7th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have to inform honorable members that His Excellency tha Governor-General -will this day, as 3.35 p.m. in the Library, receive the Address-in-Reply agreed to by the House. I shall be glad if the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address, together with other honorable members, will accompany me to present it.
Message received from His Excellency the Governor-General, recommending an appropriation of revenue for the purposes of this Bill.
Motion (by Mr. Sampson), by leave, agreed to -
That leave of absence for six months he given to the honorable member for Grampians, on account of ill-health.
– I wish to know from the Minister representing the Minister for Defence the reason for storing millions of yards of khaki cloth in the Exhibition Building, Melbourne. Could not tihis cloth be made into uniforms, and used to keep our men warm at the Front, or here?
– A lot of material, which has been stored in drill halls, and has thus prevented the use of those halls for their proper purposes, is being transferred, so that the Department may have it all in one place. So much of the cloth as is required is being used in the manner the honorable member suggests.
-Why should any cloth be stored for the moths to eat?
– No cloth is so stored, but reasonable stocks must be kept to enable supplies to be furnished regularly.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed the report of a recent meeting of the Trades Hall Council, where a resolution was passed, calling on members of Parliament not to assist in the recruiting campaign ? If the Government considers that this is an interference with recruiting, what action does it propose to take?
– I saw the report referred to, and shall ask the Secretary to the Trades Hall to say whether it is accurate. Having received his reply, the Government will consider what action should be taken.
– A Mr. Yates, the father of ten children of whom five volunteered for active service, two of these having paid the supreme sacrifice of their lives, has been dismissed from the Public Service, unfairly, perhaps, in the opinion of some. I ask the Minister for Home and Territories if his attentionhas been drawn to the case, and if so, if he will tell the House what is the present position?
– My attention has been drawn to the case by the honorable member and by other members. I have a copy of a letter-
– A very insulting letter was sent to me.
– The letters which I have seen are one from Mr. Smith, who writes on behalf of the Australian Clerical Association, and one from Mr. Yates himself, neither of which can be regarded as offensive. There may be other letters, but I have not received them. Mr. Yates was employed in the Census Bureau as a temporary hand from 4th October to 8th December, 1915, and in the Meteorological Branch from 9th December, 1915, to 23rd June, 1917. On the 22nd or 23rd June last, Mr. Membrey, a member of the State Ministry, informed me that it was intended to dispense with Mr. Yates’ services, and told me that Mr. Yates had sent four sons to the war, two of whom had died in the service of their country, and asked meto give some consideration to the case. My reply was that I should be only too pleased to do what was asked if it were in my power, and the facts justified it, and I immediately communicated with the Public Service Commissioner, within whose discretion the further employment of Mr. Yates rested. It is the rule of the Service that a man may not be employed as a temporary hand for more than six months, with an additional period of three months in special cases; but in this case the Commissioner, under a more liberal practice since the war, allowed a total temporary employment of twenty and a half months. In March last the Commissioner was asked by Mr. Hunt, of the Meteorological Department, to give further consideration to Mr. Yates, who was regarded by the Department as deserving of such treatment, and the Commissioner extended his employment for another three months, on the understanding, I believe, that at the end of the time he would have to give priority to a returned soldier, in conformity with a decision by the Cabinet. The day on which the extension expired, an opportunity for appointing a returned soldier presented itself, a member of the Australian Imperial Force, who had been 573 days at the Front and 734 days under arms, being in waiting. It is difficult to discriminate in these cases.
– Was he a single man ?
– I am not sure. However, he had been waiting for the appointment, and he was appointed in order to fulfil apromise that had been made. I have tried to ascertain whether there is any possible means of placing Mr. Yates.
Ministerial Statement - Paper
– Can the Prime Minister tell us when the transactions in regard to the past wool clip are likely to be finally wound up?
– I am unable to supply the honorable member with the information, but as I propose to lay on the table a return covering the whole matter. I ask for leave to make a short statement which will cover several points of interest to graziers.
– The papers which I have the honour to lay on the table are the”British Imperial Government’s purchase of the Australian wool clip 1916-17 through the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia,” together with a copy of the “ Basis of Clean Cost Prices for Australian Wool Clip, Season 1916-17, and Sheepskin Limits on Basis of Clean Cost Prices, Season 1916-17.” The points to which I wish to draw attention are of considerable importance to those engaged in the pastoral industry and to the community generally.
The number of bales of wool appraised under the Imperial Government’s purchase amount to -
The average appraised price per lb. of greasy wool is 14.72d. In order to give honorable members some idea of the labour involved in this work, I may mention that there have been made nearly 300,000 separate and independent valuations of wool classified into 381 types. The average price of 14.72d. per lb. for the greasy wool is eminently satisfactory, and proves for all practical purposes the correctness of the basis. The average price on all wool, greasy and scoured calculated as greasy, appraised under the scheme is 14.15d. per lb. The difference between this price and that ‘ at which it was sold, viz., 15£d. per lb., is equal to 9.5 per cent, of the average appraised price of 14.15d. per lb. Consequently there is every probability of the total dividends approximating 10 per cent, of appraised prices.
The actual quantity of wool sold to the Imperial Government is 376,166,159 lbs., which, at 15d. per lb. of greasy wool, is equal to £24,294,064 8s. 8d., less a credit of £25,937 9s. 4d. due to slightly higher-grade wools having been selected by Commonwealth manufacturers. The total value of the wool controlled and brought under the scheme* amounts to £25,340,540 18s. 7d. Wool credits for wool appraised to the 30th June, 1917, are as follow: - From the Imperial Government on account of wool, £23,167,479 3s.; handling charges, £893,170 17s.; Australian manufacturers, £979,058 14s. 2d. ; exchange, £45,643 5s. ; interest, £40,388 2s. Id.; total, £25,125,640 ls. 3d.
The 10 per cent, retention money deducted from the appraised valuation, amounting to £2,313,460 17s. 2d., will be distributed in all capitals by the woolselling houses on the 14th August next. The first dividend will be paid on the 2nd October. That will be in addition to the 10 per cent, retention money. It is impossible to say how much the dividend will amount to. It will range between 5 per cent, and 10 per cent., but should be nearer 10 per cent. Several months must elapse, however, before another dividend can be declared. It will be impossible for some considerable time to give even an approximate estimate of the final dividend, on account of the Imperial Government’s purchase of Australian wool forming part of the clip for the season 1916-17.
I wish x> emphasize this paragraph -
Wool-growers are advised to keep all documents in connexion with their wool submitted for appraisement for the 1916-17 season.
Sales of interests in the wool pool will not “be allowed under any circumstances, nor will speculations in wool be permitted.
The figures I have quoted are not final. Some slight adjustments will doubtless be necessary, but they cannot materially affect the result. The appraisements conducted upon the 1916-17 wool clip have, on the whole, proved satisfactory; but in the case of the 1917-18 clip modifications will be made in order to remove slight inconsistencies. During the coming wool season every effort will be made by the Central Wool Committee to improve the general organization for the display and appraisement of wool in all centres with the object of reducing the heavy tasks imposed on appraisers particularly in the busy months of the year, and also to establish uniform methods in connexion with the preparation of wool catalogues, invoices, counter marks, and other details of importance in the marketing of wools.
Instructions have been received from the Army Contracts Wool Committee, London, that it is absolutely imperative for growers to understand that in the case of the 1917-18 clip station brands must be on the sides only of wool bales, and station marking must be made in black colour, the ends of the bales being reserved for special countermarking in red for shipment.
Certain persons interested in the wool trade are under the impression that they are entitled to participate in the appraisers’ commission, although they are not gazetted as appraisers; and another section imagines thatwork must be found for every one engaged in the wool business prior to the Imperial Government’s purchase. These ideas are incorrect. Services performed are recognised and’ paid for, and it has been the policy of the Central Wool Committee to employ only sufficient technical and skilled labour to carry out the necessary operations. Prom the experience gained in the appraisement of the 1916-17 clip, the Central Wool Committee are satisfied that many economies can be effected to the betterment of the wool industry.
With regard to fellmongering and scouring, it may be noted that these industries have been carefully protected, and that all well-equipped works throughout the Commonwealth have been fully engaged. At present the scouring and fellmongering capacity in certain centres is far below requirements, and much larger quantities of wool would be earmarked for local scouring if the plants were available.
I trust that those who desire to find employment for our people will note there is a profitable opportunity here for the investment of Australian capital.
It is very evident that. the Australian wool industry, as at present conducted, is far from being well organized, particularly as regards fellmongering, scouring, carbonizing and wool tops, and woollen manufacture. If the maximum value of the wool is to be obtained by growers it is necessary that attention should be paid to those subsidiary industries.
I should like to tender to the Central Wool Committee the Government’s appreciation of the many and valuable services it has rendered to the Commonwealth in a purely honorary capacity; I venture to say that for the first time in its history the pastoral industry is being placed on an organized basis. Its business is now conducted cheaper than it ever has been, and it will be generally admitted that when the war has passed the industry will go back with very great reluctance to the conditions that previously existed. To the members of the Committee I desire to express our sense of keen appreciation of their services, and’ to tender them thanks on behalf of the Government and the community. The members - of whom there are now some 100 persons - of the State Wool Committees, Sheep Section Sub-Committees, Trustees for Appraisers’ Commission, and Technical Advisory Board, have also given their services in an honorary capacity. To these our thanks are tendered. I trust this example of work on behalf of the State, and the business-like way in which that work has been carried on, will commend itself generally to the body politic. I have pleasure in laying these papers on the table of the House and in moving -
That so much of the papers as can be printed be printed.
.- I do not desire to avail myself of the opportunity which this motion affords to make a speech on the subject dealt with by the Prime Minister. Since the papers are to be printed, we shall have an opportunity to read them within the next few days. I should like, however, to repeat a suggestion that I put before the House on more than one occasion when I was sitting in the Opposition corner, and that is that three or four copies of any important! type-written document read by a Minister should always be prepared and. made available to honorable members. In that way, those who are specially interested in such statements would be able to follow them without difficulty. To illustrate the necessity for the adoption of such a course, I would point out that when reading the type- written statement, the Prime Minister quoted certain figures without making it clear to the House whether they related to value or weight, and that this might lead to some confusion on the part of those who were not familiar with the subject. Having regard to what the right honorable gentleman has said, I think that this work has been done well, but I prefer to have an opportunity to read the papers relating to it before I express any definite opinion upon the subject.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Is the Prime Minister prepared to favorably, consider a request for the removal of the embargo on the importation of American apples, so as to relieve the present shortage of that fruit in Australia ?
– I had an interview this morning in regard to the question of Australian apples, and although I have always been an apple eater, I may say that since 11 o’clock to-day, I have known a good deal more about the fruit than I ever knew before. The question raised by the honorable member has been considered. We have now arrived at an agreement as between the Australian grower and the importer; we know now when the market will be empty of Australian apples. When it is empty of Australian apples, and we know to what extent it will absorb American apples, without disturbing the prospects of Australian apples, American apples will be allowed in.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister when he proposes to proceed with the Bill for the repeal of the Daylight Saving Act?
– That Bill has already beenintroduced in another place.
The following papers were presented : -
Royal Australian Naval College - Report for 1916.
Papua - Annual Reports for the years 1914-15 and 1915-16.
Ordered to be printed.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence (1) is he aware that owing to the lessened travelling facilities, it is now impossible for soldiers in camp from Geelong and district to visit their homes for the usual week-end leave, and (2) will the Minister see that orders are issued whereby leave may be extended from 9 a.m. - the present arrangement - until 12 noon on Mondays to enable these men to visit their homes t
– An order was issued the other day giving further leave, and that order was further amplified by allowing leave in cases of those who desire to attend to their business or family affaire, on special application being made to the Camp Commandant.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The lettergram facility was designed with a view of fully utilizing the services of the staff (which in any case would be on duty) and equipment at the Telegraph Offices which are open for traffic after 7 p.m.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The production of bananas in Queensland during the latest two years for which details are available was as follows: -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
As it is anticipated there will be a great shortage of meat supplies throughout the world, will the Government take steps to encourage the maintenance and increase of our flocks and herds similar to other countries, so as to prevent the price of meat rising toexorbitant prices?
– The Government is fully seized of the importance of the matter. I am not aware that other countries have adopted effective measures to prevent meat rising to exorbitant prices.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Motion (by Mr. Heitmann) agreed to-
That there be laid upon the table of the House a return showing -
The total cost of recruiting under the present scheme since its inception in January last.
The cost in each State of the Commonwealth.
The cost per recruit throughout the Commonwealth.
The cost per recruit in each State.
– I have here the return referred to, and, if honorable members desire, I shall read it before laying it on the table.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– The return is as follows : -
I lay the paper on the table.
– I have just received word that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral is now prepared to receive the Address-in-Reply.
Sitting suspended from3.40 to3.50 p.m.
– I have to inform the House that I presented the AddressinReply to His Excellency’s Speech on the opening of Parliament, agreed to by the House on the 12th instant, and His Excellency made the following reply : -
I have much pleasure in accepting the Address which has been adopted by the House of Representatives in reply to the Speech delivered by me on the occasion of the opening of the second session of the seventh Commonwealth Parliament, and I thank you for the expression of loyalty to His Majesty the King.
– I move-
That this Bill he now read a second time.
As honorable members are aware, this is a war-time profits Bill, not a War Profits Bill. It is a measure based, not upon the profits made from the war, but upon the profits made during the war - even those increased profits which have not necessarily resulted from the war itself. A war-time profits tax was first imposed by the British Government by the Finance Act No. 2 of 1915. It applied to profits shown in all accounts made up after 4th August, 1914. The tax imposed for the first year was 50 per cent. of the amount by which those profitsexceeded the prewar standard of profits, the pre-war standard being the greater of the following sums: - (a) The average profits of the best two out of the last three pre-war trade years, or (b) 6 per cent. (in the case of a company) or 7 per cent. (in other businesses). The last pre-war trade year is similar to that fixed under the Bill now before the House, in clause 15 (10). The revenue collected from this tax in the first year of assessmentwas approximately £86,000,000. The Finance Act No. 3 of 1916 increased the rate of tax for the second year to 60 per cent., and the revenue was in the region of £140,000,000. The Finance Act 1917, passed in March, 1917, increased the rats of tax to 80 per cent. of the excess profits, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer estimated the revenue at about £200,000,000 for the year 1917-18.
Canada wasthe next part of the Empire to impose a war-time profits tax. In 1916 the Canadian Parliament passed the Business Profits War Tax Act, which imposed a tax of 25 per cent. on all business profits exceeding 7 per cent. on the capital employed. This Act applied retrospectively to all business profits arising in accounting periods ending after 31st December, 1914. The revenue from the tax on the first taxable year’s profits was £2,500,000, while the total amount expected to be collected for that year was £3,000,000. The revenue estimated for the three years of the currency of the Act was £5,000,000, but the estimate for the second year alone is £4,000,000 or more. On the 18th May, 1916, the rates pf tax were amended to apply to profits arising in accounting periods ending after 31st December, 1916, by providing that the tax of 25 per cent. should apply to all profits over 7 per cent. and not exceeding 15 per cent. ; on the part of the profits over 15 per cent. and not exceeding20 per cent. the rate was increased to 50 per cent. ; and on all the part of the profits exceeding 20 per cent. the rate was 75 per cent.Under the Canadian law a business cannot take its actual pre-war profits as the pre-war profits standard. All businesses which have made a profit of more than 7 per cent, on capital in any war time accounting period must pay tax on the excess of the profit over 7 per cent. Whilst the Canadian scheme attains simple and economical administration and a large revenue, it acts unjustly on those businesses which have not made greater profits during the war-time year, or whose profits have actually diminished owing to the war but are still in excess of 7 per cent, on capital.
The Dominion of New Zealand followed with its tax, but imposed it by way of additional income tax. The tax is 45 per cent, of the amount by which the income assessable to income tax in the war-time accounting period exceeds the average yearly assessable income of the last three pre-war trade years, or the average yearly assessable income of any shorter pre-war business period, or 7 per cent, on the capital employed in the business, whichever is the greater.
The French Parliament has lately passed a war-time profits tax. The latest information available shows that there are two classes of taxpayers - one paying a tax of 50 per cent, of the net profits in excess of the pre-war standard of profits, or 10 per cent, on capital, whichever is the greater; and the other paying the same rate of tax but receiving a general exemption of £200.
I now come to the Bill before the House. The Bill is modelled upon the English law, but it contains many addi-tiona! provisions designed to render the incidence of the tax more equitable. This Bill taxes the excess profits of all businesses of any description carried on in Australia - and Australia includes - Papua - except those which are specially exempt by section 8. Under these provisions a business which balances on, say, 31st July in each year, will pay ite first tax on the excess profits arising in the accounting period ending on 31st July, 1915. A business which balances on 30th June in each year will pay its first tax on the excess profits arising in the accounting period ending on 30th June, 1916. In the former case the business begins to pay tax eleven months earlier than in the latter case. In order that when the Act terminates these two businesses may be fairly treated?- clause 2 will require the business balancing on 30th June to pay tax on profits arising for eleven months after the former business has ceased to pay tax. This is fair, because it began to pay tax eleven months after the other business. For example, assuming that peace is declared in May, 1918, the accounting period of company “ A “ ends on 31st July in each year. The accounting period of company “ B “ ends on 30th June in each year. Company “ A “ will pav tax on profits earned in the years ending 31st July, 1915; 31st July, 1916; 31st July, 1917; 31sh July, 1918. Company “ B “ will pay tax on profits earned in the years ending 30th June, 1916; 30th June, 1917; 30th June, 1918; 30th June, 1919. Where an ‘accounting period for which the tax is to be assessed is less than a year, the amount of the pre-war standard of profits is to be proportionately reduced, so that a comparison of profits for a similar pre-war and post-war period will be possible. Before any business is taxed under this Bill, its war-time profits must exceed the pre-war standard of profits. When the excess is not greater than £200, no tax will be payable. When it is greater than £200, a deduction will be allowed of £200, reduced by £1 for every £2 by which such excess is greater than £200. This means that .the deduction of £200 disappears entirely when the war-time profits are £600 or more in excess of the pre-war standard of profits.
Speaking generally,- every business will retain out of its profits an amount equal to its pre-war profits, or the statutory percentage on its capital, whichever is the greater, plus the untaxed residue of the excess profits remaining to the taxpayer. The basis of the tax is the amount! by which the profits of the war-time accounting period exceed the pre-war standard of pro fits. The pre-war standard of profits is to be the actual neb profits based on the average of any two of the last three prewar trade years, unless those years have been years of abnormal depression, in which case any two of the preceding three pre-war years ie taken for purposes of the average for comparison with the profits of the accounting period. If these actual profits are less than 10 per cent, on the average capital employed in the selected two pre-war years, 10 per cent, on that capital is taken as the pre-war standard of profits. Ten per cent, is considered a fair percentage standard for investments in Australia.
In the case of new businesses and businesses which have only become profits earning since the war, the Bill empowers the Commissioner of Taxation to increase that percentage if it is shown that the increase is essential to insure the financial stability of the business. If the taxpayer is dissatisfied with the decision of the Commissioner in such a case, he can appeal to a Board of Referees for a final decision. New businesses commenced by individuals or by partnerships will receivea further concession in the shape of an allowance of at least £300 as salary to the individual owner, and to each of the partners, provided in each case the owner and the partners devote the whole of their time to the business. In the case of a partnership in which some of the partners cannot devote the whole of their time to the business, a deduction of a proportion of the £300 allowance is to be deducted in respect of the part of the time given to the business. In the case of new companies the Bill limits the remuneration of directors to £1,000. This provision was copied from the New Zealand Act, except that the deduction has been reduced from £1,500 to £1,000. It is a very necessary provision to prevent the absorption of profits of new companies by way of directors’ fees.. Provision has been inserted in the Bill empowering the Commissioner to increase any of these allowances if special circumstances exist to justify the increase. It is considered that these provisions amply protect new businesses, and secure equitable treatment for them.
In the case of old businesses the prewar remuneration to partners, managers, or directors is allowed by the Bill, but under clause 14 (7) the Commissioner has power to increase the allowance owing to any special circumstances or to the fact that the remuneration depends on the profits of the business. The tax will apply to persons earning commissions and to the profits of agents of any description, not being a commercial traveller or an agent whose remuneration consists wholly of a fixed and definite sum not dependent on the amount of business done or any other contingency.
The Bill provides in section 2 that the last profits to be taxed are those arising up to the end of the accounting period ending after 30th June next after the declaration of peace in connexion with the present war.
The exempt businesses are described in clause 8 as follows: -
The exemptions are limited to the callings and businesses exempted, and do not extend to any other person who may subsequently trade in the goods produced by the exempt persons.
The tax is limited to the profits of businesses carried on in Australia. It is proper that the country from which profits are derived should have the first right to levy taxes on that profit. The Act will not, therefore, apply to any business whose operationsare carried on outside Australia,although the owners of the business may reside in Australia, unless the produce of the business is sold in Australia. These remarks apply to mining and rubber companies whose mines and plantations are outside Australia, but the produce of which is sold in Australia. In regard to the calculation of profits and deductions, the war-time profits are to be ascertained for the purposes of the Bill in similar manner to the taxable income for purposes of the Income Tax Assessment Act. There are, however, special deductions allowed by this Bill - for example, deductions for repairs deferred owing to the war; for exceptional depreciation or obsolescence of plant and machinery due to the war; and other matters mentioned in clause 10. Clause 14 of the Bill provides that all rates and taxes, including Federal and State land and income taxes, and war-profits tax paid on the profits in anycountry outside the Commonwealth, may be deducted from the war-time profits.
The war- profits tax itself is not a deduction, but is deductible from taxable income for purposes of income tax, and the Bill authorizes the Commissioner to adjust past income tax assessments so as to deduct the war profits tax from the taxable income which has formed the basis for the war -profits tax. These provisions are to be found in clause 14 sub-clauses 3 and 4.
Wasting assets are dealt with in clause 3 - for definition - and clause 14; subclauses 5 and 6. The Bill recognises the necessity for permitting businesses employing wasting assets to retain sufficient profits to recoup capital expended on those assets. “ Wasting assets “ is defined in clause 3 of the Bill as follows : - “Wasting assets” means mines (other than coal mines), quarries, timber rights, and any similar asset which, through gradual removal of the substance used becomes exhausted. ‘
Coal mines have not been included in this provision, because they are not in the same class as metal mines, which have a very limited life. A coal mine is generally regarded as a comparatively fixed and lasting asset.
This principle, altered to suit the circumstances, has been extended to leaseHolds. All these provisions will be found in Part IV., clause 14, sub-clauses 5 and 6.
Allowance is made in clause 11 (1) of the Bill for exemption on account of natural growth of. a business. Natural growth is based on the amount of additioual capital invested in the business. Accumulated profits invested in the business are treated as capital. The measure of the natural growth of a business is, the statutory percentage on the additional capital, or, the average rate of profits of the pre-war trade years - selected for the pre-war profits standard - on the new capital, whichever is the greater; and this amount is to be deducted from the war-time profit before the taxable excess profits are assessed.
If the capital of a business has been reduced by withdrawal during the wartime period, a proper comparison with the pre-war -profits is only possible by adding to the actual profits the statutory percentage or the average rate of pre-war profits on the amount of capital withdrawn from the business, calculated for the period during which it was withdrawn. This provision will not apply in cases where capital is lost owing to losses by fire, flood, drought, &c.
The accounts of each business are to be assessed separately, but if one person carries on a number of businesses, and makes an excess profit in one and a loss in another, he can deduct the net loss from the excess profits.
The Bill provides in clause 14, subclause 11, that where a business has sustained a net loss on its trading since the beginning of the first pre-war trade year and up to the commencement of the accounting period on which it is being taxed, any part of the profits of the taxable accounting period may be appropriated to recoup that net loss, the amount so appropriated being deducted from the taxable profits in ascertaining the amount liable to tax.
The Bill harmonizes with the Income Tax Assessment Act, and each year’s profits will be assessed separately and without regard to the trading results of any other war-time year, except as regards past losses which have not been fully recouped from subsequent profits. As already stated, these are deductible from the assessable profits.
Under clause 14, sub-clause 9, a deduction will be made when ascertaining profits of any sums set apart by employers for profit sharing with employees so far as such profits have been distributed to the employees within six months after the close of the business year or such further time as the Commissioner may allow.
Capital isdealt with in clause 16. The amount of the capital of a business is the capital paid up by the owner whether in money or in kind, together with all accumulated profits invested in the business with the addition or subtraction of balances brought forward from previous years to the credit or debit respectively of profit and loss account. Assets acquired otherwise than for cash or credit, or acquired without purchase, are to be valued at the time of acquisition, and that value is to be treated as part of the capital of the business: Patents and secret processes are deemed to be material assets to be valued in the manner mentioned.
I come now to the provisions with regard to the recovery of the tax. The Bill contains wide powers for recovery of the tax. Under clause 13 the person for the time being owning or carrying on the business or acting as agent for another person carrying on the business may be assessed for the tax. If the business has ceased the tax may be assessed on the person who owned or carried on the business, or acted as agent in carrying it on immediately before it ceased. If there has been a change of ownership, and the new owner is treated as having commenced a new business as from the date of purchase, any tax due by the former owner may be assessed on profits derived up to the date of sale of the business. Honorable members can see that steps are taken in order to protect the revenue. In all cases it is necessary to be very strict for that purpose.
When a company is wound up the liquidator must notify the Commissioner, and must set aside such sum as the Commissioner considers is sufficient to provide for any war-time profits tax which may become payable. The returns of war-time profits will be those lodged for purposes of income tax. It will be necessary for all businesses to render such returns of pre-war profits as the Commissioner may call for, and from those returns the taxable excess profits will be assessed. This is provided for in clause 17.
Clauses 20 to 25 deal with assessments, and clauses 31 to 41 with the payment of the tax. Notices of assessment, will be given to all taxpayers, and the tax will be payable thirty days after the service by post of the notice of assessment. If the tax is not paid before the expiration of this period a penaltv of 10 per cent. of the tax becomes payable. TheCommissioner has power to extend the time for payment if he considers the circumstances warrant it, or to permit payment by instalments within such time as circumstances warrant. This is provided for in clause 32. Clause 33 gives the Commissioner power to remit penalties. All assessments are open to objection or appeal to the High Court, the Supreme Court, or a County or District Court presided over by a Judge authorized by the Governor-General. These Courts will deal with questions of law. A Board of Referees is provided for by clause 26.
This Board will deal with questions of fact arising out of any of the headings mentioned in sections 10 and 12. Subclause 1 of clause 26 provides that the Board of Referees shall be appointed by the Governor-General.
– What type of Board has the Treasurer in view ?
– The matter has not yet been settled. I should say that the Board will consist of three persons. There is already a Board of Referees which deals with applications for relief from tax both under the Land Tax Act and the Income Tax Act. It is composed of officials, and does its work very quietly. It seems to go on all right.
The rates of the tax will be 50 per cent. of the excessprofits arising in any accounting period after 30th June, 1915, and on or before the 30th June, 1916, and 75 per cent. of the excess profits arising in any accounting period ending after 30th June, 1916. In Committee of Ways and Means, I shall move a resolution providing for these rates. I also propose, in Committeeon the Bill, to move a small amendment, which, however, is very important, as follows: -
The accounting period will be the period of twelve months for which the accounts of the business have been made up for the purposes of the Income Tax Assessment Act.
I am assured that this provision is necessary for the protection of the revenue.
– Can the Treasurer give us any estimate as to what revenue he expects to derive from this tax?
– An estimate has been submitted, but it is merely approximate. It is anticipated that the revenue derived for the two years covered by the Bill will be £900,000.
– Then it is hardly worth while going on with the Bill.
– I think that the estimate is rather low.
– The estimate I received was that the revenue would be £1,500,000 on the same rates.
– I hope that I have been able to explain the provisions of the Bill, and that what may appear at first sight an intricate subject has been dealt with in clear and simple terms. In my endeavour to do this I have been greatly assisted by the Acting Commissioner of Taxation. He has shown him-‘ self, as far as I am able to judge, an able, astute, and fair-minded guide, well fitted to hold the scales in protecting the revenue while, at the same time, assisting the taxpayer.
– That is a good recommendation for his securing the permanent appointment.
– I think that, he deserves it. It is not expected that a Bill of this character should escape criticism. It would be of great assistance to me and to the Government, and especially convenient, if notice can be given of any proposed amendments as early as possible, in order that we may consider them.
– Of course, you are a very much divided party, and it takes a long time to get. you to the scratch.
– I do not think so. This is not a controversial question. I have not dealt with it as such. It is a question of trying to do what is fair in the securing of revenue. My own opinion is quite clear, and I have expressed it before - in fact, the Bill carries out exactly the views I hold - that if any person makes, during this time of war, more profit than he made before the war, he may fairly be asked to divide the excess profits. If he made no profits before the war he is dealt with by the 10 per cent, allowance before any division takes place. I do not think that any one can complain if he is asked to do what the Bill povides, namely, to divide the excess profits in the first year and afterwards give up three parts of them.
– If the estimate submitted is correct it shows that there is not much “ profiteering “ in Australia.
– I have had the opportunity of reading the statement made by the Finance Minister in Canada, which has secured a large revenue from the taxation of war profits, although it has come, for the most part, from the profits derived by the manufacturers of munitions of war. That source of revenue is not to be found in Australia. I do not think that we shall find that the profits are anything like what they have been in Great Britain, the United States of America, or Canada. No doubt the immense profits that have been made in those countries have been made from the manufacture of munitions. Honorable members can look about for themselves and see who are making money. I do not believe that the producing interests are doing so wonderfully well. I can , speak from some knowledge of Western Australia. Long before the war the profits in pastoral . pursuits were very much larger than they have been since the war, due to a large extent, no doubt, to the -absolute annihilation of the flocks and herds. If pastoralists had the same number of stock as they had prior to the war no doubt they would be doing very much better; but, as a. matter of fact, they have not recouped themselves for the losses sustained during the drought. The same remarks apply to many other businesses. I have no particular knowledge of other businesses in regard to which large profits are said to have been made, such as the shipping business, and I am not prepared to say anything as to them; but I think it will not be found that the profits have been so great as they have been in Great Britain and Canada, owing to the entire absence of any manufacture of munitions. In my opinion, this is not a Bill about which there should be any heat or great controversy. The object of the measure is quite simple. It is to try, during the time of war, to increase the revenue. It is not unfair to ask those who have done better than they did before the war to pay a special tax.
– Has any provision been made in the Bill for businesses which commenced a few years before the outbreak of war, and had all their initial expenses during those years?
– The 10 per cent, allowance covers the case of those businesses. That is the pre-war standard for comparisons of that kind.
– Is there any provision for paying by debentures or war-loan scrip, and has the tax for the two years to be paid in one instalment?
– No provision is made for that in the Bill, but I shall be very glad to consider any proposition from the honorable member in that direction.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That the adjourned debate be made an Order of the Day for to,morrow
.- As this Bill materially affects the commercial community, I should like to urge the Treasurer to adjourn its further consideration until next week, so that honorable members and the public generally may have an opportunity to read his speech, as reported in Hansard, before the discussion is resumed.
– Very well. By leave, I desire so to amend my motion as to provide that the adjourned debate be made an Order of the Day for Wednesday next.
Motion, by leave, amended accordingly, and agreed to.
Bill presented by Mr. Watt, and read a first time;
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is rendered necessary by the probable early completion of the transcontinental railway. The railways of the Commonwealth, when that line is complete, will comprise three different lines. The first is the transcontinental railway, of 1,052 miles, stretching from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie; the second, the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta narrow gauge - 3 ft. 6 in. - line, of 478 miles; and the third, the Port Darwin to Katherine line, which, when completed, as it will be shortly, will be 200 miles in length. We thus have a total of 1,730 miles of line which, by the end of September, we think, will be in operating condition, and under the control of the Commonwealth. Up to the present,- these lines have been operated in three different ways. The broad gauge line, during the course of construction, has been operated by the Minister under the powers conferred by the Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie Railway Act; the Oodnadatta line has been operated- by the Government of South Australia under the acquisition agreement, and the Port Darwin to Katherine line has been operated under territorial regulations in connexion with the Department of Home and Territories. This Bill will bring all these lines under uniform control. ‘ It represents the first attempt to provide a Commonwealth procedure and policy of railway management, and in that regard I am sure honorable members will carefully scan its provisions.
There are no politics, properly so-called, in the Bill; but there are some very, definite principles. The chief of these is that this Bill makes for non-political control - for control by a Commissioner. Happily, we have not to invent any system of running railways for the Commonwealth, because we have for our guidance the experience of the six different States. The careers of those State systems extend over upwards of ‘two generations, and they have experienced the difficulties, the disabilities, and the vicissitudes attaching to all great commercial undertakings. They have experimented with both political and non-political ‘ control, and in every case have settled upon non-political control as the more preferable. If I were to endeavour to anticipate the feeling of the people of Australia, I should say that, if consulted, they would certainly express a preference for such a system of control. This Bill, therefore, in its early clauses, provides for the appointment of a Railways Commissioner. His duties, powers, limitations, and relations to the Minister are clearly set out in those clauses, many of which are adapted, and many more borrowed from existing State railway statutes.
– Why does the Minister put no limit to the time of appointment of the Commissioner?
– I shall come to that point in due course. The various parts of the Bill that members may deem important I hope to explain at any length the House pleases, or to abbreviate my remarks, as far as possible, should honorable members desire it, arid to consult their wishes by considering such details in Committee.
I wish to allude to some of the facts relating to the lines that are owned and more or less controlled by the Commonwealth. The first is the big broad-gauge East-West line which was started some years ago, and which we hope will be completed by the end of next September. Honorable members will note that I am nol predicting definitely that it will be completed then, because, judging by the experience of the Department - the. records of which I have passed over - it has been extremely difficult to predict. I am hopeful, however, that, having regard to the rate at which we are laying the line from both ends, at the present time, and the rate at which the earth formations are proceeding, the line will be completed about eight weeks hence, and ready for the opening ceremony about the end of September.
– The track will be laid but not wholly ballasted ?
– A third of the line is already ballasted, and 707 miles of line will remain to be ballasted after the period I have just mentioned. I am hopeful that honorable members will have an opportunity to take part in the opening ceremony. As this is war time, the Government will not be expected to conduct that ceremony with large expenditure. It will be a frugal one, but the opportunity of seeing what this line means, and the country through which it runs, judging by my own recent experience, ought to be afforded to honorable members of both Houses as soon as that can be safely done. There is another reason why we should push on with the completion of the line. In a speech delivered by the Prime Minister in this House a few days ago, honorable members and the public generally were made aware of ‘ the fact that shipping conditions are not easy. They are intensifying, and, without unduly stressing that peculiar and important fact, it becomes apparent to us in the Railway Department that the services which this line may render to Australia in connexion with Western Australian and other shipping may be of great value. They may be of great importance in releasing shipping for the services of Australia, on the coast, or for the services of our troops elsewhere. I think Ave are justified, therefore, from that point of view alone, in pushing on to an early completion of the work.
This line has had a most extraordinary career. If one looks back, recollects the estimates of what it would cost, and puts against those estimates the figures of expenditure up to date, and of the probable complete expenditure, one will see that either the men who launched it were unduly optimistic, or the expenditure on the line has been unduly extravagant. These figures are interesting, and I propose, with the consent of honorable members, to give them in broad outline. The estimate upon which the Department started to construct this line was provided by the late Engineer-in-Chief, Mr. Deane, and is dated 20th September, 1911. Mr. Deane’s estimate for the complete line of 1,052 miles was, as the departmental records show, £4,045,646. The estimate of the cost of completing the line, including ballasting, is now £6,667,360. The difference between the estimate originally supplied and the now total estimated cost is thus £2,621,714.
– What would the honorable member allow for increased wages, and so forth?
– I do not propose to hide any of the facts. This railway is a legacy to me, as it has been to many other Ministers who have struggled with it. It happens, by the accident of time, or by mischance, to be now my particular care, and I propose to give all the details. I have here a table showing the particular items on which Mr. Deane’s estimate is based, and comparing each of these items seriatim, to the number of thirty or thirty-five, with the estimate of the present Engineer-in-Chief.
– Do you propose to put that table on record in Hansard?
– I shall issue it in the form of a table for circulation amongst honorable members, but it is rather too bulky for publication in Hansard. The present Engineer-in-Chief was asked to explain the difference between the original estimate and the present one, and the return takes that comparative form. The excess due to using 80-lb. rails instead of 70-lb. rails amounts to £187,000 odd; the increase in the price of material, due mostly, of course, to the war, represents £874,000 odd; additional mileage of sidings, and so forth, £17,000 odd; or a total of £1,177,000 odd. There are other alterations, some of which were controllable and others of which were not. The original intention was not to ballast the line, though it is now proposed to ballast it with broken metal or gravel, and the estimated cost of the ballasting, as presented by the officer in charge, is £500,226. The alterations in wages cost, approximately, an increase of 31 per cent, since Mr. Deane made his estimate six years ago, and that means a total of £400,000. The balance is due to the inadequate provision of rolling-stock and to other under-estimates and omissions shown in the table, and that totals £544,106, and makes up the difference of £2,621,715.
– So that of the total increase less than one-fifth was controllable ?
– We could have controlled the question of the 70-lb. or the 80-lb. rails.
– But once that was agreed on?
– We could have controlled the ballasting, and constructed the line as originally designed. We could, theoretically, have kept the wages down, but I doubt whether it could have been done in actual practice. There were, of course, many things beyond control, such as the war-cost of material.
– Do you mean that if a greater amount of rolling-stock had been purchased you could have made a saving ?
– It is reported by the present officers that, had we pushed on with the construction of steam locomotives earlier, we could have got more ballasting done, and thus brought about cheaper construction in certain vital respects. But Mr. Deane had the idea of using, not steam traction, but internal combustion engines, and consequently the ordering of steam locomotives was delayed. Another vital feature is that it was not deemed essential under the circumstances to explore for water to any considerable extent. When, however, the policy was changed, and it was decided to use steam traction, as in the case of all the other railways in Australia, large orders had to be placed, some of which have notbeen completed.
– Who changed the policy?
– The present EngineerinChief; and water had to be explored for at large cost.
– Have you got the cost of the item of water?
– I have not picked it out especially, but I could furnish it later.
– Because there was a large sum of £300,000 provided for this purpose in the original estimate.
– It might be interesting if I explained exactly what has been done in the way of the provision of water for the western section. The legend that this line runs through 1,000 miles of desert, uninhabited by black or white men, is indifferently true.
– Nobody ever said that; except silly people, because this country has been occupied sixty years by South Australia!
– That comment falls with smashing effect on the journalists of Australia, because we have always been told by the newspapers that this is a “desert” railway. It is true, and true only of this section of the earth, that for 1,000 miles there was no human habitation along tha line east of Kalgoorlie until the railway habitations were erected. That, of course, indicates a country uninhabited, even at this stage of our existence, when we have been on the continent for 140 or 150 vears. However, I do not wish to be delayed with these considerations, and am anxious not to consume too much time in making this statement.
The reports on the boring contracts let on the western section show that at 205 miles from Kalgoorlie a small supply was discovered at 449 feet; 15 miles further east, a small supply was discovered at 236 feet; 15 miles further on, at 323 feet, there was discovered a daily output of 7,000 gallons.
– Fresh water?
– Yes, though there were cases of salt water, and these I shall mention as I come to them. At 250 miles east of Kalgoorlie, at 400 feet, there was discovered a supply of 7,000 gallons per day; at 265 miles, a daily supply of 10,000 gallons; at 279 miles, a supply of 4,000 gallons; at 280 miles, a supply of 4,000 gallons; at 310 miles, a supply of 4,000 gallons; at 319 miles, a supply of 20,000 gallons ; and at 337 miles, a supply of 70,000 gallons per day, all these being at varying depths. Apparently there is no law in this regard, as some of the best supplies were obtained at moderate depths. At 357 miles, a supply of 20,000 gallons per day was discovered at 400 feet; and at 380 miles, a supply of 10,000 gallons per day at 1,470 feet. Then we go on to 460 miles east, finding as we go supplies of 10,000 gallons, 40,000 gallons, 10,000 gallons, and 15,000gallons. These are the reported results of what is regarded as the western section of the line working from Kalgoorlie. On the east, the results were not quite so complete or encouraging. At 402 miles from Port Augusta a very small supply of very salt water was discovered at 309 feet; at 417 miles, a supply of 10,000 gallons per day; at 478 miles, a supply of 15,000 gallons; and at 453 miles, a supply of 600 gallons. Then we go on to 568 miles, with supplies running to 10,000, 15,000, and 50,000 gallons per day. It is true that the supplies at 543 miles and 556 miles have not yet been tested, but at 568 miles there was a supply of 50,000 gallons.
– Is there anv report as to whether this is purely artesian water?
– I am not qualified to decide that point, and I do nob know whether the engineers concerned are. We were chiefly concerned in testing the quality for locomotive purposes, and it was sometimes found more suitablethan the water purchased from Kalgoorlie by arrangement with the Western Australian Government.
– My question bears on the question of permanence.
– Quite so.
– How many of the supplies are fit for steam purposes ?
– Broadly speaking, all of them - speaking in general terms of the lot.
– Right through?
– No; in some degree, the Western Australian water is, according bo the report, better than that on the eastern side.
May I pause here to say that I speak now notl as an advocate of any particular administration, either political or official. I am sure that honorable members, when they go into this country will apprehend Borne of the difficulties which the construction authorities have had to contend with from start to finish. The construction of this line is unlike any undertaking of the kind in Australia. Those concerned had to work from bases such as Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie, and, roughly, work 500 miles each way. There were no supplies of labour, timber, water, or material discovered when the line commenced. Everything in the way of food for men, women, children, horses, and camels, and in the way of locomotives, rails, sleepers, fastenings, and all other material, had to be carried, in some cases, vast distances. Every ton had tlo come to the western section over 400 miles of a narrow-gauge State railway. In some cases all the material got from Newcastle and elsewhere was hauled 900 miles before it reached our own line - a distance equal tothat between Adelaide and Sydney.
In criticising this line, I hope honorable members, in justice to the men who are responsible for its inauguration and construction will keep some of these elementary bub important facts in mind. In addition, in the early stages, it is reported, though I have no personal knowledge of the matter, that a drought of considerable extent struck this country, increasing the price of fodder, and thereby, of course, increasing the costof construction in the cartage of material.
The outbreak of the war I have already alluded to generally as having increased the cost of material, but, in addition, it sometimes stopped supplies that were badly needed by the authorities. Even to-day locomotives are on order in Queensland and South Australia for which we cannotl obtain the necessary copper and brass internal fittings, although we have appealed to the British munition authorities for. permission to release them for the purposes of this defence railway. We have even gone so far as to offer the British Government a certain number of these locomotives, when finished, for service in Mesopotamia, Egypt, or France, if they will supply us with sufficient tubing and other internal parts to complete the lot. We thought that that might induce the British authorities to look encouragingly on our invitation, but, so far, we have not been able to get the locomotives completed.
This failure in the” supply of machinery and materials at various times has handicapped the line, but knowing the cause to be beyond the control of the contractors, we cannot equitably enforce penalties. Then we have had a variety and frequency of strikes, which, I think, will make this work celebrated for many a decade in the history of the country. There have been strikes of the actual day labour men, and strikes on the part of those employed by contractors; and these have held up operations. In our criticism we must remember this fact, in justice to the men engaged in this unique enterprise.
– Is there any estimate of the loss entailed by these strikes ?
– No calculation has been made, and it would be somewhat difficult to make one, seeing that there would have to be included, for instance, loss of interest and loss of wages by the supervising and other staffs.
– None of the strikes was of long duration.
– I think some of them were. I should now like to give, if I may, an estimate of what this line is likely to yield to us for. our expenditure of £6,600,000, w.hen completed. In doing this, I do not wish to figure as a prophet, because I know nothing of what the railway is likely to yield, and can form no basis. The officers themselves are conditioned by conjecture, but have doubtless done their best. If the line be opened on the 1st October next, it will be running for nine months before the close of the present financial year in June next, and the calculation is that our working expenses for that period will be £168,613.
– What service will that cover?
– A bi-weekly time-table. We do not take into account any special war service in goods or mails, bub contemplate what will be the first earnings from passenger traffic. The revenue for that period of nine months is estimated to be £159,694, showing a loss on working expenses of £8,919. We have taken the interest at nine months at £148,805, which shows a total loss of £157,724. But, if to make a complete year, we add three months to the nine, it is estimated that the total loss on the line - I speak now only of the 1.052 miles to Kalgoorlie -will be £210,299.
– Will you lay on the table the details of the official estimates ?
– I can do that if honorable members so desire. I must say that the engineering, transport, and locomotive officers are very largely guessing; they have no information to guide them. The traffic itself is abnormal at this time, and they do not know how to estimate the normal traffic, or the special traffic from Western Australia at Cup time or during the Christmas holidays. Therefore, I forgive any officer for making a miscalculation on this question, particularly in regard to revenue.
– Will not the mails be carried on the transcontinental railway?
– Yes ; but they are amongst the most irregular things in Australia at this time.
– I do not think the car- riage of mails is profitable to the Commonwealth.
– We have not yet made our arrangements with the PostmasterGeneral.
– Your mail contract with the steam-ship companies has not expired yet.
– The Postmaster-General will deal with that matter, and I think honorable members will find that he is in trouble about it. Honorable members not associated with the launching of this line will probably ask themselves whether it was worth while, and whether the Commonwealth is not paying too much money for the work. That question I shall not endeavour to answer. But I take two broad views of this question. As a man purely Victorian in politics, I have never been against the linking up of Western Australia ‘with the Eastern States, because that appeared to me to be necessary to the completion of Federation, and we have to pay the price for luxuries or necessaries of that kind.
– Western Australia never would have entered Federation but for an understanding on that point.
– And the line would never have been built but for an undertaking by Western Australia, which has not been fulfilled. However, this line does seem to me to be one of the prices for federating Australia in a practical way, particu- ‘ larly for drawing Western Australia into the sisterhood of. States which united. But, in addition to that, the line has a defence outlook and a defence incidence. If honorable members will read the criticisms and recommendations of military men like Major-General Hutton, they will see how military authorities regarded the probable completion of such a line as this. Of course, they spoke of such a line as one of uniform gauge, and we have not got that yet, as I shall endeavour to explain later. But even imperfect as it is, this line may be at this stage of great value to the military authorities. Major-General Bevan Edwards, who was at one time Commander-in-Chief in India, and caine to Australia to report on defence matters, expressed emphatic views about the weakness and danger to the Eastern States in having this huge unconnected country in the West, in which an enemy might find lodgment. Therefore, the railway has a defence incidence which must he linked up with the sentimental thought of drawing Western Australia into the Federation. I have said that when the line is opened only onethird of it will be ballasted. It is not usual to open lines in that condition for fast traffic, but honorable members who have been privileged to travel on any of its sections realize that it is possible to travel with safety and comfort on an unballasted line at 60 miles per hour.
– For a mile or two. The train did not travel 60 miles an hour when we were on it.
– That was because it carried Csesar and all his fortunes. The officer of the line realized that it carried the critic of the line, and he took no risk. But had the honorable member been travelling with the party on the western end of the line he could have ridden in peace and comfort at a rate of 60 miles an hour for two or three hours at a stretch.
I may here remark that to me one of the curiosities of politics has been the opposition of the honorable member for Wakefield to this line. I heard a most interesting and eloquent address from him a session or two ago in complete condemnation of this line, and I listened with apprehension, surprise, and horror, because I always regarded Western Australia and South Australia as having united to get this railway, and, as one of South Australia’s most influential men, the honorable member must have voted for it.
– After having gone over the line, I am of the same opinion, and I shall state my reasons for that opinion.
– To whom will the interest be paid bythe Railway Department?
– It is to be paid to the Treasury.
– That is a book entry. Is not the Commonwealth note issue responsible for about £4,000,000 of the money that was spent on the line?
– In the sense that the Railway Department will pay the interest to the Treasury the amount will be only a book item. But in the sense that the Treasury has to find the money somewhere and has to pay interest to the lender, it will not be a book item.
– Are you not going to debit the cost, even though it was Commonwealth notes, as if it were money borrowed ?
– I appeal to honorable members to be silent, and to allow the Minister to explain this Bill. Every member is entitled to be heard in silence.
– If honorable members will listen attentively while I explain some of the provisions of the Bill, they will see that we propose to debit the Railway Department with the interest, just as we propose to debit every other Department with the work which the Railway Department does for it, and to make the line, as far as we can, a business undertaking with a commercial balance-sheet.
I think honorable members will be satisfied that, ballasted or unballasted, the line will be safe enough for them to attend the opening ceremony. The rolling-stock, sleeping, second and first-class, is more than comparable with that of the trunk line expresses of Australia to-day. The same may be said of the dining-car. And on the” figures which I shall give to honorable members later, I believe that we shall be able to encourage first of all curiosity traffic, and then commercial and special traffic over the line by the comfort and facilities we shall give. The time-table, as drafted for Ministerial decision, is an interesting one. It means that the journey from Brisbaneto Perth will take five days fourteen hours. That is to say, de ducting about sixteen to seventeen hours for inevitable stoppages at capitals, the journey will take less than five days. The distance from Brisbane to Perth is 3,467 railway miles, and I have compared that rate of travelling with the pace at which the great Continental railway companies of America run their express trains. Probably the fastest service is that between New York and San Francisco, a distance of 3,250 miles, or 217 miles less than from Brisbane to Perth. That journey occupies four days and nine hours through a wellsettled and populated country. We estimate to do that distance, plus what is regarded as an extra day’s travel in Victoria, in five days fourteen hours under present conditions of break of gauge. Those figures will indicate to honorable members that the line will be capable of operating in a way that will encourage fast traffic. Commercial and other men who cannot spare the time to spend lazy days on the decks of coastal steamers mav be encouraged, particularly by the fares we propose to charsre. to do their ordinary business by travelling over this line. The inducements will be bettered by the conditions to which I shall allude later, involving . the removal of some of the breaks of gauge.
– The route you are speaking of isviâ the capital cities.
– Yes; I amspeaking of the only route available at the present time.
– Does the time you mention include the various stoppages ?
– Yes. Travelling from Brisbane there will be stoppages in Sydney from 10 a.m. till 8 p.m. ; in Melbourne from 12.51 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. ; and in Adelaide, Terowie, Port Augusta, and Kalgoorlie. To give a simpler illustration, this is what the Department contemplates: From Melbourne to Perth will take three days and three nights. A passenger will leave Melbourne by the Adelaide express on Monday afternoon, and reach Perth on Thursday night. Honorable members can calculate forthemselves just how much time this journey will save them and their constituents.
– How long will the stoppage in Adelaide be?
– From 9.55 a.m. till 11 a.m. The ordinary fares from Melbourne to Perth, as recommended, but not yet finally adopted, will be - second class, £6 13s. 6d. ; and first class, £10. For sleeping berths and meals, there will be extra charges. Holiday and excursion fares will be lower.
– You are not providing for return fares?
– Are sleeping berths provided for both classes ?
– Yes. But the dininghall will be common to both. It is not possible to carry two dining-halls, so that both classes must sup together. Thus Democracy will be again triumphant. The breaks of gauge present a great problem to the Commonwealth, andthe States associated in this enterprise. Travelling from Brisbane, the passenger will break from the narrow gauge at the Queensland border. There will be another break at Albury, a third at Terowie in South Aus tralia, a fourth at Port Augusta, and a fifth at Kalgoorlie.
– Surely Western Australia has rebuilt the line from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle ?
– No; and I shall ask the right honorable member for Swan not to listen to the argument I am about to use. It places in an invidious position the State which has honored the Commonwealth by returning him to this Parliament since the beginning of Federation. The records show that Western Australia, by invitation, appeal, and solicitation, urged the Commonwealth Government to build this line, and the Commonwealth Parliament consented to the line being built. In 1903 the Parliament of the State passed an Act, of which this was the governing section -
Not later than the time when the Commonwealth Parliament commences the construction of the first-mentioned railway -
That from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta - the State of Western Australia will commence the construction of a railway from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle on the same conditions as to gauge and rails as those laid down by the Commonwealth Parliament in connexion with the work undertaken by it, and shall complete the same by the time the Commonwealth has completed the railway aforesaid.
It was provided that this Act should lapse if the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway had not been commenced by the Commonwealth within five years. But on the 18th May, 1904, the Premier of Western Australia telegraphed to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth these words -
On condition that the Commonwealth is allowed a free hand as to route and gauge of railway, this State will be prepared for ten years after a line is constructed to bear a share of any loss in excess of our contribution on a population basis. It would be premature to fix the exact proportion we are prepared to pay at thi s stage, but I am confident that it will be liberal, and satisfy the Federal Parliament of our sincerity in this connexion, and our belief that the work will soon be a directly paying one.
The honorable member for Darling Downs, when he moved the second reading of the Bill which provided for the permanent survey of the route for a line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, assured the House that the construction of the proposed railway would cost less than £4,000,000, and the Minister for Home affairs, who, in September, 1911, moved the second reading of the Bill for the construction of the line, said that the Government of Western Australia had promised to construct a line from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle on the same gauge as that of the main line. Unfortunately, through faulty negotiations, or, shall I say, because of the overlooking of promises and the breaking of faith, the Commonwealth is to-day in a regrettable position. There are no unredeemed promises so far as the State of South Australia is concerned, because its Governments did not make any; but there are such promises in regard to Western Australia, and I was surprised to learn, when in Kalgoorlie a short time ago, that, although the Commonwealth railway is now within a mile of the narrow gauge station at Kalgoorlie, and will be ready for opening within three months, the Western Australian authorities will not be able to connect with our line within six months. The Commonwealth has been pushing on with its line hoping that the finances of Western Australia would improve, and finds now that if a connexion with the Kalgoorlie narrow gauge station is to be made shortly, it will have to be done at the Commonwealth expense.
– That is not the fault of those who made offers and promises on behalf of Western Australia.
– Perhaps not. They Were succeeded by a new generation of politicians. But the promises of Governments are continuous. It will be impossible for us to bring our line to the Kalgoorlie station except at an enormous cost. During the critical changes of the three or four past weeks, I have sent many telegrams to the Government of Western Australia, urging that all possible expedition should be made so that our line may be connected, even at our own cost, by the end of September, and the Minister for Railways, Mr. Scaddan, who is leaving office because of his defeat at the polls, has promised that that will be done. I need not go into this matter more minutely.
The records show that the line from Kalgoorlie to Perth should have been constructed at the expense of the Western Australian Government. I shall not put on to any particular Administration blame for the failures that have occurred, though I must express extreme disappointment and chagrin regarding the position in which the Commonwealth finds itself. If we wish to have this line made, we must either make it ourselves or find money for the Government of Western Australia to make it with. The break of gauge which the present arrangement causes is important because of its intimate historical connexion with the whole project; but it is not the most important break of gauge from a traffic point of view. This, as all familiar with the country will acknowledge, is the break of gauge at Port Augusta. Under present time arrangements, sleeping car passengers from Perth will have to change trains at Port Augusta at 4 o’clock in the morning, which will cause profanity enough to rend the heavens. In recent negotiations with the Government of South Australia we endeavoured to provide against this. A break of gauge at Port Augusta will seriously interfere with the usefulness of the main line. This break of gauge can be prevented either by widening the gauge of the line from Port Augusta to Terowie, or by constructing a line along the eastern side of Spencer Gulf from Salisbury to Long Plain, which would reduce the time of journey between Port Augusta and Adelaide from twelve and a half to about five hours. This, however, would cost the Commonwealth between £1,250,000 and £1,300,000.
– Has the route been surveyed?
– Yes, and about 42 miles of line have been constructed. Before leaving this question of gauge, may I remind honorable members representing Western Australia of some important facts about the western end of the line? I asked the Department to supply me with figures showing what amount has been spent in Western Australia out of the £6,000,000 odd that this transcontinental line has cost.
– And in South Australia, too, I hope.
– South Australia is not asking for anything.
– She has not given anything.
– According to the departmental estimate, the money expended in Western Australia is as follows: - Railage, haulage, &c., £474,551; harbor charges, £23,786; agency charges, £1,374; supplies obtained in Western Australia, £846,522; wages paid on construction, &c., western section, to 24th April, 1917, £696,116; water obtained from State Government, £20,000; total, £2,062,352. That is the sum which, during three years of construction, has been spent in the territory of Western Australia. When, therefore, the Government of that State are thinking over this proposition they ought to remember with gratitude that one of the incidental effects of the building of this line has been an expenditure of more than £2,000,000 within its borders. There is a proposition that the broad-gauge line should run only to Northam, and that thence another route should be taken to Perth.
– If the Government are going to have a broad gauge, it is essential that these sections should carry the same system of curves and grades.
– The principle of ruling grades and curves is a technical matter which will be duly attended to. The distance from Adelaide to Terowie is 140 miles, and from Terowie to Port Augusta 119 miles, making a total of 259 miles. The alternative route for a broad-gauge line from Salisbury to Port Augusta would reduce the distance to 192 miles, of which 47 miles, as far as Long Plains, have already been constructed. I do not think that I need worry honorable members with any more detailsof these projects.
– Does the Minister contemplate the financing of South Australia for a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge?
– That matter has been deliberately left open in the negotiations. When politics settle somewhat in Western Australia and South Australia, I am anxious to secure the attendance in Melbourne of the Ministers who can deal with this matter, in order to see whether we cannot come to an early arrangement respecting both breaks - east and west.
– Have you considered the question of making the junction of the east-west line, the 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge, with the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge in Adelaide rather than at some intermediate place?
– Yes. The objections of the South Australian Railways Commissioners have been tentatively registered. However, no finality has even been approached on this question. The matter with which I am chiefly concerned at the present time is getting a broad-gauge con nexion in order to prevent the break. The honorable member for Brisbane alluded to the losses on the Oodnadatta line. The figures relating to this matter are very interesting. The estimates of working expenses and revenue for the present financial year are as follow : - Working expenses, £88,675; charge for the hire of rolling-stock to the State of South Australia, namely, £5,720, making a total of £94,395. The revenue, it is estimated, will be £63,000- a loss of £31,395. The interest estimated by the Treasury to be due is £85,507, so that there is an annual loss of £116,902 on a project the capital cost of which was £2,250,000. In the preparation of these figures certain sums for May and June have been estimated, because they are not absolutely finalized at the present time.
– The position would be made complete if the Minister gave the figures for the Northern Territory line.
– It seems to me that that line is not justified, unless it is to be ah eventual connexion with the north-south line. That has been the conception of past Governments and past Parliaments, and we have to read into these projects the future possibility of this being a transcontinental line. The figures relating to the Port Darwin railway - these will cover the working cost of the Katherine River line, which is already handling cattle - are as follow: - Working expenses, £41,415; revenue, £29,982; loss in working, £11,443. When we add interest to this sum - namely, £13,228 - we get a total loss of £24,661 on a line 200 miles in length, and serving the Territory tributary to Port Darwin. The new Commissioner, whoever he may be, will have a most unpleasant task to perform. He will take over three white elephants, and will, of course, be expected to make them show good results.
May I, after having given honorable gentlemen what I think may be regarded as interesting facts in relation to our three principal railways, hasten now with an explanation of the provisions of the Bill itself. In clause 5, which is the first operative provision, the Bill provides for the appointment of a Commissioner who is to be a body corporate with a perpetual seal, capable of suing and being sued, and the usual conditions are attached to his operations. He cannot be appointed for more than five years. The term of appointment varies in the States; in some cases the term runs for four years, and in others it is seven years. A provision consequential upon that clause gives power to appoint a deputy Commissioner should a necessity arise. The maximum salary of the Commissioner is to be £2,000 per year. This is, as I say, a system of between 1,700 and 1,800 miles of railway to be run under novel and extraordinary conditions. We are anxious to get the best man we can for the money. My colleagues have authorized me to say that if it be found necessary to pay more to get the right kind of man; we shall have to ask Parliament for an alteration of this clause. But in viewof the present conditions necessitating economy, we do not think it is advisable to place a larger sum in the clause now.
– What are the States giving?
– In some cases the State of Victoria gave as high as £3,500 per year for an imported chairman. It gives to the present chairman £2,750, and to the subordinate Commissioners £1,750.
– Oh, no.
– That is the exact position. Three years ago the salary was £1,500 each, but each subordinate Commissioner got an addition of £250 during the last three years. The salaries vary in the States. What the present Chairman of the Railway Commission in New South Wales is receiving, I do not know. Broadly speaking, for a system of this size, we should be able to command the services of a competent administrator for £2,000 per year. It is a penny wise and pound foolish policy to pay small salaries for the doing of big things. If the Government find themselves in that position, they will not hesitate to come to Parliament and ask it to alter the amount of this salary.
In clause 1-2, honorable members will see that a feature known to certain State Railway Acts has been imported. Power is given to remove the Commissioner. This is one of the clauses defining the relations of the Commissioner to the Minister. Clauses 12 and 13 have been adopted from the Victorian Railways Act with a few necessary verbal changes. While Parliament is sitting, the Commissioner can only be removed by a vote of both Houses; but if Parliament is not sitting, the Minister may suspend the Commissioner; and if within sixty days after Parliament meets, the Commissioner is not restored by a vote of both Houses, then his suspension will operate as a confirmation and dismissal. That is found to be an elastic and workable provision, although, strangely enough, it has only been operated once, so far, in all the States in Australia.
Under clause 16, all property vests in the Commissioner. That propertv is carefully defined as in all Railway Acts and the definitions are the essentialsof railway ownership and operation. Clause 17 enacts that no rates or taxes or assessments shall be levied on the property of the Commissioner, except such as the Minister may approve. That provides for services rendered in terminal and other cities by the municipal and other authorities - for instance, a sanitary service and the like, by which the Crown makes a contract to pay a certain amount, although there is no right to levy on the property of the Crown for the cost of the service.
The money provided in this measure, or by any subsequent appropriation, is to be expended under the control and management of the Commissioner as provided in clause 18..
The powers of the Commissioner are set out in division 3 of PartII. All the powers, except one, may be delegated to any employee or prescribed person, and the exception is his power of delegation. This has been found necessary in connexion with all the State services. It will be increasingly so, perhaps, in the case of a railway which will be worked so far away from its base, as some sections must be.
The Commissioner may lease railway properties as defined in clause 21, but only with the consent of the Minister. Certain properties of a minor kind, relating to sites for storage and refreshmentrooms, may be let without permission of the Minister and at the discretion of the Commissioner. Under the next clause the Commissioner may contract, in his corporate name, for all or any of the matters set out. It also clearly specifies how such contracts may be made and what details shall be observed. Certain conditions are inserted in the next clause by which there is a limitation placed on the contracting power. If, for instance, it means the importation of goods over £1,000 in value from another country, the Minister has to consent to the contract. If it is a contract for locomotives for traction power, the Minister’s consent is necessary. If any contract exceeds £5,000, the Minister’s consent is necessary. Such conditions as these broadly apply in the case of’ State railways to-day, and they have been thought applicable to the due coordination of power between the Minister and the Commissioner in each railway system.
– Not in South Australia - not so extensively as this. For instance, as to stores, the Commissioner has no power. It is a Board which exercises the power.
– I know that South Australia lags a bit behind the other States–
– No, it is a bit ahead.
– In the matter of railway administration, Victoria and New South Wales at one time did the same, but they modified that arrangement about twentyfive years ago.
The Commissioner is obliged to annually prepare certain returns in connexion with these matters, and any returns which the Minister may order for presentation to him. He is also given power to refuse to carry dangerous goods. He is not bound to convey goods of excessive weight. He has power to demand tolls. The tolls have to be demanded with the approval of the Minister. They are to be non-differential as between persons, generally on the lines of the State services.
Then we come to what I regard as probably a debatable clause, and that is clause 31, by which the Commissioner ia empowered to sell spirituous liquors on a railway.
– We will have a word on that.
– I cannot imagine this clause passing without more than a “ wurd “ from the honorable member. Before his angry passions rise and obscure his judgment, may I explain to him what the scheme is. First of all, refreshmentrooms within a State, that is fixed tenements, must get a licence from the
State. They will operate under the conditions of a State licence as to hours and everything else. Leased refreshmentrooms at, say, Port Augusta, or rooms established at Tarcoola, Loongana, or any of the places to be re-named, will have to operate under the State law. But that cannot apply to the liquor sold on a train.’ As passengers will be three days and three nights on a journey from Melbourne to Perth, and as there is a portion of the journey where there will be no public house, it is thought that even a temperate man like so many of my honorable friends sitting opposite may want some liquor on going to bed or at mealtime. We think it advisable to give the Commissioner power to sell. The sales will be conducted in the dining car under regulations for which the Minister will be responsible - as he will be for all other regulations, and instead of the encouragement of intemperance, there will be, I trust, a provision for comfort without abuse.
– He ought to be bound by the general conditions though.
– If my honorable friend can think of any improvement, I shall be glad to confer with him. I might remind him that the dining-car will have to go through two States. He will find no public house however long his eyes may search the horizon.
– What hardship is that) ‘
– There might come a time when even a less resolute member than the honorable member might want something - on a cold, wintry night, for instance.
There is power under clause 33, by arrangement with any State, to connect our railways with the railway system of that State. The duties of the Commissioner, as defined within Division IV., are expressed chiefly in clauses 35, 36, and 37. They are the usual ones, requiring the Commissioner to take upon himself the obligations of a common carrier at law, and to do all things necessary for maintaining, altering, repairing, and safeguarding the railways, and for seeing that they are kept in a state of efficiency., These duties are deliberately put upon him, and certain provisions are inserted to safeguard them by Ministerial operation. Under clause 40 the Commissioner cannot) incur any expenditure for works outside the ordinary working expenses or maintenance without a revised and approved statement to the Minister. Under clause 41, the Commissioner has to furnish the Minister with a quarterly report showing exactly what is happening on the railways, and what is the condition of the lines. The Commissioner has also to furnish an annual report which, in due course, and as prescribed, will be laid before Parliament. Any further report which the Minister may want can be ordered by him at anv time during the course of the year.
We now come to two more important clauses defining the relationship of the Commissioner to the Minister. I refer to clauses 44 and 45. These again are provisions which have been framed as the result of experience of State action. There have been frequent occasions when a perfectly competent and conscientious Commissioner has collided with the Government of the day on questions of policy, and these clauses provide the safety valves which have been found to operate with signal effect and safety in certain of the States. Thev amount to this: thatthe Minister may submit to the Commissioner a proposition forconsideration. If the Commissioner approves of that proposition all is well - there is an agreement. If he does not, and there ia any dispute as to who is right and who is wrong, the Governor-General in Council may determine ‘the question. If, after such a determination, the Minister deliberately orders certain alterations in the railway management, and those alterations involve the Railway Commissioner in any expenditure, then the cost has to be provided by the Treasury. That is a broad provision in many of the State Acts. Without it we could not pretend that a railway balance-sheet is an independent thing, or that a railway cash box is a commercial cash-box. I hope that honorable members will carefully scan those provisions, and approve them.
– Does that refer to freights and fares?
– To anything, including freights and fares, over which Ministerial interference with the Commissioner may operate.
– It has referred to the building of locomotives before to-day.
– Within my own experience as a State Treasurer, it has referred to many things. This has been found a salutary provision operating equitably to both parties to the conflict.:
– It has had an historical meaning in Victoria.
– And so have other clauses to which I have alreadv referred.
– These clauses lay down the only possible conditions of independence.
– I think so. I come now to conditions affecting railway service. We provide in this Bill that every man is to hold office during pleasure only. The legal members of the House will say that is theposition under the State laws today. I think it was left to the honorable member for Flinders on one occasion to prove that fact. We say to all the men at present engaged, with the exception of the two who have been made permanent officers under the Construction Bill, that they are temporary employees when the line opens. Other clauses place upon the Commisioner the further obligation that, as early as practicable after the passing of this measure, he shall present to the Minister a list of the permanent offices that it will be necessary to fill. I make a distinction between offices and officers. The Commissioner has to supply a list of the positions which, in his judgment, should, for the working of the railway system, be declared permanent offices. He then selects for appointment to those positions the men whom he thinks are best fitted for them. That is the starting point. It is a large power to place in the Commissioner’s hands; but we have to establish a working basis for starting a railway system, and we might have to thin out some of the existing employees, or import men from the State railways in order to obtain an effective service.
– The Minister may have to do that if he is to be the responsible head.
– I hope that men who were occupying permanent positions in State services, and who gave them up because of a definite promise that they would secure permanent service under the Commonwealth, are not to be treated astemporary employees.
– I have made inquiries, and am assured that while hopes of permanent employment were held out in one or two cases, no definite promises were given. But in all those cases, I believe, after consultation with the head of the Department, efficiency is undoubted, and appointment is likely to follow.
This, broadly, is the only way in which we can start a railway system, in which we already have employed a large number of men, many of whom will not be needed for operating the service. A limitation is imposed on the power of the Commissioner to raise wages. Clause 51 provides that Ministerial sanction will have to be gained for the creation of any office to which a salary of over £500 per annum is attached, and for the raising of any salaries over that amount.
– Can the Commissioner fix salaries below that level?
– He can do so only by means of by-laws, and, as the honorable member will see, the by-laws have to be sanctioned by the Minister. That brings the general classification under the control of the Minister. It brings the whole railway system under review.
– Is provision made for automatic increases of salary by the Commissioner ?
– That must all be done in accordance with the by-laws.
– Is it proposed to limit the power of the Commissioner with regard to the appointment of relatives to positions in the service?
– I do not know that experience has shown that to be necessary.
– We inserted such a provision in the Commonwealth Bank Act.
– I had not thought of that point, but I shall be glad to discuss it with the honorable member. He will recognise, however, that it would be an expression of want of confidence in the man to be appointed as Commissioner. There is also in this Bill provision for the appointment of an Appeal Board. Experience has proved such a Board to be necessary. This Appeal Board does not relate to every class of offence or punishment. I take only two, but they are the more serious - dismissal, or reduction of rate of pay. We provide in clause 63, find its four sub-clauses, how those matters shall be dealt with. A Board is to beappointed consisting of one representative of the employees and one representative of the Commissioner, who shall not be an officer of the branch in which the employee serves, while a third member is to be appointed by the Minister. He is to be a judicial officer, and will be a Police Magistrate of the State in which the matter is decided. The Board will investigate the Commissioner’s finding with regard to the dismissal or reduction of rate of pay, and its decision will be final.-
– Are fines to be dealt with in the same way?
– Not unless they involve a reduction of pay. We have taken the two more serious matters. I think it would be injudicious - and experience proves that it would be - to provide for an appeal in respect of every kind of complaint. Many frivolous complaints are made, and this vast machine might be called into use to deal with a case not worth trying. As long as we safeguard a man’s rate of pay and his position in the Department we give him, I think, all that is necessary.
– Men are often punished for small things.
Mr.WATT.- I admit that. I myself have been so punished.
– In New South Wales questions of rank, grade, or pay may form the subject of appeal.
– I am aware that under the New South Wales Act a third cause of appeal is provided for. “ Rank,” after all, is a question of status, and “ grade “ is almost the same thing. I do not think we need do that.
– If a man is disrated he has the right of appeal.
– When a man has done good service as a shunter, signalman, fireman, or engine-driver, but loses his quickness of vision or his appreciation of colour, the question of reducing his status and his pay from, say, 14s. to11s. per day often crops up. That is a fit cause for appeal. Such a man has given willing service, but some of the infirmities of nature overtake him and render it impossible for him to go on giving the same service.
– Some men have beeu trented disgracefully.
– I think they have, but not in many qf the States.
– Such a case as the Minister has mentioned would be a case of disrating.
– In that case there would be the right of appeal. The retiring age is fixed, by clause 54, at sixty-five, but a man may retire at sixty. He has to get the Commissioner’s consent, and theoretically the Commissioner might retain him in the service, although he wished to retire, but, in actual practice, if a man wants to leave, he leaves at sixty. There is also a provision for temporary employment, as is necessary in all railway services. In this case the Minister must approve. The maximum term in ordinary cases is to be six months, in exceptional cases nine months. This again is based on the experience of the Public and Railway Services of the States.
– Why should not a temporary employee as well as a permanent employee have the right of appeal?
– I do not think that that is ever given.
– It is given in New South Wales.
– It is not given in the Victorian or in any other Act with which I am familiar.
– I thought there were to be no permanent employees.
– There are to be no permanent employees, but the offices are to be permanent. This clause contemplates the appointment of temporary men to temporary offices, and in order not to abuse it, and to insure that the employment shall really be temporary, a limitation is placed on the term.
Two funds are to be created.- One is a plant and stores suspense account. Honorable members who have had experience of railway matters will know how valuable that has proved in Australia. It enables you to properly debit your works, to buy at the right time if you are operating with judgment, and to use your suspense account as a pool into which your purchases go, and out of which they come for construction and maintenance purposes, so that the account is automatically adjusted. Only such money as Parliament provides is to be paid into the fund.
The other fund to be created is the railway accident and insurance fund. That will be financed by taking from the receipts of the Railway Department one quarter per cent, of the annual revenue, or 5s.’ per £100. When the fund reaches £20,000 that contribution will be automatically cut off. The purposes of the fund are set out in clause 58.
– Is there any provision for employees injured in the performance of their duties?
– That is embodied in clause 58.
– There does not appear to be any provision for accidents to employees in clause 58.
– Clause 86 applies the provisions of the Commonwealth Workmen’s Compensation Act 1912 to cases of accident to employees. Clause 58 makes special provisions for third parties and others.
– Is’ there to be compulsory insurance in regard to permanent employees ?
– No, that is not in the Bill at all.
The part dealing with the construction of new railways begins at clause 59. The theory of the construction of railways is this : The initiation of a construction proposition shall rest with the Minister, and not with the Commissioner. If the Minister is satisfied by evidence submitted to him by deputations or. representations that it is desirable to investigate a proposition, he may employ the Commissioner’s staff and services to ascertain the data connected with it. If he is satisfied that it is worth referring to the Public Works Committee, this Bill provides that it shall be referred in the manner prescribed by the Public Works Committee Act.
– What functions will the Public Works Committee fulfil in that investigation ?
– The same functions as the Railways Standing Committees of all the States perform.
– No.- They inquire into the paying probabilities of the line.
– This requires our Public Works Committee to do the same.
– All our lines are not going to pay, so what is the use of referring ,them to the Public Works Committee ?
– The honorable member must not “look so blackly on the east.”
Propositions may be made to us for lines that will pay.
– The Public Works Committee Act gives much wider powers than the honorable member for Wentworth suggests.
– The honorable member for Wentworth will know that on reflection. The idea is to keep the forms and procedure of the Public Works Committee Act, but we do one thing additional. We enact that, after the matter has been referred to the Committee and the report has been received, and after the Minister has moved the authorization for the line by resolution, as provided in the Bill, we cannot construct the railway unless we bring down a special Bill. In clause 62 we enumerate the specific information which must be embodied in that Bill. “This is (1) - A detailed description of the route of the proposed railway; (2) the limit of deviation; (3) the maximum cost of the proposed railway.
– Those are the ordinary provisions in Railway Acts in Australia.
– They have had to be adapted, because we had to take our Public Works Committee Act, which differs in many ways from the State Railways .Standing Committee Acts, and work it into this Bill, but with the necessary adjustments the same principles are followed. That provision will be an additional guarantee to Parliament of circumspect procedure in the construction of future railway lines.
– This does not apply to the construction df sidings?
– No. Once the propositions are passed by Parliament in due form, the Commissioner ‘ is charged with the responsibility of constructing the railway. That is on the lines of all our Railway Acts so far, the only difference being that sometimes in .the States a special construction authority has been created. We do not propose to do that. The construction powers are all set out in clauses 64, 65, and 66. There are the usual limitations on the authority of the Commissioner in relation tlo parks, roads, and things of that kind. In those cases, Ministerial approval is necessary.
The penalty sections, which are covered by part VI., are the usual ones. Small penalties are dealt with in by-laws; large penalties involving heavy fines or imprisonment, are specially prescribed in the clauses of the Bill. There isT under the present State laws, ample authority, and we need not re-enact it here, for the punishment of more serious offences against railway construction, such as obstructing a line and causing death or injury to human beings.
The liability “of the Commissioner for death or total disablement is limited to £2,000, as in most Railway Acts, with a maximum liability of £1,000 for’ partial disablement. Claims for vast sums have sometimes been put in against the State Railway Accident Funds by earners of heavy incomes, or their relatives, and the States have almost invariably found it necessary to specify a maximum liability. The provisions relating to accidents are the same as those of the State laws. Reports of accidents must be supplied to the Minister, .and the Minister has certain powers. The Commissioner may examine immediately all the injured persons, so as to see that evidence is not faked, for the purpose of claims against the accident fund, and the workers are covered bt* the provisions of the Workers Compensation Act.
By-laws are provided for in part VIII., which also covers the various matters not dealt with specifically, in the clauses of the Bill. The safeguard which the House has is that the Governor-General has to approve of the by-laws.
– Are they to be laid on the table of the House ?
– Not as the Bill is framed. If honorable members desire that they shall be, that is a minor matter. I did not intend to take half the time I have taken in discussing this measure, but there is so much interesting data which honorable members may reflect on that I was tempted to embark upon a much longer speech than I at first thought desirable. 1 thank honorable members for their indulgence, and hope they will deal considerately with the Bill, and give it as swift a passage as possible.
.- The Leader of the Opposition, who is unavoidably absent, desires an adjournment of the debate.
– I have no authority, but I do not mind an adjournment until tomorrow.
Debate (on motion by Mr. J. H. Catts, for Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 18th July (vide page 236), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– The Government are endeavouring by this Bill to make provision for our returned soldiers in a direction that, I admit, is commendable and quite justified. The object is to secure for the men from the Front permanence of employment in the Public Service as far as that is possible. Under the Public Service Act, temporary employment is limited to six months, which, however, is at times exceeded owing to the fact that departmental heads are loath to part with men who have proved themselves particularly adapted for the duties allotted to them. It does not follow that justice is always done to the whole of the temporary hands under such an arrangement; and it must be admitted that in such a matter as this it is exceedingly hard, if not impossible, to please everybody. For good or evil, we have in this community a large section of elderly men, who, in their youth, were able to perform hard, if not excessively heavy work, but who in their declining years find themselves compelled to rely more or less on temporary employment in the Public Service for the maintenance of themselves and their families. These men have in various ways made themselves exceedingly useful, and their employment under the circumstances is fully warranted. Of course, I do not wish to advocate the claims of these men as against the claims of those who return from the Front, for such an attitude would be both foolish and unfair; and there is no disputing the fact that the men who have fought for us should be assured some permanence in their employment.
While the Government by moral suasion may arrange with private employers to give certain facilities to returned men in the way of obtaining a means of livelihood, there is no doubt that the community will look to the Government to do their utmost in this direction by means of this and similar measures. I do not know that the Government will attain all they desire. Positions in the public Departments may not alwavs be found suitable for men who ha ve been away fighting the battles of the country, but we ought to give the plan a trial. It may be that in many of the Departments returned soldiers will be found altogether unfitted for the work open to them; but at the same time the Government are quite justified in introducing this measure. I trust that, while paying every attention to our soldiers, we shall not altogether forget that great class of elderly unemployed men, whose condition is the production of our present economic system. Rightly or wrongly, these men expect that in our present state of civilization they will be allowed to exist, because if they are not given employment, they and their families will very soon find themselves on short commons. The Government, however, made certain promises to our young men when they enlisted, and those promises must be fulfilled. If the Government believe that by a measure of this character they are assisting the repatriation scheme, I fancy they will find that they are making a great mistake. I am with the Government to the hilt in their desire to meet the case of the returned soldiers by providing them with some source of permanent employment, but it must not be thought that the present proposal will, in the opinion of those soldiers, adequately honour the promises made when they enlisted.
– The honorable member means that the Bill does not cover the whole of the promise made to the soldiers.
– It hardly touches it. One could hardly conceive the Government desiring to get out of their responsibilities to the returned soldiers by such a Bill.
– The Commonwealth Government will do- nothing for the returned soldiers; they will pass them on to the States.
– I am quite in sympathy with the interjection, but if such a statement was made outside by the honorable member, much as he is admired by the people of Australia, the “ booby hatch “ would be the place for him.
– I am not afraid of saying it outside, and I will say it here on the adjournment.
– If the honorable member expressed himself like that outside he would be told that he was interfering with recruiting. I would not like to see the honorable member interned.
Similar expressions have placed many men in durance vile.
– When you tell Ministers of cases they take no notice of you. I will take the risk of expressing my opinion.
– It is a positive fact that Ministers do not take much notice of honorable members’ representations. The opinion expressed by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is held by 90 per cent. of the people. This is only patch- work legislation. I rather think the Ministry look upon this Bill as a stage in their repatriation scheme. I would not have spoken upon it but for the fact that I am rather suspicious of it. What does it mean to the man who has gone to the Front, and come back in such a condition that he cannot work ? Men who are away from their avocations for two years will return altogether unfitted for their customary means of livelihood.
– The Bill does not cover that phase of the question.
– We are told that the Bill is to insure to the returned soldiers certain positions in the Commonwealth Service without having to pass the prescribed examinations which are enforced on ordinary individuals.
– It does nothing of the sort. The soldier must pass the necessary examination.
– At any rate, there is to be no limitation in regard to age.
– That is the only distinction.
– Under the Public Service Act the clerical examination prescribed for applicants outside the Service is harder than that which a man in the General Division of the Service is called upon to pass. I agree that those who have been to the Front should have certain advantages over those who are outside the Public Service, but I do not believe that the principle of holding these positions open tothe men who have been to the Front will meet with their approval. Those who have been away and have come back, and those who write to us from the Front, say that they feel they are, and will be, altogether unfitted to again follow their former occupations. I have received a letter from my nearest relation, who has had to work from a very early age. He writes from the Second Birmingham Hospital, and says that he will not be able to follow the ordinary work at which he was employed before he went away. Of course, if this is intended to apply only to those who enlisted and did not go away, I would not alter the present arrangement. Some went away in troopships, and came back immediately afterwards.
– What is the honorable member’s objection to the Bill ?
– The life the men lead at the Front will unfit them for following the ordinary occupations they followed before their departure, therefore this Bill will be of very little value to the general body of men who have been at the Front.
– How do you make that out? If the Bill is not passed, they are in the same position as they are now.
– That is so.
– Does this Bill make the soldier’s position any better?
– It makes it better.
– I admit that, but if it is intended to lessen the responsibility of the Government in regard to repatriation, the relief will be infinitesimal.
– Of course, but this is only one of the things that ought to be done. If a man goes to the Front, and if he is away two or three years, and thus has got out of the way of passing examinations, he ought not to be handicapped by age or examinations more than is necessary.
– I quite agree with that, but I do not think the Bill will have quite the effect which the Prime Minister expects.
– Time will show that. Why should these soldiers be treated differently from other soldiers whb have returned to civil life?
-If the honorable member had had as much experience of returned soldiers as I have had he would not expect many to pass the examination.
– What does the honorable member or any man know about the prescribed examination? I could set examinations which could be passed, and likewise I could set examinations that could not be passed. In this Bill we propose to give returned soldiers an examination which they can pass.
– Already inside the Service, in the General Division, we have examinations in which men do not compete with those from outside.
– Under this Bill returned soldiers will have an advantage over the “stay-at-homes,” and I think they ought to.
– Very well, we will leave it at that, but I hope the Ministry will not regard this measure as an excuse for not having a more comprehensive repatriation scheme.
– Of course not. This is intended to open an avenue of employment to returned soldiers.
– I agree with that, but I hope the Prime Minister doesnot wish us to believe it is going to be an enormous benefit to the returned soldiers.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
.- The. object of the Bill is to insure that returned soldiers shall have a greater opportunity of getting into the Public Service than they would have had as private citizens. That purpose has my approval. I understand that clause 2 will allow men up to the age of fifty years to submit themselves for a clerical examination. Will that be the same examination as is passed by boys desiring to enter the Service?
– It will be a prescribed examination.
– In clause 3 it is proposed to exempt returned soldiers from the time limit which the Public Service Act places upon temporary employment.
– They will be exempt from the operation of the section which puts a period to their employment . as temporary officers.
– This practically makes a new class of public servant.
– Iti removes, for the time being, the time limit for temporary hands.
– I suggest to the Prime Minister that this Bill will give to the men who return first a greater opportunity than will be enjoyed by those who return later. The Public Service can absorb only a certain number of employees of this class. The report of the Public Service Commissioner states that there are in the Commonwealth Service some 16,000 temporary employees. Of those, a great number are women who are engaged in cleaning, men employed at rush work in the Postal Department at
Christmas time, and all the officials employed at contract and other post-offices which are not official offices, and men employed on construction work in connexion with telephones. It is apparent, therefore, that not many returned soldierscan be found employment in this way. I should like to. make a plea for another class of men. We heard mention to-day of a man who had been employed for one year and ten months in the Home and Territories Department, and who has five sons, four of whom have gone to the Prout from Australia, whilst the fifth has been called up in England. Of the five, two have made the supreme sacrifice. It seems to me that men such as that father should have as good a chance in the Public Service as a returned soldier. I quoted the case the other day of a married man who had been employed in one of the Departments and had given satisfaction. He was over the military age, and he had six children, but no son old enough to enlist. His position was declared vacant, and a returned soldier who had not the same responsibilities was appointed in his stead. Whilst I am in favour of this Bill, I say there are other citizens who deserve consideration. I know that my suggestion will entail difficulties in administration, but men whose sons have gone to the Front, or men who are unable to go because of their age, but have done their best’ in serving the country, are entitled to consideration as well as men who have actually served with the Expeditionary Force. I do not know whether other honorable members have had sent tlo them the following letter: - 96 Gatehouse-street, Parkville, 18th June, 1917.
Mr. A. H. Hunt,
Meteorological Bureau, Melbourne.
Dear Sir, -
In re, one week’s notice given me by Mr. Curtain, that my services will not be required so as to employ a returned soldier.
I respectfully submit the following statements, and ask for further consideration of the matter before a final decision is made.
In “ Win-the-war “ policy adopted by the Government I am not aware what you and the Public Service Commissioner, officers holding high rank in the Service, have done toward that end. I feel persuaded that my family contribution will compare favorably with either or any officer in your Department.
I have four sons at the front, two of them “ Anzac Heroes,” who have made the full sacrifice, a third son wounded in action, and is now in an English hospital, a fourth some where in France, a fifth son in England, conscripted, but exempted up to the last time of hearing, a total of five sons already involved; in addition, there is a further liability of having live other sons taken under conscription, which now appears imminent, and which is apparently the only way.
As this is the first engagement I have had under the Commonwealth since I registered for employment on the15th September, 1908, allowing for transfer from the Census Bureau, having more than once applied, in writing, on personal grounds to the Commissioner for employment without receiving an acknowledgement, although I have been employed by the State Government for five and a half years, during that time giving effective service, for which I hold first-class references from the different Departments.
My sons, in fighting for King and country and home, and freedom, had reasonable expectations that their father would have granted to him the usual privileges allowed temporary officers, including length of service. 1 know some of my colleagues have been engaged over two years. It will not be two years until the 4th October, 1917, since I started.
I appeal to you, Sir, as representing the powers that be, on behalf of my loyal soldier “ True Heroes,” who will never return, not to be a party in doing this injustice, which, if done, I shall consider my sons have died in vain, and it will be a glaring illustration of what happens to reputable citizens under military law.
Yours faithfully, (Signed) C. H. Yates.
I am not responsible for the phraseology of that letter, but I submit that a man who has given five sons in this war is worthy of consideration at the hands of the Government.
– Of course he is; but the honorable member is asking for consideration for the man who has not given any sons, on the ground that as he had none to give he could not give any.
– I say that a man with six children, all of whom are too young for military service, whilst he is too old to enlist, ought not to be turned out of temporary Government employment which cannot last longer than six months.
– Where are we to draw the line?
– Every Minister has a right to consider cases on their merits, and we should not enact that the first soldier to return shall be exempt from the temporary employment . limitation. The effect of clause 3 will be that the men who return first will have an opportunity of entering the Service, whilst the men who come back later will have no opportunity at all.
– Suppose we postpone doing anything until every man has returned ?
– I would not do that. I have never objected to the extension of the term of temporary employment for returned soldiers, but I contend that the Ministry should consider the position of every other indivdual in the community.
– We will.
– The Customs Department employs fewer temporary hands than any other branch of the Commonwealth Service, but temporary hands in that Department must be of a very reliable character. They are employed in watching vessels, and men engaged on that work, especially in connexion with boats from the Orient, must be persons on whom the Collector can absolutely rely. It has been said to these watchers in Sydney, and probably in every other port, “ Turn your head for 10 seconds and you can have £50.” We know what ruses are resorted to in order to smuggle opium. I suppose the Prime Minister has heard that statement on the wharfs.
– I have not: but it is the best price I have ever heard offered for turning one’s head.
– I have not the slightest doubt that the Prime Minister has had brought under his notice examples of smuggling.
– I have heard of cases of the very men who made the most outcry about the Maltese allowing them to land for £5 per head.
– I am not dealing with that question. What I am suggesting is that, in their desire to assist returned soldiers, the Government should not do something unfair or injurious to other equally reputable citizens who have done as well for the community.
– I read the letter from Mr. Yates, which the honorable member has quoted, and it struck me than if he had been an ordinary temporary employee he was not entitled to more than six months’ employment in any case, whilst, if he was an exempt man because his services were particularly valuable, he would not have been turned out.
– He was turned out. He was at work in the Meteorological Bureau.
– Was he one of the exempted men?
– He must have had an exemption, because he was more than six months in the Service. I put it to the Prime Minister to say that no injustice should be done to citizens who are not returned soldiers. I am in favour of the time for examination being extended to any person.
– Does the honorable gentleman not draw a distinction between those who have done their duty to the country and those who have not? Whether those who have not gone to the Front could not have done so is, of course, another matter. The honorable gentleman and I could not go by reason of age. That could not be helped; but there are others who have gone to the Front.
– There are many men who have not been able to go because of physical disability. There are men who, because of defects due to accident at birth or after birth, have been unable to enlist. It is most difficult for these persons to secure employment, and it is not fair that they should be debarred an opportunity to qualify for employment in the Pubiic Service.
– Is the honorable gentleman speaking now of temporaryor permanent employment?
– I am speaking of both. It is, in my opinion, quite right to allow men who have been to the Front to present themselves for examination up to fifty years of age.
– What is the limit as to age now, and how long has it been in force ?
– The limit now as to age is twenty-three years, and it has been in force for sixteen years, or since Federation was established.
– And only now has any one said one word against it.
– There have always been complaints about it.
– How many Cabinets have the honorable gentleman and I sat in, and permitted that to continue?
– In three different Cabinets, but there was no opportunity to amend the Public Service Act. The Prime Minister must know that if the Public Service Act could have been amended it was proposed to alter the law very drastically in many directions.
– But not in that direction.
– I say that that is one of the provisions which it was proposed to alter. Surely the Prime Minister does not expect a man to pass at fifty years of age the examination which be passed as a youth fresh from college or from school ! I suppose that even men already in the Service could not pass at fifty years of age the examination which they passed in order to get into the Service. But although they could not do this they are probably much better servants of the public now, becauseof their experience, than they were when they entered the Service. I am anxious in this matter that justice should be done to the men Who have returned from the Front, and also to those who will yet return. I do not desire that all the positions available in the Public Service should be filled by men who have returned up to the present time, but that some should be available for those who have yet to return, and also for men who, like Mr. Yates, have had sons at the Front. I do not say that such men are entitled to any of the glory which belongs to their sons, but they ought not to be debarred from obtaining positions in the Government Service merely because they were too old to enlist or were physically unfit to go to the Front.
– There is some danger that injustice may be done under the Government proposal. During the refreshment hour I received a letter from a returned soldier who was pleading on behalf of a man who has been turned out of employment to make room for a returned soldier, although this man himself has been rejected twice when applying to enlist. Now, finding himself out of employment, he has applied for the third time to enlist, and up to the present, so far as he knows, he has not been accepted. I do not suppose that it is the intention of any honorable member to deprive men who have tried to enlist, and have been rejected, for services abroad, of what might be termed their legitimate occupations. It may bethat in many cases returned soldiers will have a better claim to consideration, but there are cases in which men who are the bread winners of families have tried to enlist and have been rejected, and these menhave to shoulder a greater responsibility than has a returned soldier who is a single man. It is, therefore, necessary that there should be room for some discrimination. The Minister for Home and Territories agrees with the Prime Minister as to the treatment meted out to Mr. Yates, who was employed in the Meteorological Bureau. He is endeavouring to find another berth in his Department for this man, who is the father of five sons, four of whom, have gone from Australia to the Front, and two of whom have made the -supreme sacrifice. It is admitted that an injustice has been committed in the case of this man.
– It does not follow that to try to find a man another job is to do him an injustice.
– It appears that this man was engaged at work for which he was specially qualified. He was practically considered an exempt officer, otherwise he would not have been continued in his employment, as he was, for a year and ten months. It is, I think, unreasonable in the circumstances that his services should have been dispensed with in order to make room for a returned soldier.
– I think that his is quite an exceptional case. Such a man ought not to be discharged merely to make room for someone else.
– That is so, but that is the reason given by the Minister. The Minister for Home and Territories takes the same view of this case as the Prime Minister. He has been so much impressed with the representations made on behalf of Mr. Yates that he is prepared to find some other position for him.
– The law will be administered on those lines.
– I am desirous tha: similar mistakes may not occur in the future. Mr. Yates made his grievance knownto members of Parliament andto the Minister, but there are many persons who although, perhaps, complaining in their home circle, are content to remain quiet under an injustice, and therefore get no redress of grievances. It is, therefore, important to do in advance what may be possible to prevent injustice.
– The Bill did not create the trouble in Mr. Yates’ case.
– No; but we must prevent similar injustice happening under it.
I take this opportunity to bring under notice the case of certain men - Ihave in mind particularly the case of certain tele phone mechanics - who prior to the outbreak of war qualified for permanent appointment, but have been denied such appointment because of the war. Certain telephone mechanics went to the trouble and expense of attending technical schools to qualify for permanent employment, and met in every way the requirements of the Public Service Commissioner and the Deputy Postmaster-General, but, owing to the outbreak of war, they have not been given the permanent appointments they were seeking. Many of these men are married and have family responsibilities, and some of them have volunteered to go to the Front, but were rejected. The case of these men deserves immediate attention.
Serious injustice is often done to public servants, too, by the provision of the Act which requires those who receive promotions to positions carrying certain rates of salary to increase their insurance policies. I have in mind the case of men who came into the Commonwealth Service from the service of a State, and whose salaries were increased from time to time by the customary increments. When the last increment came to some of them, they were nearly sixty years of age, and as its acceptance involved the increasing of their insurance policy premiums, this meant a serious burden to them, because at their age insurance premiums are very high. I think that when a public servant who has given faithful service for a number of years reaches mature age, he should not be compelled to increase his insurance policy.
– The honorable member is going beyond the scope of the Bill.
– There are some of these cases which I intend to bring personally under the notice of the Prime Minister. I wish to know if munition workers who have gone abroad will be in the same position as returned soldiers.. I invite the attention of the Minister to clause 5.
– That clause applies merely to leave.
– In clause 2 it is provided that returned men not more than fifty years of age mav be appointed to the Clerical Division upon passing “ the prescribed examination.” Does that mean the examination provided for by the Public Service Act ?
– It does not mean the examination now prescribed, but such examination as may hereafter be prescribed.
– I think that honorable members generally are in favour of giving preference in Government employment to returned soldiers, but in, doing that we must have regard, as far as possible, to the rights of the present members of the Pub.lic Service, and to the efficiency of. the Service. As to our public servants, I say as clearly as I can, that if this State does not choose to impose . on its citizens of military age the duty to serve at the Front at such a time as this, I am entirely opposed to any indirect action for achieving the same end, whether it be termed economical or indirect conscription. Unless we impose by Act of Parliament on all capable of serving, the duty, if called upon, to serve as soldiers, we should not adopt any indirect method of achieving that end. Those who have entered the Public Service by passing the necessary examination have given up their chances of other employment, and have made a contract with the State which we cannot justly set aside in order to impose indirectly on them a duty which we do not impose on other citizens.
The Bill contains two parts which are entirely distinct, and should be approached, I think, from different standpoints. Clause 2, as I read it, deals with the door to the Public Service proper; clause 3 is concerned with a class of Government employment which has always been considered outside the Public Service proper. I should like to know, regarding clause 2, what is precisely the intention of the Government. As I read the clause, its only effect is to enable certain persons, who, under the Act, could only enter the Service if not more than twenty-three years of age, to enter it if under fifty years of age, but they must begin at the lowest rung of the ladder. Is that the intention?
– That point has been noted, and we intend to move an amendment, which, if carried, will enable the Public Service Commissioner to appoint them to any class or division.
– I was in doubt as to whether that was the intention of the Government. In its present form the Bill will permit of returned soldiers entering our Public Service only at the lowest rung of the ladder, thereby receiving a salary of £126 per annum. I do not say that that may not be a very considerable boon to men who are already more- or less advanced in years. But I raised the question because I was not certain as to what were the intentions of the Government. If they intend to submit an amendment which will enable the Public Service Commissioner to draft into the Commonwealth Service returned soldiers who have passed the prescribed examination, there will undoubtedly be a great demand amongst those men for positions of the higher kind, and its effect will be to simply swamp the avenues of promotion open to other members’ of the Service.
But to my mind the more serious and difficult question is that raised in regard to temporary employment. I am afraid that this provision will introduce a very serious alteration in the whole character of our Public Service. I feel somewhat diffident about speaking on this subject in any sense which might be regarded as being opposed to <the- interests of our returned soldiers. But from the first Public Service Act passed by this Parliament to the last amendment of it, one general principle has permeated it. We have called into existence a defined permanent Public Service in Australia to perform departmental functions. Its personnel is determined by certain .examinations, and it is protected by a certain classification? but the permanent Public Service is limited to a definite class of public duties which have to be performed in connexion with the government’ of every country. But whilst recognising that particular principle, the framers of pur Public Service Acts also foresaw the necessity for employing a considerable body of temporary labour from time to time. Consequently provision has been made for employing labour or clerical assistance for certain purposes which are outside the ordinary departmental functions. But Parliament has always adhered to this principle, that, in regard to outside labour, it should, generally speaking, be maintained as temporary. Accordingly in all the legislation that has been passed, provision has been . inserted that such temporary labour should not be continued for a period longer than six months, with a possible extension of three months. Now, as the Prime Minister Knows, it has been found necessary to modify that provision from time to .time. Another portion of our
Public Service Act exempts certain officers from the operation of that provision, and makes them a kind of secondary public officers. These include a considerable number of persons employed in the Postal Department. I repeat that they are given a kind of secondary Public Service status because of the dutieswhich they discharge. But, in addition, there are, I am told, at least 3,000 men employed under the strict temporary provisions of the Public Service Act.
– Is that all ?
– Sometimes there are more, and sometimesthere are less. At Canberra, for example, and on other public works, it has become the practice not to hold over the men employed the threat that they will lose their employment in six months.
– But they do not come under the Public Service Commissioner.
– The particular class of officers with whom we are now dealing are temporary employees, throughout all the Departments. They are now merely holding office for the remainder of their period of six or nine months as the case may be.
The difficulty about this provision is that whilst Parliament, throughout all its legislation, has rigorously insisted upon the permanent Public Service of the country being confined to those who have to deal with strictly departmental . functions, officers outside of these must always be regarded as temporary employees. In the Public Service Act of 1915, for instance, Parliament again asserted that particular principle. By section 7 of that Act, it was enacted further, in order to strengthen the position -
Section 40 of the principal Act is amended by omitting sub-sections 3 and 4 thereof, and inserting in their stead the following subsections: -
No longer ago than the year . 1915, Parliament again reasserted that principle, that employment by the Government, outside the regular Public Service, should be strictly of a temporary kind, that, if it were desired to establish permanent departments, the Government should increase the Public Service, with all its rights, classifications, and privileges.
– Was not the object to distribute the employment?
– Probably one of the objects was to spread that temporary employment over as large an area as possible.
But whether that be so or not, it has always been the principle that the Government should not extend the permanent Service beyond those Departments where it was necessary in the interests of the Commonwealth. What I am rather afraid of in regard to clause 2 of this Bill is that, read in conjunction with section 4 of the Amending Act of 1915, it will, almost inevitably, have the effect before long of adding to the permanent Public Service practically the whole of the 3,000 men who, up to now, have been kept as temporary officers. In other words, it may have the effect of enormously increasing the permanent Public Service, because section 4 of the Act of 1915 inserted the following section in the principal Act - 26A. In the making of appointments to the Public Service from among persons who have successfully passed the prescribed examination, preference shall be given tothose persons who have served with satisfactory record in any Expeditionary Force raised under the provisions of the Defence Act 1903-1915.
So that in making these appointments, a preference has been given to these men; but in the temporary branch, if you like to call it a branch, the effect of the present proposal will be to do away altogether with the temporary character of the employment so far as it refers to returned soldiers.
– Not necessarily; I do not agree with that view. What we do is to say that, so far as the lapse of a certain period of time is concerned, that is not in itself to terminate the temporary employment of the person so employed; but he does not thereby become a permanent officer.
– I quite agree with the Prime Minister as to that. In a legal sense, the man does not acquire a freehold office. I am afraid that a very large number of returned soldiers will desire, notwithstanding all our endeavours to put them into more reproductive fields of effort, a somewhat easier mode of living in the Government employment. I think that a very large number will avail themselves of this provision to come in and replace gradually, but certainly, and possibly quickly, the 3,000 men who are now engaged in doing Government work on temporary lines, and as they do replace those men they will become permanent in the sense that so long as any work of that kind is required they will be the persons to go on doing it.
– If they are competent to do the work.
– Yes. I think that the Prime Minister will agree with me in saying that the effect of that will be to add the total number of those persons to what is practically the permanent sendee of the Commonwealth.
– Let the honorable and learned member apply that criticism, to the circumstances of those enlisting in the Attorney-General’s Department in his time. We have to face the difficulty caused by the present absurd limitation.
– It is not an absurd limitation.
– I think it is.
– No. I would very much sooner see the limitation wiped out altogether.
– I agree with that.
– Parliament has not yet been asked, nor is it now asked, to say that the limitation should be wiped out except in regard to returned soldiers. If it is wiped out we shall increase the whole burden of the Public Service very rapidly.
Our attitude to these very difficult questions ought to be that of men who, whilst anxious to adopt every method of doing justice to those who are fighting for us, and finding employment for them in every way, still want to safeguard the public interest in connexion with the Public Service. It cannot be left out of mind that during the last few years, not in the Commonwealth only, but in all the States, the people of Australia have been, and are being, burdened with an ever-increasing Public Service. This will become soon a matter for most serious consideration bv the Government and the Parliament. I urge the Prime Minister to take into consideration whether it is wise bv one stroke of the pen to change the whole tenor of that kind of employment which Parliament has hitherto decreed shall be temporary, and make it practically permanent. Though I quite admit., as the Prime Minister points out, that it does not give the men in law a fee-simple to their office, still it would deprive the Public Service and the community of the whole protection which Parliament has thrown around that branch of the Public Service. I regard it as a matter for very serious consideration. The Prime Minister did not touch on this point in his speech-
– No, because the point did not appeal to me.
– I am inclined to think that we ought to go as far as we safely can to benefit the returned soldiers by giving them preference in temporary employment as well as admission to the Public Service without altering the general character of that temporary employment. I commend this view to the attention of the Prime Minister. I, for one, do not mean to oppose the proposal, but I think it is one which requires very serious consideration.
.- This is a Bill to amend the Public Service Act. . It is well known that the principal Act requires very serious amendment. It waa intended in 1913 to very drastically amend the Act, and the instalment of amendments which we have before us now does nob help us very far. It seems to complicate the difficulties and rather to exaggerate the necessity for early attention to” the matter. This is a Bill principally, if not entirely, to meet the case of returned soldiers. From that point of view it is very welcome. In view of the agitation in the country to-day for something in the nature of economic conscription to displace men who are in employment so that they may be forced to enlist, and the necessity for finding employment for returned soldiers, the Government must necessarily set an example to the people. That is their policy. ‘That is the plea they put forward during the last election campaign. It would obviously be inconsistent for the Government to expect the public to do something that they themselves are not prepared to do, in so far as they are able to find employment for returned soldiers. That we ought to take the greatest care of returned soldiers is admitted. No member of this Parliament - no citizen - would suggest that we should slacken in our responsibilities to them, for they have done a service to the country which entitles them to the utmost consideration.
There are two features of this Bill to which I object, and I propose later on to submit amendments which will somewhat overcome that objection. My first objection is that the Bill is confined only to returned soldiersand sailors. So far so good. But we are entirely overlooking the service that has been rendered by large numbers of women who have volunteered, and have served, and are serving, as nurses. No one can deny that the nurses have been rendering a most excellent service during this war. It is quite impossible to overestimate the value of that service. That being so, are they not equally entitled to some consideration? Having regard to the fact that so many of them are very capable for the performance of such duties as the Public Service requires, why should we not also include them within the scope of this measure?
– We are including them.
– I do not know that the honorable member for Hindmarsh should be taken as an authority on the question of what is and what is not covered by this Bill. I am not prepared to accept his dictation on the subject.
– Nurses are included as members of the Expeditionary Forces.
– I should like to have that assurance from the Minister in charge of the Bill. The honorable gentleman is aware that I have given notice of an amendment providing that those who have served as nurses shall also come within the scope of this measure.
– I have noted the honorable member’s amendment.
– The Minister is not so sure on the point as is the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
– Is not the Minister prepared to say whether or not nurses come within the Bill ? I suppose he must first ask the “Joss.” My argument is that it should be made quite clear that nurses, who have rendered very excellent and useful service during the war, should come under this Bill. One can readily bring to mind most useful positions in the Public Service which they couldfill. Many of them no doubt are professional women, trained to the particular profession which they follow, but it is quite possible that many nurses might be disposed to take advantage of an opportunity to enter the Public Service just as readily as returned soldiers and sailors. I contend that their rights are equally as strong, and their claims just as soundly based, as are those of our returned soldiers and sailors, and I hope that’ the Minister, when the time comes, will accept my amendment.
There is another point to which I desire to refer. Seeing that it is proposed to extend from twenty-three years to fifty years the maximum age at which a man may enter the Clerical Division, I do not think it fair to expect returned soldiers to undergo the same searching examination as those who enter at earlier ages. At the present time candidates for the Clerical Division of the Public Service must be not less than sixteen and not more than twenty-three years of age. Apart altogether from the argument put forward by the Leader of the Opposition as to the educational ability of a man between forty and fifty to pass such an examination as would be prescribed for a young man of twenty-one or twenty-two, there is another point which, to my mind, is of more pressing importance. I propose to move an amendment providing that paragraph e of section 27 of the principal Act shall not apply in so far as the provisions of this Bill are concerned. That section provides that -
Regulations may be made by the GovernorGeneral for the examination from time to time of persons desirous of admission into the Public Service.
Such regulations shall prescribe -
a preliminary medical examination or test as to the health of candidates.
I suggest that that provision should be eliminated altogether so far as returned soldiers, sailors, and nurses are concerned.
Our experience of past wars, and the limited experience we have so far of the present war - an experience which will be accentuated as the days go by - show that many men who went to the war physically and mentally fit, have come back, in many cases unfortunately, not only physically unfit, but very sadly rendered mentally unfit.Previous experience has shown - and our own observation in connexion with this war confirms the experience - that many of these men for years to come will not be the same mentally as they were before the war. The effects of the terrific bombardments upon their nerves render them practically unfit for continuous service, and especially for continuous service of a mental character. Every honorable member must have had under his own notice the’ case of men who, upon their return from the Front, have been employed in clerical positions, and who, for the first three or four days, have been able to do satisfactory work, Then the shell shock which they have suffered, with its attendant disarrangement and tearing of the nerves, affects them, and for two or three days they are nervous wrecks. They are temperamentally, mentally unfit. Are we going to ask these men, after the services they have rendered, and who, because of that service, have made themselves unfit, to pass an ordinary medical test, to undergo the same medical examination that young men who have never left the country, and who ought to be at the highest stage of mental activity, are required to undergo 1 This medical test will disqualify 75 per cent, of the returned soldiers.
– The mere fact that these men have returned shows that they are not medically fit.
– This applies not only to the men who have returned, but also to those who may return. But there are all the men who are still to return, and, to a greater or less extent, every man who has had actual experience of the firing line will feel the effects for years to come. Those who have had narrow escapes from fatal accidents know that the worst effects are felt, not so much, at the time, but for years afterwards. I had a very narrow escape on one occasion, and the effects of it hung on me for years. It is a pity to ask these poor fellows who come back from the trenches, to undergo a medical test before they can get the advantage of this amendment of the Public Service Act. It means imposing on them an unnecessary and stupid obligation.
The Bill will create an entirely novel effect in the Public Service, which at present is roughly divided into permanent and temporary employees. This will create a new set of employees, neither permanent nor temporary. Although their employment will be permanent, they will be temporary employees, and, at the same time, they will have the privileges of per manent officers. One wonders how this is going to affect the general character of the Public Service. I am disposed to believe, with the honorable member for Flinders, that it will introduce a very disturbing factor into the Service. It is certain that the introduction of the men under this Bill will push out a large number who are now giving excellent service. What guarantee have - the Government that they will get equally good service from the men who are coming in? If the quality of the service they render is not to be taken into account, ‘Obviously the public interests must suffer, and I contend that they will not be able, for a considerable time, to render equally efficient service, not through any fault of their own, but as the result of the experiences they have passed through in the fighting area. So that, when an amendment of the Public Service Act covering the whole ground does come, we shall be faced with a much more complicated position than that which now presents itself. The Government might well consider the suggestion of the honorable member for Flinders, so that, in giving the returned soldier preference of employment in the Service, we shall not be depriving him of a fair opportunity, on the one hand, or deprive the public of proper service on the other, or inflict an injustice on men who are now doing good work for the community in the Service.
– The honorable member for Brisbane, with the very best intentions, is surrounding thiB Bill with, difficulties which need not exist. He began by pointing out that the examination spoken of in clause 2 may be so difficult that a meritorious returned soldier, with shattered nerves, or with some other health difficulty, which” would disqualify him for passing it, may be shut out from the Public Service. But he followed up that contention by pointing out the opposite extreme - that, unless we were very careful, we should fill the Service with men who were incompetent for the work. He seemed to me to answer himself, because the intention of the Bill is not to bring about a comprehensive review of the Public Service law, but merely to show that the Government are taking an early opportunity of convincing the public that chey are going to do all they can to help the returned soldiers.
– An electioneering cry.
– We have nearly two years and ten months to go before we face another election, and the honorable member knows that the public, as a rule, have very short memories; so that his little venture is not quite happy. The honorable member for Brisbane is correct in saying that if the examination is not properly conducted, or is not imposed at all, there will be a danger of flooding the Service with men who happen to be returned soldiers, but who .are not qualified to take a useful part in our Public Service work. It was never intended, for instance, that a farm servant should have his entry into the Public Service facilitated unless he has the qualifications required for the work. The Act requires, in the public interest, that before a man enters the clerical branch he shall show certain educational qualifications. He must show that he can write a fair hand, decipher a complicated document, and that he knows, at all events, a little about figures. Numbers of very honorable men, returning from the Front, previously followed occupations which would not enable them to pass an examination such as we require as a preliminary to entry into the Service. All this Bill does, and I believe it is subject to amendment, is to provide that a returned soldier can enter the Service up to the age of fifty, provided that he can pass an examination which shows that he is a fit person to take a position. He may have been a farm labourer, but he may be an educated man; and the fact of his previous occupation would not disqualify him from entering the Service if he could pass the examination. If the examination is made a mere excuse, or is rendered so simple that a man without sufficient education can pass it, I quite agree that there will be great danger of filling the Service with men who are not fit to do the work which the public require. But so long as the examination furnishes a proper test, I think the Government are acting very generously in
Baying, “ We will allow you to undergo that test and enter the Service up to the age of fifty, where hitherto you could not enter after the age of twenty -three.” So far, I see no fault to be found with clause 2. Clause 3, however, does raise a difficulty. It has not been mentioned in the debate, but most of us know that the objects of limiting temporary service to six months is to make room for others, in turn, who are desirous of employments- I have known of scores of cases in which temporary hands have, at the end of six months, had their service extended for three months, and then have had to stand aside to allow others to come in. Any one who has attempted to get men into the Public Service temporarily will know that the inspectors often inform them that there are from 100 to 200 ahead of them in the list, and that they must await a vacancy.
This clause extends a further privilege to returned soldiers. As I have said, a man who takes temporary work under normal conditions is limited to six months’ or, probably, nine months’ service. This Bill removes the limitation imposed under ordinary conditions, and is surely a fair concession ; but the difficulty I see is that at the present time a man is very seldom or never dismissed before six months unless he has proved himself absolutely incompetent. If a returned soldier enters as a temporary servant, and is competent to do the work, I see no provision against his becoming, as the honorable member for Flinders has pointed out, a member of the second section of the permanent Public Service. I have no objection to that, but we must recognise at once that we are, by this means, going to make substantial additions to our permanent Service. We must remember that, whilst we provide in clause 2 that a man cannot enter the permanent Service without examination, we also offer him an opportunity to become a temporary servant without limitation and without any examination. That is an anomaly of which I should like the Minister to take notice. Under clause 2 we provide that a returned soldier may become a permanent public servant by passing the examination, but by clause 3 we say that a returned soldier may become a temporary employee without limitation and without examination. The only escape from this contradiction seems’ to me to be that those who have charge of the Public Service will take good care not to place the men who enter as temporary servants, but have no” limitation on their term, in positions the attainment of which would entail on others the necessity of passing an examination before becoming what we call a permanent servant. I quite recognise the danger, pointed out by the honorable member for Flinders, of overfilling our Public Service, but, like every other Parliament, we must trust the permanent heads not to stuff the Service, and trust our Ministers from time to time to review their Departments and see whether or not the Service is becoming overburdened. I see nothing in the point raised by the honorable member for Brisbane. I take it, from what the Prime Minister has said, that some addition is to be made to clause 2, which will remove any difficulty we may have in our minds with regard to the qualifications required for those who take a permanent place in theservice.
.- The onus is on the Government to rehabilitate and re-establish in civil life the soldiers who go to the war. There have been numberless promises to that effect, and I am glad to see that, in this Bill, the Government recognise that principle. The Bill, however, has the maximum of profession and the minimum of performance.
There is the limitation referred to by the honorable member for Brisbane in regard to the nurses. The Bill has reference to Expeditionary Forces raised under the provisions of the Defence Act. The honorable member for Hindmarsh intimates that, in his opinion, this would include nurses, but the Minister in charge of the Bill, although pointedly asked to say officially that nurses are included, is not prepared to do so.
– I shall make a statement later on.
– If the Bill does not include nurses we can easily make it do so.
– The honorable member for Brisbane has given notice of an amendment to that effect.
– Would it not be easier for the Minister to give a definite answer on the point?
– The Minister cannot definitely answer such a question by, way of interjection. He, apparently, wishes time to explain.
Another limitation pointed out by the honorable member for Brisbane is in connexion with physical fitness; and, in my opinion, not 10 per cent. of the returned wounded soldiers now being discharged will be capable of being taken into the Public Service with the present standard. These men are being dis charged as being physically unfit for military service, and the physical standard for the Public Service, under section 27 of the original Act, is such that, though I cannot speak with certainty without further investigation, a large number, and the great majority, will not meet requirements.
– The examination for physical fitness is prescribed by regulation.
– Any one who has had to do with the matter knows well that the medical test is a severe one.
– The medical test can be made to suit the cases,
– There is no provision in the Bill for that.
– There are men physically unfit to go into the trenches, but quite fit to take a nice, soft Government position.
– I quite agree. The Bill is limited to the Clerical Division of the Public Service, and. to what are known as temporary employees. The policy of the Government now is to close down public works, and this they are doing as fast as they can. They propose to cease practically the whole of the work at the Federal Capital, though I hope that they will not; but if they carry out their present intention, where is the work to come from for the temporary employees with the only avenues closed to these men? With the limited scope of the Bill, it is mostly placard. The Bill is a maximum of profession and a minimum of performance.
There are four classes referred to in the Public Service Act. Section 15 divides the Public Service into the Administrative Division, the Professional Division, the Clerical Division, and the General Division.
The Administrative Division includes all permanent heads of Departments, and all chief officers of Departments, and also all persons whose offices the GovernorGeneral directsto be included in such divisions.
The Professional Division includes all officers whose duties require some special skill or technical knowledge usually acquired only in some profession or occupation differing from the ordinary routine of the PublicService.
The Clerical Division includes all officers whose offices the Governor-General, on the recommendation of the Public Service Commissioner, directs to be included in such division.
The General Division includes all persons in the Public Service not included in the other three divisions. The great body of public servants is inthe General Division, but in this Bill there is no provision to permit of returned soldiers being included in that division.
– What about the Professional Division ?
– Apparently, they are not allowed to be employed in the Professional Division, though many of these men have some special skill or technical knowledge. Many of them were skilled workers before they gave up their occupations in private life.
As showing the area over which the Government proposes that this preference shall operate, I have tried to ascertain from the last report of the Public Service Commissioner the numbers grouped under the various headings of the Public Service. There should be a table in the Commissioner’s annual report setting out distinctly the number of persons employed in each division, but the information is not supplied. One can get a very good idea of the proportions in the different divisions from the increments granted. During the year covered by the report, increments were granted as follows: - Administrative Division, £50; Professional, £2,718; Clerical - first, second, third, and fourth grades, £16,925; fifth grade, £19,830; and General, £74,073. As the increments in the higher branches of the Service are in comparatively large lumps, and those in the General Division are in smaller amounts, the £74,073 for the General Division must cover a very considerable body of men. I suppose that this division represents about threefourths of those who are engaged in the service of the Commonwealth; yeh there is no provision in this Bill to enable returned soldiers to be employed in it.,
– Why not?
Mr.J. H. CATTS.- One reason may be that the Government, having no business ready for the House, drafted the Bill without giving it proper consideration. As it stands now, it is merely a placard. It enables returned soldiers to be employed in the Clerical Division if they can pass the medical standard, and the educational test.. That is a very small area of employment. It also en ables them to be employed in temporary employment when the Government are shutting down on works. But the door is shut against their admission into the General Division.
– Every returned soldier can enter the General Division under section 32 of the principal Act.
– If the contention of the Honorary Minister is correct, that returned soldiers can enter the General Division under section 32, there is no need for this Bill, because that section refers to the Clerical Division in exactly the same terms as are employed in relation to the General Division. The honorable member for Flinders very properly objects to economic conscription. This Government, of course, is endeavouring to enforce economic conscription.
– Not under this Bill.
– Not under this Bill particularly, but the honorable member knows that the Government is endeavouring to enforce economic conscription in every way in its general administration.
– I do not know it.
– As I understand the objects of the Bill, it is not to dispossess any man of hig position, but in the case of vacancies occurring,- the returned soldiers shall have the opportunity of employment in the Civil Service. The honorable member made a suggestion in regard to the Bill which would have the very opposite effect to that to which he refers, and would be very objectionable. He claimed that the rights of the existing civil servants should not be interfered with. Then he went on to refer to returned soldiers having to start at the bottom rung of the ladder, and he suggested that men of forty years or fifty years of age should not have to enter the Public Service at the lowest rung of the ladder.
– The honorable member misunderstood me. I said that if that right were given generally, it would swamp the channels of promotion in the Public Service.
– That principle if it were introduced would certainly prejudice the Public Service very seriously.
– There might be a few cases of fitness.
– But they are not worth mentioning in the large number of men employed. Our public servants begin at the bottom rung of the ladder, and proceed by seniority to higher rungs.
– It might improve the Service if it were done.
– Public Service Acts are based upon very long experience. If we depart from well-recognised principles in regard to the conduct of the Public Service, we open up avenues for all sorts of favoritism, and in the end the public servant does not get a fair deal. Seniority of service should be the steppingstone to higher positions . so long as the officers so qualified by seniority have the ability to fill the higher positions. I hope that no suggestion of the kind made by the honorable member for Flinders will be incorporated in this measure. When the Bill is in Committee I shall be prepared to join with .the honorable member for Brisbane and other honorable members in so amending it that the range of its beneficence may be extended over a large area. At present its scope is very limited.
.- In our desire to maintain the Public Service at a- high standard of efficiency we all appreciate very much the remarks made by the honorable member for Flinders, but in a case like this we are bound to recognise that even if the Public Service does suffer to some extent by the entry of the small percentage of returned soldiers, this is a part of the price we will have to pay for some time after the war is over. I do not think, however, that the entering cif a small’ percentage of returned soldiers into the Public Service will impair its efficiency to any great extent1. According to the latest report of the Public Service Commissioner, the Commonwealth employs a total of about 47,000 - about 23,587 in the permanent division, and about 24,440 on the temporary list, the latter including 4,236 in our Clothing and Harness Factories and other establishments of the Defence Department. This Bill will give an opportunity to about 3,000 returned soldiers to obtain employment in the Commonwealth Service, by extending the age of entry to fifty years, and I am advised by the Public Service Commissioner that if these candidates pass an examination crediting them with the minimum of a little over 50 out of 100 marks, they may be passed into the clerical division. Hitherto this has. been a competitive examination, and the highest in the list have been taken into the Service as the vacancies occur, so that we have set rather a high standard of efficiency; but this will not apply to returned soldiers, for if they obtain the minimum number of marks required by the examiners, they will get preference over all other candidates, even if the latter pass with the full number of marks. In this sense the Bill will confer a great advantage on returned soldiers. The examination for entry into the clerical division of the Public Service is equal to about the merit certificate in our State schools, and this could be passed by almost all returned soldiers capable of filling any clerical position.
– That is open to question.
– This Bill, at all events, would give them breathing time. They might not be asked to pass the examination during the first twelve months, but could do so in the first four or five years after they had recovered their health, and if they settled down to a reasonable amount of study. There is no reason why every person occupying a temporary position in the clerical branchy should not qualify for a permanent position later on. This Bill would give returned soldiers a splendid opportunity to qualify for permanent positions in either the general or clerical divisions.
– Why is nothing said in the Bill about the professional division ?
– Positions in the professional division are often filled without requiring the candidate to go through the ordinary gradations of promotion at all. So far as I can understand, returned soldiers are to be given the opportunity of entering the temporary divisions of the Public Service, and after they have had a little breathing time, they may qualify for the general or clerical divisions. In that sense we have an opportunity of doing justice to a large body of men, and if the matter is properly handled that justice can be done without bringing about any deterioration in the efficiency of the Service generally. The Bill should have a good moral influence also, because if the Commonwealth sets an example it must necessarily follow that the States will introduce similar legislation, whilst private employers throughout the Commonwealth will be stimulated to do justice, as far as is within their power, to those men who have fought for us and for our country, and have risked their lives and impaired their health, probably permanently, on the battle-field. The Minister in charge of the Bill may, in answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Brisbane, be able to supply the House with information in regard to nurses.
– The Bill does not include nurses.
– The inclusion of nurses is a debatable question. Whilst we all desire to dojustice to the nurses who have gone to the Front, and are performing some of the noblest and most selfsacrificing work that a woman can do, we. must recognise that when they return they will probably desire to continue in the work of their profession rather than enter into competition for clerical employment. I quite appreciate the desire to keep the Public Service up to a high standard of efficiency, but, having regard to the number of men who may be taken into Government employment under this measure, I fail to see that we need fear any reduction in the status of the Service, or that any injustice will be done to those already there by retarding promotion, or retiring those whose services to the country entitle them to remain. In those circumstances I think this is a Bill which the House can indorse, and in Committee we may find opportunity for a widening ofsome of its clauses.
.- Every honorable member will join with me in saying that it is a pleasure to be able to approach the consideration of a Bill which in no circumstances can be said to have a party tinge. For my part, I approach the measure in the sentiment of that eloquent man of great ability, the present Chief Justice of Victoria, who wrote, “ I quite agree with you that the nation’s promise is so deeply graven to our noble and self-sacrificing soldiers that none can be so base as to deny it reverence to the full.” I remind honorable members that when the soldiers who returned from the South African war were badly treated, that great man had the courage of stating on the public platform that the promises made to them had not been kept as they should have been. The honorable member for Flinders was in the State Parliament when those promises were made, and he knows that they were deliberately and vilely broken. Even now, about £22,000 which was subscribed by the generosity of the people of Victoria for the benefit of the wives, children, and dependants of the soldiers is still hidden away and unaccounted for.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 July 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1917/19170725_reps_7_82/>.