with the Bill”?
– Yes. I wish to show that this boy, who was in receipt of 9s. 6d. per day, has now been asked to accept 4s. 8d. per day.
– Order ! The honorable member is now going into detail. He will be quite in order in making an incidental reference to the matter, but he will not be in order in making it the principal portion of his speech.
– May I put it in this way : As a result of the infamous redtape system this lad has- not only been wronged by being excluded from the Public Service after having passed a splendid examination, but has had to submit to the impertinence of being asked to accept 4s. 8d. per day, in lieu of 9s. 6d. per day. There is no Arbitration Court in the world which would tolerate such an infamy. In Den mark, for instance, legal gentlemen are prohibited from appearing as advisers, either of the complainant or defendant, in all civil cases. The parties come before, the arbitrator, a casual conversation ensues, and he suggests that the plaintiff should accept a lower or higher sum, as the case may be. If he will not do so, he must take his case to the Court. Thereupon the arbitrator fixes a day, hears the claim, and gives his decision in writing. The appearance of counsel is forbidden. But if either party to a dispute wishes to take his case to a higher Court, he is at liberty to do so. Only then may the services of counsel be requisitioned, and counsel must confine his arguments to the written statement, and must not introduce fresh evidence. Under this system the average cost of civil cases ranges from is. 6d. to 2s. 6d., so that legal costs in that country are very much less than they are here. I have in my possession a letter from the AttorneyGeneral of Denmark, who had advised a Mr. Christesen, who has since settled in Australia, upon a certain matter, and whose advice proved to be unsound in law. That letter, in effect, says, “ I regret to say that you have been fined by the High Court of Denmark, and as you followed the advice of myself and Barrister Rees, we have decided to pay all the costs of your case, so that you will be put to no expense.” This letter is framed in my office, and anybody is at liberty to see it. Then, if we turn to France, we shall find that arbitration saves the people there an untold number of legal troubles. Hundreds and hundreds of strikes are obviated by the justice of arbitration tribunals. I wish that the arbitration system were established throughout the length and breadth of this land. If my honorable friend opposite, who expressed timidity in regard to the efficacy of this measure, had had my experience of Law Courts, he would infinitely prefer to trust to a system of arbitration than to surrender himself to the absolute terrors of the law. Briefly, I feel confident that when the public servants of the Commonwealth understand the provisions of this Bill, they will welcome it. If they feel at all dubious regarding it, they have merely to recollect the action of a large majority of the members of the Parliament of Victoria, who separated them from the rest of their fellow citizens as if they were pariahs, robbed them of their rights, and only gave them the privilege, in a contracted form, of being represented in Parliament. That was a severe attack upon the great ideals for which our forefathers fought and bled. It was a much more serious matter than saying to our public servants, “ You shall have fair play, equal rights of citizenship, and a good Arbitration Act under which you will secure justice, so that you will not be at the mercy of any dictator.” I shall support the Bill ; and if, after three years, I retain my seat in this Chamber, I shall be prepared to express my opinion as to whether or not it has justified itself. I am perfectly certain that the voice of the community will say that the measure represents an honest endeavour to make every citizen equal before the law, and to insure that justice shall be done.
– I join with a number of honorable members in the opinion expressed that this Bill is a mistake. I think that the onus was thrown upon the other side of at least establishing the fact that some circumstances had arisen which would go to show the necessity for legislation of this kind. It cannot be suggested for a moment that there has been any demand for it so far as the country is concerned, or that there has been any demand of a substantial character so far as the Public Service itself is concerned: Having regard to the fact that the existing system for the control of the Public Service has worked fairly well, I repeat that the onus is thrown upon the other side of showing why this measure has been introduced. The reasons stated by .the honorable member for .Melbourne are by no means sufficient to justify its introduction. While the honorable member cannot speak with any degree of confidence as to what the results of this measure are likely to be, he thinks that it should be given a trial, and he says that if it is shown not to be successful it can be repealed. I have yet to learn that it is wise to legislate merely for the purpose of legislating, or to attempt experiments in connexion with so important a portion of the machinery of government as is the Public Service. It may be taken for granted that the public servants know best what is in their own interests. It may also be assumed that, if there were any feeling on their part that such a tribunal as the Arbitration Court should form a portion of the machinery provided for the redress of their grievances, we should have had some intimation from them to that, effect. In my opinion we are not justified in attempting this experiment”; and I regret, that the closing hours of the session should be taken up with the consideration of a measure of the kind. I have had considerable experience of the operation, not only of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, but of a similar Act of the State Parliament of Victoria; and, speaking generally, I say that the system of regulating the Public Service by means of a Commissioner has. on the whole, proved satisfactory. It is, in my opinion, a great mistake to propose to refer the public servants, for the adjustment of their grievances, to a tribunal which will necessarily be infinitely less competent for the purpose than the tribunal now open to them. The States have been fortunate in the gentlemen appointed as Commissioners of their Public Services, and we have been specially fortunate in the Commonwealth in having as Public Service Commissioner a fearless and conscientious man. I do not think it has been suggested that he has failed in his duty; and, on the contrary, it will be admitted that he has done his duty fairly and well. To his previous experience he has added considerable experience in the office of Public Service Commissioner of the Commonwealth; and there is no man throughout Australia who is as highly qualified to perform the duties of his office.
– The honorable member did not talk in that way’ when it was proposed to appoint one man as Governor of the Commonwealth Bank.
– That is quite another thing altogether. There is, first of all, this substantial difference, that in the present Public Service Commissioner we have a tried man, and it is here proposed to take from- him a portion of his duties, and to provide a tribunal to which public servants may appeal against him. The point I was making is that, added to his previous^ experience, he has now special experience’ as Public Service Commissioner, and knows all the intricacies of the ser. vice; and yet it is proposed, by this Bill, to provide for an appeal from .this highly qualified tribunal to another which cannot pretend to have the same knowledge, experience, or capacity for arriving at right decisions in respect of the matters to be submitted to it. This is a very grave mistake; and the proposal should be very seriously considered. Our honorable friends opposite seek to apply, the principle of the Conciliation .and Arbitration Court to the Public Service. I am not at one with those who say that there is no constitutional right to do what is proposed to be done by this Bill, because I feel that the Government do not seek, in this matter, to ask Parliament to exercise its powers in the terms of paragraph xxxv. of section 51 of the Constitution. I assume that the Bill is submitted by the inherent right which Parliament necesarily has to regulate its own Public Service in such a way as it may .think fit. If it be conceded that this is a right thing to do, I think there is no reason why the system of arbitration could not, as a matter of technical law, be established for the purpose of dealing with disputes arising in the Public Service. It is quite true that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is referred to in several places in the Bill ; and the benefit is sought to be secured of some of the machinery of that Act. That has been skilfully attended to by the draftsman of this measure. I had not the advantage of hearing the earlier speeches on the Bill; but, as I read -it, I do not know that its provisions necessarily bring it under paragraph xxxv. of section 51, and thereby attach a doubt as to its constitutionality. .But I say that I do not consider the principle of arbitration is properly applicable to the relationship of employer and employe as .between the Government and their employes. I hold that this relationship is on a totally different footing from that existing between a private employer and his employes. That is evident in some respects on the face of this Bill; because, whilst an award by the Court may ‘be enforced as against the employes, it could not necessarily be enforced as against the employer, the Government. I understand that the honorable member for Angas made a suggestion for an amendment of the Public Service Act, enabling a reference to be made to a police magistrate, or any other person who might be nominated, to make an investigation in any particular case, and that then the Public Service Commissioner should exercise a judicial capacity in the settlement of such grievance. My honorable friends opposite would, I think, be well advised to adopt that suggestion. It would guarantee, first of all, that the best qualified man in Australia should have the exercise of that judicial capacity, a man conscientious, as I have said, in the discharge of his duties, and very specially qualified tq do justice in such cases. But the clause of the Bill which causes the greatest amazement in my mind, and which introduces an entirely novel state of affairs, is clause 15. It is difficult for me to realize that my honorable friends opposite countenance the principle involved in this provision. Broadly, it says that the Arbitration Court may make an award which, in the opinion of the President of the Court, is not, or may not be, in accord with the law or regulations of the Commonwealth relating to salaries, wages, rates of pay, or terms or conditions of service or employment of employes. It is most novel to suppose that this Parliament is capable of deliberately delegating to a Judge of the Arbitration Court the power to legislate. Notwithstanding any law which this Parliament may have passed, it will be competent for the Judge of the Court to make an award in conflict with a Commonwealth Act. I am aware that the clause goes on to say that it shall be competent for Parliament to annul that award. But that leads us into a further anomalous position. I think there is considerable doubt as to the constitutionality of the clause. First, I do not think that Parliament has the right to delegate its legislative power in the manner here proposed. I do not say that dogmatically, but it is doubtful whether the Constitution contemplated Parliament delegating its legislative power to any other authority. This clause does deliberately delegate a power to legislate to the Judge of the Arbitration Court. Further, the clause says that Parliament may annul any award by resolution. But suppose that Parliament does not annul an award in that manner. Then the clause means that we may have two conflicting laws in force at the same time, one the law of this Parliament, and the other a law laid down by the Judge of the Arbitration Court. Which is to prevail? That is an extraordinary state of affairs, and it is, I venture to say, against the whole spirit of the Constitution itself. Under the Constitution it is competent for each House of the Legislature to make Standing Orders with respect to the conduct of business, either separately or jointly with the other House. We have provided that Bills shall be prepared, introduced and passed in a particular way. They are formally introduced, they go through their first, second and third reading stages, and they are ultimately passed and approved by the Governor-General. But here it k proposed to repeal all that Parliament has done in that connexion.
– Only with the concurrence of Parliament.
– This provision substitutes legislation by resolution for legislation in the ordinary manner prescribed by the Constitution. I submit that that is in itself anomalous and unusual. But there is this further feature of the proposal. Suppose that (he Court awards an increase of .salaries to the extent of £10,000, Suppose that Parliament does not annul that award by resolution. What then takes place? According to the award, the public servants will be entitled to their £10,000 increase.
– Even then Parliament could not be forced to vote the money.
– It may be contended by some that that award may amount to an appropriation, but it certainly cannot be so. The Constitution is perfectly clear on that point. Section 81 provides that -
All revenues or moneys raised or received by the Executive Government of the Commonwealth hall form one Consolidated Revenue Fund, to e appropriated for the purposes of the Commonwealth in the manner and subject to the charges and liabilities imposed bv the Constitution.
Under section 83 the money has to be appropriated by law. Turning back to section 56, we find that it provides that -
A vote, regulation, or proposed law for the appropriation of revenue or moneys shall not be passed unless the purpose of the appropriation has in the same session been recommended by message of the Governor-General to the House in which the proposal originated.
We cannot get away from the terms of the Constitution. They are specific. I have taken as an example a case where the President of the Court has awarded an extra payment in the aggregate of £10,000 to public servants. I say that that award cannot be carried out, even if Parliament does not by resolution annul it. Parliament itself, under the terms of the Constitution, must appropriate that money. That being so, I say that by means of this Bill we are merely playing with an important subject. We are doing a grave injustice to public servants when we profess to grant them a substantial gain which means nothing.
– An appropriation must be covered by a GovernorGeneral ‘s message.
– Of course. An award raising salaries by £10,000 would be use/ess unless Parliament chose to appropriate that sum in the manner prescribed by the Constitution. The Bill in that respect is grossly unfair to the public servants themselves. If Parliament fails to recommend or appropriate^ the situation will be very serious indeed, because the award will introduce an element of discontent and dissatisfaction throughout the Public Service. Under these circumstances, I claim that this is a measure for creating discontent rather than for promoting harmony within the service. I accentuate the view of the injustice to the Public Service from the stand-point that an award will be enforceable against the service, but not enforceable against the Government. As that is so, what is the object of a measure which is so one-sided and incomplete? It is not a matter concerning w’hich one necessarily has any feeling, but I think that my honorable friends on the other side are making a mistake. I recognise that they are anxious to do the best they can for the Public Service, as I hope we all are. But I feel that nothing has justified the introduction of this measure, and having been introduced, I think that we are not going the right way about remedying the grievances which obtain. I consider that my honorable friends on the other side would be wise if they could see their way to amend the Public Service Act where real defects occur. The suggestion made by the honorable member for Angas is worthy of serious consideration; that is, that the amendment might take the form of a reference to either police magistrates or other persons who may be approved, leaving the ultimate decision in the hands of the Public Service Commissioner. In this way, I believe that we would give greater satisfaction to the Public Service than can possibly be achieved under the Bill.
– I wish, very briefly, to deal with one or two points which seem to me to call for some reply. Amidst all the criticism which has been directed against the measure there is very little aimed at the principle, and no practicable alternative method of deal ing with the discontent in the Public Service has been suggested. A great deal has been said by way of eulogy of the Public Service Commissioner, and several honorable members have spoken about the virtues of an independent board.
I do not wish to say anything by way of criticism of the Commissioner, nor do I desire to say anything about the recommendations of the Postal Commission, which advised the establishment of a board in place of the present method of managing the Post Office. All I say is that the public servants are not always satisfied with the decisions of the Commissioner. That is a fact which can be proved by reference not to the 4,000 petitioners referred to by honorable members, but’ to the’ 35,000 public servants of the Commonwealth. The second point is that as regards the establishment of an independent board, the Public Service, almost without exception, repudiated and rejected that suggestion of the Postal Commission. The Commonwealth Public Service does not want a Board.
As for the petition, about which something has been said, a perusal of it will show that it refers to a proposal differing altogether in essentials from that which is before the House. It is directed to a proposal which would take away from the Public Service the right of appeal to Parliament. It is against this principle that the petitioners protest. But this Bill does not take the power away. Parliament remains supreme. Parliament does not delegate to the Arbitration Court any more of its power than it delegated to the Public Service Commissioner. That power, while it was delegated alone to that officer, had the approval of my honorable friends on the other side. It is now proposed, because of the dissatisfaction existing with certain decisions of the. Commissioner, to allow an appeal to the Arbitration Court. I make no charge against the Commissioner. He is an exceedingly able man. It is humanly impossible for a man to be at once the administrator of a Department and the judge of complaints arising under that administration. A number of honorable members have declared that the Commissioner’s office is that of an arbitrator. Nothing can be further from the truth. If I am engaged to manage a Department, I manage it to the best of my ability. If any complaints arise out of my management, or in consequence of it, am I the person who can be said to be an impartial judge of the merits of the complaints? Why that would be to make me a judge in my own cause. Ever since I have had the honour of a seat in this Parliament I have been in favour of independent appeal boards, on which the Commis sioner should not be represented. So much for that.
Now, as to the principle of the Bill, it is not that we can leave things as they are. I take it that we, as sensible men, ought not to consider that. Never mind whether the general body of the Public Service are satisfied or not. I offer no opinion about that. What I do know is that considerable dissatisfaction arises through the Commissioner being at once administrator and final Court of appeal. I am in as good a position to know what the Public Service wants as is any other member of this House. They have done me the honour very frequently to ask my opinion on various matters, and in very many cases to be guided by my judgment, and they may take it from me that in this measure they get a means of remedying very many of the complaints which they make from time to time. That it will be a solution of all their wrongs and difficulties I do not for one moment pretend any more than I say that the Arbitration Court can be in respect to disputes with private individuals. It is not a panacea for all the ills that flesh is heir to, but it is infinitely a better way than any other that we know of. It has been said that the petition to the House shows that there is no demand for the measure. When the measure is explained, as I hope the public servants will allow it to be explained, if they are unable to gather from the trend of the debates exactly what it means, they will, I am sure, feel perfectly satisfied that this is an earnest and honest attempt to grapple with some of the very important difficulties which confront ‘them.
It has been said that this is a novel principle. But what is the fact? It is so far from novel that it has been in force in New South Wales for very many years, and to-day a very large number of railway servants of New South Wales are working under awards made by Wages Boards and the Arbitration Court of the State. A large number of the railway servants, all the servants of the Harbor Trust, all the servants of the Metropolitan Board of Water Supply and Sewerage, and all the servants of the Hunter District Board of Water Supply and Sewerage, are under the Arbitration Court of the State.
– Does the Parliament accept the award?
– They accept it. Here are some of the very many awards in relation to the public servants of .New South
Wales, and mark, there’ is no difference between the public servants of New South Wales in relation to that State and the public servants of the Commonwealth in relation to the Commonwealth. Both have Commissioners who stand between employes and the Government. Both Public Services are dissatisfied with the Commissioners, and whether there is one Commissioner or whether there are three, as there are in New South Wales, there must, in the very nature of the case, be from time to time differences of opinion, and men feel that until they can go to an independent board of inquiry they do not get a fair deal. I ask any honorable member whether it would not be regarded as an invasion of the basic principle of justice if we attempted to enforce anything other than this principle, that, in ordinary cases, no man should be a judge in his own cause. On page 213 of volume 8- that is for 1909 - of the Industrial Arbitration Reports, there is an award by the board with reference to examiners and labourers in the Railway Service, laying down the conditions of employment. At page 216 there is an award by the Board in regard to employes in the permanent-way branch of the tramway service; another at page 443, amending the railway and tramways examiners award; another regarding the employment of locomotive labourers; another, on page 498, regarding the conditions of employment of employes in quarries. There was also an award covering the whole, of the tramway men. A year or two ago, there was a strike of tramway employe’s, but on the appointment of a Wages Board the men returned to work, and the Board awarded them conditions incomparably better than those which the Commissioner would have allowed, an improvement being obtained in respect of not only wages, but many other matters. It is trifling annoyances that cause friction. In New South Wales the tramway drivers desired glass fronts to the trams, to protect them from the wind and rain, and the excuses for not furnishing them were as puerile as could be imagined. In Western Australia in 1901-2 a measure was passed, section 1.08 of which says -
The society of railway . servants, called “The Western Australian Locomotive Engine-drivers, Firemen, and Cleaners’ Union of Workers” . . shall be deemed to be registered under this Act.
That society has since obtained awards. On page 97, of Vol. IX. of the Western Australian reports of the proceedings be- fore the Boards of Conciliation and the Court of Arbitration for 19 10, there occurs the case of Tydell against the Commissioner of Railways; and on page 166 the case of the Coastal District Committee Amalgamated Society of Engineers Industrial Association of Workers against the Commissioner of Railways.
– There was an agreement.
– In some cases there were distinct awards. Another case is that of the Australasian Society of Engineers Industrial Union of Workers against the Commissioner of Railways, in which among the matters dealt with were the condition of the blacksmiths on pot furnace work, and the Government Railways Act. In Vol. VIII. for 1909 is a list of the awards relating to railway servants in Western Australia, and applying to engine-drivers, gangers, guards, labourers, firemen of the first, second, and third class, cleaners, plate-layers, porters, shunters, signalmen; in short, the whole service. The Public Services of the States . have seized on legislation of this kind with avidity to better their conditions. I have been reminded by the right honorable member for Swan that he passed the Act to which I have referred. If that be so, we have clearly got hold of an excellent principle. The honorable member for Kooyong contrived to create an atmosphere of dark and fearful mystery about the application of the measure which may cause some persons to misunderstand it. The principle is this : As Parliament represents the people, its right to review and consider any award or determination is absolute, and ought not to be delegated to any one. But it is impossible for Parliament to inquire into the merits of individual cases. In the very nature of the thing, Parliament is quite unfitted for such a task. At present, if it wishes to obtain information upon questions of detail, it refers matters to Select Committees or to Royal Commissions, and considers the reports made by these bodies after they have heard’ and considered the evidence. For the control of the Public Service, Parliament has appointed a Commissioner, who makes whatever recommendations to Parliament he thinks proper; and these have always been indorsed hitherto. The public servants, however, are dissatisfied with the Commissioner’s recommendations, which they say do not meet their case. Obviously Parliament can deal only with broad, general principles, such as are involved, for ex– ample, in an application for an increase of salaries, because of an increase in the cost of living. The fixing of rates of pay, and conditions in general, can be determined only after the hearing of evidence. This the Court of Arbitration is well fitted to do. At present, the Commissioner alone can hear appeals against his own decisions. The President of the Arbitration Court, who is an independent officer, and whose business it is to hear evidence in in- dustrial disputes, is by this Bill made a Court of Appeal from the Commissioner’s decisions. I do not hesitate to say that the President is infinitely better fitted than the Commissioner to appreciate, sift, and use evidence. He is absolutely unbiased, and will hear what the Commissioner - who may appear in person or be represented by an officer, but not by a lawyer - may have to say, and what the members of the Public Service may have to say. Above all, he is an absolutely disinterested party. The Commissioner obviously is not. There is a possibility of unconscious bias in his decision arising out of the very nature of his position. If the Commissioner were asked to leave his case in the hands of the employes, would he do so? Of course, he would not. If I were asked to leave my case to honorable members opposite, I would not do it, although they are all, honorable men. Objection has been taken to the Court because it is composed of only one man. Yet the right honorable member for Swan said to-night that he believed in one-man control. This is Monday, and the Opposition believe in one-man control. But that was in the case of the Public Service Commissioner. It is good to have one Commissioner, but bacl to have one Judge. I distinctly remember, only a few short days ago, that if anything was denounced it was the vicious principle of intrusting the management of a certain institution, to which we are not permitted to make further reference, to one man. From this it appears to depend very much on what day of the week a motion is brought forward, and which side of the House sponsors it.
It has been said by some honorable members that this Bill applies only to the lower grades of the service, or to persons with a salary of only £200 a year. Of course, that is quite untrue. It applies to every one in the service; although only organizations can approach the Court. But it excludes no one. If there were only five in a class or grade, three of them, if they liked to combine together and register, could put their case before the Court just as readily as 10,000 men could. It is free for everybody, and it is an easy, convenient, and equitable method of settling difficulties.
The honorable member for Kooyong asked us to believe that, if Parliament approved of the award of the Court, it would be all very well; but that if Parliament did not vote the money, the condition of the men would be worse than it was before, and discontent would be bred. A man arguing in that fashion might say that if a man got up in the morning and put his trousers on it would be very well, but that if he got up in the morning and did not put his trousers on, it might lead to a great deal of difficulty and trouble during the day. No doubt it would ; but dees any man say that Parliament would not vote the appropriation of a sum of money to which it had already assented by the approval of the award which was laid on the table? The award has to be laid on the table first. If the House does not disapprove of it, it takes effect. The honorable member for Kooyong said there would be two laws. There will not. There will be one law, and the last law will supersede the first. We are giving the President of the Court power to legislate, subject to our right to veto. In exactly the same way as the High Court has decided that Wages Boards are subordinate legislative bodies, the President of the Court is to be a Legislature for one specific purpose only. He legislates, and we can veto his legislation, as the Legislative Councils or House of Lords veto Bills elsewhere. We are supreme; but if we do not care to exercise our right and let it go, then (Hat which he passes is law. Where it conflicts with a former law, it repeals it.
– It has to be agreed to by two Houses.
– Both Houses ‘ will have .to approve of the appropriation, as they do now. This is no new principle. If the Public Service Commissioner recommends increases, both Houses have to appropriate the money, or his recommendation fails.” I say again we are delegating no more authority to the President of the Court than we have all along delegated to the Public Service Commissioner, and we naturally ‘ and properly exercise the same supervising power over both.
The Bill rests upon the foundations of a sound principle.- There is the right of appeal from the Public Service Commissioner to an impartial tribunal ; and there is the review of his decisions by the Parliament. The right to veto is one of which we ought not to try to divest ourselves. The public servants of this country have the assurance that their grievances will be investigated ;by an independent impartial tribunal, and that, subsequently, this House will, if necessary, exercise its right of supervision and veto. They are, therefore, given the assurance that the representatives of the people will see that they get fair play. The public servants need not go to this Court unless they like. If, as Ave are told, they are satisfied with the Public Service Commissioner, they will not go near the Court ; but if they are not, they will ; and I feel sure that we shall not be much older before they do go there.
This measure is urgent in many respects. It will cover 35,000 men who at present have absolutely no means of appealing from the decision of the man who employs them, which is a right denied to no other worker in Australia. No man that works for an employer in Australia is denied the right to go somewhere else over the head of the employer and ask, “ Am I being treated justly? Are my rates of pay and conditions of labour those which ought to obtain?” The 35,000 public servants of the Commonwealth alone are denied that right, and are now being given it.’ Perhaps they do not appreciate it; but I say to them deliberately that it is a right of which, when they exercise it and experience its virtues, they will be found to be zealous champions. .
– You said any man could appeal to the Court; but he can do so only if he belongs to an organization.
– I do not deny it. All I say is that, to belong to an organization, he need not be a trade unionist. It is clear that; if every individual worker in Australia were to go to the Court with his individual complaint, it would be impossible for any human being, or collection of human beings, to deal with the work. The Court was created to deal with industrial disputes, which are differences of opinion, not between one employ^ and his employer, but between large bodies of men and their employer. Therefore, naturally, a man has to belong to an organization to reach the Court, which .is perfectly right and proper ; and in the Public Service he must belong to an organization. We encourage him to belong to an organization, which is not a trade union, but an organization for the purposes of this Act.
I wish to remind the public servants, and the country, that, in introducing this measure, we are by no means forgetful of Mie. (necessity for amending the Public Service Act in certain particulars. It is the intention of the Government to introduce, next session, an amending Bill, which will cover a great number of the points which have been raised during the debate, and about which there is now some complaint amongst employes in the service. This measure, however is urgently required, is in consonance with our general policy, and I venture to say the public servants will have every occasion to regard it with satisfaction. The only other point to which’ I desire to refer relates to the Registrar. The honorable member for Laanecoorie complained that the Registrar was to receive an increase of salary from £325 to £600 per annum. I have only to point out that the Registrar of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court did not get any salary at all with respect to that office. The salary he received was paid to him as clerk of the High Court, and the anomalous position arose that the Chief Registrar was receiving less than the Deputy Registrar in Sydney, whose work in comparison with that of the Registrar here was comparatively trifling. I venture to say that two things were obviously necessary. One was that, since the Registrar will exercise quasijudicial functions, in regard to public servants, we had to take him from the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commissioner. We could not allow the Public Service Commissioner to determine his salary, because he would have to be an independent person ; and, secondly, it was necessary that he should receive a salary commensurate with his duties, which are of the first importance, and which he has carried out, to my certain knowledge, with the very greatest credit.
Bill read a second time and considered in Committee pro forma-.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation of revenue for the purposes of this Bill.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of messages from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, transmitting Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure, and Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the year ended 30th June, 1910, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is not a controversial measure-
– It is the most controversial measure we have had before us this session.
– It is not a controversial Bill, except in its simplicity and necessity. Its main objects are (1) to establish a system of compulsory enrolment of electors ; (2) to abolish voting by post, and to provide in its place (a) a system of voting before a registrar under regulations after the issue of the writ, and before polling day by any elector who will be absent from the Commonwealth on polling day ; and (b) an extended system of absent voting on polling day under which it will be permissible for an elector to vote as an absent voter at any polling place in the Commonwealth other than the polling place for the sub-division for which he is enrolled, subject to the requirements of the regulations. In the third place, this is a measure to require political organizations, &c, to disclose all expenditure incurred on behalf of candidates, or in connexion with political campaigns; and, fourthly, to prohibit certain undesirable practices in connexion with elections. The Bill will make a number of amendments in the existing electoral law. In the first place, as I have said, we propose to provide for compulsory enrolment. It must be admitted that an Electoral Bill is the very embodiment of the might and majesty of the political life and organization of a nation. If we provide and maintain a great Electoral Department, with highly-paid officers, and many ramifications throughout the Commonwealth, and those officers cannot he held responsible for seeing that people are on the rolls, the organi zation is imperfect; and in fact, is no organization at all. The Government, therefore, have decided that every human being qualified to vote shall, at least, be placed on the roll ; and that no power shall remove them until they are placed on the rolls somewhere else. That is the intention and whole method of compulsory enrolment. We put that down as the fundamental essence - the very basis - of what we propose to do in future.
– Why not compulsory voting ?
– There is no doubt that, in time, if the people grow gradually to realize the necessity, they will decide to have compulsory voting; but at present we are taking the first instalment. There is compulsory registration of births and deaths without objection, and compulsory vaccination in regard to which we only occasionally hear any protest. There is compulsory military service throughout the Commonwealth with very few objections ; and also compulsory census and statistical returns by individuals. There is compulsory registration of persons practising professions, or following certain businesses; and there is compulsory education in every State of the Union. We have compulsory notification of infectious diseases, and we are compelled to comply with the requirements of Sewerage Boards, as anybody who owns property in Melbourne knows full well. How, then, under these circumstances, can any one object to compulsory enrolment ? At present, after a redistribution of seats, the maps are placed on the table of Parliament House. If Parliament rejects the proposed redistribution, and refers the matter back to the Commissioners, amended maps have to lie on the table for a month. Everybody realizes that this means procrastination and delay; and it is proposed by this Bill to provide that in the future, if maps are referred back to the Commissioners, it shall not be necessary to lay them on the table a second time.
– The honorable gentleman has not yet finished dealing with compulsory enrolment?
– I do not see why it is necessary to talk about compulsory enrolment all night.
– How is it proposed to secure it?
– If the honorable member will come down to the
Department, he will see that the scheme is nearly half completed now.
– How is it proposed to prevent a person voting several times ?
– There is to be a system of cabinet cards. Every man and woman qualified to vote must sign, and these cards are like letters of credit which the right honorable member for Swan must have used in his travels in Europe - the signature goes on ahead. The cards will be arranged alphabetically, in an index form, in a cabinet in each State; and if a man leaves one district for another, he will have to sign a fresh card in the new district. The cards will then be compared, and one of them will follow the man wherever he may go from one State to another. If a man is registered in Tasmania, he may vote in Queensland or Western Australia, or in any of the other States, as an absent voter.
– I understand that the “ Q “ form is abolished under this Bill.
-It is abolished only in a sense; because there is the right to vote wherever an elector may be throughout the Commonwealth.
– That could be done before.
– The right honorable gentleman is wrong. There was voting by post ; but that is abolished by this Bill.
– An elector could vote at any place.
– No. As I said, it is proposed to abolish postal voting.
– Because we have discovered that it has a tendency to corrupt the Australian people.
– What evidenceis there of corruption?
– The election for Melbourne, when the present member and Sir Malcolm McEacharn were candidates, affords all the evidence we require. We desire now to make it easy for the Australian people to do right, and hard to do wrong; whereas under postal voting, it was hard to do right and easy to do wrong. We hear much about how people will suffer by the abolition of postal voting; and, therefore, I have had a statement prepared showing the facts. First of all, the statement shows the number of polling places per square mile in each State. In Victoria, which is the smallest State in the Union next to Tasmania, and in which the polling places are close together, there was the biggest vote by post.
– Nearly 50 per cent, of the total.
– Exactly. The following table sets out an estimate of the number of polling places per square mile in each State : -
So that Tasmania had the highest birth rate of the Commonwealth. The number of postal votes issued to men and women in each State was as follows : -
In Victoria, which possesses the lowest birth rate, and which provides the greatest “conveniences for electors to go to the poll, the largest number of postal votes was recorded, proving beyond the possibility of doubt that corruption was practised.
– A scandalous s t t dm&i t
– Since I occupied the position of Minister I have had to prosecute justices of the peace - and I was grieved to do it - for violating the law of the land.
– What was the nature of their offence?
– Assisting unconsciously to do violence to the law of the Commonwealth. The number of votes issued under “ Q “ form in each State was : -
The number of polling places in each State where absent voting could not be used under the Act 1902-1909 : -
These were polling places at which people could not vote under the Electoral Act, but had to vote by post. Now they will not be able to vote at these places.
– Subject to regulations of which we know nothing.
– We will provide for it in the Bill if my honorable friend wishes it.
– Does the Minister promise that?
– Why not? Another tremendous howl was raised because it was said that the Government were proposing that elections should in future be held on a Saturday, which would deprive our Hebrew brethren of the right to vote. I would ask the honorable member for Wakefield whether Hebrew electors have refrained from voting in South Australia for many years past. The latest figures available - those of the 1901 census - give the following as the number of Hebrews in the different States of Australia: - New South Wales, 6,447 ; Victoria, 5,907 ; Queensland, 733; South Australia, 786; Western Australia, 1,259 ; Tasmania, 107 ; or a total for the Commonwealth of 15,239. The number of Hebrews, approximately, in the Commonwealth at the present date is 18,000, of which number a little more than one-half are adults. I give now the number of adults in each State, approximately, at the present time - New South Wales, 868,194; Victoria, 723,377; Queensland, 293i°°3 ; South Australia, 216,027; Western Australia, 138,697 ; Tasmania, 102,326 ; or a total for the whole of the Commonwealth of 2,341,624. A great complaint has been made that we are not, under this Bill, going to allow our Hebrew brethren to go to the polls to vote. Honorable members will admit that the Commonwealth elections generally take place in April and in May. In this connexion I have had a statement made of the hour of sunset in April and in May. I find that the hour of sunset on 1st April is 6.14 p.m. ; on the 30th April, it is 5.34 p.m. ; and on 31st May, 5.8 p.m. So that honorable member., will see that there will be a little more than three hours from the time the sun sets, when all the feasts are over, for our Hebrew brethren to go and record their votes on the Saturday night.
– How do -the Government propose to meet the case of the Seventh Day Adventists?
– I suppose they will have to vote late in the evening, also.
– Sick people are not to be allowed to vote under this Bill, are they?
– When my honorable friends have had their little say I will go on. They must admit that they have no real ground of complaint against the proposed abolition of postal voting.
– Except for sick people.
– Prior to the introduction of the system of postal voting some people were sick at election time.
– But there was a means provided for them to vote.
– No one complained in those days of the absence of postal voting provisions.
– They will complain very bitterly now, and very properly.-
– We make every arrangement in this Bill so that, after the issue of a writ, any person who is going to be out of the Commonwealth can go before the Registrar and record his vote.
– What is the use of that to sick and infirm people, who cannotget to the nearest polling booth?
– Whilst postal voting has been allowed, I have witnessed some sad incidents of persons rushing into houses and almost dragging sick women out of their beds, in order to get them to vote. I may say that our side were nearly as bad as the opposite side in this respect.
– No; they were not quite so bad as the supporters of my honorable friends opposite. Where there is a dispute, or some one has filed a petition on the ground that the Department was responsible, through negligence, for some injustice, we propose under this Bill to permit the Chief Electoral Officer to be represented before the Court of Disputed Returns. Under the existing law, he has no right to be represented before the Court, although the Department may be charged with all sorts of offences. We propose under this Bill that, where any act or neglect of the Electoral Office is put forward as responsible for a petition to the Court of Disputed Returns, the Electoral Office may be represented before the Court. Under the existing Act, a Revision Court might meet and strike thousands of voters off the rolls. When the ordinary man receives notice that his name has been struck off the roll, he does not bother any further about it until the next election. There is no excitement whilst we are enrolling electors, and it is only after the band begins to play, and the orators begin to talk, that the elector realizes that he ought to vote, and! then finds that he is not on the roll, and that the roll is closed. We propose to make the Department responsible for people being on the roll. Under this Bill no Electoral Officer will be able to take the name of any elector off the roll for any division until he has proof that the elector’s name is on the roll for some other division. Honorable members must remember that electors are entitled to vote for members of the Senate, and if the name of an elector is taken off a roll, and he is not enrolled for another division, he will be unable to vote for the Senate. It is proposed in this Bill that the hours of polling shall be from 8 o’clock in the morning until 8 o’clock at night, or an extension of one hour upon the existing system.
– Does the honorable gentleman think it was necessary ?
– Yes, I do. As the fundamental basis of all democracy is the franchise of the people, every opportunity ought to be afforded for the people to exercise that franchise. An honest ballot is the breath that fills the lungs of the Commonwealth. An honest election is the blood that circulates through the veins of the Commonwealth. If by anymeans or device a few people can corrupt the ballot, it simply means the introduction of Tammany Hall methods into Australia. It is to prevent that that we want to make this a perfect’ piece of electoral machinery if we can. Under the present Act an absent voter could vote only at certain polling places. Under this measure, a voter absent from his home, no matter in what part of Australia he may be, can go into any polling booth and cast his vote.
– Where nobody will know him.
– He will have to sign an affidavit, and his signature will be compared with his signature in the district where he is on the roll.
– How will the Electoral Office find him? In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred it will be impossible.
– The Government have allowed offenders to go every time. They have not initiated one prosecution.
– It is not fair for my right honorable friend to say that. I certainly am not prepared to commence silly prosecutions. I will not sanction prosecutions unless we have enough evidence to make a conviction reasonably certain. Too much money has already been spent in feeing big lawyers. Again, under the old system, when a case under the Electoral Act went before the High Court, the Judge had to count all the ballot-papers, including those which were admitted to be quite correct. The dispute may have arisen merely concerning one district. We propose to accept the ballot-papers that are not challenged, and unless the Court so desires, only the votes challenged will be counted. That will be admitted to be a desirable reform. Why put the person challenging an election to unnecessary expense? Under clause 32 we require political organizations to make a return of money expended in connexion with elections, and we also require newspaper proprietors to make a return of amounts paid for electoral matter published in the columns of their journals. It must be admitted that there are one or two States in Australia where candidates can get speeches published at so much per column. That means that the man with the big pocket-book can get two or three columns published every day, thereby putting his opponent at a disadvantage. I know of cases where candidates have spent fifteen or sixteen guineas a day in this manner.
– There are some newspapers which will only publish the speeches of one party.
– My honorable friend comes from a State where the newspapers charge £4. percolumn for the publication of speeches.
– What newspaper is that? The Adelaide Register?
– I know that fourteen or fifteen years ago £4 per column used to be the rate.
– Cheap at the price !
– How many people paid that?
– All those candidates who had the “ boodle” paid it.
– Not three candidates at an election used to pay ; and today there is none.
– My honorable friend knows what occurred whenI’ fought the election at Encounter Bay. Of course, things may have improved since the Labour newspaper, the Herald, was started in Adelaide. But, at the time to which I refer, it was the regular thing for candidates to pay £4 a column for the publication of speeches. Clause 39 of the Bill is to repeal a limitation as regards costs in cases of disputed elections. Experience has shown that the existing provision invites rather than restricts speculative petitions, enabling the petitioner to escape the legitimate consequences of his action. If he loses the case, he imposes a burden on the successful respondent”; but the burden imposed upon himself is comparatively slight. That was not contemplated by Parliament.
– There has not been one case for ten years.
– Yes; there is the case of Mr. Crouch against the present member for Corio. Clause 41 is intended to penalize persons who sign their names as witnesses on blank electoral papers. Many electoral documents require to be witnessed ; and it has been ascertained that persons have signed their names as witnesses on blank forms, thus defeating the intention of the law.
– That was done in Adelaide, and the State Government would not prosecute.
– This great. Commonwealth Parliamentdoes not attempt to interfere with the States in any way that would be un-Christian. Clause 42 is intended to extend the time within which summary prosecutions may be initiated. Certain offences in relation to enrolment may not be detected until the following election. We want to give every person an opportunity to know that, if anything wrong is done, he may be prosecuted, even three years after the offence is committed. “ If a thing is right, it should stand ; and if it is wrong, there ought to be no limitation.
– Do you think that it should last for three years?
– If the thing is wrong, there ought to be no limitation.
– In the case of my election, three persons had their passages paid to South Africa.
– That is quite contrary to the principles of the common
– I want to put in a paper which was prepared by the Chief Electoral Officer.
-May I ask if he recommended these amendments for the better working of the Electoral Act?
– What has he to do with the matter?
– That is all I want to know. I thought that he had a great deal to do with’ it.
– When my honorable friend opposite was Minister, no doubt he was very, largely guided by his officers.
– I was, to a large extent.
– I have no objection to that ; but now the officers must be guided by the Minister.
– On a matter of policy, yes.
– The whole thing has been changed. This is a very important Bill, which we ought to make perfect if we can ; and that is why we are endeavouring to have constructive legisla- aoa instead of destructive litigation. May I put in this paper, sir, without reading it to the House?
– I do not desire to inflict the reading of the paper on my honorable friends.
Paper Prepared by thi Chief Electoral Officer.
Presented by Command; ordered la be printed, 6th October,1911.
AMENDING ELECTORAL BILL.
Abolition of Postal Voting and Extension of Absent Voting.
– That paper has been printed already.
– Do I understand the Minister to say that the paper which he is about to read has already been laid on the table of the House?
– In another place it has been tabled, sir ; but I want to get it into the report of my speech, because it is very important.
– Can it not. be done by leave ?
– Can I by leave, sir, put in the paper?
– I would point out to the honorable member, as I have to other honorable members, that this practice is creeping in, and no doubt, if it is permitted, speeches will eventually be handed in. It is a very bad practice, and that is why I have always refused to allow any document not read to be included in the report. If I am to ask the leave of the House on each occasion, and the request is granted, I do not see that there is much use in trying to control the House in this respect. Of course, if it is the desire of the House that I should put the request, I am in its hands, and have to do it ; but in the circumstances, I solemnly warn the House that the practice is becoming so frequent that, in my opinion, it will be fraught with danger to the carrying on of the debates. I hope that this sort of thing will not be done. Is it the leave of the House that the document be included in the report?
– I would point out to the Minister that if the document is laid on the table of the House it will have exactly the same effect.
– I shall lay the paper on the table of the House.
Debate (on motion by Sir John
– I beg to lay upon the table a paper on Compulsory Enrolment prepared by the Chief Electoral Officer, and to move that it be printed.
– I would remind the Prime Minister that when the Senate orders a document to be printed, it is distributed amongst the members of this House just in the same way as when a document is printed here it is circulated amongst the members of the Senate. -In the circumstances, every member of the House has received a copy of ‘this document, and there is no need for us to go to further expense.
– Very well, sir.
Order of Business.
– In moving -
That this House do now adjourn,
I beg to say that it is intended to allow honorable members an opportunity to peruse the Minister’s speech before proceeding with the Electoral Bill. Tomorrow it is intended to take the Committee stage of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill and the Land Tax Assessment Bill, and perhaps other little matters, if necessary. On Thursday we shall take the third reading of the Commonwealth Bank Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.7 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 December 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1911/19111204_reps_4_62/>.