4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Resumption of Proceedings.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher), by leave, pro posed -
That the proceedings in Committee on the Loan Bill 1912, which lapsed yesterday, be resumed, and that the House, at a later hour this day, resolve itself into a Committee of the whole for the further consideration of the Bill.
– Standing order 235 is conclusive. It says -
If the proceedings of a Committee be inter- rupted by a count-out, followed by an adjournment of the House, the House may order the resumption of such Committee on a future day on motion with notice, and the proceedings shall be resumed at the point where they were so interrupted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Tasmanian Mail Contract - Semiofficial Postmistresses - Replies to Questions - Rental for Official Offices-Country Telephone Lines
– I wish to know from the Postmaster-General if the correspondence relating to the Tasmanian mail contract is yet available to honorable members ?
– I am not sure that the contract has yet been signed, but as soon as it has been signed there will be no objection to honorable members seeing it. The only alteration of the old contract is. that a port at which steamers might have been required to call, but at which, as a matter of fact, they never did call, has not been made a compulsory port of call.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral taken into consideration! the position of the postmistresses who are in charge of’ the semi-official post-offices, whose tenure of office is uncertain, and whose pay is inadequate? Is it the intention of the Department to make these positions more secure, to increase the salaries attaching to them, and to improve the conditions under which the work is performed ?
– I dealt rather fully with the whole subject the other day when speaking on a motion for the adjournment of the’ House, moved by the honorable member for Richmond, pointing out that the effort has been made, when semi-official post-offices have been converted into official post-offices, to give those who have been in charge of them other Government employment, such as the conduct of allowance offices; but that these persons cannot be brought into the Public Service except by compliance with the provisions of the Public Service Act. I am very sorry for those who, after having been engaged for many years in conducting postal business, find themselves without employment, but as the Act stands it is becoming increasingly difficult upon the conversion of semi-official post-offices to find Government work for those who are in charge of them, and I am afraid some of them will have to be left without employment.
– In reference to a number of questions placed on the notice-paper on Friday by myself and other honorable members, and in connexion with which the Minister of External Affairs said the desired information would be forthcoming as early as possible, when does the PostmasterGeneral think that he will be able to furnish the information?
– I am not acquainted with the questions to which the honorable member refers, but the standing instruction, when a reply of that kind is given, is to get the information available as soon as possible.
– In view of the minimum revenue for official offices being practically retained, does not the PostmasterGeneral think that the elimination of the semi-official offices a weakening, rather than a strengthening, of the effective administration of the service?
– I must say that the question is open to argument. It was decided before I took charge of the Department, but on the whole, the question being considered from all sides, I believe that the proper thing was done.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he proposes, as suggested from time to time, to amend the law so as to permit of the cheaper construction of telephone lines in country districts, firstly, by using poles cut from sound varieties of timber available locally, and secondly, by permitting the use of shorter poles (except for crossings) than those specified in existing schedules issued by the Postal Department to contractors?
– In replying to this question 1 think I may be permitted to stray a little from the wording of the official reply. The honorable member for Wannon and several other country members have consistently appealed to me in connexion with this matter. The estimates for the construction of some of these lines, when submitted to me for final decision, have alarmed me ; and, in order to get over the difficulty of having all this work done by departmental officers, I have asked the people in all the local centres to assist me in obtaining labour, so that the necessary telephonic connexions may be carried out locally, and thus save much expense. Up to the present there has been a very poor response; but, at the same time, during the twelve months I have been in office, some 45,000 miles of telephone lines have been constructed, the greater percentage of the work being done by departmental officers.
In view of the high cost of the poles, and the necessity to obtain them, in most cases, from one particular portion of a State only, and, in some cases, to obtain them in one State and send them to another, I called a committee together, consisting of the Chief Engineer, the engineers of Victoria and New South Wales, with one of the Central Office staff, to go fully into the question. I placed my own views before that committee; and the result of the investigation is that it has been agreed to carry out the work substantially on the lines suggested in the question. For example, it is intended, except when crossing roads, to reduce the height of the poles from 20 feet to12 feet, and, in the case of crossings, from20feet to 18 feet. Local timbers, where there is any reasonable guarantee that they will last forten years, will be utilized as far as possible; and it is hoped by this means that we may be able to carry out many of the works that have been delayed for financial reasons.
– Referring to the answer given to me by the Minister yesterday regarding the putting of certain questions to temporary clerks employed in the Government Statistician’s Office, I wish to know if similar questions have been put to those doing temporary clerical work in the other Departments of the service?
– I have given no instructions at all in this matter. The Government Statistician is empowered by law to ascertain the condition of all classes of the people, and he follows the means suggested to him by his own ideas.
– Are these questions being put to the temporary employes in the other Departments?
– I do not know anything about that.
– In view of their great importance, will the Minister of Trade and Customs take into consideration the advisableness of publishing, as a Parliamentary paper, so that they may be available to honorable members, the books known as Secret Remedies and More Secret Remedies?
– I shall lay copies on the table, and will consult with the British Medical Association, and, if I can get permission, I will move that they be printed.:
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs a question with reference to the very interesting statement he made yesterday concerning the admission of undesirable and useless drugs into the Commonwealth. In his very praiseworthy efforts to protect the public interest, has he taken any step to prevent newspapers which contain advertisements of these useless articles from being sent through the post-offices of the Commonwealth ?
– I have not taken any step in that direction, because that is, I think, outside my province.
– Somebody ought to take action then.
– It is the duty of the Postmaster-General, I think, to prohibit certain newspapers from being sent through the post. If he were to prohibit the newspapers which contain these advertisements, I believe that you could count on the fingers of one hand the newspapers in Australia which would not be prohibited from passing through the post.
– Does not the Minister of Trade and Customs think that the giving of full publicity to the character of advertisements and the ingredients of doubtful patent medicines will induce newspapers to be more cautious in accepting advertisements regarding such medicines ?
– Yes, I believe that many of the newspapers which do take these advertisements have erred in the past. It is quite possible, as the honorable member suggests, that the giving of greater publicity to these things will be beneficial, not only to the community, but to newspapers, and that people will advertise more on the lines of the advertisements which we allow to come into the Commonwealth, and not make the exaggerated claims which they set forth in the press to-day.
– Has the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs been drawn to a statement in the press that on the immigrant ship Irishman there are cases, particularly of measles, which have developed pneumonia. In view of the vast number of deaths caused by measles in comparison with those attributable to small-pox and plague, will he see that these immigrants are not allowed to mix with the poorer portion of the population, and so spread a very infectious disease?
– In the newspaper of yesterday, and also of to-day, I read a statement to the effect that the Irishman is coming to Melbourne, and that there has been another severe outbreak of measles on board and other diseases resulting therefrom. I am in consultation with the Director of Quarantine, with a view to seeing what action can be taken to prevent a recurrence of what occurred on her previous arrival here, and, if possible, to make her owners liable for apparent neglect on their part. I think that the vessel could not have been properly fumigated, because there could hardly be two outbreaks on the same vessel in following trips.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs noticed in the press an intimation to the effect that, in the opinion of some medical authorities in Adelaide, the severity of the outbreak of measles among the children on the Irishman was due to ill-nutrition? Will he inquire whether the shipping authorities are responsible for the ill-nutrition, or where the responsibility really lies?
– The responsibility would not lie with the Quarantine or Customs Department if the children on the vessel were ill-fed. It would lie, I presume, with the Immigration Department, that is, with the States, in this case, and the Board of Trade should also be informed. As we do not control navigation in any shape yet, I do not think we have power to interfere. All that we can do is to quarantine the vessel it she does not comply with the conditions laid down in the Quarantine Act. Measles have not yet been made a quarantinable disease. If the amending Bill was assented to by the Governor-General yesterday, it is quite possible that we may have greater power now than we had previously, but the matter of nutrition is outside the province of the Quarantine or Customs Department..
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister if it is the intention of the Government to introduce during the session a Bill to amend the Public Service Act?
– It is.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to amend the Public Service Act so as to enable the various Departments to secure the services of citizens who have had experience and acquired business knowledge in the outside world, instead of the present method of recruiting the Service from youths up to 21 years of age who have had no business experience outside, and thus tend to become departmental machines?
– This matter will be considered in connexion with the other amendments of the Public Service Act now incontemplation.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs a question relating to naturalization and enrolment. I am. informed that in September, 1905, the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth gave an opinion that within the State of Queensland the wife of a man who becomes a naturalized subject of the Kingwithin the meaning of the Commonwealth Franchise Act of 1902 is entitled to enrolment on the Commonwealth rolls of the State, and that since then the Chief Electoral Officer in Queensland has intimated that no wife of a naturalized man who becomes naturalized after he is married can be enrolled unless she also becomes naturalized. Has that ruling or instruction been given under the authority of the Home Affairs Department, and, if so, has any question been put to the Attorney-General, especially having reference to the opinion given by the Attorney- General in 1905?
– I shall give that information to-morrow.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House whether the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank is going to make provision for collecting the savings of men who are engaged on Commonwealth works remote from banks ?
– I know that the Governor is considering this matter, and I think that he has taken some steps towards making provision for the cases of those people engaged on works such as railway works and who frequently move from one point to another.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
On what date is it his intention to introduce a Bill to amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, and provide that the possession of a house used as a home shall not prevent a person obtaining the old-age pension?
– The Attorney-General’s Department has been asked to draft the necessary Bill. It is not possible to name the date on which it will be introduced, but it will come before Parliament before’ the session closes.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is - 1 and 2. No reply has been received from New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia. South Australia and Tasmania have decided not to be represented, and Queensland is of opinion that there should” be an Australian exhibit under the control of the Commonwealth, and is prepared to co-operate with the Commonwealth Government. When the other replies are received the question of the participation of this Government will be further considered.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
Whether the steamer Merrie England, recently wrecked on the coast of Papua, was insured ; and, if so, for what amount?
– Yes, for£4,000.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Inregard to further additions to the new electoral roll, will an elector who presents the card received from the Electoral Department as evidence of application for enrolment be allowed to vote, notwithstanding the absence of the name from the roll through error on the part of the Electoral Department ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
All additions to the main printed roll will appear on the Supplemental Roll, which will contain enrolments effected up to the date of the issue of the writ for an election.
In view of the provisions of the Electoral Act, it would not be lawful to permit an elector to vote whose name does not appear on the list of voters certified by the Returning Officer.
The responsibility of satisfying himself that his name is duly enrolled rests with the elector. Every roll kept by an Electoral Registrar is open to public inspection without fee, and the latest print of the roll (to which public attention is invited by posters and notices) is kept constantly on exhibition at all post-offices and other public buildings in each subdivision.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 6th November (vide page 5118):
.- The proposal before us is important in view of the fact that the Government, and the party behind it, who have always opposed borrowing, are now resorting to that policy. I was somewhat struck by the attitude of some honorable members opposite who glory in the fact that such legislation has been introduced. Their jubilation is not because the Government have arrived at a wiser frame of mind, and are adopting the inevitable system of borrowing, but because, instead of borrowing from outside sources it is proposed to raise the money from our own people. Those honorable members seem to think this a master stroke, whereas every thoughtful man realizes that if the result of borrowing from the outside is to give us more than we have to pay, it must be profitable to the community.
– I direct the honorable member’s attention to the fact that the question before the Chair is the schedule, to which he must confine his remarks.
– As I find that I cannot say what I wish to say on the schedule, I shall defer my remarks until we reach the third reading of the Bill.
– I do not intend to take up very much of the time ofthe Committee, but I notice , a reference in the schedule to a sumof £153,000, which, I understand, will earn interest at the rateof 5 per cent. It occurs to me that it would be an excellent thing to deal with thatamount under the system of the Guernsey Island note issue to which I have previously referred. In other words, instead of borrowing this money at interest we should issue notes for the property upon the plan adopted in the case to which I refer. As there is so much noise I think I shall leave my remarks to another time.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher), by leave, proposed -
That the Billbe now read a third time.
– As honorable members have already pointed out, the introduction of this Bill marks an absolutely new departure, and the House should thoroughly realize what it is doing.It has been somewhat amusing to listen to some of the speeches made during the debate, and to note how extremely anxious the honorable member for Hunter, in common with other honorable members opposite, was to point out that this Bill does not propose the ordinary or common garden variety of loan. We have been told that it proposes merely that we should borrow from ourselves through the Trust Funds, and the honorable member for Hunter, with other honorable members on his side, have assured us that they are opposed to the ordinary system of borrowing. These honorable members apparently have failed to realize the situation. This House has deliberately given its approval to the construction of many public works, the expenditure upon which it will be absolutely impossible to meet from the Trust Funds because those funds will have gone. I take the line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, upon which we have just started work, and I say that if the Government are in earnest in connexion with that undertaking, and I believe they are, it will be necessary for them in the immediate future to go to the open market to borrow money, exactly as the State Governments have done.
– Not when we have £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 in the Trust Funds.
– We shall not have £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 in the Trust Funds. We have no reason to doubt the statement of the Minister of Home Affairs that he intends to construct the line I have referred to at the rate of a mile per day from each end. Estimating the cost of construction on the basis of the Government estimate of £10,000 per mile for the Pine Creek to Katherine River railway, the amount required to carry out the intention of the Minister of Home Affairs will be very considerable. There is no reason to believe that the Western Australian line will be constructed at a very much cheaper rate than the line referred to in the Northern Territory, but assuming that it will cost between £6, 000 and , £7,000 per mile, and that is probably an under estimate, the expenditure necessary upon it will far more than absorb the moneys available for the purpose in the Trust Funds.
– Not at all. Has the honorable member calculated what the amount will be?
– We are face to face with a very grave position in Australia to-day, and we cannot expect that the whole of the money now in the Treasury will remain there. The tightness of the money market in Australia at the present time is more marked than it has been for many years, and has not been equalled since 1893.
– What nonsense !
– I say there has never been a period since 1893 when the interest rate reached 6 per cent. in the city of Melbourne, as it is to-day.
– The honorable member is now going into a general discussion, but he must confine himself to the Bill.
– I thought that I was doing so. I am dealing with the position in which we shall be under this Bill. It is proposed to draw from the Trust Funds, and I say that the utilization of moneys in the Trust Funds, the Commonwealth note issue, and local borrowing in Australia are very largely responsible for the greatly enhanced price of money today. It is impossible to borrow to any considerable extent in the city of Melbourne to-day at under 6 per cent., and that rate of interest was not previously reached since 1893.
– The honorable member’s credit must be very poor if he cannot do better than that.
– Perhaps my credit is quite as good as that of the Prime Minister.
– There is abundance of money to be had at 5 per cent.
– The Prime Minister should know better than that. No one can borrow money to-day in the city of Melbourne at 5 per cent. Money is tighter to-day than it has been at any period since 1893. The Municipal Council of Sydney is to-day giving 5 per cent. for loan money, and that is a higher interest than it has been necessary for any large corporation to pay for many years past. I say that the increase in the price of money is due to the extent to which local money has been utilized. This Bill is only the forerunner of similar measures that will be required to finance the undertakings to which we are committed, and the Commonwealth will be compelled to borrow in the open market in the very near future. I, therefore, say that all the “hifalutin “ to which we have listened about borrowing from our own Trust Funds is only so much platform oratory. The Prime Minister would not make such statements, and his colleague, the leader of the Senate, said only a fortnight ago -
– The honorable member is now going beyond the scope of the measure, and I ask him. to confine himself to it.
– I do not wish to go beyond, the scope of the measure, but I think that as this Bill refers to money in the Trust Funds-
– The honorable member will not be in order in continuing that line of argument. He must confine himself to the clauses of the Bill.
– If you, sir, will pardon me for saying so, I listened very patiently yesterday to honorable members discussing quite freely the whole question of the difference between borrowing from the outsider and from the Trust Funds.
– On the third reading of a Bill a discussion is limited. The honorable member must confine himself to the Bill itself.
– I point out that the system we have adopted of taking from the banks moneys which they previously had in circulation, and borrowing from the fund so created instead of borrowing abroad, is largely responsible for the enhanced price which, during the last six months at any rate, the people of Australia have had to pay for the money they required. This enhancement of value is increasing every day. I contend that the advantage we have gained by the adoption of the system referred to, and which I admit is considerable, is counterbalanced three or fourfold by the enhanced price which our people have had to pay for money. I think the estimate is given that to-day about’ half the capital value of property in Australia is under mortgage.
– The honorable member is now entering upon a general discussion which should have taken place upon the second reading of the Bill.
– I shall content myself with pointing out that under this system of borrowing from our Trust Funds, we are depriving the local banks of the money that they otherwise would have.
– Did they not keep a gold reserve?
– They have not kept up their original gold reserves to this extent. There is now locked up in the Commonwealth Treasury a certain amount of gold, and if the money market goes on tightening the Treasurer must expect the banks to make upon him a very considerable demand for gold in redemption of the notes held by them. The Trust Funds, therefore, will be getting smaller and smaller.
– The honorable member is now dealing with the general question.
– I shall only say that it is all moonshine to’ say that we are not borrowing when we are raising money in this way from the Trust Funds. The public works which we shall have to undertake are such that no matter what Government is in office borrowing will be necessary, and as sure as the sun will rise in the heavens to-morrow, so surely will the Government of the day have to tread the same old road to the same old pawnshop if these works are to be carried out.
.- I desire very briefly to put my views in regard to this measure. The position is that we have a Trust Fund which is gradually growing. Any surplus revenue which the Treasurer has is paid into it, as well as any profits from the note issue and Commonwealth coinage, and there is now a proposition before us to borrow money .from that Trust account. Is it not a more statesmanlike action on the part of the
Treasurer to borrow from an account that has been created by this Parliament, and to pay into that trust account interest on the money that we borrow from it, just as we should have to pay interest to a banker-
– Still it is borrowing.
– It is like borrowing from one’s wife: it is “all in the family.” By means of the money that we propose to raise in this way we are going to acquire certain land and property in Western Australia which I understand is likely to return us 5 J per cent.
– That is so.
– Very well. We shah. Pay 3i Per cent, interest to the Trust Fund in respect of interest on the loan, and we shall also pay into the Trust Funds the additional 2 per cent, profit that we make on the investment. In the light of these facts I fail to see how any one could object to the third reading of this Bill. No criticism has been levelled against the Government regarding this proposal to cause me to lose my faith in the soundness of the proposition. This is certainly a proposal to borrow, but it is like taking money from one pocket and putting it into another. No one outside is to get any interest from the Commonwealth. If we pay the interest into the Trust Funds that interest will accumulate, and I am satisfied that the simplest individual will be able to understand the difference between borrowing from a Trust Fund to acquire property for public purposes–
– Does the honorable member think that the Government will be able to obtain from Trust Funds all the money they require for public works?
– No; but we have in the Trust Funds sufficient to meet the particular requirements of this Bill.
– But the Government are initiating a policy of borrowing.
– Order; the honorable member must not discuss that matter.
– The Government are taking a stand which should have been adopted at the inception of Federation. If it had been I do not think there would have been any cause to complain of tightness of funds in any Department. I have pleasure in supporting the third reading of this Bill, believing it to be in the interests of the country and to reflect great credit on the Treasurer.
– The last speaker very properly admitted that this was the initiation of a loan policy. The only distinction he makes between the Government proposal and that of raising a straight-out loan is that for the time being while we have money to the credit of the Trust Funds there is no occasion to go outside to borrow. He admits in effect that when we have to build a railway costing £4,000,000 it will be necessary to go outside.
– The Prime Minister stated yesterday -
– The honorable member will not be in order in replying to a debate that took place yesterday.
– I do not propose to do so. The Prime Minister promised to make a statement showing where the moneys were to come from.
– It will come out of two Trust Funds - partly out of the note Trust Fund, and partly out of the general Trust Funds.
– Then there will be plenty of money available for some time to come. It is rather interesting to know that the Government are initiating a public loan policy, and I do not think the honorable member for South Sydney can deny that that is really what is being done. The gold reserve comprises some millions of money raised distinctly from the banks, and held by the Commonwealth to secure the note issue. The money so obtained is to be loaned for the execution of public works in Australia.
– The honorable member is now going outside the scope of the Bill.
– I think we are justified in asking where the . £529,526 for which the Bill provides is to come from.
– The position I take up is that on a notice of motion for introducing a Bill, as well as on a motion for the second reading, there is ample scope for the fullest possible discussion on the general principles of a measure. When a Bill goes into Committee certain matters are decided, and even at the report stage there is ample opportunity for discussion, but on the motion for the third reading honorable members must confine themselves to the contents of the Bill itself. A general discussion at that stage would not be in order.
– The Bill provides that the Treasurer may from time to time borrow certain moneys under the provisions of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act, and that Act empowers the Treasurer to issue stock which can be taken up either by the public or by the Government itself. I am not, therefore, going outside the terms of the Bill. When we look at that part of the measure which authorizes the raising of this money out of the Trust Funds of the Commonwealth, we must recognise that it is not restricted to the Trust Funds. Some honorable members seem to be under the impression that it is restrictive in that respect. But that view is not correct.
– My word; it is absolutely correct.
– The honorable member is in error. As a rule he is very accurate, precise, and choice in his language, but on this particular occasion he is making a mistake. The Bill goes beyond what the honorable member supposes. The honorable member for South Sydney realized the position much more accurately when he said that after the Trust Funds were gone, we should have to go to the public.
– The Bill merely gives us power to do that.
– But it authorizes the Treasurer.
– I plead guilty.
– It is the first time that I have known the honorable member to offend in this respect. First of all, it was suggested that the Bill merely authorized use to be made of the Trust Funds, but now we hear, for the first time, from the Prime Minister that the moneys used for the purpose of securing the note issue are going to be utilized for carrying out the public works of Australia. I am not questioning that policy now. I am merely stating the fact - that the Prime Minister has announced, for the first time in this connexion, that we are going to utilize for these purposes moneys intended to secure the note issue.
– I could get quite enough from the other amounts in the Trust Funds.
– I doubt that.
– Then the honorable member is quite wrong.
– If the Treasurer tells me that he can do what be states, of course, I accept his assurance.
– I have nearly twice as much as we require.
– Then the Treasurer is going to divert money appropriated for other purposes ? For instance, I find that there is a very large sum devoted to naval defence purposes. I presume that the Treasurer is not going to use that money for investment purposes.
– No; but we shall have quite enough for naval purposes.
– Then there is over £1,000,000 appropriated for old-age pensions. Surely the Minister is not going to devote that money to investment purposes. Out of £15,000,000, £9,500,000 is money for the security of the note issue, and the other £5,500,000 is all that is available. We have already authorized £3,000,000 of loan. So that the Treasurer will not have an unlimited amount in the Trust Funds for these purposes. We must be frank, and admit that we are now initiating a loan policy for the Commonwealth. I hope that it will be carried out on sound lines. Probably these will be the lines on which all future loans will be effected. That is to say, money which is going to be borrowed by the Commonwealth will be allowed to be borrowed, provided that it is invested in the permanent works of the Commonwealth, and provided also that the loan is accompanied by a sinking fund, so that there will be a chance of its being redeemed within a stipulated time. That is exactly the policy which Sir George Turner laid down in the first Parliament of the Commonwealth. That policy, however, was rejected. Had it been followed from the beginning, we should have had our post-offices and telephone system in a much better condition to-day, and our public works would have been advanced materially. We are beginning to see that it was a proper policy to initiate.
– The honorable member should recollect that we had over £6,000,000 of surplus revenue which we could have spent on post-offices.
– The honorable member forgets that some of the States of Australia were in a very straitened condition at that time.
– Order ! Will the honorable member confine himself to the question ?
– I am not allowed to go into the question raised by the honorable member for Cook. To-day, however, we are establishing a very sound policy ; and I must congratulate the honorable member for Cook and others supporting it, and thus making a distinct cleavage in the matter of finance by recognising that, as regards capital permanently invested, it is a proper thing to borrow and make the expenditure a charge, not only on the generation which commences the works, but on future generations in proportion to the benefits conferred.
.- I should like to make my own position clear in regard to this matter. I do not subscribe to the general statement often made in opposition to borrowing money. I think that there are occasions when borrowing can be justified in one’s private affairs, in one’s business arrangements, and in regard to the affairs of the nation. Some little time ago I wished to buy a house. I did not happen to have sufficient money to pay for it forthwith.
– A chronic complaint.
– Accordingly I arranged to borrow an amount for the time being.
– Order ! Is the honorable member going to connect his remarks with the question?
– Of course I am, Mr. Speaker. i submit that i am entirely in order in arguing that the policy which I am prepared to adopt in my own private affairs I am also prepared to follow in the affairs of the country. I am not now dealing with the details of the proposal, but with the principle._
-The honorable member must confine his remarks to the Bill.
– Well, Mr. Speaker, I consider that I have been confining myself to a legitimate argument in connexion with the Bill; and if I cannot give an illustration to show why I think that a proper line of policy is being followed, and why each case should be dealt with on its merits, I cannot proceed any further.
– The honorable member will be in order in following that course.
– I was giving what i submit was a reasonable and fair illustration to show why T do not subscribe to the general clamour often raised against .1 loan policy. I was pointing out that it is quite legitimate for one who is buying a house to make an arrangement to tide over the period until the house can be paid for. Similarly in regard to business affairs, a person may see an opportunity for development. Probably he is not able to finance the scheme entirely, and accordingly he makes an arrangement with a bank to tide .him over a certain period. That is a loan policy. It is a legitimate arrangement to make.
– It is good business.
– Certainly. A man would not be a business man at all if, seeing an opportunity of developing his business, he refused to borrow in such a way as would return him interest on his money, and pay off his loan within a reasonable time.
– We should have had no development in Australia if we had not followed that policy. ‘
– In my own business I have followed this line of policy for a number of years, and have been able to secure very good results from it. Only a few weeks ago, in connexion with a business enterprise in which I am concerned with some others, we found it necessary to develop in a certain direction, and, of course, we considered it advisable to introduce a little outside capital. What we do in our private affairs we are justified in doing in regard to public affairs. If I find that a business in which I am concerned can toe extended, that buildings can be erected, and that a portion can be let so as to return good interest and contribute to a sinking fund on the outlay, it is good business to borrow. This is the policy that is followed invariably in business affairs, at any rate where business is conducted on anything like a large scale. I say, therefore, that such a policy is also justified in the affairs of the country. My only contention is that money must not be borrowed for unreproductive public works.
– Order ! The honorable member is now going beyond the scope of the Bill.
– This Bill provides for the raising of money for reproductive public works. Every case must be decided on its merits, and the use of a mere political “ gag “ by honorable members opposite will not influence my course of action in the slightest degree. I am prepared to deal with this Bill upon its merits, just as I am prepared to deal with every other measure which may claim our attention. Upon a previous occasion, when a proposal was submitted to raise ;£3)5°°)0°o for naval defence purposes, I opposed it.
– Order ! The honorable member is now going beyond the scope of the Bill.
– Because one takes up an attitude of hostility to a certain proposal whilst giving his adhesion to another, he is not necessarily inconsistent.
.- I am sorry that, under your ruling, my remarks upon the third reading of this Bill must be somewhat circumscribed, especially as I had not an opportunity of addressing myself - on account of the peculiar circumstances which arose - to the motion for its second reading. The honorable member for Cook has stated that the measure provides for the raising of funds which are to be devoted largely to the construction of reproductive public works. But I gather from its schedule that those funds are intended to be devoted chiefly to the redemption of loans which have been expended upon works in the Northern Territory which are not of a reproductive character, and that they are also to be applied to the liquidation of loans which have been raised by South Australia’ for the construction of the Port Augusta railway - a work which is not likely to prove reproductive for some considerable period. So far as I can gather, there is only one work in the schedule which promises to be reproductive^ - I refer to the acquisition of a site for a post-office in Perth. That may prove to be a very good speculation. Now the policy of borrowing from our Trust Funds would be a splendid one if it could be continued indefinitely - if the Trust Funds were like the widow’s cruse of oil, which_ never failed. Honorable members opposite appear to regard the policy which the Government have initiated in that light.
– It is a very good method of sneaking in a borrowing policy.
– That may be. By continuing the policy of borrowing from ourselves we are mopping up moneys which would otherwise be employed by the community generally to very great advantage. The continuance of such a policy must necessarily deplete our banking and private financial institutions of their funds, with the inevitable result that labour must be-, come scarce-
– Order ! The honorable member is now going beyond the scope of the Bill.
– I admit that. The policy of borrowing from ourselves would be an excellent one if we could continue it indefinitely. But seeing that we cannot do so, and that the Government have initiated a loan policy, I venture to say that this Bill is merely the prelude to large borrowing operations which will be forced upon them if they remain in office.
.- When I first saw the announcement of this Bill upon the business-paper I could not help soliloquizing with Bret Harte -
Do I sleep? do I dream?
Do I wander and doubt?
Are things what they seem?
Or is visions about?
It certainly marks an extraordinary change in the policy to which, we have hitherto been given to understand, the Government were committed. But it was an inevitable innovation if the Government were to acquire property in Perth, or to recognise their obligations in respect of loans floated by South Australia in connexion with the Northern Territory. We had to realize that the time would come when the present Administration would reach the parting of the ways, and would, as the managers of a great business concern, be unable to continue to construct all public works of the Commonwealth out of revenue. I was interested in the remarks made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong yesterday, to which, however, I shall not refer in detail, because I understand that by so doing I should be travelting beyond the scope of the motion for the third reading of this Bill. While I am opposed to a borrowing policy for unrep roductive public works, irrespective of whether the money be taken out of Trust Funds or raised either on the local or London market, I recognise that for the construction of a post-office in Perth it is necessary either to draw on the Trust Funds, or on some source other than that of the revenue which is available. In view of the many responsibilities which the Government must shoulder in the near future, it seems to me that they will require to carefully reconsider the whole financial position of the Commonwealth, if they are to face their obligations in a business-like way. Whether they resort to the London or to the local market, or whether they take the money that is re quired out of Trust Funds, it will be necessary for them to observe the same business-like methods which are followed by large corporations and firms in the carrying out of their undertakings.. Such a Bill as this is inevitable. Whether the money is taken from the Trust Funds, or obtained from some other source, the Government must face its growing responsibilities in a business-like manner.
.- The bland and Chinese-like remarks of the honorable member for Boothby-
– The honorable member is not in order in using that expression.
– The honorable member for Boothby professed to be amazed at the introduction of this Bill, and said that he received a shock by the change of policy on the part of the Labour party, of which it is evidence. I ask him if he thought before he saw the Bill that the whole of the indebtedness on the Northern Territory was to be met out of revenue.
– Of course not.
– Then what was the application of the honorable member’s opening remarks? Has he not known for some time past that it has always been the policy of the Labour party to construct reproductive works by means of restricted borrowing ?
– I fought my election against a non-borrowing policy.
– The honorable member may not discuss general matters of policy.
.- I should not object to the Bill did it provide for bond fide borrowing, because it is sound finance to borrow when money is needed for reproductive works. Australia would not have progressed as she has done if she had not borrowed.
– The honorable member is going beyond the motion.
– The Bill provides for a method of borrowing which, in my opinion, is unsound.
– There will be no brokerage fees or underwriters’ expenses to pay.
– No. The proposal is to deplete the Trust Funds.
– Would the honorable member borrow in London?
– I would not use Trust moneys already allocated for certain specific purposes.
– Then, the honorable member would borrow outside.
– If I borrowed at all, I would certainly borrow outside. The time must come when the works for which this money has been allocated will have to be Carried out, and the Trust accounts having been depleted, we shall have to borrow to meet the obligations to which we are committed. That is an unsound system of finance. Moreover, the Bill provides for the borrowing of money to be used for what I do not consider reproductive purposes. It is not advisable to borrow for any but reproductive works.
– Was not the honorable member in favour of borrowing £3,000,000 under a Loan Act?
– That is a different proposal. Money could then have been borrowed on advantageous terms. The purchase of a site for a post-office cannot be spoken of as a reproductive investment. We have been told by the Prime Minister that the property which is being purchased is giving a return of 5½ per cent.
– But when the postoffice is commenced, the buildings now on the site will have to be pulled down.
– I do not know whether the Government proposes to make the purchase of the site reproductive by erecting an arcade or shops, but if that is intended, Ministers under the guise of providing a General Post Office at Perth are really entering into competition with private individuals.
– The Government is now receiving rent from two coffee palaces and a hotel which stand on the site that has been purchased.
– Is it a temperance hotel ? I do not think that hotel-keeping is a business on which this Government should enter.
– The honorable member must confine himself to the scope of the Bill.
– Then I can repeat that I do not approve of the Bill because, instead of providing bond fide for borrowing, it merely robs Peter to pay Paul, depleting Trust accounts created to provide for Specific undertakings which we shall have to fill later with borrowed money, a slipshod method of finance which does not redound to the credit of the Government.
– I desire to say a few words on an aspect of the Bill to which I think attention should be called, and that is the lack of definite information in the schedule as to the purposes for which the money is asked. Speaking last night on the motion for leave to introduce the Bill, I indicated what I wish now to repeat in rather more detail. In regard to the first item of the schedule at any rate, the House might very well have expected to receive more information.
– What do you want?
– It has been mentioned casually that certain properties are included in the lands which are to be paid for with this money. The Government might have given us the details as to the properties they have taken over, and the price they have paid for each property. We are quite in the dark in thatrespect. We can obtain the information, I suppose, in other ways, but it would have been better if it had been given in the schedule. Then, as regards the loans which are proposed to be redeemed in respect of the Northern Territory, we might have been given an idea as to when the loans were raised, and whether they are now falling due.
-i think that about eightyeight were raised, falling due, perhaps, every other day.
– It would have been interesting to have these particulars.
– In some instances the loan was as low as . £100. The loans, were raised at different periods.
– Order !
– Of course, that maybe an amount of particularizing to which the Government may object, but, on the whole, I think that the bald statements in the schedule are not sufficient to make us fully conversant with the purpose of the measure. I intend later to askfor information that I particularly desire in regard to the first item.
– I do not intend to criticise the Bill much more, as I had my say on. Friday. I only want now to call attention to the sources from which the Treasurer proposes in the Bill to get hismoney. He tells us in the Bill that he is going to operate under the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act of 1911, and he tells us over the table, in accordance with the promise he made last night, that some of the money is coming from the notes balance which he has available.
– It need not necessarily be so, but the principle of investing in Trust moneys is sound.
– We know that the principle is sound. It all depends upon the nature of the investment. Certain gilt-edge securities are chosen ali over the world for the investment of Trust Funds, and the laws of almost the whole world restrict the order of these investments very materially. Nowhere in the world is a man allowed to use Trust Funds in the same way as he uses other money. One has to select with special care the investment in which he proposes to put such moneys from time to time. These are very wise provisions, and the same wisdom characterized our dealings with the Australian Notes Bill. When it was before the House we decided that we would only use this money for certain well-defined objects. I ami not quite clear whether the Treasurer is carrying out those objects in connexion with the Bill.
– Indeed !
– Section 8 of the Act says -
The Treasurer may invest the remainder-
That is the amount beyond the statutory reserve -
I presume that if the right honorable gentleman takes this money out of the Trust Fund for this purpose, he will create a security .to cover it. Has he a security which already covers it?
– This Bill is a Commonwealth security.
– The land and buildings in Perth?
– The honorable member knows that a collateral security is nothing. The Commonwealth is the borrower.
– I know.
– Why do you not say it if you know?
– I am trying to say what I mean. Is the right honorable gentleman going to create a special financial security to set against the money which 4ie proposes to take from the Trust Funds ? It is provided distinctly that the Treasurer must invest the note reserve in the securities of the United Kingdom, or of the Commonwealth, or of a State.
– What more do you want?
– Now the right honorable gentleman is taking this money out of the Trust Funds and putting it into land and buildings in Perth. If that is to be all the cover against this reserve, I do not think that it will be very readily available. The right honorable gentleman gets down below the amount prescribed in the Act, or, rather, it is no longer in the Act.
– I will keep it ; do not be alarmed about that.
– The right honorable gentleman is keeping it, and I should like to know how he has been keeping it lately.
– Indeed !
– I should like to know where the right honorable gentleman has replenished his coffers from in that way, or what has suddenly checked the demand for gold so that it remains at present just a little above the 40 per cent.
– That is good financing.
– I should think so, but who has helped the right honorable gentleman to good financing of that kind? I fancy that somebody has been helping him.
– Very likely. No man can stand alone in this world.
– Quite so. As the right honorable gentleman appears to affect so much mystery about this thing, would he mind telling the House and the country where that money in the banks is going to, what use is being made of it.
– I do not pretend to be able to say what they do with the money.
– The right honorable gentleman does not know?
– Not what the banks do with it.
– What is the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank doing with it? Has he lent the right honorable gentleman any money at any time, has he invested money with the Government in any way?
– No, sir. Next question.
– I am glad to be assured on that point.
– I think that he can get more for his money ; our credit is good.
– Has he begun to loan out money, then?
– I have no doubt.
– I should have thought that the Governor had not enough money yet to pay for all the skyscrapers which he is going to put up.
– Has he not?
– He is going to have a bank whether he has any business or not. That is quite evident.
– A visit to the Governor would enlighten the honorable member a bit.
– No doubt. All that I know is that the Governor is proceeding on somewhat different lines from any other banker. He is, I think, the first banker to talk of putting up skyscrapers before he has any business to do.
– Why not leave the Governor of the Bank alone?
– I suppose we must leave him alone, -and I am sure I have no desire to hurt him. I do not mind telling the Prime Minister, however, that there are one or two questions we shall have to ask on the Estimates, if we are permitted to do so. I hope the Governor of the Bank has not been constituted sacrosanct in any way.
– No; that is the sort of thing for the other side to do !
– There is nothing very spiritual or mysterious about the pay and allowances of the Governor - these are material enough - and, since we have to find the money, I hope we may venture to ask a question about our own Bank at any time. I do not quite know now where the Prime Minister is going to get the money. He tells us that he will get it from the Trust Funds and some other funds; but I suppose that, if there were no surplus at the end of the year, and sudden demands were made on the Trust Funds, he would be bound to find the money.
– Oh, yes.
– There would be no backing to the loan then, until he had issued inscribed stock and sold it.
– I think we shall get through.
– I am sure the honorable gentleman will get through, seeing that he is not going to spend more than half the money voted by this House. The Trust Funds have been piling up in recent years in an extraordinary way.
– That is the opposite to what the honorable member said the other day. One day we are told we are spending everything, and, the next day, that we are piling up reserves.
– I am afraid the honorable gentleman, if he will allow me to say so, is not capable of following a consecutive statement by anybody, particularly in matters of finance. If there is one man who does not know anything about finance it is the Treasurer - that is the plain English of it.
– I knew the raising of the voice was coming.
– The honorable gentleman “ asked for it,” and he has got it. I am pointing out that if, at the end of the year, there is a sudden rush on the Trust Funds, which the right honorable gentleman has drawn on pretty well already, he will find himself in difficulties in regard to this loan.
– The Prime Minister says he will not, and he ought to know Better than does the honorable member.
– Has there been a reconciliation with the honorable member for Corangamite this morning? Has he been hauled over the coals between last night and now?
– We have unbounded freedom on this side - we are not bound up as are honorable members opposite !
– Honorable members opposite have freedom to humiliatethe Prime Minister overnight and to bedumb dogs next morning. However, I congratulate the Labour Government and! the Labour party generally on the record’ they are putting up. One section of the Labour party in New South Wales has the record of ‘having spent more loan moneys in a year than has any other party in Australia.
– That has nothing to do with the question before us..
– I am merely pointing out that a record has been put up in the Federal arena, where, during the brief term of two years, two loan Bills have been introduced for the construction of public works. The right honorable gentleman is now going back on statements which he has many times repeated, that under no circumstances would he be in favour of entering the market as a competitive borrower with the six States of Australia. He may say that he is not hurting the market in what he is doing, but one has only to trace the course? of the Notes Act to see that he is just as effectually withdrawing the money from circulation in Australia, as if he had floated a loan on the Stock Exchange. One of the causes of the present tightness of money is the excessive borrowing of the Governments in recent years in the local market. When we have a virgin continent, withabundant scope for expenditure and the employment of labour, we ought to conserve our local supply for times like this when money is stringent in the world’s market ; but we have been pursuing the opposite policy of depleting every available shilling of public capital for governmental purposes, and thus removing capital from private investment and private development and expansion. Now, when money is tight all over the world, we have to go to the markets of the world, and pay an inordinately high rate of interest. If we had not depleted our local reserves we should not be paying the foreign capitalists £4 4s. 6d. per cent.
– Would the honorable member use our own money before he borrowed ?
– I should use our own money in a way that paid us best. What is the difference between paying less interest on money now, and bigger interest hereafter in consequence? If the honorable member looks into the question he will find that the full rate of interest, and a good deal more, is being paid all through as the result of the depletion of our local markets. While honorable members opposite are boasting of the policy of the Government, we are paying through the nose, and workmen are being discharged wholesale, because we cannot get money at anything like a decent rate on the foreign markets. If we had conserved our resources we should have been able to get plenty of local money, and keep work and employment going.
– Have not Governments of all parties been borrowing locally.
– I have said so.
– If the honorable member’s contention is correct, those Governments must have been big offenders for the last ten or twelve years.
– And I say that, in my judgment, the Governments have been pursuing a wrong policy.
– Why always run to Ikey Mo?
– It is honorable members opposite who wish to run to Ikey Mo now. The Prime Minister has taken the gold from the banks, and, therefore the bank’s customers have had to go to Ikey Mo - it is only a roundabout way of going to Ikey Mo. The Prime Minister avoids going himself, but forces somebody else to go, who cannot face the money lender half so well. The result is to cripple private persons in their development, and to curtail their business, thus leading to the lack of employment and the discharging of men.
– The honorable member wishes to give the interest to the banks instead of allowing the Government to get the benefit !
– No; what honorable members opposite are doing is to raise the rate of interest to every private individual in the community, and this loading of the burden on private enterprise they call splendid financing. The Government are financing at the expense of the people of the community, who have to shoulder the burden of interest.
– How is it that the banking returns show that there is more gold than ever in Australia?
– The banking returns show nothing of the kind. The banking returns show that this year we sent away £4,000,000 or£5, 000,000 more gold than we won during the year. They show that the balance of trade is hard against us the whole time. That is what is causing the stringency, and why people who want money for their business cannot get it. The banks will not lend at any price to outsiders. They are keeping the little they have for their own customers, and even they have to pay a higher rate of interest for it than was charged to them previously. That is the state of affairs which Governments in Australia at the present time have brought about. I am saying only what is said by expert financiers outside, but, of course, honorable members opposite know more about these matters than do the men who have been immersed in financial transactions all their lives.
– I am using the words of such men. Let the honorable member look at Palmer’s share list- the latest list received from Sydney.
– Let the honorable member himself look at some of Palmer’s share lists of a month or two ago.
– I am quoting the latest.
– All this is no doubt very interesting, but I should like to know what it has to do with the subject.
– Quite so. These interjections have led me off the track. I advise the honorable member for Denison to study Palmer’s share lists. He will not get very much encouragement from them for the wild-cat financing of his party. There is no severer critic of Labour Governments in Australia in the matter of finance than the same Mr. Palmer. The honorable member was most unfortunate in bringing him into a discussion of this kind.
– He takes a very jaundiced view in his criticisms, too.
– Of course, everybody takes a jaundiced view who does not agree with my honorable friend and the Caucus. In the meantime the hard fact remains that every one who requires money to-day has to pay a great deal more for it than was necessary some time ago. Expansion and development are being stopped because there is no capital available for investment, and this stringency and tightness of the money market has been attributed to the financing of Labour Governments in Australia.
– A leading bank manager, on whose word I can rely, told me that the statement as to the tightness of the money market is very much exaggerated. He admitted that it was largely a political move.
– I take the statement for what it is worth. I admit that my honorable friend is more closely in touch with the big financiers, who they say are bleeding the people outside, than I am. He is, therefore, more likely to hear these things than I would be.
– The gentleman to whom I refer is one of the fair-minded men.
– I see.
– I must ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the matter before the Chair.
– I was speaking of the general effects of this Loan Bill at the time I was diverted from the track. I commend the Government for the inauguration of this policy, but I should commend them still more if they would extend the policy and build all permanent reproductive public works out of a capital account raised for the purpose, and leave alone the money that is now comingto them from the pockets of the working men of Australia, who have to foot these bills in the shape of increased taxation. The result of it all has been that in these rolling years of prosperity-
– Order! The honorable member is again departing from the question before the chair.
– I think not. I proposed to say that at this time, when money is rolling into the national coffers, and we should have plenty to spare, the Government initiate this policy of borrowing for the construction of public works. Through all the stringent years and times of least prosperity these works have been constructed out of public revenue, and it has been left for the present Government in these years of great prosperity, when there ought to be plenty of money available, and to spare, to inaugurate this loan policy for the purpose of constructing minor public works.
– One or two questions have been raised during the discussion on the third reading of the Sill to which it is perhaps advisable some reply should be made. We have been asked where the money is to come from. There is now in the general Trust Funds about £900,000 available, and that is too large a sum to allow to remain idle. There is also, I am happy to say, a little money in the gold reserve above the 40 per cent. required in connexion with the note issue, which will also be available for investment. It is not proposed to exhaust the whole of the Trust Funds in connexion with this proposal. I stated by interjection, so that honorable members might know what the policy of the Government was in financial matters, that we consider it our duty, as trustees for the public, to invest our surplus moneys in the best possible securities. What are those securities? Honorable members opposite have said, “ You may invest in State Government securities or in banks, and preferably in banks, and you will be perfectly secure. That is the correct thing to do; but if you invest in Commonwealth stock you will be doing a disastrous or a dangerous thing.” They can never divest themselves of their antinational feeling. It is inherent in them, and they can never rise above it. Honorable members have spoken of this proposal as though it were a borrowing matter solely, and as if it were the first proposal of the kind brought under their notice. It is neither the one nor the other. When the Northern Territory was taken over by the Commonwealth, certain indebtedness of the South Australian Government in connexion with it, and the loans raised for the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway, were taken over with it. There were loans to be met at that time, and we met them. When the transferred properties were taken over by the Commonwealth we became, not only liable for the interest upon them, but for the principal borrowed for their construction. We have been paying the interest upon that principal, and it is just the same as a loan.
– Have we considered a Bill dealing with that matter?
– It is just as much a Joan against the credit of the Commonwealth as are any of the proposals included in this Bill.
– It was never submitted to us as a loan.
– In addition, I may say that on two occasions we converted a portion of the loan indebtedness upon the Northern Territory.
– We have been reducing it.
– Yes; we converted a portion of it. The largest amount included in the money proposed to be raised by this Bill, amounting to over £375,000, is required to meet loan indebtedness transferred to the Commonwealth with the transfer of the Northern Territory. The South Australian Government raised this money in very small amounts. I think, speaking from memory, that eighty-eight different loans were raised, and some for as small an amount as £too were covered by two or. three transactions. The minute details of these matters it is impossible to give.
– Were they local loans?
– Some were local, but that is a matter of indifference to us. The money was raised by the South Australian Government, and we agreed to shoulder the responsibility for it under the agreement for the transfer of the Northern Territory. As the amounts fall due we propose to meet them.
– Did the honorable gentleman say that some loans were for as low as £roo?
– One at least was for £100. Honorable members ‘will recognise the advisableness of putting a loan of that sort into stock. These various small loans are falling due every now and then, and we propose, therefore, to meet them in this way. I invite honorable members to consider for a moment what is the trouble with the Opposition so far as this financial proposition is concerned. Their real trouble is that we are too secure - that we are impregnable. Their glee vanished the very moment that the honorable member for Mernda launched his indictment against this Government, and it collapsed. That was the end of their attack upon the financial policy of the Government. They used to say, “ Wait until it is launched.”
– And the Argus said that it was “ windy.”
– The action taken on that occasion was characteristic of the Opposition. The honorable member for Mernda, or any other member of his party, by going to the Treasury could have obtained in two minutes an explanation of the little technical error which had been discovered, and which proved to be a technical error on the part of the AuditorGeneral. Instead of doing so, they had their little confabs and-
– Order !
– They then said, “ We shall launch a great attack on the Government.” Their attack, however, came to nothing. The Opposition have asked for a list of the investments of Trust Funds. During the debate on this Bill I read a list of the whole of the investments made by us. The list, which appears in Hansard, shows the amounts invested, the nature of the investments, and when the loans granted’ fall due. The note issue investment is earning interest amounting approximately to £200,000 a year, and the working expenses, apart from the initial expenses, are comparatively low. In addition to the absolute security provided in accordance with the statutory requirement, accumulated interest is being piled up against our obligations to meet the Australian note issue. Nothing could be more paltry, more un- Australian, more injurious to the credit of Australia, and nothing is more likely to excite the fears of the timid than the reckless, careless, and unstatesmanlike assertions from the Opposition side of the House concerning the finances of the Commonwealth.
– I desire to ask whether the Prime Minister is in order in discussing at this stage the debate on the Budget. ! would point out, sir, that I and others on this side of the House were kept strictly to the question when we addressed ourselves to this motion. .
– I am not responsible for what was done in regard to other members, but I am not allowing the Prime Minister any more latitude than was permitted to the Deputy -Leader of the Opposition.
– I have simply been referring to statements made during this debate. I do not think it necessary to traverse all the statements made by the Opposition because they did not amount to criticism, but since the note issuehas been attacked, I may be allowed to state that the gold reserve is over 40 per cent. I promised that it would not go below that point, and as long as I remain in office it will continue to be above it until we have appealed to the electors. It is not only an ample, but a super-ample security. The provision that the gold reserve should be not less than 25 per cent. worked well in connexion with the Queensland note issue for fifteen years prior to the establishment of the Commonwealth system. No financier in Queensland would ever think of challenging it as being too low, and I believe that a gold reserve of not less than 25 per cent. would be ample in the case of the Federal note issue. Such a provision means, of course, the maintenance of a fair working margin, so that the reserve would run from 33 per cent. downwards. A reserve of not less than 25 per cent. is sufficient to meet every contingency while we have in power a Treasurer or Treasury officers that can reasonably foresee coming events. The Commonwealth Government at the present time has a very large balance at current account with the banks, and we have no desire to unduly disturb that current account. Instead of desiring to increase the tightness of the money market in Australia, we have done everything possible to make it as easy as possible during a particular period.
– What have the Government done?
– Listen to the honorable member ! There is no financial crisis in Australia.
– There soon will be.
– That is a nice statement to make.
– There soon will be if we go on at this rate.
– If there is, it will be because of the croakings, the suggestions, and the hints from the Opposition side of the House.
– The Treasurer must not be afraid of criticism. He indulged in a good deal of criticism when he was in Opposition.
– I welcome criticism, but we do not desire to hear speeches in which the statement is made that the tightness of the world’s money market has been caused by the inauguration of the Australian note-issue policy.
– The note issue had a good deal to do with it.
– It was a contributory cause.
– The Australian note issue was founded on this principle-
– Is there plenty of money in Australia for all purposes?
– It is for the men who make their living by handling money to say whether there is or is not in Australia plenty of money for all purposes. Money, like every other commodity, is dear where there is a great demand for it.
– When it is scarce.
– Money may be scarce,. and yet cheap; there may be no demand for it. In 1893 money was abundantly cheap.
– And yet things were very bad here.
– Quite so, but money was not dear. The Opposition talk about the happenings of 1893, but they do not know anything about the matter. Money was scarce then.
– The PrimeMinister has a monopoly of all knowledge !’
– No, I am simply stating facts. Credit had been weakened, and enterprise was stifled because of the troubles that occurred, but not because the country was in a bad position otherwise.
– Order !
– Perhaps I am not quite in order in entering into that matter.
– Is money plentiful to-day ?
– I am not able to answer the honorable member’s question.
– The right honorable member is able to answer it, but he will not. Why are men being “ sacked wholesale ?
– The honorable member is quite ungenerous. There might be an abundance of money in the country, and yet some firms and some States might be in difficulties.
– Perhaps I am wrong, but I thought that the Treasurer of the Commonwealth might have known that simple fact. I am sorry that -I am wrong.
– The honorable member has such a reputation for high character, honour, and ability-
– And truthfulness.
– That he takes great liberties.
– I think my character is as good as yours.
– I may be allowed to mention that the honorable member for. Parramatta and Mr. Verran were described by a clergyman as the only two Christians in Parliament in Australia. That is a certificate of character, coming from such a quarter.
– The right honorable member ought not to introduce those personal things, anyhow.
– The remark was not intended to be unpleasantly personal. The honorable member knows from my manner and my tone that it was not intended to be offensive.
– I do not mind it a bit.’
– I do not want to get off scathless. We all have to take blows, and I do not squirm. At any rate, if the honorable member thinks that I have said anythink offensive I will withdraw it cheerfully.
– No offence.
– Will the Treasurer tell us where he is going to get the money from?
– There is £600,000 of Trust Funds available for investment at the present time. After all, the decision must rest with some one, and in this case it rests with the Treasurer and the Government of the day to say whether this money will be available or not. We think it will be available. It is available for investment, at any rate, to the extent of over £600,000. We are proposing by this Bill to use £500,000, and that leaves £100,000.
– The Treasurer will get back some of the money lent to the States, I suppose?
– I was about to mention that, in addition to that, we have £1,000,000 falling due in March. All our later loans have been short dated, so that we cannot be caught napping.
– The inscribed stock of the Commonwealth will have some currency, will it not?
– I hope that there will be no necessity to disturb it in any way until it is liquidated in sixty years’ time. That is as good an investment as any other.
– Will it run for sixty years?
– At one-half per cent, it will run for about sixty-one years, will it not?
– How long is the inscribed stock issued for ?
– Under the Inscribed Stock Act we have power to issue for var:ous dates.
– Order I
– I have already trespassed too much. 1 only wish to allay any fear of financial trouble in the country. We are all right if people would only be a little more optimistic.
Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON (Lang)
I12- 33]- - Mr- Speaker-
– Order ! The debate is closed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I rise to order. If I recollect aright, you ruled the other day that there was rio right of reply on the third reading of a Bill.
– The honorable member is quite right. There is no right of reply.
– Then the debate on the third reading of the Bill has not closed. The honorable member for Lang was on his feet when you put the question.
– I was on my feet, and so was the honorable member for Corangamite.
– The honorable member for Lang sat down because you said that the Prime Minister had replied.
– There has evidently been a misunderstanding.
– You called “ Order,” Mr. Speaker, when I got up.
– The question for the third reading of a Bill is put from the Chair without a formal motion, and there is no right of reply. Any honorable member has the right to speak. Under the circumstances, perhaps, by consent of the House, the question might be put again.
– The question forthe third reading has been put and carried. I object.
– If other honorable members desire to speak, that can only be done with the consent of the House, because I had already put the question, and declared it resolved in the affirmative.
– Let us correct an error.
– You put the question, Mr. Speaker, and declared it carried.
– I point out that a mistake was made. I can only appeal to the House, but if the House declines to allow the question to be re-opened the position must stand.
– I object to the question being put again. It was not done in my case the other day.
– Let an error be corrected.
– Is it within the compass of one honorable member to object to the rectification of an error ?
– The question was put and declared carried.
– I submit that one honorable member cannot object under such circumstances.
– It is true that I distinctly put the motion for the third reading of the Bill, and declared it carried. That was after the honorable member for Lang and the honorable member for Corangamite rose. There was time before then, however, for a point of order to be raised. I regret very much that a mistake was made. Under the circumstances, however, if the honorable member for Melbourne Ports objects to the question being put again, there is an end of the matter.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Lands Acquisition Act -
Land acquired under, at -
Claremont, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Mount Gambler, South Australia - For Defence purposes.
Toora, Victoria - For Postal purposes.
Public Service Act - Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 217.
Northern Territory - Ordinance No. 7 of 1912. -Jury.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 31st October, vide page 4980) :
– The Prime Minister’s Department is an entirely new one, and I should like to know whether the head of the Government will be good enough to indicate to the Committee what its creation really means. I see no sense in calling into being a new Department if it will not lead to economy being effected elsewhere. This Department, I observe, has taken over the functions of the Public Service Commissioner and the Auditor-General. Altogether I note that it is costingabout£11,000.
– If the honorable member takes into consideration the transfers which have been effected, he will see that the difference amounts to only a few hundred pounds.
– Last year there was expended by the Department . £6,966, and this year it is proposed to appropriate £11,795 -an increase, roughly, of £5,000. Has a corresponding decrease been effected in the expenditure of those Departments from which functions have been taken over? If so, there is justification for the creation of this new Department. But unless some increased efficiency will result from the change, or a corresponding saving will be effected in other Departments, it is difficult to see why this new Department has been created, especially when we recollect that there are a couple of Honorary Ministers in the Cabinet who are able to assist Ministers who may be overburdened with work. In this new Department, I notice such items as “ writing paper and envelopes, including cost of printing and embossing thereon,” “incidental and petty cash expenditure,” and “ temporary assistance “ appear. I observe, too, that the number of clerks has been increased by three. “ Temporary assistance “ is to cost £200. There has been an increase in the “ incidental and petty cash expenditure,” and “travelling expenses” are set down at £200. To what do those expenses relate?
– The honorable member’s question is quite a pertinent and proper one. The Estimates show an increased expenditure for the current year as compared with that of last year, of , £10,675, whilst the Prime Minister’s office discloses an increase of £4,829. The explanation is that the Secretary, Mr. Shepherd, receives an increment of £80 as the permanent head of the Department. Practically the whole of the balance is covered by printing and distributing the Commonwealth Statutes to State Governments and others. For this purpose a sum of £1,000 is provided. The estimated expenditure upon historic memorials of representative men is £2,000, the Imperial Trade Commission will absorb £1,550, and an addition of four has been made to the staff, consisting of two fifthclass clerks at . £126 and£110 respectively, an assistant at £126, and a messenger at . £39. The honorable member for Parramatta asked why we have established a Prime Minister’s Department. In the early days of Federation, as both he and the honorable member for Ballarat will recollect, the Prime Minister generally acted as Minister of External Affairs, and all the records which passed between the Commonwealth and the oversea authorities, and also between the State Governments and the Imperial authorities, had to pass through his hands. It is inevitable that the Prime Minister must sign every document of that description. Subsequently a change was made, and another Minister took charge of the Department of External Affairs. The Prime Minister thus became divorced from the records that ought to be available to him. It was desirable, too, that the Auditor-General should be under the control of the Prime Minister, and the same remark is applicable to the Public Service Commissioner. Consequently these offices were transferred to the Prime Minister’s Department, and with the exception of the items which I have mentioned they account for the whole of the increased expenditure. It is, I think, a sound principle that we should have a Prime Minister’s Department. In instituting one we are not singular. Perhaps the time will come, and that soon, when the Prime Minister will be sufficiently employed in looking after his own Department.
– Then the Department of External Affairs has really become a local office?
– It deals with territories and with foreign affairs just as it would do if we were a nation. It deals with any communication external to Australia and of a territorial character.
– Not with the Northern Territory?
– Yes. It deals with the Northern Territory and with Papua. Literally speaking the Northern Territory is not an external part of the Commonwealth, but it is a territory, andhere - as in the United States - a territory is not considered to be in the same category as a State.
– In America a territory has never been considered as external.
– It is what we might call “ex-State.” In other words, it is not a State territory. At any rate the Department shows no serious increase in its expenditure. Perhaps the honorable member for Parramatta would like to look at this official document which has been handed to me.
– I think the Committee ought to pause before it consents to the creation of any new departments whatever.
– It might do so in Tasmania, but not here.
– A very much more important matter for consideration is the redistribution of portfolios. At the present time we have a Department of External Affairs from which the real work of the External Affairs office has been transferred to the Department of the Prime Minister. I think that that is a very proper move. All the important business of the Commonwealth connected with dealings with the other parts of the Empire should be under the immediate direction of the Prime Minister, who is responsible to Parliament and to Australia for what is done, and is the only man who can be held responsible. The real diplomatic work of the Commonwealth should be directed by the Prime Minister. The arrangement of the business of the Department of External Affairs is a matter which Parliament should consider. The control of the Northern Territory is not an External Affairs’ matter, properly speaking, and, in my opinion, should be removed to the Department of Home
Affairs. Then, again, we have at least three Works Branches under as many Ministers. Excavation work done on behalf of the Postmaster-General’s Department ought to be controlled by the Works Branch of the Home Affairs Department, which has a staff of Works officers, but there is now a Works Branch of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Similarly, work in the Northern Territory, for which the officers of the Works Branch of the Home Affairs Department should be responsible, is being carried out under officers of the External Affairs. This sort of thing must result in duplication, loss of time, and an increase in cost.
– How would it be to have a Minister for the Northern Territory ?
– I do not think that there would be enough work for one Minister. But it seems to me that we might now abolish the Department of External Affairs and have a Minister for Railways and Public Works, seeing that we are committed to a Works expenditure of at least £20,000,000 in connexion with the railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, the railway from the Northern Territory, which is being brought southward, although it would have been better to have commenced at the south and have worked northward, the laying out and building of the Federal Capital, and other public works. If the control of public works were given to a Minister made wholly responsible for it, the Minister of Home Affairs could direct the legitimate work of his office, including the administration of Northern Territory affairs, which are Home Affairs and not External Affairs. In the early days of Federation, the office of Minister of Home Affairs was, perhaps, the easiest to fill, but it has now become the hardest.
– With the exception of the post-office.
– There is not much alteration in the work of the postoffice, though I admit that it demands the time and attention of the best man to be got to fill the position of PostmasterGeneral. So much has been thrown into the Home Affairs Department that the work there now is too much for any one man. If the Minister of Home Affairs gave the time and attention necessary for the proper control of public works expenditure, he would have to absolutely neglect the other work of the Department.
Turning now to another subject, I wish to refer to what I call the automatic increasing of the salaries of the more highlypaid officials. It is not pleasant to have to deal with individual cases, but we must take notice of the fact that the salary of the Secretary to the Prime Minister is being automatically increased from £520 to £600. We should hesitate before automatically increasing by so large a sum the salary of a highly-paid official. I have always thought that we started our Federal Service at least two octaves too high. There are already signs of financial pressure, and when it comes, the pruning knife will have to be applied to the Service seriously and systematically, and naturally the highly-paid officials who are getting these automatic increases will have to suffer reductions. Before we increase the salaries of highly-paid officials, we should see that those in charge of the semi-official and non-official post-offices who give the whole of their time to the work of the Commonwealth, should receive at least something approaching a living wage. At present they do not do that. On this first item, the Committee has an opportunity to express an opinion regarding the automatic increasing of the salaries of the more highly-paid officials.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– We have amongst us a most distinguished visitor in the person of Admiral King-Hall, CommanderinChief on the Australian Station, and I move -
That His Excellency Admiral Sir George Fowler King-Hall, K.C.B., C.V.O., be provided with a seat on the floor of the House.
– I should like the privilege of very heartily and cordially seconding this motion. We honour ourselves in according this honour to a distinguished servant of the Crown.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In dealing with the Prime Minister’s Department, I am not singling out an individual case, but merely taking the first that occurs on the Estimates, in order that the Committee may have an opportunity to express an opinion whether the pay of the higher-paid officials should be automatically increased. A decision on the point would save discussion on all the other cases, because, if the increase in the salary of the Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department is agreed to, there can be no ground for opposing other increases proposed subsequently, which may have equal, if not greater, claims to our approval. I shall, at the proper time, move that the Secretary’s salary be reduced by £80, thus restoring it to the original sum.
– Personally, I hope this amendment will not be pressed to a division. At any time I am loth to support reductions or oppose increases in the salaries of our officers, no matter of what grade; but, at the same time, I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that there is general complaint amongst the lower-paid members of the Service to the effect that the increases are abnormally high in the higher grades of the various. Departments, and less consideration is shown to the officers in lower grades. Of course, I take it that the honorable member for Franklin is using the present occasion to draw attention to that fact, but he has not advanced any particular reason why the salary of the Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department should be reduced. The honorable member, however, is justified in the course he has taken in view of the motives which inspire his action ; his desire is to test the question as applied to the whole of the Service. I only wish our finances were so buoyant, and so permanent in their buoyancy, as to warrant our raising the salaries of all the officers in the Service, but it seems hard to a large number in the lower grades that their claims appear often to be disregarded, while officers who are already paid fair salaries, appear to have no difficulty in securing substantial annual increments-
– Have those lower-grade servants not their own system of increases ?
– Yes ; but there is a way of so working the system through administration that the automatic increases do not result out as the men ex pected. The complaint is that when they ask for increments they are forced into the Arbitration Court, and they think that the officers in the higher branches should be made to apply to a similar tribunal, and all should be treated alike in that regard. If there was an upward tendency in the finances, we might well be justified . in giving increases all round, but, unfortunately, the tendency at present seems to be in the contrary direction. The question arises whether it is not time to look more closely into some of the proposed increases, and see whether the services rendered are not adequately paid for at the present salaries. The honorable member for Franklin is not far wrong when he says that there are indications of financial stringency in the near future, and he fears that Parliament may be called upon to reduce some salaries. I hope that that time will not come, but, if the present trend continues, it seems to me there is a risk of overloading the Public Service with increases in directions where increases, except under special circumstances, mean overpayment for the character of the services rendered. My own feeling is to support increases, but only in those cases where the services do not appear, owing to increased duties and responsibilities, to be adequately remunerated at the present time. I should like to see the salaries of many of the officers of the House increased, because I do not think that some of them are getting as much as they are worth. However, unless the honorable member for Franklin can show some very substantial reasons for opposing the proposed increase, I hope that he will not press his suggested amendment to a division.
– The honorable member for Lang, I understand, has asked for some information regarding the status of the lower-paid officers in the Service, and, in reply, I should like to read the following communication from the Public Service Commissioner : -
The Public Service Commissioner has prepared a return which shows that the interests of the lower-paid divisions of the Service have not been overlooked in the distribution to be made. He points out that while 747 officers in the higher divisions are to receive increases, no fewer than 9,105 in the lower” divisions are to be similarly treated, and that the total, amount involved in the payment to the former amounts to £18,016 as against the sum of £100,145 for the latter.
These are official figures, and it is only fair that they should be placed before the Committee.
– The proposed increase in the salary of the Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department affords a suitable opportunity to draw attention to the increases generally in the salaries of the higher ranks of the Commonwealth officials, so that we may ascertain the principles on which these are suggested. There is, no doubt, a great deal of dissatisfaction in the middle ranks of the Commonwealth Service about the increases of salaries of the higher-paid officials in the Clerical Division. I have followed the correspondence, which began with a telegram from Sydney published in a Melbourne paper on the 13th October, to the effect that in the General Division of the Public Service there is great dissatisfaction owing to the decision of the Government that the unions representing the General Division must place their request for higher pay before the Arbitration Court, while the Estimates provide for increases to the higher officers without recourse to the Court.
– What about the statement which has just been read?
– I understand that a reply to the Public Service Commissioner’s statement was published in a Melbourne newspaper, and was to the effect that most of the increases granted to the lower ranks of the Service were merely increases bringing up their pay to the minimum rate of 8s. a day. The complaint seems to come chiefly from the middle ranks of the General Division. It is admitted that there have been substantial and generous increases to the lower ranks, bringing up their pay to the minimum rate.
– What about the automatic increments that come along every year?
– Those are granted only to officers in the Clerical Division. Increases in the General Division depend upon a discretionary recommendation, whereas in the Clerical Division they are automatic by legal operation.
– In all cases?
– Nearly all.
– In the Clerical Division a man cannot be deprived of hisincrement without cause shown. I should like some fuller information on the question as to whether it is true, as alleged,, that the middle ranks of the General Division have been ignored, and that increments have been exclusively confined to those in the lower ranks, bringing their pay up to the minimum wage, and to the higher ranksof the Service.
– Then the honorable member thinks that the Public Service Commissioner has failed to do his duty ?
– No. ‘ I say that the men in the General Division do not have their increments decided by law to the same extent as is the case in connexion with the officers of the Clerical Division, and that when they make complaints they are told to go to the Arbitration Court. It involves a great deal of trouble, delay, expense, and organization to go to the Court. I think that the comments already made are fully justified when we find such an increment as that now before us in respect of a highclass officer in the very forefront of the Estimates. No wonder these men complain when they are told to go to the Court.
– Who tells them to go to the Court ?
– The Minister.
– The Minister cannot grant increases. That is a matter for the
Commissioner to determine. Is the honorable member in favour of doing away with the Public Service Commissioner?
– Certainly not. Instead of telling these men to go to the Arbitration Court, the Minister should allow them to be dealt with by the Commissioner.
– Their cases are dealt with by him.
– They are not. They are taken from the Public Service Commissioner, and the men are told to go to the Arbitration Court. In telling them to do that, the Minister is abrogating his functions as a responsible member of the Government.
– The honorable member is either displaying lamentable ignorance, or is wilfully misrepresenting the position. .
– I am not. I took up the same attitude when the Public Service Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was before the House. I said then that the Public Service Commissioner should be the Arbitration Court for Public Service officials. When they are dissatisfied with the decision of the Commissioner they should be entitled to go to the Minister or to Parliament. They are told, however, to go to Court. I opposed the passing of that law. I should like more information as to whether there are not reasonable grounds for complaint made by men in the middle class of the General Division. I should like to know whether their claims have been ignored unjustly, and whether they have been shunted into the Court, where they are liable to all kinds of delay, worry, and irritation. I do not feel disposed to oppose any individual increase that the Minister feels justified in recommending. I am not for reductions, but, on the other hand, I think that there ought to be an equalization in the system of granting increments all round, and that one class who may be near the Minister ought not to be placed in a more advantageous position than are the rank and file who have not the ear of the Minister, and who have been told to go to the Court.
– The Minister cannot provide for an increase except in the case of a high administrative officer.
– If the Minister is not satisfied with the gradations sanctioned by the Commissioner, he should propose an amendment of the law. Instead of doing that, . however, the Minister has told these men to go to the Arbitration
Court, and that is a discrimination against them in favour of the highly-paid, classified clerical officers.
– I agree with the honorable member for Franklin that’ this matter of giving almost general increases to those who are already enjoying fairly good salaries demands the serious consideration of the Committee. It is unpleasant to particularize, but I think that the honorable member for Franklin is entitled to ask for further information than has yet been accorded regarding the justification for the increase in this case. The officer in question may have shown remarkable ability, but only a few years have elapsed since he occupied a by no means responsible position. He is now enjoying a very good salary, and is at the head of a Department that appears to be developing to a remarkable extent. We are surely entitled to more information as to the wonderful progress that this gentleman has made, and as to the growth of the Department generally. We have had read to us a document which I understand has come from the Public Service Commissioner showing the amount that has been expended by way of increases to the rank and file, but when we recollect the very general increase in the cost of living during the last few years, and remember that at’ the most the rank and file get a £5 note occasionally thrown at them, we must recognise that such an increment will by no means level up their conditions to what they were a few years ago. The fact that heads of Departments and subDepartments are receiving increases of from £80 to £100 a year to their already good salaries displays on the part of the present Government a very remarkable discrepancy in dealing with the Public Service as a whole, and I, for one, shall certainly support the action which the honorable member for Franklin proposes to take.
– I have no objection to the salaries of the more highly-paid officers being increased, but I think that there should be a general increase throughout the Public Service. Having regard to the increase in the cost of living, it is only fair that there should be a general increase in the salaries and wages of the public servants of the Commonwealth. I would point that whereas the Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department is set down for an increase of £80 a year no provision is made for an increase in the salary of the Senior Clerk.
– Mr. Shepherd has been made the administrative head of the Department, and he receives less than does any other administrative head.
– He is the youngest administrative head.
– I think not in the matter of service.
– At all events, the Senior Clerk of the Department is to receive £310, the same as he received last year, while two clerks of the fourth class, who divided £433 between them last year, are not down for any increase. Then, again, two fifth-class clerks received last year £340, or £170 each, whereas these Estimates provide for four fifth-class clerks, who are to receive £576, or only £144 per annum each. There is therefore a reduction in the salary of those clerks.
– That statement shows how much the honorable member knows about the matter. There are two junior clerks who start at about £80 a year. There is a minimum and a maximum in every grade.
– I can only go by the Estimates, and they ought to be clearly put before the Committee. We are not supposed to understand the nature of the arrangements made between the heads of Departments and Ministers. They appear to make their own arrangements, and to distribute salaries just as they may deem fit. That circumstance bears out the suggestion that the claims of officers in the middle ranks of our Public Service are ignored. The higher-paid officers receive increments because they come into close daily contact with Ministers, and the lowerpaid officials - if their claims should be overlooked - can obtain redress only through the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. Hut officers of the middle grades of our Public Service can obtain no redress.
– Only a moment or so ago the honorable member for Bendigo said that Parliament could deal with them.
– I have no objection to the proposed increase of £80 in the salary of the Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department. It is only right that all ranks of our Public Service should receive an increment this year on account of the increased cost of living.
.- I did not anticipate that in the discussion of the Estimates this question would be raised at the present juncture. I understand that most of the increases which it is proposed to grant to the higher-paid officers of the service have the indorsement of the Public Service Commissioner.
– And if the Ministry turned them down, what would be said ?
– I do not see that there is any necessity to become excited. When the Estimates are under consideration it is quite right that honorable members on both sides of the Chamber should ask for information concerning them. While I shal not take exception to any individual increment if the Minister in charge of a Department can justify it, it does seem peculiar that it should be so exceptionally difficult for men who render arduous service to the Commonwealth to obtain a small increase of salary, whilst other officers are granted increments without demur. Take the case of the men who are employed to deliver letters to the public. Many of these letter-carriers have been in our Public Service for twenty-five years, but although they are the heads of families they are not receiving £3 per week. While such a state of things exists, it is small wonder that honorable members upon both, sides of the Chamber object to further increments being granted to the tall poppies; of the Service. This afternoon the honorable member for Bendigo said that if the Public Service Commissioner would not do the right thing by any class of public servants the Minister should be appealed to, and if he were not sufficiently strong to resist the influence of the Public Service Commissioner, resort should be had to Parliament.
– Should not the low and high have an equal right to come here?
– They have.
– When Parliament appointed the Public Service Commissioner it charged him with the duty of administering our Public Service Act, and I have always understood that he was clothed with certain powers in order that he might be rendered quite independent of political influence. It seems rather strange, therefore, that the honorable member for Bendigo should urge that there should be an appeal from the Public Service Commissioner to the Minister, and, if necessary, . from him to Parliament.
– Parliament has to pass the Estimates, and therefore has the final voice in the matter.
– Considering the nature of the work that is performed by various officers in our different public Departments there seems to be too much dis - crepancy between the salaries which are paid to them. I do not believe in levelling down, but in levelling up. I should like to know what position we occupy in regard to the Public Service Commissioner? I confess he is a gentleman whom I never approach. Whenever any man asks me to exert any influence I may possess to secure him a position in the Commonwealth Service, my reply is, “ If you wish to damn your chance of securing an appointment you had better get the signatures of a number of Members of Parliament to your application.” At the same time I do not say that Parliament has not vested the Public Service Commissioner with too much power. If so, the Public Service Act might well be amended. That is an aspect of the question which should be discussed by this Parliament.
– The honorable member does not advocate a revival of political control ?
– No. The more we can relieve our Public Service of political influence the better. But I say, without fear of contradiction, that official patronage is a much greater evil than is political patronage.
– Nobody can enter our Public Service to-day unless he first passes an examination.
– I admit that I do not wish to revert to the old days, when the Member of Parliament who could do the most log-rolling secured the appointment of the greatest number of men to the Public Service, independently of whether they were efficient or not. But I cannot make out why certain officers have been recommended for increases whilst the claims of others have been neglected. From information which I have received it appears to me that officers who received no increment last year had no right to be treated in that fashion. Sometimes it happens that a public servant makes himself obnoxious to the head’ of his Department, and the latter endeavours to retard his promotion as much as possible. I hope that these Estimates will emerge from Committee in such a form that they will grant a greater measure of justice to our lower-paid public servants, because I do think that there are large bodies of men in our various Departments who have not been treated fairly.
.- In my humble opinion the Committee are entitled to know upon what these increments are based. I observe that highly-paid officers and those in the lower grades of the Service are to receive certain increments, whereas officers in the intermediate grades are to receive no increments. The state ment of the Prime Minister has not enlightened us upon this matter, nor have the interjections of the Minister of External Affairs. In the Department with which we are now dealing I note that certain officers have been raised in status. For instance, the senior messenger has become the Ministerial messenger, with an increase of salary. But the typist who last year received £126 will this year receive only £75. Why?
– The Wages Board will step in there.
– We should be told upon what principle these increments are based. If the departmental method is topermit of certain favoured officers receiving increments, the Committee should intervene and declare that all officers of equal merit should, as far as possible, be treated in the same way.
– It seems to me that the item under discussion affords a very useful peg upon which to hang some observations concerning the treatment of the Public Service of this country. This matter has been discussed here on many occasions. I recollect very well the debate which took place when our Public Service Act was introduced in 1902. The question then arose as to whether our Public Service and itsmanagement should be intrusted to a nonpolitical person or Board, or whether it should remain in the hands of a Minister. When the honorable member for Hume brought in his Bill for placing the Public. Service on a permanent footing, it was framed so that the Minister would be the pivot upon which all appointments would’ turn. To him was reserved the right to* appoint, dismiss, promote, and disrate as he might think fit. But I was very glad to see that the House was not in the humour for allowing political influence tobe abused in the Commonwealth as it had been abused in the States, and refused to perpetuate a vicious and corrupt system. At one time in New South Wales a Member of Parliament almost needed a turnstile at the entrance to his office or chambers so that applicants for appointment in the Public Service might present themselves only one at a time. Applications-. for positions were so numerous as to be a positive nuisance. All sorts of electioneering advantages were offered as inducements to members to obtain positions for constituents. That system has since been altered, and this House, in 1902, showed clearly that it would not allow it to be established in the Commonwealth. The Bill introduced by the honorable member for Hume- was turned inside out, and made an entirely new measure, appointments to the Public Service being put under the control of a non-political head. I am glad that the choice of the first Public Service Commissioner fell upon the gentleman who still holds the position, because, when a Minister in New South Wales, I knew him as Secretary of a public Department, and was aware that no more impartial or judicially-minded man could have been chosen. The honorable member for Maribyrnong has complained that there are letter carriers now in the service of the Commonwealth who are receiving not more than ,£3 a week, although they have been twenty-five years in the service of the public. It is not for me to say Slow much letter-carrying is worth. In my opinion, a man who is appointed to a position in the Public Service should be paid so long as he remains there the salary attached to that position. He should not (have the right to annual increases without limit. Every position in the service should have a salary attached to it, and the man appointed to it, no matter how low his previous salary might have been, should be paid the higher salary from the moment 4hat he ‘ was intrusted1 with the responsibilities of the position. The practice of appointing men at lower salaries than their predecessors received in the offices which they fill, giving occasional rises, is a bad one. Of course, the difficulty of determining the proper remuneration for any office is very great. Two or three years ago, Mr. Justice Hood, on an appeal from a Wages Board, was asked to say what was a living wage. He pointed out that what would be a living wage for a young bachelor, without responsibilities, would not be a living wage for a married man with a large family, and possibly a sick wife, and that, therefore, it was impossible to determine what is a living wage. The alternative is to fix a certain salary for each position. Should a man who had been receiving only £100 a year be suddenly promoted to a position the salary of which was £500 a year, he should be at once paid ,£500 a year. There has been a gradual departure in the Commonwealth from the sound principle of non-political appointments. A Public Service should possess attractions. When the Bill of 1902 was before the House, I pointed out that the head of the Service should be a position carrying a very high salary. I mentioned that the heads of the British Public Service have sometimes been put into the House of Lords, and are paid ,£5.000 a year, and that young men are attracted to the Service because of the prospect of some day filling these high positions. We began by fixing the salary of the highest officer in the Service, the Public Service Commissioner, at £1,200 a year. I have always contended that that office, being at the apex of the Service, should be a more attractive one, so that the best young men from the schools would wish to enter the Public Service in the hope of some day reaching that pinnacle. There are many men who declined to enter the Public Service, because they believed that the maximum salary which they could ever get was £1,200 a year, whereas those who are successful in the professions may count upon making ,£2,000 or ,£3,006 a year within a comparatively short time. We should not only give a high salary to the Public Service Commissioner, but should also provide substantia!, and even generous, salaries for the permanent heads of the Departments. If patronage is to be used in appointments to the Service, instead of leaving appointments strictly under the control of an impartial and judicious Commissioner, all sorts of abuses may happen. There are many men in the Service who are qualified to fill positions in the Northern Territory to which the Government have appointed men who were not previously in the Service. Members of the Service have seen the disheartening spectacle of a rejected parliamentary candidate being shoved over their heads into one of the best positions in the Service. The office of Director of Lands in the Northern Territory is now filled by one who was a rejected candidate for the Queensland Legislative Assembly. He has been placed over a large body of public servants, and given a salary of £800 a year, although there are many men in the Service at salaries of from .£400 to ,£600 a year who were capable and desirous of doing the work.
– Does not the honorable member think that he could deal with this matter better in connexion with the estimates of the Department of External Affairs?
– What I have said is connected with the proposal to increase the salary of the Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department.
– The honorable member may refer to the case by way of illustration, but he may not discuss it.
– Applications were asked for the position of Director of Lands, and the honorable member would be surprised to know how few were received.
– When it is known that a position is being kept as a political plum for a friend of those in power, application is hopeless.
– A higher salary is being paid than was offered in the advertisement.
– In that case, the public was misled. Possibly had the true salary been advertised, a number of the leading officials in the Service would have applied for the position. Is it to be supposed that had the appointment been left with the Public Service Commissioner he would have had to say, after looking round the Departments, “ There is not one man in the Public Service fit to accept this position, and I recommend, therefore, the appointment of a rejected parliamentary candidate “? I refer to that case only as a typical one, because many appointments have been made, apparently correctly, but really by the exercise of political influence, which is stultifying and undermining the principle of the Public Service Act. For years, as Minister, I did not make an appointment except through the Public Service Commissioners, and I should not approve of appointments being made in any other way.There are persons in our Public Service holding important positions who receive very inadequate salaries. I knew a case in which an assistant postmaster, who had been in the Service twenty-four years, and often acted for the postmaster, having sometimes as much as £700 in cash in his charge, received only £124 a year.
– How long ago?
– I should think three years ago.
– The minimum salary now is£126 a year.
– Then this salary was£126.
– The honorable member said just now that positions should have certain fixed salaries attached to them, and that we should provide salaries for the positions and not for the men who fill them.
– That is so. I am not contending that because a man has occupied a position for twenty-four years he should receive a higher salary, but where a man is intrusted with large sums of money, surely his place is worth more than £126 a year? That pay is not as much as a labourer receives; and, although 1 do not desire to underrate manual work, I say that a man who works with his head is entitled to more than the man who works with his hands, because the headworker works with his hands also. Some of those who make the most clamour about manual labour have the softest hands in the House. Some honorable members talk as if they had been at manual work since their childhood, but the greatest talkers amongst them have hands like women - I have felt them. A demagogue may not know that, sometimes, when he is shaking hands, these are being felt in order to test him as to the work he has done. However, I agree with those who say that no undue advantage should be given to certain positions in the Service. The middle, lower, and higher grades are entitled to equal treatment, and my idea is that each position ought to have a fixed salary. This end, together with consistency, can only be attained by having the Act administered by one man or a Board of men, and there should be no such thing as a Minister undertaking to get his Secretary, because he happens to be a good fellow, an increase of £20 a year. If a Minister does that sort of thing, which he does not often do, with his own money, it is all right; but in regardto the public moneys there is a principle to be observed. I repeat that, as a result of thirty years’ experience of public life, each position ought to have a fixed salary ; and when living is very expensive all the fixed salaries might well be raised. I believe, with Judge Hood, that it is impossible to fix remuneration according to what is called “ a living wage,” because what is a living wage for a batchelor may be a pittance for a man with a large family. This only shows that the living wage is a wrong economic test, and that all these matters ought to be arranged by the head of the Public Service, who acts irrespective of persons or personal qualifications except so far as these bear on the performance of the duties. I have not looked through the Estimates to see whether it is true that, while the heads of Departments, who come immediately under the notice of Ministers, have had their salaries raised in all cases, the middle and lower men have not been similarly treated; but if such is the fact it is a wrong principle. Every one here, irrespective of party, ought to deprecate the singling out of particular men, unless they are raised to higher positions, or the Minister is satisfied that their remuneration is inadequate ; there should be no making fish of one and flesh of the other. If a man is constantly moving up the rungs of the ladder as he shows himself fit, he will, of course, get frequent rises in salary; and if this were always the case, we should not hear of men being advanced on no principle. I protest against men having their salaries raised by Ministers, or by the Ministry, except through the medium of the Public Service Commissioner, who should always have a free hand to act as he thinks fit in the interests of the Service.
.- It is very refreshing to hear the honorable member for Parkes advocating reforms which have been on the platform of the Labour party for many years. It is an evidence that we are making some progress, that the world continues to move, as it were. I think this side of the House will cordially indorse the sentiments of the honorable member, although we may not be able to live up to his very lofty ideals. The party sustaining this Government has been always willing to recognise the claims of the public servants to fair remuneration, and I agree with the honorable member that each position should carry a fixed salary - that when a man attains to a certain post, however high the jump may be, he. should receive the salary attached to it. I cannot, however, accept the honorable member’s inferences that an attack is being made on the Public Service Commissioner’s independence by the Ministry, or by honorable members on this side. So far as my recollection goes, there have been no political ^appointments such as the honorable member suggests. He must be aware that the appointments to the Northern Territory are outside the jurisdiction conferred by the Public Service ‘Act upon the Commissioner; they stand much on the same footing as appointments in Papua, where the Lieu tenant-Governor is the responsible person. In the case of the Northern Territory the Minister of External Affairs stands in the position of the Public Service Commissioner. The honorable member for Parkes contends that the gentleman appointed as Director of Lands is not as fit for the position as some one in the Public Service. He did not give the House even a hint as to where this superior officer was to be found. As a general principle, I deny straight out that public servants, regardless of merit and efficiency, should have a prior right to all vacancies. The honorable member knows that some 90 per cent, of our public servants have only clerical experience. It cannot, therefore, be contended that for a position of this kind persons with only clerical experience are as fit as men possessing wide and varied knowledge of agricultural conditions. I say this as one who has at all times supported just and even liberal treatment of public servants. Where exceptional qualifications are required, and men possessing these do not offer or are not available from the Public Service, then the community has a right to look for and obtain the best man amongst outside applicants. As the sphere of the Commonwealth’s operations are widening, and works are being initiated such as Government Departments have not handled before, many vacancies must arise which can only be filled to the community’s advantage by giving the Government the freest hand in the selection of suitable agents. Indeed, this is recognised in the Public Service Act of 1902, which the honorable member for Parkes eulogized just now. In that Act we arranged for a Professional Division, to which men from outside can be appointed on account of their special qualifications. That is precisely the position in which Mr. Ryland stands.
– Does the honorable member think that the position of Director of Lands is a professional position?
– I think it is a professional position in that the Director must know something about the settlement of land, and must have experience which very >few public servants are likely to possess.
– What does Mr. Ryland know about it?
– He knows more than does the honorable member for North Sydney.
– I know that Mr. Ryland is said to have on one occasion taken the advice of his Chinese cook.
– I can assure the honorable member that Mr. Ryland is a gentleman, whatever else he is.
– I am not prepared with the biography of Mr. Ryland, but I believe that he was born and brought up on a farm, and has had a good deal of farming experience in both hemispheres.
– That experience will not be of much use in the Northern Territory.
– Surely a man who has been born and brought up on a farm is more fitted to direct farming operations than one who has been all his life over a ledger ?
– Many men are over ledgers who have been born and brought up on farms.
– But they soon forget their farming. A young man, when he enters the Public Service, must be under twentyone, and the subsequent experience of ninetenths of the public servants is clerical, made up of keeping books, writing letters, and so forth. Surely it is reasonable and rational for a Minister to look around outside in the case of such appointments as we are discussing, and in view of the new and important responsibilities we have taken over in the Northern Territory. Had Mr. Ryland not been a Labour man, and had the misfortune to be rejected at the Queensland elections, I suppose we should not have heard a word of objection to his appointment.
– But would he then have got the appointment?
– I should say that if his qualifications justified it, and he had had an opportunity of making them known, he would have got the appointment.
– That is just the point.
– As to the general principle of making all appointments from the Public Service, the necessities of the Commonwealth will compel a halt, because the time is coming when the Service may not be able to supply efficient men for all the positions that will be vacant. While I am prepared to support the Public Service Commissioner, and respect him as an independent and impartial man, I am not prepared to say that he should be consulted in all cases, and his decision accepted in regard to appointments, especially in view of the taking over of the Northern Territory and the large contemplated railway and other works.
– That open’s the door to a great many irregularities, as the honorable member will admit.
– If we go into the matter closely, I am not sure that social influence is not as noxious as political influence.
– No one is talking of social influence.
– We are not talking about it, but it has played a large part in Public Service promotions, if not in Public Service appointments.
– Does that account for the large number appointed by this Government? Social influence would appear to be very much at work lately if that is so.
– I do not think that even a member of the honorable member’s Go’vernment is entitled to throw stones. I am rather surprised that the honorable member for- Parkes should have overlooked a matter which to many people is far more serious than any count in the indictment that he framed against the Government. Seeing that the Public Service Commissioner is appointed to deal with the pay and conditions of the Public Service as a whole, it is strange that the honorable member should! have passed over the fundamental departure that has been made in invoking the aid of the Arbitration Court to override the decisions of that officer.
-In my opinion, that should not have been done. e
– I am not expressing any opinion as to the wisdom or propriety of this proceeding; I am merely pointing’out that the honorable member failed to’ touch upon a departure more serious than any that he mentioned. I desire now to refer briefly to certain matters in connexion with the Commonwealth Bank. The Prime Minister was recently asked to state -what salary the Deputy Governor received prior to his appointment to his present office, and I understand that he replied that the information was given to the Government in confidence, and presumably could not be disclosed.
– I think we could be relieved of that obligation.
– I hope so. because at least fifty of the principal banking men of Sydney must know what salary he was receiving before he entered the service of the Commonwealth Bank. If it be true that he was receiving under £700 a year, I can only say that he has made a very good bargain with the Commonwealth, which has undertaken to pay him £1,500 a year. If he is worth £1,500 a year, it is remarkable that the Bank of Australasia did not realize that fact before he left its service.
– I think that the honorable member will appreciate the point that his interest under the bank’s superannuation scheme, which he had to forego, represented a very considerable amount.
– I should imagine that an. officer retiring, as this gentleman has done, from the service of the bank, would receive some allowance from that fund.
– He did not receive a penny, and his interest must have run into thousands.
– That may alter the position, but the increase certainly appears to be a very substantial one. I come now to the purchase of property by the Governor of the Bank. Judging by the answer which the Prime Minister made to a question which I addressed to him yesterday, it would seem that this gentleman is allowed to buy property for Commonwealth purposes at his own sweet will, and to pay for it whatever sum he pleases. I do not consider it right that we should give to any one man the power to commit the Commonwealth to an expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds without our knowSedge.
– He does not do so.
– The Prime Minister’s reply to my question led me to believe that he did.
– I said that he alwayscommunicated with me.
– That does not materially improve the position. I question the wisdom of allowing the Governor unlimited discretion in regard to the extensive purchase of property. Doubtless his banking experience has given him a knowledge of values, but he would be a truly remarkable man if he had a knowledge of the value of property throughout all the capital cities of Australia. He may know the value of land in Sydney and Melbourne, but it is hardly reasonable to assume that he is able to appraise the market value of property in all parts of the Commonwealth.
– He may obtain advice.
– And my complaint is that the advice may be tainted; it may be good, bad, or indifferent. Instead of investing the Governor of the Bank with power to buy land, unchecked by any authority, the services of the expert officers of the Department of Home Affairs should be utilized for the purpose. If there is to be a departure at all from the established practice, this power ought not to be placed in the hands of any one man.
– How would it do to hand over the power to any one Minister?
– No ; I would prefer to give the power to the Governor of the Bank rather than to an individual Minister.
– I think that he has invariably invoked the aid of the expert officers of the Department of Home Affairs.
– If so, it is satisfactory. The fact remains, however, that under the existing conditions he is the final arbiter of the price to be paid for property for the purposes of the Commonwealth Bank, and in view of the fact that we shall be incurring a very heavy expenditure in connexion with that institution, I think that the Government should reconsider the matter, and determine whether a small Committee of the higher officers of the Treasury and the Department of Home Affairs should not be appointed to act with the Governor in considering proposals for the purchase of land for banking purposes.
– The Governor’s purchases have been excellent, and speedily carried out. They have been commended by the officers.
– I am pleased to have that information, but I would remind the right honorable gentleman that the Parliament itself knows nothing of these transactions. We read in the press that the Governor of the Bank is purchasing land in the centre of Brisbane, and in the most valuable part of Sydney, for the purposes of the bank, but we do not know on whose advice he is acting.
– I shall bring down a report on the subject. The property acquired in Brisbane will return 3 per cent. on the purchase money, and give the Governor his own accommodation free.
– It may return 3 per cent. at the present time, but what will it yield twenty years hence? The fullest details as to all these transactions should be laid before the House.
– I shall do that.
– I thank the Prime Minister; but, at the same time, I consider that it should not be left to the sweet will of any one man to commit the Commonwealth to an enormous expenditure without the Parliament knowing more about such transactions than we do at the presenttime.
.- Such an amendment as that which has been indicated is always a difficult one to deal with. I have the highest regard for one of the officers whose salary it is proposed to increase. His official experience extends over some twenty-five years, and a salary of £600 a year at the end of that long service ought not to be too high for a man of his capability and intellectual potentialities. At the same time, if a division is called for, I shall vote for the amendment as a protest against increasing the salaries of officers in the higher divisions of the Service, whilst those in the lower ranks are told to go to the Arbitration Court. I shall do so to mark my disapproval of the lack of consideration that appears to be shown by all Governments for the lowerpaid men of the Service. The Minister of External Affairs evidently misunderstood a statement that I made a few moments ago. What i said was that if public servants are to be given the right of appeal to the Arbitration Court, it should be compulsory for men of all ranks in the Service - from the highest to the lowest - to appeal to that Court. I am confident that the citizens of Australia who created this Parliament are opposed to any discrimination in this regard. If any members of the Public Service are to be told by the responsible Minister to go to the Arbitration Court, then it should be compulsory for every member of the Service, with the exception of the Public Service Commissioner himself, to do so. It has become almost a legend throughout Australia that if a man wishes to make progress in an official life, he must bask in the bright sunshine of the Ministerial presence.
– All members of the Public Service may go to the Court now.
– But they are not told by the Minister to do so.
– There is nothing to prevent their going to the Court if they are not satisfied with the Commissioner.
– They could jump into the Yarra if they wished to do so.
– The point that I wish to make is that they could not go to the Court, even if they wished to do so, twelve months ago.
– I am sure we shall find on inquiry that even in the higher ranks of the Service those who do not come mostly into contact -with Ministers have not obtained the increases that have been granted to others. Even the Commissioner himself was granted an extended term of official life during a recess when. Parliament could not express an opinion ir* regard to the matter. As to these increases, I do not wish to suggest that the Crown Solicitor is not worthy of an advance. I believe that had he remained outside the Service, his income would have been larger, but as against that, he would not have had the standing attaching to the office of Crown Solicitor of the Commonwealth, nor would his income have been as permanent as it is. The Public Service Commissioner is only human, and, after all, must make mistakes like other people. He made a very serious blunder when he insulted every member of the medical profession in this part of the Commonwealth by sending to Western Australia for a lady medical practitioner to be engaged in connexion with the service in Melbourne, when there were in this city, as well asin Sydney, lady doctors holding equally high diplomas, and, in some cases, diplomas superior to those held by the lady whom he selected for the office.. In that case both medical men and women strongly resented what they regarded as an act of favoritism by the Public Service Commissioner. The matter was afterwards dealt with in this House. A deputation of the medical faculty waited uponthe Minister in- regard to it, and I am glad to say that from the Prime Minister’s Department down, it has’ now been made absolutely impossible for any such favoritism to be exhibited. I heartily support the suggestion of the honorable member for Parkes. It would be well if every position in our Public Service could be marked out as one carrying a certain salary. Then the individual who occupied it, and had not the mental equipment torise higher could not complain. But the lowest wage paid in our Public Service should be a living wage sufficient to enable a man to maintain himself and his family in comfort. We desire to build up a civilization in this country such as the world has never seen, and we can do that: only by levelling up, and not by levelling down. I have never heard of a member of the Labour party advocating a levellingdown process. The historian of the future will pay his meed of praise to the work, done by this Parliament.
– Mr. Knibbs says that if all the wealth of the world were divided equally, it would only give each individual £16 a year in excess of .£200.
– I have the greatest respect for Mr. Knibbs, and I am glad to know that my admiration of him is shared by the head of the Statistical Department of the United States, who has recently paid him a very high compliment. But if this Parliament is going to say that any of our public servants who are not content with the decisions of the Public Service Commissioner shall be at liberty to appeal to the Arbitration Court, every officer in the Commonwealth service ought to be endowed with a similar right. There is one matter connected with these Estimates which puzzles me somewhat - it relates to the question of pensions. However, I shall reserve my remarks under that heading until a later stage. I think it would be well if at the beginning of each session the Government had a list circulated of the increases over £20 a year which it is proposed to grant to our public officers. Honorable members would then be able to study it at their leisure. They would thus be able to speak with better knowledge when the Estimates came under review.
Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON (Lang) (4.5]. - Honorable members have previously had reason to complain of the unsatisfactory way in which appointments are being made to our Public Service, and of the fact that the control of the Service is gradually, but surely, being taken but of the hands of the Public Service Commissioner. In other words, we are slowly drifting back to the objectionable system of political patronage. Notwithstanding the attempt which has been made by one or two Ministers to gloss over the circumstance, it is a fact that great dissatisfaction exists, especially amongst the officers of the lower grades of our Public Service in connexion with the matter of increments. In an interview published in the Argus of the 20th October last, one of the representatives of these lower-paid officials, speaking on their behalf, complained very bitterly of the manner in which increments are dealt with. He pointed out that - a few months ago the Clerical Division was
Advanced from £160 a year to ^200 a year, Attainable by annual increments. Now the Professional Division men in receipt of over ^300 a year .were to receive enormous increases. All these officers were receiving salaries above necessity, and even a certain amount of luxury.
I take it that we all desire to see our officers drawing salaries sufficiently large to enable them to” enjoy as many luxuries as possible. But due regard must be paid to the nature of the services which they render, and to what constitutes a fair remuneration for those services. This representative of the lower -paid officers said -
All that the Labour Government had done for the General Division had been to give a wage of 8s. a day at the age of 21 years. That concession was never asked for, and would have been attained under ordinary circumstances a few years later. As it was, officers of the General Division receiving 8s. a day, at 21 years of age, had to wait on that salary for four years before they advanced. The Labour Government had also decreased the period of waiting for long-service increments from ^138 a year to ^150 a year, from ten years to four years. The maximum salary of the General Division officers had not been increased, except in a few isolated cases. The conditions which now existed were certainly much improved for those now entering the service ; but for officers who had been in the General Division for 15 or 20 years, and over, comparatively no increase had been granted. The high cost of living within the last few years had brought no increase in the wages of the rank and file of the Commonwealth Public Service. Numerous representations had been made to different Ministers, especially the Postmaster-General, and though no Minister had attempted to combat the arguments advanced for an increase, it had been said that the Cabinet had decided that no inr crease should be given unless obtained by an award of the Arbitration Court.
I do not know whether the Cabinet did come to that decision, but evidently applications had been made for increments, and the reply of Ministers had been that the officers in question must appeal to the Arbitration Court. Ministers thus adopted an easy method of shunting their responsibility.
– That is rather a slow, process.
– It is. If there were many appeals to the Arbitration Court, a long time would necessarily elapse before those appeals could be finally disposed of. Indeed, before they had been dealt with, the appellants would probably be entitled to a still further increase. Speaking of the appeal to the Arbitration Court, the same representative of the lower-, paid officers of our Public Service said -
This decision would be equitable if all sections - Professional, Clerical, and General Division - were compelled to go to the Court, but preference to the Professional and Clerical Divisions was discreditable to any party: _ The Labour Government increased the maximum salaries of the professional and clerical staffs, and the salary of the Commissioner, by ^400; but the General Division had received no substantial increase, and was forced to go to the Arbitration Court to secure common justice.
I make these quotations for the purpose of showing that a great deal of dissatisfaction exists amongst our lower-paid officers - dissatisfaction which seems to be based upon just grounds. These officers think that their claims have been ignored, and that, in the event of the decision of the Public Service Commissioner being adverse to them-, they have a right to ask Parliament to redress their grievances. Apparently they have been told by Ministers that they must go to the Arbitration Court. But that tribunal, the officers themselves urge, is not one in which they may expect to get their claims dealt with on an equitable basis, because its Judges may perhaps be apt to determine the standards of pay which they ought to receive by the standards which obtain in respect of similar work outside the Service. The conditions being different, the Public Service might, they think, not be sufficiently regarded. To show how much this Government have resorted to political patronage, let me point out that during the past two years no fewer than 144 appointments to positions carrying salaries exceeding £300 a year, and aggregating about £74,000 a year, have been made by them.
– The officers appointed were needed.
– My point is that the office of Public Service Commissioner was created to prevent the making of appointments by politicians, political patronage having been scandalously abused in the past. It was the Parliaments of the States that first set .the example of purifying our Public Service administration, and the Commonwealth followed their lead. But political patronage is gradually being restored under this Labour Administration. Although in the last two years this Government have appointed 144 persons to positions carrying salaries exceeding £300 per annum, the Public Service Commissioner, in the same period, has made only thirty-six such appointments, at a total cost to the country 0f only £15,000, as against the Government’s £74,000 per annum. The figures relating to exempt hands, not including military and parliamentary officers, are these - 1909, 13,675 appointed; in 1910, 14,954. The temporary hands appointed in 1909 numbered 2,725, and those appointed in 1910, 3,308, there having been an increase from 16,400 to 18,262. In 1910 there were 12,187 permanent officers, and in 1911, 13,233. The total number of officers in the Commonwealth Service, temporary, exempt, and permanent, was, in 1910, 28,587 ; and in 1911, 31,485. The appointment, employment, retention, and dismissal of the men, women, and girls who are exempt hands, or temporary employes is entirely under the control of Ministers. That is not a healthy state of affairs. But, apparently, remembering the large commitments ahead of us, and the number of appointments yet to be made, it will not be’ long before Ministers personally control an increasingly larger number of public servants than come under the control of the Public Service Commissioner. This will be a very undesirable state of things. Honorable members do not suffer from it now ; but when it becomes necessary to retrench, they will have men standing at their doors every morning, asking for their influence to get reinstated. When temporary hands have to be dispensed with, there will be trouble for those immediately concerned, which we must all deeply deplore, and also for members themselves, if they allow political patronage to be largely exercised by Ministers, instead of leaving all questions of appointment to the Public Service Commissioner.
– I think that the rank and file of the Postal Department have a grievance. The fact that something like seventy officers, receiving salaries exceeding £400 a year, have obtained an increment of about £40 >each per annum, and that the rank and file have been told to take their case to the Arbitration Court, creates a fair grievance. I ask the Government not to treat this matter too lightly. Had the Service been on a satisfactory footing when Ministers took office, we should not have heard so much of these troubles. It is patent to every one that the Postal Service has never had what it considers fair play, and it naturally expected, when a Labour Administration was returned to power, that its complaints would be looked into, and properly dealt with.
– The Minister says that the men have received justice.
– I am afraid that a tired feeling is overcoming the administration of the Postal Department. The highly-paid officials number only a few, and it is easy to deal with their cases ; but the rank and file number some thousands, and are divided into many grades, so that to satisfactorily remedy all their grievances means a great deal of hard work. I hope that the suspicion that there is this tired feeling is not correct ; but as echoes of discontent are heard in the press and in direct correspondence from the rank and file day after day, we have reason for approaching Ministers to ask them to give more attention to these grievances. The Postal Department has been seething with discontent for many years. We have to thank the honorable member for Lang for warning this Administration to keep away from the political methods of the old parties.
– We have never followed them.
– I am pleased to know that. The honorable member for Lang is afraid that Ministers may follow them. He says that they are drifting back into the bad old ways which were followed before the Public Service Commissioner was appointed.
– I am afraid that the wish is father to the thought.
– I do not know that that is the position. The Honorary Minister does not like to accept advice from any quarter. He takes the position that advice should never be accepted from an enemy, and certainly not from a friend.
– The honorable member for New England does not take the interjection rightly.
– He does not understand it.
– Perhaps I do not wish to. If so, I am like the Honorary Minister when an interjection comes from the other side; he never cares to understand such an interjection. When I suggested that the Government should provide for the creation of a Public Works Committee to protect the public in connexion with the big expenditure which must take place in the future, he said, in his. melodious tones, “ A Works Committee !”
– The creation of a Works Committee would provide good jobs for a few Members of Parliament.
– It would save thousands of pounds.
– It is a new argument to say that, because a few Members of Parliament might get billets by being put into a position where they could save the country thousands of pounds, they are not to be appointed.
– No one has suggested that except the honorable member. Had he been sent to the Northern Territory, we should not have had so much trouble.
– The honorable member would like to see me in the Northern Territory.
– The honorable member for New England must wait until he has been defeated at the elections. When he has become a defeated candidate, he will have his choice of billets.
– I am not open for engagement in the Northern Territory. I think that the honorable member for Parkes was unfair in his remarks concerning the appointment of the Director of Lands there. I do not agree with him that that was an instance of political patronage. This Government has kept clear of political patronage in all its big appointments ; and, in my opinion, might have kept closer to it. Had it followed the example of members on the opposite side’ of the Chamber, it would have done so. If the honorable member for Parkes had told us how many Protectionists the old Free Trade Governments of New South Wales had appointed-
-(Mr. W. Elliot Johnson). - The honorable member is not in order.
– The Chairman was controlling the proceedings when the honorable member for Parkes was speaking, and allowed him, perhaps, to infringe the strict rules of procedure.
– Why not move to dissent from the ruling?
– I do not wish to do that, but simply to say that it would be interesting to know how many Free Trade or Protectionist appointments were made when the previous Government were in power’. No one expects a Government to appoint to administrative positions men who have no sympathy with their policy.
– If a Government with different views comes in, have those men to be dismissed?
– No. That is a point on which this Government have acted most honorably ; they have never attempted to dismiss any one because of his political opinions, and I hope that such a system will never be adopted in Australia.
– I do not think that a man’s political opinion should be called in question when an appointment is made.
– In administrative positions, it is of great importance that those appointed should be in favour of the Government’s policy. If the honorable member desired to have a building designed in a certain way, he would not employ an architect with altogether different ideas.
– If another Government comes into power, have they, in reversing the policy, to also “ reverse “ the officers ?
– No; the officers will reverse their opinions.
– If an officer over an important administrative Department cannot reverse his opinions when a new Government comes into power, he should go out himself ; with a change of masters, a careful servant, although it may not meet his personal views, will serve his new masters, and change his mind accordingly.
– In other words, a public servant may exercise his opinions now, but he must not exercise them if another Government comes in?
– The honorable member desires to side-track me. We all admit that a man in sympathy with the policy of the Administration can do better work than a man directly opposed to it. As to political patronage, I may say that I got no encouragement from my Government when I offered to go to the Northern Territory, though, doubtless, had the honorable member for Bourke applied, he would have been appointed forthwith. If honorable members opposite think that I have a grievance against the Ministry for not asking me to apply for the position of Administrator, I desire to assure them that they are making a great error.
– The honorable member said that he did apply.
– I did not apply - I made no application whatever.
– What did the honorable member do?
– I merely made the suggestion.
– In writing?
– I made the suggestion that if no other Labour man was prepared to take the position, I would do so myself.
– What reply did the honorable member get?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for New England must not discuss the Northern Territory any further.
– I tell the honorable member for Parramatta again that I made no application.
– Did the honorable member get any reply to his suggestion?
– I may say that when I saw the Estimates for the Territory, I thanked my lucky stars that I had not been sent there.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member is not in order in discussing the Northern Territory.
– Every previous speaker has been permitted to discuss the whole of the Estimates.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member is quite out of order. We are discussing the Estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department, and the honorable member would be quite in order in discussing the whole of those Estimates and matters under the control of the Prime Minister’s Department, but not the Estimates or matters under the administration of other Departments.
– I have no desire to do more than discuss the Public Service, as other honorable members have been permitted to do. The appointment of Mr. Ryland was the subject of a long speech by the honorable member for Parkes.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member is not in order in discussing specifically the Northern Territory at this stage, though he would be in order in discussing the Public Service generally.
– I am a little surprised at the ruling, since you, yourself, Mr. Johnson, before you went into the chair, specifically discussed a certain section of the Postal Department.
– What reply did the honorable member get from the Ministry to his suggestion?
– I got no reply.
– Surely the honorable member does not mean to say that they treated him with contempt?
– I do not think that there was any “ they “ about it - my conference was with the Minister of External Affairs.
– And he treated the honorable member with contempt ! It is just like him !
– Perhaps the Minister “ roughed “ me up the wrong way, as he does other people. However, I have been told by the Temporary Chairman that I must not discuss this matter.
– I am not surprised that the Minister of External Affairs treated the honorable member with contempt.
– No ; I suppose the honorable member is not surprised. I protest against any Minister or Ministry showing favour to one section of the servants, all the members of which should be on the same level in regard to treatment. There should be no such thing as a Minister dealing directly with one section and telling another section that it must go to the Arbitration Court.
– The Minister deals only directly with the occupants of administrative offices - all others are under the Public Service Commissioner.
– There is a complaint that the Minister singles out that section of the Service which receives over ^400 a year, and gives it preferential treatment.
– That complaint is not well founded.
– I should like the Minister to make a full statement on the subject.
– He has made a statement a dozen times. Ministers have no direct power, except over a few administrative officers.
– I have always held that one of the objects of the Labour Government should be to make the Public Service a model Service, so as to set an example for private employers. I cannot understand the policy which permits grievances and disruption within a Government Department. I do not mean that the Minister ought to give more than justice, or fritter away public money, but if we are to have the best work in the Postal or any other Department, we must have a contented body of men ; and I urge the Minister to take all the steps in his power to overcome the present trouble. If the men can be dealt with without resorting to arbitration, why not meet them in a fair way, and extend all possible justice?
– That power is absolutely taken away by the Public Service Act.
– Surely the honorable member does not wish me to believe that the Minister, in conjunction with the Public Service Commissioner, has not power to restore harmony without resorting to arbitration?
– The Minister has no power.
– Then I understand that, although there may be seething discontent, the Minister can do nothing - that the men must go to the Arbitration Court ?
– The Public Service Commissioner could tell the Minister to “go to Hackney “ if he chose.
– Then I am surprised that there has not been an amendment of the Public Service Act.
– It has been the position for years.
– That is no reason why it should be continued. If the Minister has no real power to restore harmony, it is high time the Act was amended.
.- The Governor of .the Bank has agreed to purchase a large block of property at the corner of Pitt-street ; and I, for one, knowing the locality and the building, think that this is not a good investment for the Government, or a good position for the Bank. If the Government propose to resume land for the extension of the Post Office in Sydney, it would be more advantageous, in doing so, to provide room for the Bank there than to go across the street.
– How far apart are the two blocks?
– The width of Pitt-street. The land I am suggesting as the better is adjacent to the Post Office, and is covered with a lot of old property that could be bought cheap, while all the business of the Commonwealth would, as it were, be kept under one roof. I understand that the land for the extension of the Post Office will cost something like £^600,000. It is a mistaken policy on the part of this Government to divide up the Departments - to have one Commonwealth building on one side of the street, and another Commonwealth building on the opposite side, when all the Departments could be accommodated under the one roof on the Post Office side. If that block were resumed for postal services, I think the transaction would prove to be a very profitable one. If .£100,000 is required for the purchase of a site for a bank in Sydney, why should not that amount be added to a further sum for the purchase of a block on the General Post Office side of the street? I shall reserve to myself the right to refer to this question once more when the Treasurer, who is temporarily absent from the chamber, is present. I certainly protest against the expenditure of £100,000 in this way without the Parliament having a voice in the matter.
– I propose to deal with the question of the treatment meted out to the lower- paid as against the higher-paid branches of the Public Service, to which a good deal of attention has been given during this debate. In the first place, I would point out that in the whole Service of the Commonwealth there are not more than twenty officers whose salaries the Government themselves have the right to increase. These are the administrative heads of Departments, and when we come to look at them we find that in only very few cases have any increases been granted by the present Administration. I do not propose to refer to the increase made in the salary of the Crown Solicitor, since the office relates to the Department of the AttorneyGeneral, who, I am sure, will be able to make out an extremely good case in support of the action that has been taken ; but, coming to my own Department, I would point out that there is only one officer - apart from those in the Northern Territory - whose salary could be increased by me. I refer to the Secretary of the Department, Mr. Atlee Hunt, and a glance at the Estimates will show that no increase is proposed in his case. Then, again, the Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. Allen, has not been put down for any increase, whilst of the seven officers in the Department of the Postmaster-General whose salaries could be raised by the Minister, only three are to receive an addition. The seven officers are : Mr. Oxenham, Secretary to the Central Administration, whose salary is the same as last year; and the six Deputy Postmasters-General. Three of these, Mr. Templeton, Mr. Bright, and Mr. Young, are to receive an increase of £50 each, and those who know the work attaching to their office will not say that such an increase is too great. Then, again, Mr.
Knibbs is an officer whose salary could be raised by the Minister, but no increase is proposed. He is receiving to-day exactly what he received twelve months ago.
– He is doing more work today.
– That would justify an increase, but an increase has not been made. The point I wish to emphasize is that very few salaries have been increased by the Government themselves, and I am confident that every increase granted can be justified. All other increments have been made on the recommendation of the Public Service Commissioner. I think I am right in saying that since we have been in office the Treasurer has granted every increment which the Public Service Commissioner has recommended, although it would be open to him at any time to refuse to find the necessary money.
– It is open to this Committee to say whether or not it will sanction these Estimates.
– The Committee could reject the Estimates as a whole if it pleased. The Public Service Commissioner has recommended this year increases amounting to £100,000, of which £73,995 will go to the lower-paid men in the General Division.
– Spread over how many officers ?
– This sum of £100,000 will be spread by way of increments over 9,105 officers, of whom 6,698 are in the General Division, and will receive £73,995. In the Clerical Division there are 2,369 persons, who will receive increments this year amounting to £26,000, while there are forty-one officers in the Professional Division whose increments this year total £371. Then, again, 9,000 officers have received no increment whatever this year. Many of them have reached the maximum of their grade, and cannot receive an increase unless they are put into a higher grade, while some are receiving the minimum, and have not been in receipt of it long enough to entitle them under the law to an increment. I say frankly that I am opposed to automatic increases being granted, irrespective of whether men are doing their work or not. A system under which every man in the Service would receive an automatic increase every year or two would put those who worked well on the same footing as the men who do not. There should be automatic increases to those who have done their work to the satisfaction of their superior officers.
– That is the same old argument that was used against the union sca le*
– Not at all. The union scale provides that every member of a union shall receive the minimum - which, in most cases, is the maximum - immediately he becomes fully qualified. A carpenter who has reached the age pf twentyone years, and who is fully qualified under the union scale, receives the same pay as a man who is forty or fifty years of age. Men in outside employment, however, can be dismissed at a moment’s notice, whereas men in the Public Service cannot be so treated. That is a point that must not be lost sight of. The rights of every public servant are very carefully protected. For instance, the Deputy Postmaster-General for Victoria, Mr. Bright, is, i think, a very able man, who, while anxious to secure efficiency, is not a hard master, yet he could not dismiss a letter-carrier whom he found to be inefficient.
– That is the fault of this Parliament.
– If this Parliament were to pass a Bill providing that officers of the Service could be dismissed at a moment’s notice by heads of Departments, the seething discontent that we hear spoken of now would be nothing compared with the situation that would arise.
– But it is of no use complaining of the position when Parliament passed the law which prevents Departmental heads from dismissing an incompetent man.
– I wish only to point out that there are two sides to the question.
– Does the honorable member suggest that these Estimates provide for ,£100,000 by way of increases to public servants under the control of the Public Service Commissioner ?
– It is quite possible that ,£1,000 may be in respect of administrative increases ; but I think I am right in saying that ,£100,000 represents increments recommended by the Commissioner. When I pointed, out to the honorable member for Bendigo that increases amounting to £73,000 had been made this year in respect of the salaries of the lower grades of the Service, he replied that most of that amount was designed merely to raise the pay of men in the lower grades to the minimum wage for the Service. I find, however, that of the £7-^,000 paid by way of increases to the lower paid officers ,£46,498 has been given to those who were under the minimum, that is, to raise them to £126 - mostly from £110 to £126. That leaves a balance of ,£27,000 to provide for automatic increases to those in the General Division receiving more than ,£126 per annum.
– Then I was fairly right in what I said.
– Is not this money going to the lower paid men of the Service? Then, again, last year £53,491 was voted to raise the pay of men in the lower paid ranks of the Service to the minimum of .£126 a year. These figures should convince honorable members that the very highly paid men of the Service have not received anything out of the way at the hands of this Government, and that only a mere handful of public officers can have their salaries increased by the Government itself. If it be the desire of honorable members that this Parliament should determine what increases shall be paid in the Service, well and good ; but my voice and vote will always go against anything of the kind. I am in favour of. removing the public servants as far as possible from political control. I was one of those members in the New South Wales Parliament who supported the Government of which the honorable member for Parramatta was a member, which introduced a sound Public Service Act. I think that the enactment of that measure was- one of the best things for which that Ministry was responsible. I entered this Parliament as a strong believer in the principle of placing our Public Service under a Commissioner, who should be entirely independent of political influence. My vote will certainly be cast upon all occasions against bringing our Public Service directly under parliamentary control. A reversion to that principle would, in my judgment, lead to very great disaster. Under the existing system, an officer in our Public Service has as fair a chance of rising as can humanly be assured to him. Of course, the human equation must inevitably enter into all matters of this character. If an officer happens to be in close contact with the Commissioner, who is in a position to judge of his work, he may conceivably obtain promotion, whilst another officer equally capable, who is employed some hundreds of miles away, may be overlooked.
– The closer an officer gets to the Commissioner’s ear the more his merits are disclosed.
– I take it that the honorable member would sometimes recommend a man for private employment.
– Upon his merits.
– Some honorable members have argued that the Government have acted unfairly by saying to the lower-paid officials, “ You must appeal to the Arbitration Court,” whilst dealing with the claims of other officers directly. All that we have done with the consent of a majority of this Chamber is to afford public servants who are dissatisfied with the treatment meted out to them by the Public Service Commissioner an opportunity to appeal to the Arbitration Court.
– To how many does that apply ?
– To every officer who is under the Public Service Commissioner, and to the eight or ten officials who are under the control of the Government. If any of these are dissatisfied with the treatment which is meted out to them, they are at liberty to appeal to the Arbitration Court. Access to that tribunal is not limited to the officers of the General Division. If it were, the members of the Clerical and Professional Divisions would be able to say to the Government, “ You have granted to the officers of the General Division something which you will not concede to us.” But, as a matter of fact, the officers in any division of our Public Service are at liberty to appeal to the Arbitration Court.
– The higher paid officers have no need to do that. They have merely to hold out their hands in order to get what they want.
– I know that there is a certain amount of complaint amongst officers of the Clerical Division at the present time. The younger officers in that division say that they are not being fairly treated, because their minimum salary is fixed at £110, whereas the minimum salary of the General Division is £126. But I would point out that the salaries of officers of the Clerical Division increase by jumps of £20 until they reach a maximum of £180 or £200, as against a maximum of ^150 in the case of officers of the General Division. The younger officers of the Clerical Division are dissatisfied because the minimum salary of their division is £110 a year, whereas the minimum salary of the General Division is £126 a year. But I would point out that there is nothing to prevent the officers of the Clerical Division from appealing to the Arbitration Court, and attempting to establish their claim to a minimum salary of £126 a year. If the Court decided in their favour, its award would override the decision of the Public Service Commissioner. As far as the permanent officers are concerned, it is worthy of note that, prior to the passing of the Arbitration (Public Service) Act last year, they were not at liberty to appeal to the Arbitration Court. It seems to me most unjust for honorable members to urge that the Government are forcing men to have recourse to that tribunal. Prior to the passing of the Act in question, our public servants could appeal only to this Parliament, which could do nothing unless it first annulled our Public Service Act.
– The complaint is that ona class of men have to appeal to the Arbitration Court, while another class can get all that they want without going to that Court.
– Suppose that there had been no Arbitration Court at all. These men would still have-been labouring under the same grievance, because the Public Service Commissioner has classified them and graded their work. They could not have successfully appealed to this Parliament, because Parliament would be powerless until the Public Service Act had been amended. Instead of annulling that Act, Parliament has said to them, “You have a right to appeal to the Arbitration Court.” If our administrative officers are dissatisfied with the way in which the Government treat them they can appeal to the same tribunal. We have made it easy for all grades of our Public Service to have recourse to the Arbitration Court. Under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, before any industrial association can appeal to the Arbitration Court, it must number 100 persons. But in the case of our public servants, three-fifths of those in any grade are sufficient to pave the way to an appeal to that tribunal. So that if there be only five administrative officers in any grade of the Service, and three of them desire to appeal to the Court, they are at liberty to do so. It seems, therefore, that those who urge that we are forcing our public servants into the Arbitration Court are putting the position unfairly. I have no hesitation in saying that that Court is a much better tribunal to hear and determine appeals by our public servants than is this Parliament.
– I agree with the Minister of External Affairs that the Arbitration Court is the best tribunal to assess the wages which should be paid to our public servants. I think that the time will come when Commonwealth public servants will thank the Labour party for having given them access to that Court. In this connexion we. ha ve to recollect that, if this Parliament chooses to increase the salaries of our public servants, another Parliament can reduce them ; but when the Arbitration Court has decided what constitutes a fair wage to these officers no other tribunal can nullify its award. 1 know that a number of our public servants urge that the Labour party ought to consider the question of raising their salaries. But the Labour party has always said that it would place them on an equality with persons engaged in similar work outside the Public Service, and it has done that. I am only sorry that we have not gone further, and given everybody access to the Arbitration Court.
– The Government and all?
– I would not be afraid to submit the salaries paid to members of Parliament to the Arbitration Court, and I do not believe that tribunal would reduce them. I think that this Parliament should have made the Arbitration Court accessible to all our public servants, including the military, and especially to the artificers employed in our Defence Department.
– The honorable member would not have a general appeal to the Arbitration Court?
– Yes. I am not one of those who wish to abuse the Department of the Public Service Commissioner, but I think that its researches should be extended, especially in the matter of increments and promotions. I think that something ought to be done to assure justice being meted out to those men whose claims - as the result of spleen on the part of the heads of their Departments - are overlooked.
– I cannot see how an Act of Parliament could come in there.
– I have in my mind’s eye a case in which one of the sub-heads of a Department has been promoted. The possibility of that promotion was known to the head of the Department, and, with a view to installing one of his favorites in the vacant position, he has put a man who ought to secure the appointment in a subordinate position. In other words, he has placed one of his favorites temporarily in the vacant position, in order that he may be able to recommend his permanent appointment to the Public Service Commissioner. When the head of a Department makes a recommendation, it seems to me that the Public Service Commissioner ought to inquire into the whole question of whether or not the officer recommended has a right to secure the appointment.
– Is the officer to whom the honorable member refers the senior officer ?
– No, he is a junior officer.
– Before a senior officer can be supplanted by a junior, the Public Service Commissioner goes into the case.
– The Public Service Commissioner has not done that as exhaustively as he might have done it. I know that it is not easy to deal with all these difficulties. The Public Service Commissioner would be more than human were he able to see through the peculiar methods adopted by some of the heads or sub-heads to get their favorites promoted over men who are seniors to them.
– The Public Service Commissioner has had a great deal of experience. You could not teach him much in this matter.
– That is possible; but once a position is filled, and the appointment gazetted, those who have been passed over have no chance of getting justice. Twice, to my knowledge, during the last six years the Public Service Commissioner has admitted that wrong has been done to certain men, and that it could not be remedied, because others had been given seniority to them. I know of a case now in which the head of a Department is determined to promote a junior over a senior possessing higher qualifications. That can be done, unless the Public Service Commissioner exhausts all the means at his disposal to prevent it. When a senior is likely to be passed over, the Public Service Commissioner should go. into the matter fully. It is because he has not always done so that we have trouble in connexion with the Fifth Class officers. They have published a leaflet asking for the further consideration of their position. They wish us to enact that they shall rise to £200 a year each by means of increments, automatically, and say that, because of Clr cumstances over which they have no control, in other words, because of the spite of their superior officers, they can now be prevented from reaching £200 a year. This is possible, unless the Public Service Commissioner is prepared to go into all proposals for appointing juniors over the heads of seniors.
– One of the chief reasons for appointing Public Service Inspectors was to prevent injustice of the kind referred to.
– Appointments are made before those who are passed over know that anything is to be done, and they, therefore, have no chance to appeal.
– Does the honorable member say that no appointments should be made permanently until every senior officer who has been passed over has had an opportunity to appeal ?
– Every senior officer who has been passed over should be allowed to place his case before the Public Service Commissioner.
– How long would it take to make a permanent appointment under that system?
– That is the question that I am always asked. My reply is that, if it took a year, though there is no reason why it should, men should not be unfairly treated.
– Does the honorable member think there is much injustice in the Service promotions ?
– I think that there is a fair percentage of hard cases, and, if a certain promotion is made, I shall name in this Chamber the head of the Department responsible for it. At the present time I know of four instances in which men know that they are to be passed over for the sake of favorites of the head of the Department. I do not take one man’s word in these matters, because every one thinks that he is better than his fellow officer. But men working together know as much, and probably more, about the ability of their fellows than the Departmental head. When seniors are passed over, soreness is created.
– Surely the junior should be appointed when more competent than his seniors.
– I admit that.
– In many cases juniors are more competent than their seniors.
– I admit that that is so sometimes. Many men make no attempt to qualify for better positions. At the same time, seniors are sometimes passed over by juniors who are no better than they are. Where the junior is not greatly the superior, the senior who has given more years to the Public Service should be appointed. The Minister knows of cases in which men have had to relinquish positions to which they had been appointed. I would give men the opportunity to show their fitness for positions before appointing them permanently. No matter how long it might take to make permanent appointments, we should prevent petty spite from operating as it sometimes does in the matter of promotion.
– We must do justice to the public as well as to the Service.
– Exactly, but if we have a contented Service we shall get better work. I admit that there are men in the Public Service who know more of the provisions of the Public Service Act than they know about their work, though, of course, the Act affects their lives and the prospects of their wives and families so directly that they are justified in studying it! The Public Service Commissioner should resort to some methods other than those at present adopted to inquire into all cases in which juniors are promoted over the heads of seniors.
– It is the duty of the Public Service inspectors to inquire into all such cases. If they do not do so, they fail in their duty.
– I do not say that they fail in their duty. They may not be able to go into every matter as fully as it should be gone into.
– In the majority of cases it is the senior who is promoted. It is only in a few instances that juniors are promoted over the heads of seniors.
– I know of as big a conspiracy as can be imagined, which is in existence at the present time, affecting two or three men. The way to prevent unfairness is to appoint temporarily, so that those who consider that they have been unjustly treated can make representations before it is too late to alter things. During the last Parliament I was asked by one set of officers to introduce a deputation to the Minister advocating that when the heads of Departments suggested promotions, arrangements should be made for considering the claims of others, and I was also asked by a second set of officers to introduce a deputation advocating that the suggestions of the heads of’
Departments be carried into effect. The officers of the latter set considered that they were in the good graces of their official heads, but the others did not. Heads of Departments are human, and have their likes anddislikes, and petty spleen is shown in every walk of life. A man sometimes dislikes another because he coughs unpleasantly, or blows his nose noisily, or is not good looking. I should be satisfied with the right of appeal to the Public Service Commissioner when seniors have been passed over.
– The Royal Commission which investigated the administration of the Post Office recommended that positions should be filled permanently as soon as possible, and the Hobart Conference of the Deputy Postmasters-General, over which I presided, indorsed that recommendation. It is considered a bad thing that in the past officers have “ acted “ too long.
– My suggestionis that when a position becomes vacant the man most likely to be able to fill it should be appointed temporarily, and that those passed over should be given an opportunity to appeal.
– When I was PostmasterGeneral I appointed a Deputy PostmasterGeneral over the heads of at least fifty of his seniors. Would the honorable member have given every one of those fifty the right to appeal.
– Each one of them should have had ah opportunity to place his case before some authority.
– There were 200 passed over.
– What the honorable member for Melbourne Ports suggests would have meant delaying the permanent appointment for eighteen months or two years.
– What I suggest could have been done in a month. Those passed over could state in writing to the Public Service Commissioner their objections to the appointment. ‘ It is hardly possible that if 200 men were passed over they all. would appeal ; but supposing there were twenty who wished to do so, there ought to be some method by which their case should be considered. The present position gives rise to discontent; and I hope that the Public Service Commissioner, if he has the power, will give further consideration to appointments before they are made permanent.
.- I desire to call attention to an item which appears on the Estimates for the first time, namely, that of the travelling expenses of Ministers. I am justified in introducing this question, seeing that, although no item appeared in the Estimates of last year, £258 was expended; and if, under this head, the money is to be expended as it was last year, a large number of honorable members will distinctly object. This expenditure has not only not been with the consent of the House, but in direct opposition to positive pledges and assurances given by the Prime Minister. When the question was raised on the last day but one of last session, the Prime Minister told us that the allowances would be drawn only when Ministers were on public business. The question was asked how the House would know if the money was not drawn when Ministers were on party political business, and the Prime Minister replied, “ I said on purely public business; if we are travelling on party political business, then, of course, the expenses will not be drawn.” That was the condition on which the House allowed the expenditure to pass. In spite of the assurance given, however, the Prime Minister himself went on distinctly party business to Queensland, where he took part in the State elections, and drew his travelling allowance of £2 per day. Another Minister, Senator McGregor, took partin the same elections, and also drew his fee,although he was day after day speaking, on behalf of the Labour party. A third Minister took part in the Tasmanian State election, and for two days drew travelling allowances. Up to the present no Minister has admitted doing wrong, though the wrong is obvious. The other day, when I asked the Prime Minister a serious question in this connexion, he gave an answer which was no credit to himself, because it showed that only in a way did he deny the statements made. The Prime Minister said, “ I drew no expenses in Tasmania at all.” I never charged the Minister with drawing expenses in Tasmania.
– The honorable member’s question referred to both Tasmania and Queensland.
– My question was whether the Ministers I have mentioned intended to refund to the Treasury the amounts drawn by them as travelling; allowances during the time they were canvassing in connexion with Queensland and Tasmanian elections: and it will be seen that I referred, not only to the Prime Minister, but to the other Ministers. The Prime Minister, in reply, went on to say that he had no intention to refund the expenses drawn for Queensland. If we sanction this item on the present Estimates, the Prime Minister ought to renew his assurance that the expenses will not be drawn while Ministers are fighting party political battles.
– Had the Prime Minister no official business in Queensland at the time ?
– He was fighting a party political battle. As honorable members seem disposed to question the accuracy of my statements, I may say that on the 19th December last, when this question was brought up, the honorable member for Bendigo asked what assurance we had that “Ministers, when drawing these expenses, , might not engage in party business; and the Prime Minister then gave the reply I have already quoted, namely, that the expenses would be drawn only when Ministers were on purely official business - that if they went on party business they would, of course, draw no allowance. A Minister who, in spite of a declaration of that sort, takes part in a State election, or even as a partisan in a Federal -election, and at the same time draws expenses, does violence to the truth - he defames his fair name, and takes money out of the Treasury to enrich himself in a way that he is not justified in doing. I challenge the Prime Minister.-
– It is easy to challenge a man who is not in the chamber.
– The Prime Minister ought to be in the chamber when his Estimates are under consideration ; but if he will return I am prepared to repeat every word I have said. It is not a pleasant thing to take men to task in this way, and prove them1 up to the hilt guilty of /having done an unworthy thing - a thing mot to be measured by the amount of money concerned, which is only a second.dary consideration, but by the principle at -stake. I say again, as I said before, that a man who will get into another’s pocket *in a small way, will, if he gets the opportunity, do sp in a large way. There is :a fourth Minister concerned in this” matter, ;in the person of the Minister of External Affairs, and I am glad that he, at any rate, is present. When the Prime Minister announced that these expenses would be paid, he said that they were to cover and reimburse actual expenses out of pocket. A trip was organized to the Northern Territory, during which the expenses of every one who took part were paid from start to finish.
– That is not so. ‘
– Steamer fares were paid, and food and lodging were ^provided throughout. But in spite of that fact, the Minister of External Affairs, who headed the party, drew 253. for every day the excursion lasted.
– If it was an “excursion,” why did the honorable member nor come and see the country?
– Whether we call it an “excursion” or not is a matter of indifference^ - it was a trip in connexion with which the Minister of External Affairs drew his expenses in two ways. I charge the Minister to his face, with having taken travelling expenses in two ways while he was on that trip. If similar charges were levelled against any other Ministry in the land they would be hurled from office next day. Up to the present there has not been a single denial on the part of Ministers, nor yet a single admission. The only reply given by the Prime Minister is one that can be most aptly described by one American word, “ slim “ - only in a half-hearted way did the Prime Minister give a denial. Before we pass this item we should receive an assurance from the Ministry that they will not draw travelling allowances when they go out tq fight as party politicians in- the electorates.
– The speech just made-
– There is no denial.
– By the honorable member for Echuca is characteristic, and one that the House is used ‘to hearing from him. He says that there is no denial to his statement. The denial has been made on more than one occasion by the Prime Minister, who has said in this House that he has not drawn travelling expenses when engaged in electioneering or party work. The fact that the right honorable gentleman was travelling on public business in Queensland during the progress of a general election there, should not debar him from receiving travelling expenses at the rate determined upon by the Government. The honorable member for Echuca made another statement which is not true when he asserted that no member of any other Government had drawn any travelling allowance. We have only to turn to the return placed before the House by the Prime Minister himself to find that previous Ministers, including the Leader of the Opposition and other members of that party, for years, under certain circumstances, drew travelling allowances. The’ fact that their allowances in any one year did not reach as much as has been drawn by members of this Government merely proves that the present Administration has done more travelling than has any of its predecessors. The amount drawn by the present Ministry in respect of travelling allowances for the whole year is, however, only £258. I marvel that the honorable member for Echuca is not ashamed to indulge in the mean kind of criticism which he has uttered this afternoon.
– There is a principle behind it.
– It is neither more nor less than a raking-up of dirt for party political purposes. The honorable member usually sits cheek-by-jowl with a member of the Opposition who draws his ,£600 a year as a member of this Parliament, although he has not been seen inside the Chamber this session. Does he think of denouncing the honorable member for Grampians, who fails to attend in his place in the House, but draws his salary while in the Old Country on private business? We do not desire to raise such a question, but it is necessary to do some things in self-defence. The position of this Government is different from that occupied by any of their predecessors, inasmuch as they are doing what previous Administrations merely talked of doing. For instance, this Government took over the Northern Territory, the transfer of which had been talked about by other Ministries since the inception of Federation. The taking over of that Territory carries with it certain responsibilities, and the Minister of External Affairs has traversed a goodly portion of the country. The honorable member for Echuca would have him do that travelling at his own expense. He said that all the expenses of the Minister and the members who recently visited the Territory were paid by the Commonwealth. That is not correct. The honorable member is so successful at burrowing and scavenging work that he should make sure that he has all the facts before he speaks. As a matter of fact, however, he cannot take a broad, national view of anything. He is talking, as a matter of fact, to a few. narrow-minded, prejudiced people in the electorate of Echuca. He has a prejudiced outlook, and finds it impossible to look at matters in a broad way.
– Abuse is not argument.
– The honorable member is never anything but abusive when he speaks in this House. He does not know the value of logic or argument. He has never been noted for his logic, and he has never fought a political battle on political grounds.
– I have fought three or four political battles.
– The honorable member only represents a minority. He does not represent the majority of the people in his own constituency, and he certainly does not represent the opinions of the people of Australia on any question.
– The oracle has spoken !
– One does not need to be an oracle to know that what I say is correct. One has only to look at and to hear the honorable member for Echuca to know that what I say of him is true. Another undertaking which was talked of for many years by the present Opposition, but not taken in hand until the present Government came into power, was the construction of the transcontinental railway. The builds ing of that line must necessitate a good deal of travelling on the part of the Minister. Then, again, for the first time in the history of Australia, we have laid the four*dation of a definite defence scheme on something like effective lines. We have practically revolutionized the defence system of this country, with the result that the Minister of that great Department has found it necessary to traverse almost the whole of the Commonwealth. And yet the total expenditure of Ministers in respect of travelling allowances is ,£258 for the year. One would imagine, listening to the honorable member for Echuca, that it amounted to ,£200 a day. We have heard the honorable member, on four or five different occasions in this House, referring to this matter, asking questions, and prying almost into the private affairs of Ministers.
– .£258 is not alL It is ,£258 plus three motor cars.
– Whatever motor cars have been purchased are used on public business. Every up-to-date. Department and business concern has motor cars at its disposal to-day. State Governments, business firms, manufacturers, and retailers are employing motor cars in order that their business may be more expeditiously carried out. The honorable members bit of corner gossip, therefore, does not carry any weight. Then, again, the travellers employed by all large firms receive a travelling allowance. A Select Committee appointed by the State Parliament to inquire into the operations of an insurance company, which is by no means the largest in Australia, was informed by the general manager that his travelling allowance was £3 3s. per day plus first-class tickets by boat and rail for his wife and himself throughout the Commonwealth.
– What company is that?
– The Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Company.
– But he did not draw that allowance in respect of conditions under which he said he would not draw it.
– I again say that the honorable member has misstated the facts. The Prime Minister gave us his word in this House that he would not draw expenses when travelling on private or party business, and he has not done so. The mere fact that a Minister, while travelling on public business, uses his leisure time to do certain things, does not mean that he draws his travelling) allowance while engaged in private or party business. The records and the statement made by the Prime Minister show that when he drew his travelling allowance, he was on public busiess, and I think it is mean and paltry for the honorable member for Echuca to raise such a question as this.
.- On this amendment -
– There is 110 amendment before the Chair.
.- To enable the business of the Committee to be proceeded with, I move -
That subdivision 1, “ Salaries,£2,295,” be reduced by £1.
.- I regret that the honorable member for Corangamite should have sought to answer as he did the case made out by the honorable member for Echuca. The honorable member placed before us a case that is worthy of the consideration of the Committee, and it is no use trying to meet that case by screaming at him like an angry cockatoo. Honorable members opposite have to meet the actual position placed before the Committee. The honorable member for Corangamite, in the course of his wild harangue said that the honorable member for Echuca was raking up dirt.
– That is about what it amounted to.
– How could he rake up dirt if there was none to rake up? The honorable member for Echuca pointed to the dirt. He pointed to the fact that Ministers had been drawing, in a way they promised not to do, funds from the public Treasury in respect of travelling expenses when they were engaged on party political business.
– He did not do anything of the sort.
– He proved his case. The return presented to the House shows conclusively what the facts are. In Hansard, of 8th August last, honorable members will find a return showing that the Prime Minister drew travelling allowances while in Queensland from 9th to 29th April. That was during the progress of the Queensland elections, when the right honorable member was speaking every night against the Denham Administration.
– These are scathing remarks.
– Nothing will strike the honorable member with shame. The only time that he showed any sign of even perfunctory modesty was when he asked the electors to be kind enough to forget the attitude he had adopted in this Chamber on one occasion.
– We are dealing with subdivision 1 of Division11, in which there is no reference to Ministerial travelling allowances.
– The amendment proposes to reduce the amount in order, I take it, to enable the Committee, to ventilate the question of the illicit drawing of travelling expenses by Ministers.
– Chair ! Chair !
– And so to help us to arrive at a reasonable decision.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing, on. this amendment, the travelling expenses of Ministers.
– I admit that the point of order raised by the Minister of External Affairs, no doubt to cover up his own position in this matter, is a good one, but I shall resume the discussion later on.
.- I intend to support the amendment of the honorable member for Fawkner. If I understand the position aright, I intimated my intention to move that the salary of the Secretary to the Prime Minister be reduced to £520, with a view to testing the feeling of the Committee as to whether automatic increments should be granted to the higher-paid officers of our Public Service. The Chairman courteously pointed out that if I persisted in the amendment the whole of the debate would be restricted to that one item. Acting upon his suggestion, I refrained from moving the amendment, whereupon the honorable member for Fawkner moved “ That the item be reduced by £1.”
– The honorable member must not forget that I gave him an opportunity to submit his amendment.
– The honorable member outlined his amendment, and then ran away from it.
– I intend to support the amendment of the honorable member for Fawkner, because it will afford the Committee an opportunity of deciding, free from all personal considerations, whether automatic increments should be granted to the higher-paid officers of our Commonwealth Service. The Minister of External Affairs has pointed out that certain officers have been recommended for increments by the Public Service Commissioner, whilst other officers have been recommended by Ministers. To me it is quite immaterial whether an increment is proposed by the Public Service Commissioner or by a Minister. This Parliament is the authority which has to decide whether or not an increment ought to be granted. I do not think that the present is a time when increases should be given to highly-paid officials. There are other officers in our Public Service who are very much more in need of increments than they are. When I sat behind a Government in this House
I took up exactly the same position on this question as I am taking up now. I say that, before we grant increments to highlypaid officers, those persons who are in charge of semi-official post-offices throughout the Commonwealth ought to receive a more adequate remuneration for their services. Let us take a test vote upon this question.
– Irrespective of the abilities of officers?
– It will be wise for us to take a test vote on the broad question of whether or not these automatic increases ought to be granted. I draw no distinction between increments which are recommended by Ministers and increments which are recommended by the Public Ser vice Commissioner. It must be acknowledged that those officers whose duties bring.’ them under the immediate notice of the Commissioner or the Ministerial head of their Department, are more fortunate than those who are not so closely connected with the heads of the Departments. I intend to vote for the amendment on the understanding that it will be regarded as a test vote on this question.
.- I am glad that the amendment of the honorable member for Fawkner has been substituted for that of the honorable member for Franklin. I should not have been able to support the latter, because I could not have voted in favour of reducing the salary of any particular officer. Moreover, I do not disapprove of the granting of increments to the higher-paid officers of our Public Service. But I regard the amendment of the honorable member for Fawkner as a protest against the granting of increments to highly-paid officials, whilst the claims of officers in the lower and middle ranks of the Commonwealth Service are ignored. I feel that I can conscientiously vote for this proposal.
– Conscientiously ?
– Yes. I never cast a vote which is not conscientious. But the Minister’s conscience is, at times, very elastic The present Government have really excelled themselves in the matter of making highly-paid appointments. I find from a return, which was supplied by the Prime Minister at my request, that last year the sum of £78,000 was paid to officials who were receiving more than , £300 a year.
– That is the amount paid in connexion with new appointments.
– On the 16th July of the present year I asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will lay on the table of theHouse a return showing -
The number of appointments made by the Government in the last two years with salaries over £300 per annum?
The salary of each officer so appointed?
To that the Prime Minister replied -
In answer to the honorable member’s question!, the following return is submitted’: -
Schedule of appointments by the Government during the last two years with salaries over£300 per annum.
If honorable members will add up these salaries, they will find that they aggregate £78,000.
– Does the honorable member think that no officer ought to get more than300 a year?
– I do not say that. But I wish very pointedly to point to these appointments - particularly to the appoint;ments made in connexion with the Northern Territory.
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing them.
– I think that I shall be in order in referring to them for the purpose of protesting against the increases which it is proposed to grant to the higherpaid officials of our Public Service whilst ignoring the claims of the lower and middle grade officials.
– When the honorable member for Franklin indicated his intention to move an amendment, I said that if an amendment were moved I should have to confine the discussion strictly to the question. Subsequently the honorable member for Fawkner moved to reduce the vote for subdivision 1 by £1.
– If I cannot refer to the Northern Territory, I take it that I can refer to the existence of highly-paid public servants in other parts of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member may refer only to the public servants whose salaries are provided for in subdivision 1.
– Have a go at the messenger.
– Nothing is setdown for the senior messenger included in this subdivision, although there is £136 for the Ministerial messenger.
– The senior messenger was made Ministerial messenger.
– The remuneration is paltry. Under whose supervision is the typist? There is also an assistant. Is that some one to assist the typist? The messenger at £[39 a year must be a very little boy.
– He gets 158. a week.
– I did not know that any of the Democrats opposite approves of a wage of 15s. a week, without keep.
– It is a good wage for a boy.
– It is a sweating wage, unless the boy is very small. Last year there were two clerks receiving £340, or £170 each; if their salaries were the same ; this year there are four receiving £576, or only £144 each.
– Two are junior clerks getting £60 each.
– Are they fifth-grade clerks ?
– Junior clerks commence in the fifth grade, the salaries in which’ range from £60 to . £200. The honorable member never paid such salaries.
– I never paid so little for clerical work.
– Yet the honorable member wishes to reduce the amount by £1.
– As a protest against the way in which Ministerial favorites are treated. The highly-paid officials, who can make themselves obnoxious or useful to Ministers, and always have the Ministerial ear, get big increases, but those who cannot personally represent their needs are not similarly treated. I shall vote for the amendment.
– I wish to make a few general observations. I understand that the Prime Minister’s Department is now under review.
– No. There is an amendment before the Committee.
– An amendment of a formal nature.
– No. When the honorable member for Franklin said that he wished to move an amendment, I said that if he did so it would curtail the range of the debate, and he did not move an amendment. After a general discussion, which lasted all the afternoon, the honorable member for Fawkner moved the reduction of the vote for the subdivision by £1and the discussion must now be confined to the subdivision.
– It is usual in the House of Commons to move a reduction formally, with a view to the discussion of a Department. There are several Departments under the control of the Prime Minister, and I wish to speak generally regarding the patronage which this Government is exercising.
– The honorable member cannot do so now.
– Will you tell me when I can do so?
– When we’ come to the particular appointments complained of.
– I do not wish to discuss particular appointments ; I wish to speak of the whole system.
– - The honorable member” has already spoken twice on the general question. You, sir, told him that he could not speak a third time. The amendment appears to have been moved to give him another opportunity.
– The honorable member spoke only once on this subdivision. He is now speaking on the amendment.
– Was it in order for the Minister to make an attack on me under cover of a point of order?
– In view of the statement that the honorable gentleman had only spoken once on the general question, I withdraw what I said. I understood that he had spoken twice.
– The Minister of External Affairs says that he upholds the Public Service Commissioner, and that his voice and vote will always be given against any interference with that officer.
– Against any interference with the Public Service Act.
– And, therefore, against any interference with the Public Service Commissioner in giving effect to the Act. But while the honorable gentleman talks in that way, he takes care that every appointment that he can make shall be made without reference to the Public Service Commissioner. The complaint of the Public Service is that the Government is making a new departure in the matter of appointments.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– Cannot the amendment be withdrawn, so that we may discuss the general question? I wish to refer generally to the appointments which have been made by the Government.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I desire to withdraw my amendment.
– I object.
– The Minister, by this objection, is only prolonging the discussion of the Estimates ; and it means that we shall have to do piecemeal what we desired to finish now. The honorable gentleman has refused a courtesy that has never been denied to any honorable member before; and it is leftto him, after mak ing a series of statements,to object to any reply. It is the usual fair play one gets from the honorable member, and is what we have learned to expect.
– The honorable member is as truthful as usual !
– The honorable member, as I say, has made a series of statements, in which he has practically misled the Committee, and now he preventsany reply by the objection he has raised- I hope I am as capable of telling the truth, as is the Minister.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr.
Chanter). - Will the honorable member confine himself, to the question before the Chair?
– As matters stand, I shall have to vote without stating my reasons in full. The position is that, while a section of the public employes are under the Public Service Commissioner, and are told they must appeal to the Arbitration Court, another large section is dealt with directly by the Government, and given increases and conditions denied to the others. That is an anomaly which will have to be recognised in the near future, because it constitutes a grave administrative scandal. Two men, who may be doing precisely similar work, may, one of them, be directly under the control of the Minister, and the other denied what is considered to be fair and equitable treatment; and this is causing a good deal of discontent. The Minister of External Affairs said this afternoon that he controlled only one appointment in his Department, but he should have told us that that was an appointment on the Central Administrative Staff, which consists of forty-four persons. The honorable gentleman did not tell us that he controls 150 other people, whose conditions are absolutely determined without reference to the Commissioner.
– I said that the Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner had nothing to do with the Northern Territory.
– Then the honorable gentleman made a misstatement” when he said there was only one officer whose conditions he controlled.
– The Minister said, “ excepting in the Northern Territory.”
– I will accept the statement of the honorable member for” Gippsland, who is always willing to rush to the aid of the Ministry - it is a way he has of showing his “ independence.”
– To the honorable member’s disadvantage very often.
– The honorable member is so “ independent “ that he is always seeking the advantage of one side, the Government, and the disadvantage of the other, the Opposition. I like those “ independents,” who are all on one side. The honorable member for Gippsland votes, and works, and talks for the Government, and if he cannot vote for the Government, he gets out, and then calls himself a Literal Independent.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Will the honorable member confine himself to the item before the Chair?
– All this arises from the Temporary Chairman not stopping unruly interjections. I understand that this vote has to do with the Administrative Branch of the Prime Minister’s Department.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The question before the Chair is a reduction of the subdivision by £1.
– If I cannot discuss anything but that, I cannot say what I desire to say.
.- A question that needs ventilation is that of the method of dealing with public servants, which does not seem to me altogether fair. The Public Service Commissioner has his case prepared with the assistance of Government officials in Government time, and he, very properly, is able to place his views before the Court without expense or any peculiar personal difficulties.
– What has that to do with the question before us?
– It is proposed to reduce the subdivision by £1, but it seems difficult to advocate fair play even for public servants in this Chamber now that honorable members opposite are trying to conduct the business with the aid of technicalities under the Standing Orders. If an organization of employe’s in the Government Service wishes to bring certain matters before the Arbitration Court, and has to send to Melbourne, say, in order to do so, the employes individually, or the organization, has to pay the expense, and the time occupied is not counted as Government time.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member is not in order in addressing himself to that question.
– I wish to point out that the inequality, such as it is, might be held to justify the Minister keeping one man, at any rate, out of the clutches of this vicious principle - he might urge that one man should be free rather than that all should be sacrificed.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The debate must be confined to the proposal to reduce the subdivision.
Mr.KELLY. - We are opposing this vote because we desire to ventilate a principle; and I claim the right to make my vote clear to those I represent.
– I rise to order. I understand the ruling to be that we may not discuss the relation of certain civil servants to the Arbitration Court. 1 point out, however, that there are several employes under this heading, including messengers, typists, assistants and others ; and surely the question of whether there should be an increase, together with the decision of the Government to send those clerks and others to the Arbitration Court, as a condition precedent to obtaining an advance, is the subject of proper consideration under this subdivision?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.My ruling was not given as the honorable member has stated. I ruled that, the motion that the item be reduced by £1 having been submitted, the debate must be restricted to that motion ; and that the Public Service Commissioner and his actions, or the action of an officer affected, is not now before the Chair, but will come up later.
– The salary of the Secretary of this Department has been raised from £520 to £600 a year ; and I offer no objection to that, because I think he is a good officer, deserving of the advance. That, however, is not the point, which is that the advance has not been made by the Public Service Commissioner, but by the Prime Minister himself, of his own volition. The Public Service of Australia is supposed to be, and is, so far as the lower-paid officials are concerned - so far as all those whose salaries mean a great deal to them are concerned - under the Commissioner. But here we have a salary raised without any reference to him at all.
– What has that to do with the question before us?
– It is proposed to reduce the subdivision by£1, and that proposal covers every item, the first of which is that of the Secretary to the Department. We are, I contend, entitled, under this proposal, to consider the reasons for the increase given. It is due to the fact that the Prime Minister properly recognises that this officer is worth more than £520 a year; but what is the position if any honorable member desires to give some recognition to the services of the clerks who may be considered worth more than they receive? Here we have certain men drawing £60 a year, but an honorable member who thinks that£60 is too little for them to receive cannot move to increase their salaries. The matter has to be decided by the Public Service Commissioner. Apparently, not one honorable member opposite thinks that these men are worth more than £60 a year.
– Evidently, the Opposition think that they are getting too much since they are supporting an amendment to reduce the amount in respect of salaries.
– Then we are to understand that if the amendment be carried, the amount of £1 is to be struck off the salary, not of the highest paid man, but of the poorest paid man in the Department. Is that the intention of the Government?
– The Opposition have no hope of reducing any man’s salary by £1.
– And under the Standing Orders we cannot move to increase any salary. That being so, why should the Honorary Minister, who is the peculiar, but not altogether faithful, guardian of the truth in this Chamber, try to make out that we wish to reduce any man’s salary.
– I ask that the honorable member be called upon to withdraw that insult.
– I withdraw it at once.
.- An attempt is being made by honorable members opposite to show that the object of the amendment moved by me is to reduce the salaries of officers in this division.
– This is a deliberate attempt to reduce salaries.
– The honorable member knows very well that it is not.
– The statement made by the Honorary Minister has been denied, and as it is offensive, I ask that it be withdrawn.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Since the honorable member takes exception to the statement, I ask the Honorary Minister to withdraw it.
– I am prepared to obey your ruling, sir, and to withdraw any remark which, by any stretch of the imagination, might be considered to be offensive, but there is before the Chair an amendment to reduce by £1 a subdivision dealing only with salaries, and, in the circum stances, it seemed to me that I was distinctly in order in saying that the effect of this amendment would be to reduce salaries. If, however, my remark is considered to be offensive, I will withdraw it.
– I wish to make it absolutely clear that my amendment was moved not with the idea of reducing salaries, but to allow a general discussion to take place with regard to the regulation of salaries and the travelling allowances of Ministers.
– Would the honorable member like to withdraw his amendment?
– I should, but the Minister on a previous occasion refused to allow me to do so.
– The Prime Minister is now in charge of the Estimate.
– If the honorable member wishes to withdraw his amendment, I shall not raise any objection.
– Then I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move -
That the item, “ Secretary,£600,” be reduced by £1.
I submit this amendment in order to test the feeling of the Committee on the subject to which I have already drawn attention.
– I shall vote for this amendment, not with the object of reducing these salaries, but to emphasize the anomaly which is creeping into the public employments of the Commonwealth, that, whereas some sections of our employes are subject to strict regulations imposed by the Public Service Commissioner, a huge part is being taken under the direct control of the Minister, and differential treatment is being meted out. Something will have to be done to remove these anomalies.
– Was not the same practice in existence whilst the honorable member’s Government were in office?
-To a certain extent it has always existed, but it is now being accentuated and increased beyond all reason. Is there any reason why public employment in the Northern Territory should not be under the same authority as is our public employment alongside in North Queensland, or in the northern part of Western Australia?
– Customs and Postal officers in the Northern Territory are under the same authority.
– That only makes the anomaly the greater.
– I would remind the honorable member that the amendment before the Chair is simply to reduce the salary of the Secretary by £1.
– And I am stating the reasons why I shall vote for that amendment. I shall vote for it, not because I think there should be any reduction in the salaries of these officers - the positions are worth the salaries allotted to them - but to protest against the practice of treating men in public employment differentially. It has been suggested that the men under the direct control of the Government are, in some cases, treated better than are those under the Commissioner. The same remark applies to men in the Defence Department and employes in the clothing, saddle, and cloth factories. All these are under the control of the Government, while other employments are under the control of the Public Service Commissioner. The sooner these anomalies are rectified the better for the public servants as a whole. It is this differentiation that is causing discontent throughout the length and breadth of the Service. While some men under the control of the Commissioner are subjected to strict regulations, others are not so regulated, but are dealt with directly by the Government.
– The men in these factories are not permanently, employed.
– Their positions are permanent enough.
– The honorable member is going beyond the scope of the amendment.
– I believe that I am ; and I shall, therefore, have to content myself by indicating, as I have done, the reasons why I intend to vote for this amendment.
.- Various works are being carried on by the Government of which this House knows nothing, and in connexion with which there are being employed many officers whose appointment and salaries have not been submitted to- us. If, by voting for this amendment, I could emphasize my disapproval of that action on the part of the Government, I should certainly support it; but, in my opinion, the subdivision immediately under consideration does not do this. When we come to an item that does have a bearing upon it I shall emphasize my objection as strongly as I can. It is becoming a great scandal - and I am sorry to say this because such a statement may hurt the Prime Minister’s feelings
– The right honorable member is not in order in making use of such an expression.
– At the proper time, I shall certainly protest against the action to which I have referred, but I think that the Government have done right in creating a Prime Minister’s Department, and appointing an officer to take charge of it. They are now submitting to the Committee the establishment of the office and the salary for approval or rejection, and I think that is the proper course to pursue. It is for the Committee to say whether they approve of the establishment of this new Department, and, if so, whether they think that the salary allotted to the office of Secretary is adequate. I am in accord with the establishment of a Prime Minister’s Department, having had sufficient experience to know that it is both necessary and useful. The salary of the Secretary is not too high for an efficient officer. Holding these views, I cannot properly vote for the amendment; but, at the same time, I think that something radically wrong is going on. Honorable members will see that we are losing control of the money which- is to be spent. I protest most strongly against what is being done, and if I could emphasize my objection to it in any way I should be glad to do so. Hundreds of thousands of pounds are being expended without any Parliamentary authority.
– The honorable member is not in order in referring to that matter.
– I regret that this is not an item upon which I can express the views which I hold in regard to that matter.
.- The different views expressed by members of the Opposition upon this matter are really amusing. In the first place the honorable member for Franklin submitted an amendment to reduce the item of “ Secretary, £600,” by £1, in order to mark his disapproval of the high salaries which are being paid in this Department. Subsequently his proposal was withdrawn, and the honorable member for Fawkner moved to reduce the full amount of the proposed vote by £1. Then it was found that that would prevent a general discussion, and accordingly that amendment was withdrawn, and the present amendment was substituted for it. Prior to the adjournment for dinner, the mover of the amendment stated definitely-
– The honorable member will not be in order in referring to what took place before the suspension of the sitting.
– I am very sorry, because it would have afforded me a good opportunity of pointing out the inconsistency of the arguments of honorable members opposite. They declare that they desire to reduce the salary of the Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department by £1, inorder to mark their disapproval of the action of the Government in increasing salaries without consulting the Public Service Commissioner.
– That is not my position.
– I am well aware of that, but the Chairman will not permit me to point out what is the honorable member’s position. The question we have to consider is:’Is this officer worth the salary which it is proposed to grant him on these Estimates?” The honorable member for Wentworth says that he is. If that be so, why do honorable members opposite say that in order to show their disapproval of the high salaries which are being paid in this Department they desire to reduce his salary by £1.
– Because there is no other way of accomplishing our object. ‘
– I am inclined to think that I do not need to show the honorable member how he can attain the object which he desires. But later on I shall be very sorry if I miss the opportunity to point it out to him. At the same time, I am quite sure that he will miss no opportunity that presents itself to achieve the purpose which he has in view. The question which we have to consider is whether this particular officer is worth the salary which it is proposed to vote him on these Estimates. If he is, we ought not to reduce it. If he is not, we ought to reduce it so as to give him a salary which will be commensurate with the services which he renders. According to the right honorable member for Swan he is the head of an important Department.
– The heads of other Departments get one-third more than he will receive.
– Yet we are asked to reduce his salary by £1. I think that the honorable member for Franklin would be acting wisely - seeing that he does not believe in individualizing - by withdrawing the amendment.
– I find that the next head of a Department receives 50 per cent. more than does this officer.
– Then there is no justification for attacking him.
.- It is very well known to every honorable member that a proposal to reduce the first item ofany departmental Estimate does not per se constitute an attack on the head of that Department. That course is frequently adopted because it affords us the only opportunity we have under parliamentary practice of ventilating a principle. But I am inclined to think that the amendment of the honorable member for Franklin might well be withdrawn, because it is idle to endeavour to test any question unless all are agreed as to the subject which is to be tested. It is evident that in its present temper this Committee will refuse to agree upon what principle is to be tested under this proposal. In the circumstances, we are merely wasting time. Honorable members opposite do not wish to test any principle, but merely to shelter themselves behind subterfuges and humbug.
– The honorable member is not in order in making that remark.
– I will not pursue the matter further. Inasmuch as honorable members opposite will not admit that in voting upon the amendment they will vote upon a definite principle, it is idle for members of the Opposition to attempt to force them to do so.
– Will the honorable member deal with the amendment?
– The amendment is to reduce the item by £1. I would suggest to the honorable member for Franklin that he should withdraw his amendment, and that we should endeavour to adjust ourselves to this new system of Parliamentary Government, under which every quibble is availed of to prevent the testing of a definite principle.
– We have just witnessed another lamentable exhibition of confusion on the part of the Fusion. Three amend- ments have been submitted by honorable members opposite, two of which have been withdrawn, and now the honorable member for Wentworth suggests that the third should be withdrawn. Presumably if we allow that course to be adopted in order to get honorable members opposite out of the tangle into which their many political opinions have got them, they will wish to submit a fourth amendment. If they are permitted to withdraw the amendment which is now under consideration, will they give us a guarantee that they will not propose a fourth to reduce some item bv 19s. 9d. ?
– I would point out that there is no question of a withdrawal of the amendment before the Chair.
– The adoption of that course has been suggested. You, sir, allowed the honorable member for Wentworth, and the honorable member for Swan, to suggest that the honorable member for Franklin should withdraw his proposal.
– Will the Honorary Minister deal with the amendment?
– As we may refuse permission to withdraw the amendment, we ought to have a guarantee that if we permit its withdrawal a fourth amendment will not be submitted. I endeavoured to follow, as well as I was able, the tortuous reasoning of the honorable member for Parramatta, who asserted blandly that he agreed with the increase which it is proposed to grant to the official head of the Prime Minister’s Department. He said he believed that that officer was a good officer, that he had no objection to the salary proposed to be granted him, but, nevertheless, he would vote for its reduction. In such circumstances, where are honorable members opposite upon this question ? What do they really intend ?
– Heaven knows !
– Heaven may be able to penetrate the innermost recesses of the honorable member’s mentality, but certainly he does not disclose what is to be found there when, after saying that he approves of the salary which it is proposed to grant to this officer, he declares that he will vote to reduce it.
– He will not vote for its reduction.
– If the honorable member for Franklin presses the amendment to a division, I do not know what will be the outcome. It is scarcely fair of honorable members on this side of the chamber to affirm that the honorable member for Parramatta will not vote for it. I acknowledge that he is able to change his views with lightning rapidity, but to say that within five minutes he will change from “no” to “ yes,” or from “yes” to “ no “ is rather hard on him.
– He has done it before.
– This Minister is allowed to say anything he chooses.
– The Honorary Minister must confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– I am attempting to do so. Am I not in order?
– The Honorary Minister was not in order a few moments ago.
– Am I in order now? This alliance between the honorable member for Bourke and the honorable member for Parramatta is truly charming. I am very sorry that the idea should go forth from this Committee that some honorable members desire to reduce salaries. If they wish to ventilate any principle which is involved, they will have a hundred and one opportunities of doing so when other departments of the Estimates are under consideration. But to move a reduction of the salary of an officer whose work is admittedly good, and whose emoluments, even when increased by the amount proposed, will represent only two-thirds of the salary which is being paid to the heads of other Departments, is an exceptional course to adopt, and one which is not justified by the circumstances. I join my efforts to those of the honorable member for Swan and the honorable member for Wentworth, with whom for once I am in agreement, to persuade the honorable member for Franklin to withdraw the amendment, not because it will embarrass those on this side, whose minds are made up, and who will take united action, but those with whom he is associated. The honorable member for Parramatta has a fatal facility for getting into awkward positions, and the amendment, if pressed, will place him in a peculiarly awkward position. If the honorable member votes for the amendment, he will be seen to be voting for the reduction of the salary of a worthy officer.
.- Even were I of the opinion that £600 was too big a salary for the office of Secretary to the Prime Minister, I should not vote for its reduction by £1 only, but would seek to have it reduced by a substantial amount. At the same time, I can hardly follow the suggestion that the reduction of the salary by £i has been proposed with a view to benefiting less highly-paid officials, whose salaries are not now under discussion. I consider that the salary set down for this office is not excessive, and, therefore, I shall not support the amendment.
– After the interlude furnished by the corner-man of the Ministry, I wish to say that I made no such statements as those which he persistently attributed to me amid his buffoonery. I am convinced that the matter which I wish to have discussed cannot be raised in any other way than by means of an amendment of this kind. The Prime Minister stands for the whole Government. The Public Service Commissioner’s office is a branch of his Department, and he represents not only that section of the Public Service which is under the control of the Public Service Commissioner, but also those Government employes who are not under that control. There will be no other opportunity during the discussion of these Estimates to raise the question which I wish to have debated.
– Will the honorable member deal with the amendment?
– It is usual in the House of Commons to move formally the reduction of the salary of the head of a Department, to provide an occasion for the criticism of the Department, and that practice is followed in every Parliament. For the honorable member for Hunter to say that the amendment confines us to the discussion of this particular salary is to reveal his ignorance of parliamentary procedure here and elsewhere.
– It is not usual to move the reduction of a particular salary, but of a. departmental vote.
– No, the custom is to move the reduction of the salary of the head of the Department.
– This is the salary that represents the principle involved.
– Yes, and which represents the Prime Minister, who is directly responsible for every Department. I shall vote for the amendment, even if I am alone.
.- ‘ This matter is rather a serious one for the Public Service. The honorable member for Parramatta makes the deliberate statement that this is the time to attack all the Departments, from the Prime Minister’s downwards.
– Who said that?
– The honorable member distinctly said that this is the time to reduce salaries; that this is to be a test vote. If the Committee determines to reduce the salary of the Secretary to the Prime Minister, it will commit itself to a policy of retrenchment, although the country is not hard up, and such a policy is not neededI take it that we are being asked to say whether the salaries on the Estimates shall’ be reduced or not.
.- In spite of the strenuous efforts of honorable members opposite, and especially of the Honorary Minister, to put on the amendment a construction which will injure the Opposition in the eyes of the electors, it must be plain to every intelligent individual that, were it our desire to reduce’ the salary of the Secretary to the Prime Minister, we should not propose its reduction by £1 merely. The amendment has been moved simply to give an opportunity tomake a protest against the way in which increases have been given to highly-paid officials, to the neglect of those in the middle ranks. Our action will not bear the construction which the oily Honorary Minister has placed on it.
.- The honorable member for Parramatta, says that I am ignorant of parliamentary procedure, but I tell him that it is the custom in this Committee, in moving a test vote, to propose the reduction of the amount for a division or a Department, not the reduction of an item, and that the same practice is followed in New South Wales.
– It is not followed either here or there. The honorable member appears not to know that if an amendment reducing the vote for a division were dealt with, we could not afterwards criticise any of the salaries in that division.
– The honorable member has told us that he supports the amendment because he wishes to discuss, not the salary attached to the office of Secretary to the Prime Minister, but the increasing of salaries without appeal to the Public Service Commissioner. What is there to prevent a motion for the reduction of the vote for the Department to provide for the discussion of that question ?
– It is not the question which I wish to discuss.
– The honorable member, and some others, see the position in which they have placed themselves, and find some difficulty in extricating themselves from it. I advise the honorable member for Franklin to withdraw the amendment.
– I wish to tell the honorable member for Hunter that, had I moved to reduce the total amount, it would not afterwards have been possible to discuss any of the items of the subdivision.
– The honorable member withdrew his first amendment formally to permit of the general discussion.
– I withdrew the amendment at the suggestion of the Chairman. I do not wish honorable members to vote upon this amendment under a wrong impression. My intention in moving it is to’ test the feeling of the Committee regarding the granting of these automatic increases to highly-salaried officials, when those on the lower rungs of the ladder are being absolutely neglected. An attempt has been made to draw a redherring across the trail, but that is the question I ask the Committee to decide. There is not a member who does not know that I have taken the usual course for obtaining a test vote by moving this formal reduction. It is not competent for any private member to move to increase an amount, or to test the subject by any other means.
.- The explanations of the members of the Opposition in regard to the amendment for the reduction of the salary of the Secretary to the Prime Minister are edifying and amusing. The honorable member for Parramatta emphatically stated that it is proposed to reduce that salary, but the gallant Colonel who represents North Sydney explained that it is not intended to reduce it.
– It is a test vote.
– The honorable member for Franklin was not thinking about a test vote when he desired last week to increase the grant for Tasmania. He was not thinking of the poorly paid public servants in Tasmania then !
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing that matter.
– In the first instance, we had the honorable member for Fawkner moving a reduction of the vote by£1 ; but what was that for?
– The honorable member is not in order in referring to an amendment that has been disposed of.
– It is only a casual reference. Does the honorable member for Franklin want the Committee to believe that he has moved his amendment for fun ? So far as I can see, the honorable member is in a hole, and does not know how to get out of it ; and the honorable member for Parramatta, with whom he has had a conference, is pushing him further in.
– Do not worry, but let us have a vote!
– We on this side will not do the worrying. Honorable members opposite are worrying now because they have publicly stated here that they do not mean to reduce this salary; but, however they may twist and turn, the amendment shows that they are in favour of decreasing the salary of a public servant.
Question - That the item “ Secretary, £600,” be reduced by the sum of £1 - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 23
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I found, when seeking to answer a speech in the general debate on the Estimates, that I was out of order in endeavouring to make some remarks that I wish to make now in reference to Ministers’ travelling allowances. I do not wish to discuss it in any heated or personal way. My desire is to place before honorable members some irregularities which I think have occurred in this connexion, and some looseness of procedure well worthy the attention of Ministers themselves.
In the early days of this Federal Parliament, when the question of members’ salaries and the constitutional salaries of Ministers was under consideration, it was stated, I think, by the then Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton - and, of course, the precedent then established applied to all the successors of the Ministry - that the Ministers of the day would take the £400, which was then the parliamentary salary, in addition to their official salaries, and use it in lieu of the travelling allowances which obtained in all the States of Australia. This .£400 to each of them was to be lumped for the Ministers, as I say, in lieu of the definite daily travelling allowances usually given to Ministers in the States. The practice then established obtained right down to the last session of this Parliament. In the closing hours of that session, the Prime Minister announced to the House that it was proposed by Ministers to take, when travelling on official business, allowances on a scale which it is not necessary to detail now. The actual statement of the right honorable gentleman will be found reported in Hansard of the 19th December last, page 4871, and I take the clearest extract I can find to show his intention. It is as follows : -
I wish to intimate to both Houses that the Government think it .would be fair for the Prime Minister, while on official visits only, to be allowed 40s. per day, and other Ministers holding portfolios to be allowed 25s. per day when on similar visits.
I remind honorable members that these allowances were- to be additional to the £4°° a year which Ministers were getting as members, and which’ had been accepted by all previous Ministers in lieu of travelling allowances, and that the money was to be drawn only while on official business. Now, the honorable member for Echuca has brought, up this matter on several occasions, and, as a result of his ventilating the question, a return was laid before honorable members. In dealing with personal questions like this, it is always unadvisable to harp on them in an invidious way, but honorable members, I am sure, will forgive me if I point out one or two details which, I think, show how irregularities of a somewhat objectionable nature have crept in. .The return is reported in Hansard of 8th August last, page 191 7 ; and we learn from- it that the Prime Minister drew the travelling allowances whilst he was in Queensland at the time of the Queensland elections, with the exception of a period during which he was in his own electorate.
– Was the Prime Minister not doing public business?
– The Prime Minister states that he was then doing public business, and I shall quote his own words as. the fairest way of putting the position. He said -
I also interviewed Ministers in Queensland.
– Let the honorable member have enough rope, and he will soon hang himself.
– What an un- Christian: spirit to display ! I am approaching’ this matter in the kindliest spirit possible, sparing in every way the feelings of honorable members opposite, and the honorable member hopes I shall hang myself. This is what the Prime Minister had to’ say with regard to his visit to Queensland, which we are told was on official business only -
I also interviewed Ministers in Queensland1 going and coming on the question of wirelesstelegraphy -
He interviewed State Ministers concerning wireless telegraphy ! and I saw general managers of banks in Brisbane -
How pleased the Caucus outside would’ be- in relation to the appointment of a Governor of the Commonwealth Bank.
– Does not the honorablemember think this very paltry?
– No ; I believe the PrimeMinister intended it to be serious. I should have thought, however, that in establishing a bank to enter into competition with other banks the Government would have taken care to choose a Governor for that institution without consideringthe convenience of its competitors. ThePrime Minister went on to say -
As to Queensland, the manifesto of the Government of that State was launched against the Commonwealth Government. The State
Ministers were travelling around denouncing the Commonwealth in every possible way ; and is it to be said -
This is the gist of the Prime Minister’s defence - that he was on official business in Queensland - that no ‘ Federal Minister was to go there and say a word on behalf of the National Government, because of a fear that it might be said he was going in his personal capacity.
Was it to be said that a Minister was not to go there and say a word on behalf of the National Parliament? That was the Prime Minister’s reason for drawing travelling allowances while he was in Queensland upholding, not the National Parliament or the Government of Australia in the abstract, but the popularity of his own Ministry in that State ! That was purely political business ! Honorable members opposite could not describe as purely official business the discussion of their own propaganda, or the putting forth of their own defence on any public question ; yet, while in Queensland, the Prime Minister was everywhere discussing the Denham Administration, and giving reasons why it should be displaced by his own friends.
– That was the most important work of all.
– Exactly. That was what he was there to do, and yet we are now told that he was entitled to draw from the Commonwealth Treasury 40s. a day for travelling expenses whilst he was doing this “ official “ work in Queensland. This, I think, is an irregularity, and honorable members when they consider it will realize that it ought not to be repeated.
The question of travelling allowances, now that it has been voiced both in regard to this and future Ministries, should be placed on a definite basis. We ought to know exactly what we are doing. If travelling expenses are to be granted merely to encourage Ministers to travel, it will mean that the Ministers will be paying themselves so much a day to travel away from their jobs. It will be jolly well worth while, so far as Ministers are concerned; but I do not think it would be a good thing for the country if the one man that stands as a link between the Parliament and any Public Departments is away from the only place - the Seat of Government - where he can control the policy of his Department. I do not wish to go through the whole list, although there are other irregularities.- For instance, there is the case of a Minister who travelled in Tasmania on electoral business advocating the claims of his own party.
– That is absolutely untrue.
– Order !
– The honorable member, I am sure, does not mean to be offensive; he means to say that the statement is inaccurate. I have seen reports of speeches made by the Postmaster-General while in Tasmania, and there is no man in Hobart -which is in the honorable member’s constituency - who does not know that the Postmaster- General was engaged in making; party speeches there.
– Did the honorable member’s leader draw anything for expenses while Prime Minister”?
– I think he drew expenses while in England, but refunded alarge proportion.
– Did he not make a refund quite recently?
– A refund, I think, of £1 16s.
– Of which, however, he was not aware.
– Quite so. Evidently, my honorable friends want the gloves to beoff. If they desire me to go into details - a course which I personally deprecate - by all means let us go into them. When, we look at this list we find that everything, went merrily - that travelling allowances were being drawn merrily - until the middle of May last, when in the electorate of Werriwa this question of Ministers’ travelling expenses when on unofficial business was first put forcibly before the electors. Ministers have since ceased drawing them.
– I sent in an account theother day.
– This return was published in Hansard on 8th August last, and it does not credit the Minister of ExternalAffairs with having drawn anything since 24th May. I find that the honorable gentleman drew £50 for expenses while in the Northern Territory, from the 8th Apriltill 1 8th May. I suggest, without any ill-feeling, that the Minister, in going to the Northern Territory, had not to make any financial sacrifice. His railway and steam-boat fares were paid; his salary went on all the time, both as a Minister and as a private member, and yet, on thistrip, during which everything was found for the party, it was thought to be worth the while of the Commonwealth to pay this Minister £50 to get him out of Melbourne for a few weeks.
– That was the case in regard to the trip to Port Augusta, in which the honorable member for Echuca took part, but it was not so in regard to the trip to the Northern Territory.
– Where is the honorable member for Echuca? An honorable member says that this is a very paltry matter; but, while the amounts drawn are not large, the principle involved is an important one. I find that the amounts drawn up to the date of this return were comparatively small. The Prime Minister drew £28, the Minister of External Affairs £50, the Minister of Defence £36 5s., the Minister of Trade and Customs £,<sp, the Minister of Home Affairs .£25, and the Postmaster-General £80. The Honorary Ministers are also on the list during most of the time covered by the return; but it is only fair to say that Honorary Ministers ought to be more leniently considered, and I am not haggling over the amounts they have received. The amounts are very small ; but when a man is travelling around advocating the claims of his own party, he should not be drawing expenses out of the Commonwealth Treasury.
– The honorable member said that the £1 16s. drawn by his leader, and refunded, was not worth considering because it was so small. Was not the principle involved the same?
– My leader) when he drew expenses, was not travelling to advocate any party question.
– He thinks that the amount was in connexion with some taxicabs, and that he ought to have been charged with it at the time, and was not, so that the fault was not his.
– But the honorable member for Wentworth has said that, although the amount is small in these cases, the principle is important.
– What does the honorable member say of lawyers who draw fat fees while practising in the Courts instead of attending to their duties in Parliament?
– The fattest fees are drawn by men like Comrade Sutch.
– If the honorable member is going to start his dirty work he will get some in return.
– I am not afraid of anything in return for what I say.
– The honorable member is only trying to rake up dirt. He is not speaking in the interests of the country.
– And this is the return for being moderate in placing one’s views before the Committee ! I put simply the bare facts, and I am not going to be deterred by bluff or anything of the sort. It is the bare fact that these allowances were to be taken only when travelling on official business. I should not care what Government was in power - I say that no travelling allowance should be paid to a Minister who is going round the country on his own party business. I regret having to bring this matter forward. I did not know that the honorable member for Echuca intended to bring it up this afternoon, but when he did he was made the subject of a savage attack, and I thought it necessary, in reply, to put the matter clearly before the Committee and the country.
– The honorable member thought it necessary to make a savage attack in return.
– I appeal to any honorable member of the Opposition to say whether I have made a savage attack on any one. I put the bare facts, and it is not my fault that they are- inconvenient to honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Corangamite said that the honorable member for Echuca was raking up dirt. Was it his fault that the material was of that character? It is our duty to draw the light of criticism on all the actions of Ministers in their official capacity.
– And on the actions of private members also.
– Certainly; in respect of anything that a member does in his officialcapacity which is not in the interests of -the country. I have no objection to that principle. Now that I’ have ventilated this matter, I sincerely trust that the Government will see that some definite arrangement is made with regard to the travelling allowances of Ministers, so that this House and the country may know exactly where we stand.
., -I intend to support this item, because I believe that in travelling round the country Ministers have done excellent work. The honorable member for Wentworth has just referred to the Postmaster-General’s visit to the Denison electorate, which I have the honour to represent. What did he do> there? He came over at my personal request. I saw how invaluable it would be to Denison in particular, and to Tasmania in general, if we could secure a visit from him. He came there, and for what purpose? To open the wireless telegraph station - a station which has proved itself invaluable, not only to the city of Hobart and the people of Tasmania, but to the whole of Australia. Since its opening we have been able to. pick up vessels four or five days prior to their arrival in Hobart - vessels from Africa, which hitherto have been unable to communicate with Australia during the three weeks of their voyage from that country. The result has been that the fruit-growers of Tasmania, and the people generally, know almost to within a few minutes the time at which these vessels will reach port. The Minister came to Tasmania and opened the wireless telegraph station, which has proved of immense benefit to the community. I had also the honour of introducing to him a deputation from the Chamber of Commerce, and that deputation obtained more from him than it obtained from any of his predecessors.
– What did it get?
Mr.LAIRD SMITH.- It obtained improvements in the mail service and in the Hobart Post-office, and the Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, Mr. W. M. Williams, in thanking the PostmasterGeneral for receiving it, eulogized the Government for the good work done in providing a wireless station and an improved mail service.
– And he is a Liberal.
– He is a Liberal and the Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce. I also represented to the PostmasterGeneral how essential it was that a number of small fruit-growers should be connected by telephone with the main exchange in Hobart.
– I presume that the honorable gentleman is going to connect his remarks with the question before the Chair ?
– I am replying to the honorable member for Wentworth, and intend to connect my remarks with the question of the travelling allowances of Ministers. I wish to show that every shilling which was drawn by the PostmasterGeneral on the occasion of his visit to Tasmania was money well spent. It is deplorable that, for platform purposes, men who have been long in this Parliament should descend to bitter criticism of the paltry sum of £250, which has been drawn by Ministers whilst travelling over the Commonwealth for the purpose of ascertaining its requirements. For years, the fruitgrowers of Tasmania had been seeking assistance from the Commonwealth. But they had received none from previous Administrations. Why? Simply because Ministers did not travel. They had no knowledge of Australia outside of Melbourne. In distant States they were never seen. Why? Simply because they could not afford to travel upon the paltry salary which they received. Now that they draw a travelling allowance, they cannot be excused for remaining in Melbourne. What had the settlers to whom I have referred, who are the backbone of the country - the men who keep the great machine working in every city throughout the Commonwealth - received ?
-Could not the PostmasterGeneral have gone over-
– I have no time for the interruptions of the honorable member. He is not now on a twopennyhalfpenny platform in his own electorate. He is in the Commonwealth Parliament, and he ought to realize that his platform interjections have no effect upon me.
– I am crushed.
– These fruitgrowers, instead of having to leave their orchards after they have done a hard day’s work, are now in communication with the fruit merchants and with the shipping companies, with the result that they know precisely when to take their fruit down to the ship. They thus save time and labour for the smallest sum that is paid by any people for a similar service in any part of the world.
– What has this to do with Ministers’ travelling allowances?
– I am showing that the money drawn by Ministers has been well spent. I venture to say that had the Postmaster-General not seen for himself
– Could he not have gone to Tasmania without drawing a travelling allowance?
– My time is too valuable to be taken up in replying to interjections by the honorable member. Had not the Postmaster-General seen for himself how essential it was that these persons should be granted facilities to communicate with the fruit merchants, I venture to say that they would never haveobtained them. In addition, we are experiencing serious trouble in the Postal Department there, and for the first time a body of employes were allowed to enter the august presence of a Minister to ventilate their grievances. They have not been able to get within miles of the PostmasterGeneral in previous Administrations. For the first time the Postmaster -General met a deputation of postal employes, which was introduced by myself. Under the old regime, had those men attempted to get a politician to introduce a deputation to the Postmaster-General, I venture to say that he would have scarcely left the shores of Tasmania before every one of them would have been officially passed out of existence.
– A disgraceful thing to say.
– Their bodies and souls were not their own. I know that from twenty years’ experience. Under the old regime one dare not say which side he was on. We had no political freedom.
– Absolutely untrue.
– What do we find ? We find that these men-
– I rise to order.
– I know that the honorable member does not like it.
– On the contrary, I regard it as comedy.I would like to know if the honorable member is in order in endeavouring to connect a number of officials with the question of Ministerial allowances?
– I realize that you, sir, are quite capable of conducting the business of this Chamber without the assistance of the honorable member. Immediately thatyou call me to order I shall obey your ruling. But I intend to connect my remarks with the question of the travelling allowances which are granted to Ministers. Every word that I have uttered is true, and can be borne out by persons in Tasmania. In the words of a great writer, we have liberty to answer and to argue according to conscience, which is, above all, liberty. We have that liberty to-day, and what do we find ? The Opposition are endeavouring to curry favour with-
– Order !
– I intend to connect my remarks with the question before the Chair. I have no desire to make any statement which I cannot prove. ‘The proof of my assertion is to be found in the fact that, while the Postmaster-General was receiving an allowance of 25s. per day, he did not object to receive a deputation of public servants who desired to place their grievances before him. Surely there is nothing in these travelling allowances to warrant members of the Opposition using the terms which have been used by them - terms which are most uncharitable and unfair. The honorable member for Wentworth is too much of a gentleman to employ the language which was employed by the honorable member for Echuca, who, I regret to say, used terms which no other honorable member would employ.
An Honorable Member. - Did he use bad language?
– He implied that, in accepting these travelling allowances, Ministers were doing a dishonorable thing. I wish the country to know that Ministers have been paid the paltry sum of £250 for travelling all over Australia. Then the Prime Minister visited the Denison electorate purely on private business, and did not accept any travelling allowance whatever. But did he refuse on that occasion to receive a deputation which I was askedto introduce to him in regard to the Tasmanian grant? Certainly not. He received it in the most courteous way, with the result that the other day we obtained for Tasmania a grant of . £500,000, which, to me, was very acceptable, even if it was not acceptable to honorable members opposite. I have made these few remarks for the purpose of showing why I intend to support the payment of the paltry sum of . £250 to Ministers by way of travelling allowances.
– This question has already been debated on four or five occasions during the current session, and I regret to say that, in my opinion, the dignity of this Parliament has been lowered by its discussion. There should be a fixed item for the travelling expenses of each Minister. An estimate of the amount needed could easily be made, based on the present scale, or, if necessary, on a higher scale. For an honorable member, as was done earlier in the day, to suggest that Ministers of the Crown are not men of honour is to lower the dignity of the House.
– That is practically what was said.
– No other inference could be drawn from the words used. It was suggested that Ministers had engaged in electioneering in Queensland and in Tasmania, and had drawn travelling expenses for visiting those States for that purpose; but we have been told by Ministers themselves that it is not so, and I accept the statement. If honorable members opposite decline to do the same, it is their affair. I imagine that a Minister has always some business awaiting attention in one of the capitals, and it would be quite possible for him to be engaged all the morning and part of the afternoon in a conference with a State Minister, or in an inquiry into departmental business, and still have time at night for electioneering. In such a case the Minister would be allowed his travelling expenses, not because he was electioneering, but because he was travelling on official business, which he would have to do whether he were electioneering or not. I do not know that what I have spoken of has actually occurred, but it is what would occur in my own case, and I attribute to others conduct similar to my own. I decline to brand Ministers as not being men of honour. They have told us that the expenses that they have charged have been fairly and squarely earned by travelling on public business, and I believe them. The late John Bright said that there was a residuum everywhere, even in the House of Lords, where there were men bankrupt in pocket and in honour. There will always be a residuum even in the Commonwealth Parliament - men ready to make party capital of anything, using a matter like this under discussion for mean and contemptible purposes.
– Is the honorable member in order in reflecting upon members of the Committee, and attributing to them the lowest possible motives?
– He is not in order in attributing improper motives.
– I have not attributed motives ; I have merely applied to the Commonwealth Parliament what John Bright said of the House of Lords. There is the possibility that there will always be at least one member ready to scrape up matters of this kind, to use them for party purposes. Discussions of this kind lower the “dignity of Parliament, and it is our business to prevent them. A Frenchman - I think, Rabelais - said, “ Defend me from the man who peeps out of a hole.” Ministers, and all of us, need protection from such a man. Undoubtedly, the impression of the public was that put by the honorable member for Wentworth, that the £400 given to Ministers as a parliamentary allowance was to cover travelling expenses. As a new member, I do not know what the arrangement made by the earlier Parliaments was. If Ministers are to have travel ling allowances, an amount should be provided for each of them - £40, £50, £60, or whatever is required. I refuse to believe that Ministers would take from the Treasury money they had not earned by travelling on official business. If this item is brought forward in the next Parliament, I shall oppose it. I do not object to Ministers getting travelling allowances, but I object to opportunity being given for the sort of thing we have seen to-day. The man who drags these matters forward, does not do so for patriotic motives, or, if he does, it shows what his standard of patriotism is. I do not want a repetition of this debate, and Ministers should see that the opportunity for it does not recur.
– It is refreshing to hear the protest of honorable members opposite. It goes without saying that all dignity, good behaviour, and proper bearing are inherent in them, and it was unnecessary to point out how rude, plebeian, and uncultivated are their opponents. Had the honorable member for Hindmarsh been in the last Parliament, when a set of wild bashibazouks occupied these benches, I should like to know what he would have said then.
– I am not responsible for what happened in the last Parliament, but I am partly responsible for what happens in this.
– Ever since the Government took office we have heard about nothing else than the dignity and proper behaviour of Ministers and their supporters ; but methinks -they protest too much. I agree with the honorable member that it is time that the question of travelling expenses was settled on a proper basis, though I repudiate the suggestion of the honorable member for Denison that Ministers will not travel unless paid to do so.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member said that they would not have been travelling in Tasmania as they did had not their expenses been paid.
– I said that other Ministers did not travel, and that Ministers whose expenses are paid have no excuse for not doing so.
– Other Ministers did travel, although their expenses were not paid for them. I travelled all over Australia with Lord Kitchener for a period of about six weeks, although I received no allowance.
– The honorable member for Ballarat was in Tasmania more than once, and so was the right honorable mem<ber for Swan.
– I am beginning to think lately that we were a set of fools in the last Government. We had the oldfashioned notion that we ought to protect the people’s pockets in every way, and when we had to cross the city on Governanent business we paid for the cabs that we used. We were fools to do so, and the people did not thank us for doing it.
– There are three Government motors now.
– This Gove’rnanent have bought motors, and I hope that we shall have the privilege of using them some day. The Minister of External Affairs nearly ran over me with his one -day.
– I have not a motor car. I wish I had.
– The Minister was riding in a motor car. I do not say that it was his own, but it was a Ministerial car.
– There is not a car belonging to my Department.
– We were foolish enough to pay for- our own travelling, and the people did not thank us for :it. I make no complaint about the change that has been introduced by the present Ministers. One thing that they have done well is to uphold the dignity of Labour. Whatever else they may have left undone, they have upheld their dignity in a way that other Ministers have not. It has been the same all through the piece. They have believed in treating themselves liberally, and in doing things properly.
– Spartan simplicity is the motto over here.
– Then our motto must have been absolute, ineffable meanness. _ No matter how we gloss it over, there is a great difference in these respects between this Government and any preceding Government. The matter of 36s. credited to the Leader of the Opposition has been commented on several times to-night; but my belief is that no one was more surprised than that honorable gentleman himself to find this sum opposite his name, and he no sooner discovered it than he discharged the obligation at once. This money was evidently for a taxi-cab, or something of that sort ; and had the Leader of the Opposition been aware of the debt, it would have been paid before.
– According to the honorable member, taxi-cabs .may have been used by members of the late Government and paid for out of public funds. How does that argument apply?
– The idea is that the Secretary of the Leader of the Opposition had charged this cab, or whatever it was, to public funds when he ought not to have done so. My opinion is that the Leader of the Opposition should not have paid the money back ; but he did so, and we all know how very punctilious he is in all such matters. Whenever he has gone to London on behalf of the Commonwealth, I believe it has cost just about half as much as, for instance, any trip of the present Prime Minister. However, other men, other ways, other tastes, and other ideas as to what the dignity of the position requires. It would be better, from all points of view, if a certain definite sum were allocated to Ministers to disburse amongst themselves as they pleased.
– Is not the present system the same as that adopted in the States when the honorable member was a Minister ?
– It was not the same as this.
– At that time, State Ministers, when on official business in New South Wales, drew two guineas, and the Premier three guineas.
– I do not know what the Premier drew, but Ministers received two guineas a day.
– We get only 25s.
– My opinion is that the amount is too small; but, on the other hand, we have to recollect that it was we.Il understood, in the early days of Federation, and definitely decided on the floor of the House, that such expenses would not be paid; and, on the faith of that, Ministers, in addition to their statutory salaries, were given the ,£400 a year paid to private members.
– Surely there is some difference in the work of Ministers now.
– I do not think that the difference in the work affects the principle one iota. There having been an undertaking of the sort made on the floor of the House, there should have been a vote of the House before any change was made.
– There has since been another . undertaking on the floor of the House to pay travelling allowances.
– We cannot call that a decision.
– It was a decision of the House. ‘
– Much has been said about the good1 Ministers have done by travelling about Australia, but that is not the point of the honorable member for Echuca; the point is that these allowances have been paid to Ministers for doing work connected with their own party advantage. Ministers have paid themselves these moneys in circumstances under which they told the House definitely they would not take them.
– Does the honorable member believe that Ministers have done so ?
– I do believe it - I am unable to’ escape the belief.
– The honorable member doubts their word?
– Will the honorable member tell me what Departmental engagements the Vice-President of the Executive Council was fulfilling when he was addressing meetings every day on behalf of the Labour party throughout Queensland ?
– Will the honorable member say that the Vice-President of the Executive Council did not then perform any Executive or Cabinet duties ?
– I should say not. I should think not. Will the honorable member show me what the VicePresident of the Executive Council could have done up there? It is no use quibbling in this way. I do not wish to probe this matter ; it is the honorable member who insists on doing so. Every day the VicePresident of the Executive Council was away, from the time he left until he came back, he drew the allowance. The Prime Minister did exempt five or seven days that he was in his electorate ; but no reductions were made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. I cannot bring myself to believe that, for twenty-three days, that honorable gentleman was discharging purely departmental functions.
– I dare say the honorable member would do the same if he were a Minister.
– As I say, what ought to be done is to vote a sum, and allow Ministers to spend it how they please.
– Does the honorable member mean a lump sum to each Minister, whether he travels or not?
– I think the Government are doing the right thing to place this sum on the Estimates now. I hope the amount is enough; but there ought to be no more of this investigation of what Ministers are doing when they are engaged inthe various States. All this discussion arises out of the definite’ undertaking given by the Prim’e Minister on the floor of the House. It is no use trying to impugn the honour of the honorable member for Echuca ; he is impugning the honour of the Prime Minister, who gave the House anundertaking that neither he nor Ministerswould draw expenses when engaged onpolitical party duty.
– The honorable member thinks that the Prime Minister has been dishonorable in the matter ? There is no other deduction.
– I desire to say that I think that Ministers did step over the line a little. If the honorable member will insist on putting the matter in this offensive way, I cannot help it.
– It is not a matter of “ cannot helping “ - the honorable member will get something back directly I
– I do not care what I get back. The honorable member can make himself easy on that score.
– I know the honorable member is an old enough politician to have a hide like a rhinoceros.
– I am here tosay what I think. The course that Ministers are now taking is a proper one,, which will obviate criticism of this sortIt is of no use for honorable members todeny what has been said about the matter. The facts are clear that this money was taken while Ministers were addressing political gatherings, in various parts of Australia, quite contrary to the undertaking of the Prime Minister that Ministersshould not draw expenses while so engaged.
– They were doing public duty as well ; I have no doubt of that.
– The honorable member would have no doubt about anything that these Ministers did.
– I would as soon trust them as I would trust any one.
– The honorable member would sooner trust them than me, I have no doubt.
– If a man gave me his word, I generally would take it.
– It does not matter what the honorable member does in the way of making comparisons, odious, insulting, or otherwise. I hope that we shall hear no more of this sort of thing, and that we shall vote a sum to Ministers, leaving it to their honour and conscience as to how and under what circumstances it is spent. The only important point that has been made in this debate is that the Prime Minister gave an undertaking that was not acted upon in connexion with certain political proceedings in the northern part of Australia. I am not concerned with the suggestion that other Ministers have not travelled. They have. The honorable member for Denison knows nothing about what other Ministers have done, or he would not have libelled them in that way. Could there be a more offensive or unnecessary statement than to say that other Ministers would not receive deputations of Commonwealth employes?
– Nobody said such a thing.
– The honorable member did ; and he also said that if Commonwealth employes had approached a previous Minister introduced by a politician, they would have “ got the boot.” That, I think, was the expression which he employed. The honorable member maligns other Ministers when he makes a statement of that sort. Previous Ministers were just as honorable, just as conscientious, and just as sympathetic to Commonwealth employes as these Ministers are, and they did their best for the public servants under greater difficulties and more stringent conditions than those in which present Ministers have had to do their duty.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– Of course it is ; and I am giving the Committee my opinion. There have been previous PostmastersGeneral who have been quite as conscientious, able, and sympathetic to employes as Ministers in the present Government could possibly be. I venture to say that other honorable members who have been here longer than the honorable member for Denison will bear out what I say.
– I happen to have been one of the workers.
– What has the honorable member to say about the matter, then ?
– I could not call my soul my own.
– I do not think that other Ministers have refused to see deputations of employes.
– No other Minister that I ever knew refused to receive deputations of employes. I received plenty of them. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro received deputations continually, was constantly travelling about Australia, and was always open to see those who wanted to have interviews with him. The Postmaster-General who succeeded him, Mr. Mauger, did the same. They inaugurated the system which obtains now, of employes going to the Minister. The honorable member for Denison libels these men when he uses such expressions .as he has employed.
– Was one of those deputations ever introduced by a member of Parliament?
– I should think so. There was no reason why they should not -have been.
– I do not think they were.
– I cannot definitely answer the question but I have no doubt that some of the deputations were introduced by members of Parliament. Whether they were or were not, however, does not make any difference. The point is that Ministers were always open to receive deputations whenever employes liked to avail themselves in a reasonable way of their opportunities. No more is done now, and no more could be done, in my opinion.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 12 (Executive Council), £166, agreed to.
– “The Auditor-General has reported twice in two years to the Prime Minister animadverting upon the way in which the Treasurer’s accounts have been presented to him, and complaining that, owing to the lateness of the time when these accounts were presented, his audit has been incomplete and less interesting than it otherwise would have been. Moreover, the Auditor-General has pointed out that he has been unable to report to this Parliament at all, but has had to report direct to the
Prime Minister, with a view of having his report published in the Commonwealth Gazette.
– That is to say, Parliament had risen before the Auditor-General’s report was issued.
– Parliament had risen months before the accounts were presented to him. In one case, the accounts were not presented to the Auditor-General until March, and in the next year not until April, that is nine months in the one case and ten months in the succeeding year after the close of the financial year. Consequently, his audit was less valuable than it should have been.
– The Auditor-General did not suggest that there was anything the matter with the accounts.
– No, but his audit is of very little value unless his report can come before this Parliament for discussion, if need be, while we are in session. I do not know what the relations between the Treasurer and the AuditorGeneral are. The right honorable member stoutly denied the other night that the Auditor-General had made any comment at all until we produced the report and showed him that adverse comments had been made. Surely his attention ought to have been called to an important circumstance of that kind? It makes me wonder whether the Auditor-General’s office ought to be under the Prime Minister, if this kind of thing can go on. It is a very serious matter.
– What would there be for an Opposition to do if I anticipated everything ?
– There would not be anything for an Opposition to do if everything was right ; but this is too serious a matter to be laughed off. If the Treasurer of the Commonwealth does not see the Auditor-General’s reports, of what value are they? He is the very man who ought to see them. They are reports which concern his Department. If he is not to see them, we may very well question their value, and ask why we should keep this huge office going. If it is so useless and formal a thing, why pay all these huge salaries, and place the Auditor-General in an independent position to report. He has pointed out that, owing to the conduct of the Treasury - I do not say the Treasurer - he cannot get the accounts in time to make them useful for the purposes of effective audit.
– That is not the way to put his statement. What he says is that his report is of less value than it would otherwise be.
– The annual balance-sheet of a banking institution or company is always accompanied by the certificate of the auditors that the accounts have been audited and found to be in proper order. No such audit takes place in connexion with the Federal accounts until a time when it is of very little use. The point is that the new year’s accounts are on us before we get the accounts for the old year audited. If there is some inherent intricacy in the Federal accounts we should be made aware of it. The Treasurer should make some reply to the Auditor-General’s adverse criticism, because it is about as severe as an officer in his position could possibly make it.
– In 1909 we were asked to pass accounts that had been paid twelve months previously.
– I have only to say that the Auditor-General points out that his eight previous reports were always presented in good time. It is only since this Government came into office - since the new order of things, when everything is proper, well ordered, and dignified - that the Auditor-General finds that his audit is being rendered of very little value because he cannot get the accounts in time to audit them. He properly mentions the matter, because it is certainly a very serious situation when we cannot, from time to time, get a quick and effective audit of the national accounts.
– The honorable member was good enough to raise this question some time ago. It is a fact that the Auditor-General stated that, owing to the lateness of the arrival of the accounts for 1909-10, his report was delayed until Parliament had been prorogued. The Treasury can only point out, in reply, that the Auditor-General did not mean anything more than that the accounts were found to be accurately kept in every respect, but that his report was of less value than it would otherwise have been, since it could not be brought before honorable members whilst Parliament was in session. The Treasury is not by any means over-staffed, but I have given orders that every effort shall be made to bring the accounts before the Auditor-General at the earliest time possible. It is not, and never was, suggested that anything more than delay, and a consequent lessened utility as far as the Auditor-General’s report is concerned, has arisen.
– The audit, as an audit, is quite effective?
– Yes. The accounts, as balanced before the Estimates were brought down, were attested by the AuditorGeneral as true and correct, but his report was delayed. It is only reasonable that we should try to expedite the presentation of the accounts to the Auditor-General to enable him to present his report as early as possible, and that is .being done. Honorable members will realize that up to 1909 very little was being done by the Commonwealth. We really launched into our national existence in 1910-11. It is, therefore, more difficult than it was to get the mass of complicated accounts promptly before the Auditor-General, but the work is being done as expeditiously as possible by the Department at the present time.
Proposed vote agreed to.
.- I take it that on this division we shall be able to discuss the Public Service Commissioner’s Department generally, and I regret that we should have reached it so late in the evening. That, of course, is not the fault of the Treasurer ; but perhaps he will be prepared to report progress.
– I desire to finish the Estimates of this Department to-night.
– Whether we view it from the point of view of the Department or of the officers, the whole structure of the present system is the reverse of efficient. From the departmental point of view, we find, first of all, that in every Department there are a vast number of officers, and that the head of the Department is not in a position of complete authority over the men under his authority. I do not wish to discuss the matter at length, but I should like it to receive more serious consideration than we can hope to give it after a twelve hours’ sitting. It is a matter of enormous importance to every public Department that, so far as you can with justice to the employes arrive at it, each departmental head should be responsible for the officers under him, and for their discipline and regulation. I am not sure, now that we have the arbitration system, not altogether in full working order, but, at all events) in its initial stages, in operation in connexion with the Public Service, that the Public Service Commissioner’s Department is altogether necessary. The Public Service Commissioner’s Department was primarily intended to give fair wages and conditions to the employes in all Departments; but we have now, in addition, partially made available to the Public Service the Arbitration Court system. For the Public Service Commissioner in the first place lays down certain definite scales and conditions, and if pub. lie servants regard these as unsatisfactory they can appeal to the Court. I am beginning to wonder why they should not go to the Court in the first place, and why the head of each Department should not be responsible for all the men under his own control. You wipe out just one of the interlocutory processes that we have In the structure of Federal administration interdepartmentally. This is a matter well worthy the consideration of the Minister. There is not a Minister who has ever served in a great Department that does not realize to a certain extent the futility of the present system. He cannot do what he pleases with the men who are under him. If a man is running a big business, does not he wish to have his hand on the control of that business? Under the existing system, we have a Public Service Commissioner.’ Under the old system, he was intended to take the place of the Arbitration Court. With what success he did so may be gathered from the dissatisfaction which exists in our Public Service. Now an appeal from his decision has been provided. Why not take our courage in our hands, and allow the Arbitration Court to determine the wages and conditions of employment which shall obtain in our Public Service, whilst permitting each departmental Head to be responsible for the control of the officers under him? It seems to me that that would be a much simpler method of procedure. This is a principle sufficiently important to warrant it being tested in a full Committee. I do not like to suggest that we have been sitting a long time- _
– I do not think there is anything in this Department which is challengeable.
– I am suggesting that we might simplify the whole structure of Federal administration, and at the same time give our public servants a better deal than they get under the existing system.
At the present time, the Public Service Commissioner is a sort of Czar, and if our public servants wish to appeal from his decision they must do so with their own money, and in their own time. They must appeal from the decision of a Czar, who has all the resources of the Government behind him. This seems to me about as big an administrative problem as any with which we have yet been asked to deal. There are one or two matters connected with- it which’ are worthy of attention. We constantly find that things are happening which, in our immature reasonableness, we cannot appreciate. For instance, why on earth should marriage in the Public Service of the Commonwealth be penalized? If a female employe, after serving the statutory term which entitles her to furlough, retires to get married, she is deprived of her furlough, and can obtain only married leave. I brought an instance of this kind under the ‘ attention of the Public Service Commissioner, and afterwards of the Postmaster-General. In that case a lady had given the Postal Department exemplary service for twenty years. In our Public Service Act this Parliament has laid down the principle that every public servant, at the end of twenty years of good service, shall be entitled to six months’ leave of absence on full pay.
– For the purpose of recuperating his or her health - not of opening a business.
– If a man in the Commonwealth Public Service goes on furlough after twenty years, and then retires, he is paid for the six months during which he is on furlough. But when a woman, at the end of twenty years’ service, wants to marry, she is docked of the right to furlough, given three months’ marriage leave, and then sent out of the Service. We have heard a lot of talk on the public platform about the action of certain financial institutions in discouraging marriage, and I hope that we shall hear more of it, if there is justification for the statements that have been made, because such action is antisocial, and against the public interest; but this Parliament should be the last to throw Stones at private institutions, in view of the way in which it treats its women employes. There ought to be absolute equality of treatment as regards the sexes. When a woman has served twenty years, she should be allowed six months’ furlough, just as a man is. It is absurd to suggest that the fur lough is given to enable the officer to return to the treadmill when his faded or damaged energies have been restored.
– A man is not allowed to do private work while on furlough.
– If a man marries when on furlough, he is not docked of his leave. Why, then, should a woman be docked of her leave when she marries? As every humane employer does, we give leave on full pay for sickness, and a yearly holiday on a scale more generous than obtains in most services, to enable our officers to keep in the pink of physical condition, recognising that we must treat them well to getgood service from them1. But the Czar has decided, apparently, that, although Parliament gave a moral right to furlough, no legal right has been given, and that men and women are not to be treated alike in this matter.
– No distinction is made between them.
– I have given a concrete instance. The fact that the honorable member fails to follow me shows the reasonableness of my suggestion that we should adjourn.
– When did the case occur?
– From memory, it came under my notice about a year ago. Obviously it would not be proper to mention any names, but I can furnish the Minister with copies of the papers to-morrow.
– Under an Act of Parliament, an officer who . has served twenty years, whether man or woman, can obtain six months’ leave of absence on full pay.
– And then retire?
– That is not the position taken up by the Czar and his Department. I do not attack the Public Service Commissioner, but the system, for he is doing what he can to meet the difficulties of administering the Service. I shall be glad if some one will get the papers for me from my box.
– Does not the honorable member know that we have passed an Act ?
– The Acts are bound up in the volumes on the table. I am as certain of my facts as the Minister was that he would pass his Northern Territory Lands Ordinance.
– I have just seen the Public Service Inspector.
– I am glad to know that that officer is here, because the Minister can inform himself on a further point. I was told during last recess that when a female public servant gets married it is customary to dispense with her services. Will the Minister deny that?
– I have now a copy of the papers to which I referred. The application for furlough was made on the 5th February, 191 1.
– An Act of Parliament dealing with the matter has been passed since then.
– The ex- PostmasterGeneral has just admitted that the present practice in the Postal Department is that, the moment a woman marries, her services are dispensed with.
– That is another thing altogether ; we are not talking about that.
– I am giving one instance of the inequality between the sexes in the Department, dealing primarily with the discouragement to marry ; and I am told by the ex- Postmaster-General that this is another thing altogether, in fact, quite foreign. Here is a regulation so sweeping in character that it completely establishes my case, without it being necessary to refer to these papers. I think that there ought to be absolute equality between the sexes in any public Department.
– I think that there is now.
– The exPostmasterGeneral has said that there is not. In this particular case, I should like the Postmaster-General to make the principle of his Bill retrospective, so as to enable this public servant to be given what she was morally entitled to, and that was the equivalent of the six months’ leave, three months of which she was deprived of because she got married. That is, I think, a fair request.
– She gets it now.
– How far would you go back - to the establishment of Federation ?
– I would make the Bill retrospective in any case where this invidious distinction has been drawn between the sexes. I am not aware that this Parliament has ever recommended this differential treatment. If it has been made, I should like to know where it has been made. Can any Minister, or any honorable member opposite, tell me where it has been laid down that a woman shall be fired from the Public Service the moment she gets married ?
– On what date did she retire?
– As she put in her application on the 5th February, 191 1, I suppose that the date of retirement would be three months later.
– Too early.
– It is too early for the present case ; but the practice still remains.
– Do you say that a married woman should go out and work for her living ?
– Why should my honorable friends on the other side discourage marriage in the Public Service? They not only fired this woman out of the Public Service the moment she married, but deprived her of that to which she was entitled.
– Her husband should be able to keep her.
– This is a fine principle when it is appliedto the Public Service, but it is howled down when it is applied to any other form of life.
– Is not your time up ?
– I do not think that I have been speaking very long. I really would like some respect to be shown to the Public Service of Australia by honorable members opposite who are always attending their association banquets. This is the one chance in the year that we have of considering the legitimate grievances of the public servants ; but these Estimates are to be driven through at the end of an all-day sitting. I do not think that that is a decent way of treating the public servants, and I hope that they will “tumble” to it.
– They will “tumble” to you people to-night.
– I think that the Public Service will realize that an ounce of fact is worth a great deal of froth after an association dinner, and that when they see a party prepared to force through these Estimates, and prevent their legitimate grievances being ventilated in the National Parliament, simply to suit the convenience of the Minister, and to prove the insincerity of a party, they will be inclined to modify their views of the powers that be, if they have not already modified them very considerably. There are one or two matters in connexion with the Department of the Public Service Commissioner to which I wish to refer. This afternoon the honorable member for Parramatta referred to the big principle of having everybody in the Public Service put on the same basis so far as tenure, emoluments, and increments are concerned. This principle of having a few persons about the throne rewarded by the Minister, and all the other members of the Public Service, including the most poorly remunerated, placed at the disposal of the Commissioner, with an appeal at their own expense to the Arbitration Court, strikes me as inequitable and unreasonable, and not likely to command the respect of thinking persons. It seems to me that if we are to have a Public Service Commissioner, we ought to put everybody under him on the same basis as anybody’ else. Do not lei a few persons who are closely connected with the Minister be freed of the general supervision and control. Why should a man earning ?60 a year or a bit more in, perhaps, some underpaid office, be compelled to have his case heard under all the laborious processes of the present tangled system, while an officer who is on close and friendly terms with the Minister can get his increments whenever they are asked for?
-(Mr. W. Elliot Johnson). - Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I shall have to deal with the subject on another occasion.
.- When this matter was being discussed at an earlier stage, I had commenced to deal with the Prime Minister’s Estimates, and was referring to this particular item when he thought it was advisable to report progress.
– Is it not a fair thing to adjourn now? The consideration of these Estimates always takes a day.
– No, not after this “ stonewalling” by the honorable member for Wentworth.
– I rise to order. The Minister of Trade and Customs has just said that I was “stone-walling” all the time I was addressing the Committee just now. I ask that the remark, which is misleading, be withdrawn.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Minister was not in order, and I ask him to withdraw the remark.
– I regret very much, sir, having to withdraw the remark.
– I acceded to the request of the Prime Minister on that occasion, and did not proceed to discuss this matter, which to me is of more importance than any other item in the whole of the Estimates. I take it that I am likely to offend some honorable members if 1 attempt to deal to-night with the administration ot the Public Service, the conditions of public servants to-day, the differentiation between one section and another, the fixing of payment and conditions by Statute on the one hand, and by a Judicial Court or a Court of equity and good conscience on the other hand. The question as to whether this Department is necessary under present conditions is worthy of discussion. It grows by leaps and bounds, and now we find that an additional ?2,000 is required. I understand there is a proposal, if it has not already been carried into effect, that an additional inspector be appointed to take charge of arbitration matters. While introducing machinery to redress the grievances of public servants, we are building up a complicated machinery that is not in harmony with the machinery outside. Those who are not Government servants, having no parliamentary court of appeal, have to go to the Arbitration Court, where they meet their employers, without any intermediary in the shape of a Commissioner; and perhaps the greatest anomaly in the world in this connexion is found in the position presented in the case of our Public Service. We have a Commissioner charged with the selection of public servants, and yet he is not responsible for the efficiency of the Service he controls - power and responsibility are alienated in a manner that cannot insure success. I do not know what would have been the position in the Postal Service, for instance, had some other means of investigation not been found;’ and I venture to say that, had there not been a Royal Commission, the Estimates now under discussion would have been discussed by every honorable member. However, as it is, the Commissioner’s course has been made easy by the report of the Royal Commission, which he has very largely adopted. There are four points in regard to which he cannot see his way clear, and it is in regard to these that trouble has arisen. One of these points or recommendations is connected with postmasters; the second deals with the senior sorters, who were, for some reason, left out by the Commissioner ; the third has to do with the grievances of the men in Adelaide who are entitled, at least, to a hearing ; and the fourth deals with minor matters connected with a section of the General1. Division. The Commissioner has dealt already with over 150 of the recommendations of the Royal Commission; and all the trouble arises over a mere bagatelle as compared with the expenditure incurred. For instance, I deeply regret that the question of the payment of the forage allowance to postmen in New South Wales has not been settled. The Royal Commission had evidence put before it that these men have to find their own horses, shoe them, house them, and replace them on an allowance of 12s. a week; and it was clearly shown that this is a most inadequate amount. It was thought that the Public Service Commissioner would have acted on the recommendation of the Commission at once, or, at any rate, that the Government would have urged him to do so. An experienced man, and a Government official, has stated emphatically that, during the last few years, no horse could be fed alone at such a rate ; and yet such a matter of simple justice is not settled because the Commissioner, in his might, has deemed it wise to advise the Government to the contrary. The claim of the postmasters in regard to the payment of rent for their quarters is quite clear to me. All banking and other institutions, which employ men to live on the premises in order to safeguard valuable property, do not ask for. rent. These caretakers are the custodians of valuables, and in return for their services they are allowed the free use df the premises; and yet a matter of this kind, which might be settled at once, and should have been settled long ago, has been permitted to breed discontent in the Public Service. The senior sorters have evidently been overlooked by the Commissioner. That gentleman has thought it wise to get out of the storm by agreeing to give, at least, a modicum of justice to the large number of employes, but in the case of the smaller number he has held his hand. He seems to have a keen desire to appease irritation in the larger branches of the Service, with representative associations behind them, but not so in regard to the smaller section of the employes. In my judgment it would have been only fair on the part of the Government to take the matter into their own hands, as they have done in other directions. I thought that the creation of an Arbitration Court would have reduced the expenditure in the Public Service Commissioner’s Department, but such has not been the result. We cannot have two assessing bodies; arid if the Court undertakes the work in regard to great General Division of the Service, there is no need, when an award has been made for, say, five years, for any interference by the Commissioner. After that has been done, matters may be left to officers of the Department, who are best able to judge the capacity and qualifications of different men to proceed from stage to stage in the various Departments in which they are employed. The worst feature of the whole business is that we have created a differential system, and have made provision for class treatment. One section of the Service is protected by law. The minimum salaries and annual increments are fixed. by Statute, and the Public Service Commissioner has no work to do in connexion with them. All that is necessary is that records shall be kept, and this work may be done by a few clerks. Parliament has laid down what shall be done in connexion with the Clerical and Professional Branches of the Public Service. Then we have decided that officers of the General Division must go to the Arbitration Court for the settlement of their troubles. What, then, will the Public Service Commissioner have to do after the Arbitration Court has made its first award dealing with officers of the General Division? Still he seems to dominate everything, and our public servants seem to be unable to approach him as they should be able to do. If we are to have a contented Public Service, the members of it must be given facilities to have their grievances heard- The Government have been prepared to act upon the recommendations of a Commission that inquired into the facts, and, if they have been able to do that in the case of certain sections of the Public Service, why should they not do it in the case of all ? I am not here as a special pleader for the public servants, but I know that if we are to have a contented Service we must treat the members of it in a manner which will bring about contentment. I appeal to the Government to again consider the recommendations of the Postal Commission with respect to senior sorters and the rent allowance to postmasters. If they compare the salaries of the postmasters referred to with the salaries of railway servants and schoolmasters, they will find that there is an anomaly which might very well be rectified. They will see that some satisfaction should be given to men who have very heavy and responsible duties to perform in many of the post-offices of the Commonwealth. I shall have an opportunity to deal with the matter in a comprehensive way, I hope, before very long. I intend,, if possible, at a later date, to submit in a concrete form the main recommendations of the Postal Commission, covering the matters upon which all the rest depend. We may make concessions, raise minimum salaries, and improve conditions, but unless we alter the management of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, no Minister in charge of that Department will be able to administer it with satisfaction to himself or to this House. No Minister who has had control of the Department, even with the assistance to be obtained from the voluminous report and evidence submitted by the honorable members with whom I was associated on the Postal Commission, can say that he made a reputation in that Department. While a Minister allows the Public Service Commissioner, on the one hand, to tell him what to do, and afterwards receives different advice from the men at the head of the Department, he cannot expect that his management will give satisfaction to the public, the servants of the Department, or this House. The day will come when we shall be forced to reform the management of this great Service. We shall have to see whether we cannot get a greater degree of competency at the head of it, whether we cannot secure at the head of the Service men who are not merely automata who have grown up in a groove, but men with initiative and a desire to introduce reforms, and lift the Department out of the rut in which it has been driven for years by upholders of red-tape and circumlocution. This is too big a problem for me to deal with to-night, but I shall deal with it at a later period, when there will be a full opportunity to discuss the matter.
– Does the honorable member propose to deal with it this session ?
– The honorable member should know that that is impossible; but if I have the honour to be again returned to this House, I shall endeavour to do what I can to bring about the change which, in my judgment, is necessary for the successful working of this Service.
– I am sure that the Prime Minister will realize that there are many matters connected with so important a Department as that now under consideration, which honorable members would like to discuss, and I would ask him whether he is not now prepared to report progress?
– No; I want to get this vote through. We have still a lot of work to do. The matters referred to can be discussed in connexion with a Bill later on. This is not a very big Department to deal with at one sitting.
-I have only a few observations to make under the heading of the Public Service Commissioner. The object of Parliament in passing the Public Service Act and giving the Public Service Commissioner such very wide powers as are given him under that Statute, was to remove a large portion of the Service, as far as practicable, from political control. It was necessary to give the Public Service Commissioner these large powers, in order to enable him to carry out the responsible duties assigned to him by Parliament. 1 should be the last to offer any criticism in the form of an objection to the Public Service Commissioner, because of any acts he may have committed in the past, or on the ground of want of sympathy with any branch of the Public Service; but we have to recognise that, rightly or wrongly, there are public servants who feel that the departmental attitude towards them is not as sympathetic as it should be, in order to bring about that contentment which we want in the Service. A large section of the officers of the Postal Department who have attempted to approach the Public Service Commissioner with their troubles claim that they have not been treated with the sympathetic attention that their case deserves. As to whether that is a fact or not, I am not prepared, at this stage, to express an opinion. But’ I do say that, as a Parliament desirous to mete out even-handed justice to all sections of the Service, we are entitled to express our opinionto the effect that the Public Service Commissioner might at least give these officers an opportunity of appearing before him and having their cases heard. I know that the senior sorters in various States have been claiming to have their grievances attended to by the Commissioner, and I hope that he will see his way clear to give them some consideration.
– They will not get much out of him.
– At least, he might give them an opportunity of stating their case before him, and see whether some adjustment cannot be made in connexion with their pay and conditions.
– Did not the honorable member say that the Commissioner would not receive deputations?
– I did not say that he will not receive deputations, but there is a feeling abroad - if the Minister can allay it, I shall be glad - that there is some difficulty in getting to see the Commissioner and having a case adjudicated upon by him.
– Every conference held in Melbourne sends a deputation to the Commissioner.
– There is no difficulty in getting to see him.
– Not the slightest.
– Then there must be some misapprehension on the part of some public servants, who appear to think that they have not been able to approach the Public Service Commissioner.
– I think the difficulty is that they cannot get anything out of him when they do see him.
– Perhaps they have not put their case as strongly as they might have done.
– Has the honorable member compared the figures as to the way in which postal officials were treated in South Australia before Federation and now?
– That is not the question. Other officers have had their salaries raised, and these men have not.
– The Minister, no doubt, looks at the matter from a different point of view from those who have been knocking at the door of the Public Service Commissioner, and have been unable to get their working conditions and pay improved.
– I am talking now of the sorters.
– Whether their case is a good one or not, I am not in a position to say to-night. All that I do say is that there is no section of the Public Service which ought not to be able to have its case heard and finally settled. If the Commissioner is in a position to say that the claims made have been adjudicated upon, he must take the responsibility. The members of the Service have two alternatives - either to accept his verdict, or to appeal to the Arbitration Court for public servants created last year. MayI be permitted to say, as regards that alternative, that, whilst the members of the Service have been afforded this option of getting to the Court. I do not think that we shall soon have to devise means for simplifying the methods of that tribunal. It may he easy enough to get into the Court, but there is some amount of difficulty in get ting out of it; and the various branches of the Public Service feel that, in order to have their cases adjudicated upon by that tribunal, it is necessary for them to be in a position to put up a substantial amount of money. I do not know whether that is correct or not; but I do know that there is a great amount of hesitation on the part of various sections of the Public Service to seek the alternative of appealing to the Public Service Arbitration Court as against the judgment of the Public Service Commissioner. It seems to me that we shall have to devise means by which the various branches of the Service will have an opportunity of going to the Arbitration Court in an inexpensive manner, having their cases heard, and being able to get out of the Court without much delay and expense. There is a case now before the Court in connexion with the mechanical side of the Post and Telegraph Department. The case has been under consideration for a considerable time, andI understand that there is no possibility of judgment being delivered during the present year. By this time the officers concerned are in a considerable amount of doubt as to what their actual position is likely to be. Naturally, other branches of the Service are deterred from seeking the protection and guidance of the Arbitration Court when they see cases occupying such a long time, the result, of course, being in doubt in the meanwhile. I put it to the Government that if they are to make the appeal from the Public Service Commissioner popular, in the sense that the members of the Public Service will feel that they have a fair opportunity of having their claims heard by this Court, every effort will have to be made to simplify the procedure of getting into the Court in the first place, and of obtaining a decision with the least possible delay.
. -I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether he has yet received a copy of the report which the Public Service Act requires the Public Service Commissioner to present to Parliament each year? We are placed at a very great disadvantage in having to deal with the Estimates of the Public Service Commissioner, and not having before us his report upon the working of the Department under his control during the preceding year.
– The report is not yet available.
– The idea of having a Public Service Commissioner was to place our Departments entirely outside political patronage, and under the control of a qualified responsible officer. For a knowledge of the working of the Departments and of the Act we have, of course, to depend upon reports from the Commissioner. It will be interesting for the Prime Minister to inform us to what extent the Government have taken into consideration the various problems raised by the Public Service Commissioner, and how they intend to deal with them. The Commissioner’s reports are not presented to Parliament merely for the purpose of being laid upon the table. They are reports from an officer who understands his work, and who presents to Parliament what he considers to be an account of the position and necessities of the Departments under his control. If the Public Service Commissioner’s reports are simply to be presented to the House and brushed aside, it is idle to ask for them.
– They have been of a most misleading character.
– Onthe contrary, the Public Service Commissioner is a most competent man. He has had to face an almost insuperable task, and Has done splendid work. No man is infallible, and I am sure that the Public Service Commissioner would not say that his work is not capable of improvement; but the Commonwealth was fortunate in securing a man like him to take charge of the Public Service, especially in its initial stages. It is unfortunate that at this late hour of the night we should be asked to deal with a division affecting all the Departments throughout Australia without having before us the Commissioner’s report for the year.
– It is not available.
– Last year the report was ordered to be printed on 29th September.
– It has always been available hitherto.
– The Commissioner has been away in England, but we might have had a supplementary report. There are several important matters relating to the Public Service that we ought to consider. A large number of men are now being employed in Government factories for the manufacture of harness and clothing, and the woollen mills will also give employment to many. Are these men to be exempt from the provisions of the Public Service Act?
– Largely they are.
– Are they temporary hands ?
– I do not think they are absolutely temporary.
– Will they come under the Ministerial rule that, other things being equal, there shall be preference to unionists?
– I think so; they are not under the Public Service Act.
– They are exempt hands. Are they to be employed for only nine months ?
– During good behaviour, I think.
– The men who are being appointed in these Government fac tories are exempt from the Public Service Act; these positions are open to political patronage, which the Act was intended to avoid, and the rule of preference to unionists is to apply to men who, as the Prime Minister says, are to hold their positions practically during good behaviour. When the minute as to preference to unionists was first issued, we were told that it was to apply only to temporary employment, and we understood by that that it would apply to men who could be employed for not more than nine months at a time. We now find that a large number of employes outside the Act, but who are, to all intents and purposes, permanent hands, are to have this principle of preference to unionists extended to them. It is not a proper principle to adopt.. The Public Service should be thrown open to those who have the capacity to fill the various positions, apart from what their industrial or political views may be. ‘
– That is not the case with the lawyers’ union.
– There is no such union. The honorable member for Flinders and the Attorney-General - men whose political views widely differ - are members of the one profession. Could that be possible under the system of preference to uionists?
– I am delighted to hear it. The majority of the members of the unions are, owing to the forms and requirements of the unions, political unionists, and this is the class of men who, in the main, are to obtain employment in these Government factories.
– That is exceedingly weak, and it is also incorrect.
– It is correct. Does the Prime Minister think that many of the unionists are non-political?
– We do not ask them.
– Are not members of unions required to make contributions for political purposes?
– Many of them are not.
– Are they not required to make contributions to party newspapers ? If there are no political unions, why did honorable members opposite ask us to amend that part of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, repealing that part which prohibited preferences to organizations which had political purposes. Their object is to encourage political unionists, and this evening we have learned for the first time that men who, to all intents and purposes, are to be permanent employes of the Commonwealth, are to be subject to the rule of preference to unionists. We make this discovery when the Estimates are being put through at an hour of the night so late as to render it impossible for us, perhaps,to get the information we require.
– This information has been known for months.
– This is the first time that it has been announced in the House.
– The honorable member knew of it before.
– Did the honorable member know of it?
– I did, and I believe that the honorable member also knew of it.
– It has not been mentioned previously in this House. I asked the Prime Minister whether these men were to be permanently employed, and he said they were to be kept on during good behaviour.
– I said during good behaviour ; but the manager of each factory may keep them on or put them off.
– That means that as long as a man conducts himself properly he will be kept on.
– And is wanted. Does the honorable member object to a man being employed in that way?
– I am not objecting to that, but I object to the Government giving employment to only one class.
– Does the honorable member think any factory could be run nowadays without preference to unionists?
– Australian Governments have been, can be, and ought to be, run without it.
– We could not get men in the trade without it.
– Is that the only reason why the principle is being adopted ?
– I do not say it is the only reason.
– Until the present Government took office, preference to unionists had never been made a condition of employment in our Public Service. Almost from the inception of Federation we have hud temporary employes in the Service of the Commonwealth.
– Had we a saddle factory then?
– But the rule is not limited in its application to the employes in our saddle factory. Yesterday the Minister of External Affairs told us that the rule of granting preference to unionists applies to the temporary employes in the Statistician’s office.
– The Minister of External Affairs said no such thing.
– I beg the Minister’s pardon. I meant the Minister of Home Affairs.
– What did I say?
– The Minister announced that the rule of granting preference to unionists applied to the clerical persons who are temporarily employed in the Statistician’s Department.
-i said nothing of the kind. I said that no such order had been issued.
– I asked the Minister whether, other things being equal, the rule of granting a preference to unionists applied to temporary employes there, and the Minister replied,” Certainly, but the order in this case was given for statistical purposes only.”
– I said that Mr. Knibbs did that on his own. I issued no order on it.
– I have read the Hansard report, and what it states is correct.
– What the Minister said yesterday is what he says now.
– I will ask the Minister himself whether, in the Hansard proof which he received this morning, the first word of his reply to my question was not “ Certainly “?
– I did not look at it. I do not bother to correct the Hansard reports.
– Then I leave it to honorable members to judge. If the Minister made a mistake in giving the reply which he did, he is certainly at liberty to withdraw it.
– May I be permitted, by way of personal explanation, to say that my reply to the honorable member’s question, as reported in Hansard, was -
Certainly; but the information which has been asked for, and to which the press have drawn attention, is required for statistical purposes ; it does not concern any question of employment.
– Read the question.
– The question put to me by the honorable member reads -
I wish to know from the Minister of Home Affairs whether the rule applying to temporary employment in the Public Departments, that other things being equal, preference shall be given to Unionists, applies to those temporarily engaged in the clerical service of the Statistician’s office?
– To which the Minister replied, “ Certainly.”
– I qualified that reply by stating that I had never issued an order under such conditions. The honorable member is putting a wrong construction on my reply - a construction which is not a fair one.
– I apologize to the Minister if J misunderstood his answer, but I do not think that I did him an injustice. I spoke from memory, and I think that his reply is substantially what I represented it to be. I. do not suggest anything unfair on the part of the Minister. If he assures me that he did not use the words in the sense that I interpreted them, I will accept his statement.
– There is my answer in Hansard.
– The Minister’s reply was “ Certainly.”
– There has never been a rule made.
– Then why did the Minister reply “ Certainly “ when I asked him if a rule had been made?
– The honorable member asked me if I had made a rule. You lawyers put questions in such a way that really you do not understand them yourselves.
– The position I put was clearly stated, but if I misunderstood the reply of the Minister, I apologize to him.
– We have no rule. The officers employ whom they like.
– Then the rule does not apply to temporary employes in the Statistician’s Office? Will the Minister say whether that is so or not?
– There has never been an order issued.
– Does the rule apply to them ?
– I hope that it does, but no such order has been issued.
– Is this question time?
– The honorable member for Darling Downs should crossexamine me when the Estimates of the Department of Home Affairs are under consideration.
– I thought that the Statistician’s Office was included in the Department of Home Affairs?
– So it is, but the Department of Home Affairs is not now under consideration.
– When the Public Service Commissioner’s Department is under consideration, we are at liberty to discuss any other Department. It is unfortunate that at this late hour we cannot discuss matters as exhaustively as we might otherwise do.
– Because we wasted last night.
– The important subject of temporary and exempted employment is dealt with in the seventh report of the Public Service Commissioner. The prohibition against employing men temporarily for longer than nine months was enacted to require the permanent appointment of men needed for permanent work.
– And to prevent patronage.
– Yes. The Public Service Commissioner says -
It is certain that Parliament never intended that temporary hands should be employed in a wholesale manner for the performance of duties which, by no effort of imagination, could be considered as being temporary in character. This is manifested by the specific provision in the law that the period of temporary employment of any person should be limited to nine months, and that, on completion of this term, no person should be eligible for further employment pending the expiration of six months. It was considered that by embodying this provision in the Act, it would become impossible for any person to secure quasi permanent employment on the plea of special knowledge ofor training in departmental work. While the provisions of the law are as indicated, a regrettable omission occurred in the failure to provide for a system of selection for employment which would remove any possibility of undue influence, and enable temporary or casual work to be distributed on fair grounds without favour to any person. . . . The danger does not end at this stage, as once having secured temporary engagement by means of undue influence, the same influence is brought into play to prevent the services of temporary hands being dispensed with. It will be seen from the above r isumi of the conditions governing temporary and exempted employment, that under the present unsatisfactory methods of regulating the selection and appointment of persons for this class of work the inducements for the exercise of pressure in securing Government employment are very considerable.
In a letter addressed by the Secretary to the Public Service Commissioner to the Secretary to the Postmaster-General’s Department, this passage occurs -
The Commissioner wishes me to add that unless definite action be taken within a reasonable period to place some check upon temporary and exempted temporary employment, which is growing so alarmingly, he will be reluctantly forced to review the whole question of class and individual exemptions, which have been extended from time to time on the representations of the Department, and to insist upon a rigid compliance with the provisions of section 40 of the Act as regards the limitation of periods of temporary employment.
If there is permanent work to be done, men properly admitted to the Service, and possessing the necessary qualifications, should be permanently appointed for its performance.
– We had to spend about three times the ordinary amount to bring the Post Office Department up to date, and employed temporary hands far in excess of the number that could be absorbed in an ordinary year.
– But when the work to be done is permanent, permanent men should be appointed.
– Certainly ; but it was reported that ^2,000,000 should be spent to bring the Post Office Department up to date, and more men were needed to do that than were required permanently. I think highly of the Commissioner; and, although he became apprehensive about the number of temporary employes, what was done was inevitable.
– I am glad to have that explanation. It is a reply to the passages that I have quoted.
– If 4,000 or 5,000 men are appointed to deal with a rush of work, you cannot keep things at that level.
– I do not wish to see in connexion with the Commonwealth what has occurred in connexion with State employment - a big Public Service in times of prosperity and wholesale retrenchments during intervals of depression.
– I shall never be a party to that; but we were bound to bring the Post Office up-to-date.
– That is so. No one can find fault with that; but the Commissioner having drawn attention to this matter, there was need for an explanation. I have here a long account of a public meeting held in Brisbane, and reported in the Courier of 4th November, dealing with postal discontent, but in view of its importance I shall refer to it at a later stage. Important questions affecting the Public Service are above party considerations, and a whole day could be profitably spent in their discussion. It is not fair to the country, the Service, or ourselves, to deal with them at this hour.
– I have no intention to discuss this matter. I rise to protest against it being brought on at this hour without a report from the Public Service Commissioner, or any information regarding the present* condition of the Service, which now, more than at any other time, merits close attention. Nothing can be more prejudicial to the well-being of the Public Service than to have one set of officials under the control of the Public Service Commissioner, who is removed from parliamentary influence, and another set directly under Ministers, who can give them, any privileges that they may think fit. You will not get the best service from your public officials if you show favoritism, and it is favoritism to. say to one man : “ You must go to the Arbitration Court if you will not accept the award of the Public Service Commissioner,” and deal directly with another man. This can only lead to the demoralization “of the Service. But the position cannot be adequately discussed at this time of night, when we have been sitting for over thirteen hours, and are jaded and weary. I protest against the bludgeoning through of these Estimates without information being given, and without an opportunity to fully and properly consider the grievances of the public servants.
– I, too, desire to protest emphatically against pushing on with these Estimates at the present time. A most important and startling declaration has been made by the Prime Minister. He has shown that the large army of temporary and exempt employes which has been appointed by Ministers is temporary only. in name. As a matter of fact, they are permanent employes, or, to use the Prime Minister’s own words, they are likely to remain there during good behaviour.
– You have been advocating that all the session.
– For the honorable member to say that I have advocated political patronage at any time is to make a statement which is absolutely contrary to the fact. I have never advocated political patronage. On the con.trary, I have always condemned it.
– Nobody else has advocated it.
– Nobody else may have advocated political patronage, but here we have a Government which is exercising political patronage with the approval of honorable members on the other side, who profess not to believe in it. We have had a large army of public servants appointed under a Labour Government within the last two years, directly under political patronage, and in direct contravention of the spirit of the Public Service Act. Presently, we shall have a larger number of public servants employed directly under Ministerial control and patronage than are employed under the authority and administration of the Public Service Commissioner.
– That is the case now.
– The honorable member is, I believe, right; but in the near future it threatens to be very largely in excess, and to be altogether a menace to the principle underlying the Public Service Act - the principle of separating public employment under the Commonwealth from the influence of politicians. The system of political patronage is being insidiously introduced with the approval of a party which is ostensibly opposed to the system. I undertake to say that if anything like the same amount of political patronage had been exercised by a Liberal Government, nobody would have been louder in denunciation of the practice than would those honorable members who are now quietly aiding and abetting the Ministry in the establishment of this pernicious principle, while openly professing to disbelieve in it. When we hear that casual employes are being appointed to the Public Service under this principle of preference to unionists, we realize where that movement is trending and what is the pur- pose of it all. It is about time that we entered a protest against the continuance of the system; and I hope that this Parliament, before it rises, will insist that the whole of these employes shall be transferred to the authority of the Public Service Commissioner, especially when we have learned, as we have learned to-night from the Prime Minister for the first time, that the intention is to make them practically permanent employes during their good behaviour. In other words-, they will be in possession of their billets so long as Ministers have no reason to find fault with them. When it is found inconvenient to have them there, or they develop tendencies, perhaps in a political direction opposed to the opinions and the principles held by Ministers and their, supporters, no doubt they will not be regarded as being any longer of good behaviour, and convenient excuses will be found for replacing them with others whose political opinions are more of the Labour colour. I regret very much the absence of the Public Service Commissioner’s report this year, as it places honorable members at a decided disadvantage in discussing the Estimates relating to this portion of the Prime Minister’s Department. It only emphasizes the necessity of deferring their consideration until the Committee is in possession of fuller information. The Ministers do not feel in the least disposed to give any information. Perhaps they are not able to do so. Although honorable members’ liberties in the matter of criticism have been reduced to a minimum by an amendment of the Standing Orders, yet we are asked to deal with an important matter of this kind at this time of night, after a protracted sitting of over fourteen hours, when honorable members are tired, jaded, and weary. I was not surprised to find that at least one honorable member on the other side had the courage to get up and record a protest, feeble though it was, because it was not followed up. It shows that there are some honorable members on the other side who, however much they may support the Government and help them to “ bludgeon “ the business through, do not approve of this attempt to force Estimates through without proper consideration.
– 1 am quite sure that there are not half-a-dozen honorable members of the whole party who believe that it is a fair thing.
– Hear, hear I Many honorable members on this side went home without the slightest idea that it was the intention of the Prime Minister to push his Estimates through tonight. No information to that effect was given when they were presented. It places the House and the country at a disadvantage to force these Estimates through without giving reasonable time for examination and criticism. The rents of the postmasters is a source of very serious discontent in that branch of the Public Service. They have not received fair treatment.
– Will the honorable member deal with that matter on the Estimates of the Postmaster-General?
– I would remind you, sir, that it is almost impossible to properly deal with the Estimates of the Public Service Commissioner’s Department without traversing the administration of the various Departments of the Public Service. I am making only an incidental reference to postmasters, without going into the merits of their case, which I would be able to do if we were discussing the Estimates of the Postmaster-General. In this instance, we have to discuss the matter generally, so far as a large section of the employes are concerned, because employe’s in all Departments are under the control of the Public Service Commissioner. I only instance the case of the postmasters as one of the phases of the question that ought to be thoroughly gone into with a view to seeing that something like a fair measure of justice is given. Then there is the question of holidays for the temporary employes in the various branches of the Service, who have been transferred to the permanent staffs. Some weeks ago, I asked in this House whether the temporary employe’s who had been for twelve months and upwards in the Service, and were subsequently transferred to the permanent staff, would have the twelve months reckoned in connexion with their annual leave, and I was told that that would be done. I have since ascertained, however, that through the action of officers in the Departments that promise has not been kept, and that these men have been refused leave until they haveserved twelve months as permanent employes. A number of such men, for instance, are employed in the mechanical branch of the Electrician’s Department in Sydney, and they have general cause for complaint in this regard. However, I shall not discuss the matter at length, but merely mention these instances to show that reasonable time should be given, in the consideration of the Estimates, to bring grievances of the kind under the notice of the Minister. Owing to the late hour at which the Government are attempting to force the Estimates through, we are denied the opportunity we desire. We were promised that if we curtailed our speeches, sacrificed our morning hours, and the time set apart for private members’ business, we should not have late sittings, but we now find that the inducement held out to us to assist the Government in expediting the work has been forgotten. We are now face to face with the old trouble of exhaustive sittings, just as if no concessions had been made; and, under the circumstances, I do not feel inclined to discuss the Estimates, and I refuse to proceed any further.
Proposed vote agreed to.
– The Estimates of the Treasurer’s Department cover the financing of every Department. Under the old system of government, a Minister, under the advice of his executive officers, made certain estimates, based on his anticipations of what would be required during the year, and these Estimates were ultimately sent on to the Treasurer.
– I beg to call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– I said that if the last vote went through I would report progress, and though honorable members opposite have been very bad boys I stand to my promise.
Assent to the following Bills reported -
Tasmania Grant Bill.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill.
Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Bill.
Service and Execution of Process Bill.
Trade Marks Bill.’
Bill returned from the Senate with the message that the Senate had agreed to the amendment made by the House of Representatives.
House adjourned at 12.25 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 November 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19121107_reps_4_67/>.