8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– In replying to a question put to him in another place a few days ago, the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) intimated that before long the policy of the Government with regard to defence matters would be made known. In the absence of the Prime Minister, I desire to ask the Treasurer whether he is in a position to state when the naval and land defence policy of the Government will be placed before the House?
– I am sorry that I cannot give the honorable member a definite answer, but my impression is that a statement of the kind will be made this week.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer whether the report of the Commonwealth Basic Wage Commission has yet been presented? If not, when is it likely to be presented?
– I think that it has not been presented. I suggest that the honorable member give notice of the second part of his question.
Mr. Gregory presented the report of the Public Works Committee, together with plans and minutes of evidence, relating to proposed mobilization and vehicle stores, Midland Junction, Western Australia.
Ordered to be printed.
Mr.FENTON (for Dr. Maloney) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What would be a fair length of coast-line for an aeroplane station to watch?
What number of officers are needed for an observation aeroplane station?
What is the approximate cost of a standardized up-to-date aeroplane for dropping bombs ?
– The honorable member’s questions cannot well be answered in a general way, but perhaps the following information will meet his purpose: -
This depends on -
This depends on -
But, assuming conditions as set out in answer No. 1, it would probably be necessary to have two officers per machine.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the financial difficulties which have confronted, and which are at the present time confronting, many wool-growers, will he state definitely when the retention money will be paid on the last year’s wool clip?
– The Prime Minister has already informed the House that this money will be paid by the Central Wool Committee on 22nd September, 1920.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Commissioner advises as follows : - 1 and 2. The huts in question were not erected by the War Service Homes Commission, but in Melbourne, at the request of the Peace Loan Committee, the labour and a small amount of timber required to make certain alterations to the buildings already erected was arranged by the Commission, the cost being borne by the Committee in question.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Whether it is intended to adopt in the Commonwealth the amendment recently made in the British patent laws, extending the term of protection to compensate for the disturbance of patent rights owing to the war?
– The matter is receiving consideration.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
I think I may add, as I said to a deputation, headed by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell), which waited on me yesterday, that I am very much inclined at the moment to grant some further concessions to these blind people.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will supply particulars of the amounts received by his Department from honorable members of the House of Representatives and the Senate under the forfeiture provision of the Parliamentary Allowances Act, and the names of such members forfeiting the same?
– I can find no precedent for supplying information such as the honorable member seeks, and I do not think we should begin just now to create one.
Building ofWooden Vessels.
asked the Minister in charge of shipbuilding, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The following papers were presented : -
Public Service Act -Appointment of G. D. Williams, Department of Trade and Customs.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Commonwealth Bank of Australia - Aggregate Balancesheetat 30th June, 1920; together with Auditor-General’s Report thereon.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 8th September, vide page 4325) :
Clause 12 -
The Arbitrator shall, subject to the provisions of this section, determine all matters submitted to him relating to salaries, wages, rates of pay, or terms or conditions of service or employment of officers and employees of the Public Service.
If any objectionis lodged, the Arbitrator shall call a conference, to be presided over by himself, of representatives of the organization and of the Commissioner and of any Minister who has lodged objections to the granting of the claim, and following upon such conference shall, after hearing such evidence (if any) in respect of such matters as have not been agreed to at the conference, as the Arbitrator thinks necessary, determine the claim. . . .
Upon which Mr. McGrath had moved by way of amendment -
That the following words be added to subclause 1: - “Provided that he shall not determine on any rate of wage which is less than the basic wage as ascertained by the Basic Wage Commission or other body duly constituted for the purpose of fixing a basic wage.”
– Last evening I referred to the fact that all the Government supporters were elected at the last election on a pledge made by the Prime Minister (Mr.
Hughes) that the Government, if returned to power, would take the earliest opportunity to give effect to the findings of the Basic Wage Commission. That definite promise was given in the Bendigo speech, and every honorable member opposite who votes against the amendment to-day will be violating a pledge by their Leader on their behalf to the electors of Australia.
– The question never arose in my electorate, anyhow.
– Surely the honorable member does not repudiate the Leadership of the Prime Minister, who gave that assurance on behalf of his followers of the Nationalist party! The Prime Minister, himself, may be accustomed to repudiate pledges, but his followers must accept their share of responsibility. Further, every honorable member who votes against the amendment will be voting against giving a living wage to our own employees, the public servants of the country.
– Do you not think that the Arbitrator will take care that that is done?
– We are going to make sure of it in the Bill. I am reminded by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) that there never was a minimum wage in Australia until one was provided for in the first Public Service Act. Honorable members opposite may say that there is no responsibility attaching to a vote like this, because it will not receive publicity, except through Hansard, but they may rest assured that their constituents will be informed exactly how they have voted. It is no threat from this side of the House to say that the Public Service employees will see to that matter. Every vote cast against the amendment will be not only the violation of a pledge, but the violation of the principle of a living for the Public Service.
– That is your construction !
– The honorable member may place on the facts any other construction he chooses. I am sure that if the honorable member were a public servant he would not be slow in ascertaining how his representative in Parliament voted on a matter of the kind.
– I object to the construction you place on the vote.
– Well, as I say, the honorable member can place any construction on it he lilies. However, if the amendment is carried, it will make sure that the public servants will not get less than a living wage, to the principle of which I cannot understand any honorable member being opposed. Last night the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) said that such an amendment should have been made in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill that we have recently had before us.
– I said nothing of the kind ; it is quite impossible for the honorable member to quote anybody accurately.
– What did the honorable gentleman say ?
– I said that honorable members opposite were inconsistent in trying to place the amendment in this Bill.
– That is a distinction without a difference.
– Honorable members wish to put the amendment in a Bill that they desire to kill.
– We have in the Court a Judge we can trust.
– I see!
– That is the difference. But even if we voted against a Bill, surely the Treasurer does not object to our trying to make it an effective measure, as we are practically invited to do. In any case, whose responsibility was it to see that such a provision was inserted in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill ? Last night, when the Treasurer asked for the exact words of the Prime Minister in regard to the basic wage, I was unable to quote them, but I am now able to tell the honorable gentleman, who has just entered the chamber,that the promise of the Prime Minister was that he would take the earliest opportunity to give effect to the findings of the Basic Wage Commission. The amendment now proposed merely honours that pledge made on behalf of the Treasurer, and the other members of the Government, at the last election. The Treasurer evidently has no answer or he would not now be again leaving the chamber. As I said yesterday, there are in the General Division of the Public Service 14,000 employees who are receiving less than a living wage. These are not my figures, but are taken from the report of the ex-Public Service Commissioner for 1917. In order to be fair - though, I think I go too far - I deduct 50 per cent. of these employees as juniors.
– Can the honorable member say in how many cases these wages were fixed by awards ?
– I cannot say, but since 1917 there has been no award given, except in relation to letter-carriers. Allowing that half of them are juniors, there still remain 7,000 employees in the General Division who are receiving less than the living wage of £200 per annum. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) stated yesterday that this condition of affairs is a scandal. That statement does not too strongly describe the conduct of the Government in allowing the Public Service to continue under such deplorable conditions. I again say to the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) and others who seem to be very much perturbed, that they must vote for this amendment unless they intend to violate the pledge given in their behalf by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes).
– No man is entitled to give a pledge in my behalf.
– I resent the statement of the last speaker that any honorable member who votes against this amendment thereby declares that he is willing that the Public Service shall be paid less than a living wage. That is absolute and unmitigated humbug. This constant attempt on the part of members of the Opposition to place in a false position members whosit on this side is nothing more than political cant. I used to think that cant was peculiar to the religious humbug, but I have come to the conclusion that the political humbug is just as prone to indulgein hypocritical insincerities as is his canting religious brother. I shall vote against the amendment, because I think it would be most unwise to place any restriction whatever upon the discretion of the special Arbitrator to be appointed under this Bill.
– Does the honorable member believe in giving the Arbitrator power to award less than a living wage ?
– I believe in giving the Arbitrator full power to do what he thinks just. Perhaps the honorable member overlooks clause 13 of the Bill, which provides -
In relation to every claim or application made to him in pursuance of this Act, the Arbitrator shall act according to equity, good conscience, and the substantial merits of the case, without regard to technicalities or legal forms, and shall not be bound by any rules of evidence, but may inform his mind on any matter in such maimer as he thinks lit.
I assume that the man appointed to the ‘ responsible position of Arbitrator will do his duty honorably, and if he is guided by the principles set out in clause 13 there will not be the slightest possibility of his awarding to the applicants less than is fair and just. Does any .honorable member opposite desire more than that? Does any honorable member suggest, that the Arbitrator should make other than an award dictated by good conscience and a sense of justice ? The amendment would impose a restriction on the Arbitrator, denying him full power by laying down principles upon which honorable members opposite desire he should act in determining claims that come before him.
– For what purpose was the Basic Wage Commission appointed?
– I am not concerned with the Basic Wage Commission or any other Commission. Appoint as many Commissions as you please; they will not affect the duty of the Arbitrator as clearly denned by the Bill. Surely honorable members opposite will agree that if the Arbitrator acts as he should act upon the principles laid down in the Bill,’ there need be no fear that any injustice will be done.
– Would the honorable member agree to the appointment of an Arbitrator to determine the rate of pay “for the legal profession?
– I should like to have notice of that question.
– It is a very impertinent question.
– I do not regard it as impertinent, but my legal training has taught me to consider well before answering any question put to me. If honorable members opposite would more often act according to that principle there would be fewer irrelevances in debate.
– We do not desire any lecture from the honorable member.
– I have no desire to lecture. I have suffered so many lectures from the honorable member without wincing that he might very well submit to a little exhortation by me. I repudiate the suggestion that because I oppose the amendment I am in favour of any man being paid less than a living wage. It is because I believe that all we desire to be clone can be done under the Bill as drafted that I intend to vote against the amendment.
– I am surprised that Ministerial members are not prepared to support the amendment. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has pointed out that the Bill lays down a certain set of principles for the guidance of the Arbitrator. All the amendment seeks to do is to add another stone to that splendid foundation. As a former public servant I know that the Public Service has been subjected to a good deal of abuse. People are always saying that the public servants are in. a fortunate position - that they have permanent billets, annual holidays, and shorter hours than the rest of the community, and that, generally, they recline on a flowery bed of ease, compared with other workers. I have always held that the Government, whether State or Federal, should be a model employer, setting an example to all others, but to-day an ugly stigma rests upon the State by reason of the fact that there is sweating iu various Public Departments, and wages are being paid by both Federal and State Governments which are below the wages paid by private employers for the same class of work. If honorable members on the Ministerial side desire to perpetuate that system, the public servants must look to other quarters for sympathy and support in the endeavour to extricate themselves from their present position. It is just as well to place on record in Hansard the pledge that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) gave in regard to the Public Service. I have here the report of the policy speech delivered at Bendigo by the Prime Minister, in 1919. as published in the Argus, of 31st October of that year. There are times when I am disinclined to quote from a newspaper, and if I do so, I generally attach the condition - ‘ ‘ if the report is correct” - but in this case I am as sure of the correctness of the report I am quoting as if I were quoting from Hansard itself. Everybody knows that wheat the Prime Minister has a policy speech to deliver, a copy of it is in the hands of the editors of all the principal daily papers of Australia twelve or twenty -four hours beforehand. It is a typewritten document.
– And the proof is revised beforehand by the Prime Minister.
– Yes. Anybody who knows anything about the proof-reading of the Prime Minister knows what a terrible slaughter he makes of his proofs. Of course, I am not referring to Hansard proofs, but he is a great hand at revising, and re-revising, and revising again.
– So as to leave it as ambiguous as possible.
– Yes, or perhaps to leave it in as choice language as it is possible for him to use. I am not going to say whether his object is to hide or cover up anything.
– And whether he says it on the platform or not.
– At any rate, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), and others will see that there is little or no ambiguity about the language used by the Prime Minister at Bendigo, when indicating the policy of the Government on the question of the basic wage. I hope that those who sit on the Ministerial side will listen; if they do, they will appreciate the justice of the proposition put forward from this side of the Committee. I trust they will not continually regard proposals coming from this side as merely antagonistic to the Government, and framed for the purpose of upsetting their programme. The contention of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) that, because those on this side vote solidly against the second reading of a Bill, they should not participate in its further consideration in Committee, easily goes by the board. It is nonsense for anyone to talk in that way. In the case of this Bill, we are making the best of a bad job. We are trying to improve it if we possibly can, although we are against it, just as we did with the Industrial Peace Bill, and as we attempted to do with the Arbitration Bill. If it had not been for the Opposition, the Industrial Peace Bill would have been a poor shell of a thing.
– If we do not get the basic wage provision in soon, it will have to be taken as read. Time is going on.
– The honorable member is not now in the Chair. If he were, I should be addressing him very politely. A Chairman at both ends of the chamber is of no use to us.
This is part of what the Prime Minister said at Bendigo -
Nearly every applicationto the Courts of Arbitration or Wages Boards, Federal or State, rests its claim for an increased wage upon the increased cost of living. Now, once it is admitted that it is in the interests of the community that such a wage should be paid as will enable a man to marry and bring up children under decent, wholesome conditions
I particularly ask the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) to imbibe those sentiments - and that point has been settled long ago - it seems obvious that we must devise better machinery for insuring the payment of such a wage than at present exists. The Government is, therefore, appointing aRoyal Commission to inquire into the cost of living in relation to the minimum or basic wage. The Commission will be fully clothed with power to ascertain what is a fair basic wage, and how much the purchasing power of a sovereign has been depreciated during the war; also how the basic wage may be adjusted to the present purchasing power of the sovereign, and the best means, when once so adjusted, of automatically adjusting itself to the rise and fall of the sovereign. The Government will, at the earliest date possible, create effective machinery to give effect to these principles, and the recommendation of the Commission. Labour is entitled to a fair share of the wealth it creates.
So much for the basic wage. The fundamental question of the basic wage having been thus satisfactorily - because permanently - settled, there remain other causes of industrial unrest which must be dealt with if we are to have industrial peace. Labour is entitled to something more than a living wage. It is entitled to a fair share of the wealth it produces. Capital must recognise this; and, putting aside all ancient prejudices, must meet Labour frankly on a footing of equality, so that the two factors in production, laying all their cards on the table, shall decide what is to be a fair share for each. Increased production cannot be assured without the hearty co-operation of Labour and Capital. Industrial peace is essential to increased production, and that, in its turn, cannot be assured unless Labour is given its legitimate place as a full partner in production.
The Prime Minister there dealt very elaborately with the whole question, and definitely pledged himself, and all those who followed him in the election, to hurry to give effect to the recommendations which would be made by the Basic Wage
Commission after it had considered the question from all stand-points.
– Has he gone back on that?
– I shall not say that any one has gone back on it until the vote is taken. We are passing legislation which some people hope will be a much greater success in the future, in securing industrial peace, than anything we have done yet. Peace and contentment are as essential in the Public Service of this country, as in any other sphere of work, and a well paid and contented Public Service is one of the greatest blessings that any country can have. We are now endeavouring to put into the Bill an amendment which will greatly improve it, and why the Government and their supporters do not accept it I do not know. What possible harm can there be in saying to the Arbitrator, “ You must start from what is a living wage. Anything higher than thatyou can give if you like?”
– Could he do anything else, if he were true to the provisions of clause 13 ?
– We have seen some very peculiar things done. The honorable member has lived long enough to be disappointed in many men. He has sometimes said, with absolute assurance, “ If we place such and such a man in a position we are sure of certain results,” and has had to confess that, as the result of his experience and knowledge of that man’s actions, he has been bitterly disappointed. We are confining authorities more and more to certain starting points. Our legislation is going in that direction, and it is quite right that it should do so. We ask that the Arbitrator, whoever he may be, should be directed not to offer to the public servants anything less than a basic living wage. The Prime Minister has laid it down distinctly that the basic wage must be observed. We now ask the Prime Minister, and the Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Groom), and their followers, to indorse the pledge given at Bendigo. If they do, they will incorporate the amendment in the Bill, which will be much improved thereby.
.- I should not have had anything to say at this stage, except for the remark made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr.
Maxwell), who, aparently, has a misconception of the duties of representatives of the people in this House. It is unquestionably the duty of the Parliament in any country to determine a basic wage. This is no new principle, for has not the Prime Minister of Great Britain (Mr. Lloyd George) and his Government laid down a basic wage for the miners and many other workers of the Mother Country? This Parliament must, sooner or later, come to a decision in this important matter. It should not be left to the indiscriminate judgment of any outside body. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), in his characteristic outburst last night, and in his endeavour to answer arguments from this side, made one of the greatest errors of his political life. He reminded honorable members that we had not included the basic wage principle in the two previous industrial measures. That was because the Arbitration Court will deal with all disputes outside the Public Service, and if themen are dissatisfied with an award, and have sufficient courage to resist it, they may do so. Members of the Public Service are in a totally different position. They have not the same opportunity to object to an unsatisfactory award. Many of them have been in the Service for many years, and would probably find it difficult to change their employer. It is absolutely the duty of the Government to set an example to outside employers in the matter of a basic wage, and I cannot understand the objections of Ministers to the inclusion of the principle in this Bill. We are told by Government supporters that the duties of the Arbitrator should be curtailed as much as possible, and I may point out that he will expect to know the Government mind on the question of the basic wage before he can decide matters that may come before him.
– What is the basic wage ?
– I confess that I do not know, for an award has not yet been made; but I am satisfied that the gentlemen upon whom the responsibility of fixing the wage must rest will act in accordance with Australian ideals, and certainly will not fix it at less than the amount decided upon in New South Wales. If it should be lower than the generally accepted idea of what the basic wage ought to be, the Government will be faced with considerable difficulty, because they will have to step in and take certain action. I do not know what are the views of all honorable members opposite, but, judging by their careers, we may expect that vested interests would influence their judgment. I am, however, firmly convinced that if the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) were still associated with memberson this side of the House, the principle enunciated in his Bendigo speech would not be ignored. Members of the Public Service are, as I have already pointed out, in an awkward position. They are not like ordinary employees outside the Service. In the building trade, for instance, if an award given should happen to be below the basic wage, it would be quite valueless, because it would bo successfully resisted.
We have been discussing arbitration matters for several weeks, and I presume honorable members are somewhat tired of the subject; but we on this side of the House have a very solemn dutyto perform, and people outside expect us to be fearlessin pointing out the errors contained in Bills. A strong Opposition in Parliament is the only safeguard the people have against tyranny and unjust legislation. Honorable members opposite may decline to include in this measure provisions which we believe will tend towards creating a better feeling in the Public Service, but their refusal will not deter us from endeavouring to show that the attitude of the Government is based on stupidity and ignorance, and is not taken in the best interests of the community at large. When measures such as this are brought forward, honorable members on this side will use all forms of the House to oppose them, realizing that the Ministry must “ carry the baby “ at the next election. Ministers ought to recognise that members of the Labour party are in a better position than themselves to understand the needs of the industrial section of the community, and the requirements of public servants. One honorable member mentioned yesterday that he had received no letters from members of the Public Service protesting against this Bill; but no one in the world would expect him to receive such letters, because the members of the Service know quite well that he is not in sympathy with them, and that it would be absolutely futile for them to forward any correspondence against the Government to one who has so loyally voted for all Bills brought forward by them, whether they accorded with his views or not. Public servants would rather appeal to me for assistance, as a son would appeal to his father. Merchants anxious to gain some advantage from the Customs Department would not approach honorable members on this side of the House for assistance. They would rather go to honorable members on the Ministerial side, who are more likely to be in sympathy with their effort to get as much as possible out of the community. Whether this amendment is accepted or not, the time will come very soon when the Legislatures of Australia must settle down to a study of what is the basic wage for the industrial section of the community, and the sooner it is done, the sooner shall we lay the foundation of prosperity, peace and contentment.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. McGrath’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the word “ such,” second occurring in sub-clause 5, and the words “ as the Arbitrator thinks necessary,” in the same sub-clause, be left out.
The members of the Public Service are afraid that, unless these amendments are made in the clause, the Arbitrator will be the sole person with the right to say what evidence may be submitted in any inquiry. A conference is to be called where there is any dispute, and then the Arbitrator is given power under this clause to call such evidence as he thinks necessary. The employees of the Public Service may, under this provision, be prevented from submitting any evidence at all.
– I cannot accept the amendment. It is necessary that the Arbitrator should have some control of the proceedings in these cases. The design of the Bill is that there shall, first of all, be a conference, at which every matter connected with a dispute can be submitted for consideration, and if there are any points on which there is not agreement at the conference, evidence may be taken in connexion with them. One of the purposes of this provision is to prevent such a condition of things as Mr. Justice Starke recently referred to when he mentioned that 25 per cent. more evidence than was necessary had been tendered at great cost to the association interested in the case. The Arbitrator will not exclude any essential evidence.
– The public servants are afraid that he will.
– He will not do so. A President of the Arbitration Court has power with respect to the rejection of evidence which he considers irrelevant, and the Arbitrator in these Public Ser vice cases should be placed in a similar position, and be given discretion to hear such evidence as he thinks necessary.
– He might hear what evidence the parties propose to submit, and consider whether it would be necessary.
-Under this clause he can shut out either of the parties and say that he will not hear anything from them.
– The Arbitrator will preside at the preliminary conference. He may on the hearing require evidence on certain points not agreed upon. He will have power under this clause to hear such evidence as he thinks necessary in connexion with matters upon which there has been no agreement at the conference. He will then conduct what will practically be a Court, and will hear evidence on the matters referred to. It is in the interest of the associations themselves that the Arbitrator should have the power to exclude evidence which he considers unnecessary. We must give the Arbitrator discretion in the conduct of his inquiries, and it is wise and just that this power should be vested in him.
.- I agree withthe Minister (Mr. Groom) that very often superfluous evidence is submitted to a Court, but I do not think that it is wise to allow the Arbitrator to be the sole judge of the evidence to beplaced before him. He may not have the necessary knowledge to enable him to decide a particular question.
– In that case he would take evidence.
– I do not know that he would. It might be a very difficult thing for the Arbitrator to decide what evidence would be necessary in certain cases. At a conference the parties might be able, with the assistance of the Arbitrator, to agree upon certain claims, but there might be some on which they could not agree. Those claims must go into Court; the parties must make out their case, and they should be in a position to call such evidence as they think necessary for that purpose I can understand the Arbitrator being given the right, in order to shorten proceedings, to say that evidence tendered is not relevant to the case, and will not assist him.
– This clause is necessary to give him that right.
– I contend that this clause goes far beyond that. If the Minister were the Arbitrator, I could understand him having the right to say that certain evidence tendered in a case was not relevant to the claim, and he, therefore, did not want to hear it; but in this clause the power is given to the Arbitrator to say to the parties, before they commenced submitting their case, that he does not wish to hear evidence on this or that point. We must remember that no such provision as this is embodied in other Arbitration Acts. The Minister and the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond), contend that the Arbitrator should have the power to reject evidence which he considers unnecessary. But I would like the Minister to explain why a power such as this is included in this measure when it is not in other Statutes. We are giving the Arbitrator power to say what evidence shall be adduced by the contending parties, and if the Bill is allowed to pass in its present form it will bring about an element of discord, and make the measure objectionable to public servants. If the public servants are to have confidence in the Bill, they should have the right to bring forward any evidence which they consider vital. I do not think it necessary or desirable that the Arbitrator should be compelled to hear evidence that is irrelevant, but the representatives of the Public Service should be in a position to put their case before the Arbitrator in a proper manner, and he should be prepared to hear all evidence that is relevant. If we adopt the clause in its present form we shall be passing a provision that is not in any other Arbitration Act, and I do not see why that should be so.
– I have a prior amendment to that moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), and I desire to ascertain whether I will be in order in moving it at this stage.
– I am prepared to temporarily withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move -
That the following words be inserted at the end of sub-clause 1: - “but in arriving at what is a living wage he shall have regard to what amount is necessary to keep a married man, his wife, and three children in reasonable comfort.”
– An honorable member has already given notice of a similar amendment; it is merely repeating one that has already been disposed of.
– Not at all. I do not think that it requires any words’ of mine to support the amendment, as any wage which does not allow a man to support himself, his wife, and three children in reasonable comfort is not worthy the name of a living wage.
– I cannot accept the amendment, as it would be the means of fettering the Arbitrator. If we accept an amendment such as this, it will interfere with the work of the Arbitrator, and will be the means’ of setting up other standards.
– But they are our own employees.
– We are leaving it to the Arbitrator to say what shall be the living wage in connexion with the cases which come before him for decision. That is the position in connexion with the Arbitration Act to-day, and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) is merely using the words of Mr. Justice Higgins, which, however, are not embodied in any particular Federal Act. It is a matter for judicial decision, and we must leave such questions for the Arbitrator to decide.
.-When the present Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) moved an amendment in the first Public Service Act to definitely include the minimum wage, relating to clerical workers, I had moved one relating to the General Division, and we were told that such an amendment would hamper the Commissioner, and that we had no right to embody anything of the nature in the Bill. In spite of the opposition of the Barton Government, Parliament decided that the minimum wage should be embodied in the Bill.
– What did you get out of it?
– But later on you passed an Act in which you did not include it.
– A Liberal Government was in office at the time, and the honorable member for Illawarra supported the Labour party at that time in including a minimum wage clause in the Bill. The Minister for Home and Territories must have a very vivid recollection of the occasion to which I have referred, when he was bitterly opposed by the late Sir William Lyne. When a return was tabled in the House we ascertained that there were adult married men working in some States for £68 a year, while there were very many men receiving less than £100 per annum, and adult womenin one State in particular who were receiving only £39 a year. The return to which I refer appears in Hansard, and shows the miserable wages that were being paid at that time. We are met to-day with the same old conservative cry that wemust not place difficulties in the way of the Arbitrator, as we heard when it was stated that we should not do anything to interfere with the Commissioner.
– That is not so, as we are just as anxious to secure a fair standard of living as are honorable members opposite. That is not the issue.
– We have not had an example of that this morning. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in his Bendigo speech promised that the Government would, at the earliest possible moment, give effect to the recommendations of the Basic Wage Commission, but on the first occasion, and where their own employees are concerned, they refuse to act. There can be no objection to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), because it merely provides that a man shall receive sufficient to keep himself, his wife, and family of three in reasonable comfort. Surely we all stand for that, and we have as much right to include the amendment in the Bill as we had to embody the minimum wage proposal in the Public Service Act of 1901.
Mr. HECTOR LAMOND (Illawarra) made in the Bill to prevent sweating, particularly in connexionwith the smaller sections of the Service which are not sufficiently strong to impose their will upon the Government. It is to the disgrace of one of the Departments to-day that there are young men employed in it who are receiving only little more than 30s. per week. Although this fact has been repeatedly brought under the notice of the Minister, he has taken no action whatever. Personally, I do not think that the Commissioner should be vested with unfettered power to sweat our public servants.
– The cases mentioned by the honorable member are not under an award of any Judge?
-No. I object to inserting in the Bill a minimum standard, because the minimum is constantly rising. The experience of the Arbitration Court has shown that what were regarded as unreasonable ideals a year or two ago, are to-day regarded by that tribunal as falling short of the ideals which should be set up. I am reluctant to insert in the Bill a provision which may have the effect of continuing a low minimum wage-
– How would the honorable member give effect to his desire?
– I would appoint a competent man to the position of Arbitrator. Most of the arguments which have been advanced during the discussion have been based upon the assumption that we are going to secure as Arbitrator a man who will have no sympathy whatever with the Public Service, and who will not do his duty by it. If we get such a man I shall certainly join with others in an endeavour to shift him.
I would like to know whether the provisions of this measure will limit action by the Arbitrator to cases which are brought formally before him as if he were a Court. I am strongly of opinion that he should act in the capacity of a conciliator most of the time. The majority of the grievances which affect small sections of our public servants could be settled by the Arbitrator withina few hours if only they could be brought before him in an informal manner without invoking the aid of all the paraphernalia of the Court.
.- I would remind the honorable member who has just resumed his seat that the scheme underlying this Bill is that the Arbitrator shall deal only with Public Service organizations. His particular function will be to determine the general conditions which shall obtain in that Service. If members of any organization are labouring under a grievance in respect to the conditions under which they are working, they may bring their case before the Arbitrator. Butthe entire scheme of the Bill is the exercise of conciliation. Every endeavour should be made to arrive at a settlement of any dispute by conciliatory methods before entering the tribunal which is to be created under this Bill.
– I should like to see provision made in this measure to empower the Arbitrator to hear the grievances of those sections of our public servants who are unable to be organized. The cases to which I have already referred are those of apprentices in the Draughtsman’s Branch. There are men there who had three years’ technical training before entering the Commonwealth Service, and who, although they have been two or three years in that Service, are to-day receiving only 30s. or 32s. per week. As a matter of fact, until recently they were receiving only £1 or 25s. per week.
– So long as three-fifths of their number choose to band themselves together, they are at liberty to form an organization.
– But I have in my mind the case of another man who is the only one in his class at the Cockatoo Dockyard. His is a case which, if put before any Arbitration Court in Australia, would secure redress of his grievances within half-an-hour. We ought to provide in this Bill that the Arbitrator shall be available to hear the complaints of individuals.
– If we do that, we shall have all these men breaking away from their organizations and going before the Arbitrator as individuals.
– I do not desire to provide for men getting out of their organizations, but merely for those who cannot get into an organization.
– There was a sailmaker who was engaged in the manufacture of mail-bags, and he was the only employee of that kind in the Service.
– In making provision for arbitration in regard to the entire Commonwealth Service, we ought not to overlook the small sections of that Service, who may be labouring under grievances and who cannot form themselves into an organization.
– The matter mentioned by the honorable member is one which may very well be brought forward when the amending Public ServiceBill is under consideration. Of course, the whole scheme underlying this measure is the principle of conciliation and arbitration. I will, however, note the remarks of the honorable member.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted (Mr. Parker Moloney’s amendment) be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr.LAVELLE(Calare) [12.35]. - I move -
That the following words be inserted at the end of sub-clause 1 : - “ Provided that in determining such wages, rates of pay, or conditions of employment, he shall not discriminate between married and single men on account of marriage only.”
The amendment, I think, will commend itself to honorable members generally. We all realize that there should be no differentiation in the remuneration paid to married and single men. Every man should receive a wage sufficient to enable him to maintain a wife and family according to a reasonable standard of comfort. Quite recently, one of the Arbitration Court Judges laid it down that single men were not entitled to the same rate of’ pay as married men. It is to guard against such differentiation in the future, and in order to insure that no obstacle shall be placed in the way of a man who desires to marry, that I seek to have this provision embodied in the Bill. The amendment will go a long way towards bringing about contentment in the Service, and I am sure the Minister (Mr. Groom) will accept it.
– That is not to say that they will decline to accept this amendment. We have had an unfortunate experience, in that the best possible amendments submitted from this side have been rejected by the Government; but I think that the Minister is at last seeing the light, and that the saneness and desirableness of my amendment will induce him and his followers to support it.
– The objection that I raised to the last amendment will apply equally to that just submitted by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Lavelle). The Arbitrator must be left to determine the conditions of employment. That is the position under the existing law. Not one of these ingenious distinctions was suggested by honorable members of the Labour party when the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was before the House. Apart from that, however , I cannot accept this amendment, since it is an attempt to embody in the Bill itself a condition which should be left to the determination of the Arbitrator.
– I strongly support the amendment. The contention of the Minister (Mr: Groom) that it deals with a matter that should be left to the Arbitrator is unsound. It would mean giving the Arbitrator too wide a power. During the discussion of this Bill there has gradually been developing in’ my mind the idea that the Arbitrator, whoever he may be, will be almost a despot. The Conciliation and Arbitration Court, in making awards relating to private employment, has never differentiated between the wages of married’ and single men. Such differentiation seems to be peculiar to awards relating to the Public Service. I cannot understand the reason for it, and the refusal of the Minister to accept the amendment undoubtedly suggests the likelihood of this discrimination occurring in the awards of the Arbitrator. If a single man is doing work equal to that carried out by married men, he should receive equal pay. I stand for the principle of equal pay for equal work, regardless of whether the work is done by males or females, married or single men. If a single man is to be paid less than a married man, he will be unable to make any provision for married life. The Court ought not to meddle with matters that are sacred to the individual. It should be content to determine what is a reasonable, economic position for a man and his family to occupy. A single man should receive the pay of a married man where he is doing the same class of work. That would allow him to marry, when he was prepared to do so, and to do his duty to his country by rearing a family.
.- I hope that the Minister (Mr. Groom) will see his way to review the conclusion at which he has arrived regarding this amendment, which, to my mind, is eminently reasonable, and is necessary owing to certain decisions that have been given. Will the Ministerinform me whether an award has not been given in relation to the Public Service differentiating between the pay of single and married men?
– Yes; Mr. Justice Powers made a distinction in one case, but it was only in connexion with certain bonuses.
– This is a question of principle, and it is for Parliament to lay down principles that will be in no way derogatory to the Arbitrator, but rather & guide to him. I heard- honorable members on the Ministerial side contend during the debate on the Arbitration Bill that Parliament should deliver its dictum in regard to the number of hours to be worked per week. The Committee is now asked to affirm the principle that there should be no differentiation by reason of the mere fact that a man is married. Honorable members would be well advised to establish that principle by voting for the amendment. If it is necessary to give a higher wage to those who have more than three children - three should be the standard family - that can be done by the payment of a bonus for each child in excess of that number. I do not believe that any Arbitrator will venture to differentiate in respect of single mechanics in the Commonwealth employ. Such experiments will be tried only in certain branches of the Service, the employees of which the Government think will submit to that sort of thing. It is our duty to see that no differentiation takes place.
.- Parliament should take upon itself more responsibility than it does, and should not leave the decision of great national questions to individuals. In connexion with the postal service, Mr. Justice Powers awarded for temporary or relieving work a less rate for single men than for married men. To-day the Postal Department is sending all the single men on relieving duty. That involves a great injustice in some cases, and the postal assistants are appealing against it. There may be a very good reason for a man being unmarried. Some men have others dependent upon them, and are unable to take to themselves awife. I have in mind a postal official who is now twentynine years of age, and whosemother informed me that, from the time he was fifteen years of age, he regularly handed bis departmental cheque to her. She is well advanced in years, and it is necessary that one of the daughters shall remain at home to attend to the housekeeping, but because the young man is single, he is being sent away on relieving duty at a smaller wage than is paid to married men. That is one instance of the injustice that is done under that award. Of course, it is gratifying to women to know that the single men are penalized, but the circumstances of each individual should be considered.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare that the Arbitration (Public Service) Bill is an urgent Bill, and move -
That the Bill be considered an urgent Bill.
My reason for taking this step is that I desire to announce to the House after the dinner adjournment to-night the defence policy of the Government so that honorable membersmay be in possession of that information before the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) delivers his Budget statement next week. We also desire to deal this evening with the Senate’s amendments to the Industrial Peace Bill which, it is imperative, shall be passed into law at once. The principal reason for making that measure urgent was to provide machinery by which the dispute in the coal industry might be adjusted. I am happy to state that the dispute is in process of adjustment, but it is imperative that the Tribunal which is dealing with the matter shall be clothed with legal powers. In order that that may be done, it is necessary that the Industrial Peace Bill shall become law without delay. I have, therefore, submitted this motion, believing that there will be ample time to deal with the remaining stages of the Bill in the time allotted.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority … … 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
Limitation of Debate.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the time allotted in connexion with the Bill he as follows: -
For the completion of the remainder of the Committee stage of the Bill until 6 p.m. this day.
For the consideration of the remaining stages of the Bill until 6.25 p.m. this day.
.- No one can say that there has been any “stonewalling” over this Bill. Not one member, so far as I know, has taken his full time even in one of the speeches he is entitled to make in Committee on any clause. No honorable member took up his full time on the second reading, and in Committee I do not think any honorable member has spoken more than four times, though we are now up to clause 12.
– This is the fourth day since the Bill was introduced.
– The Bill was introduced by the Prime Minister last Friday. I realize that if the Government hope to pass the whole of the Bills they have outlined in their programme-
– They have no chance!
– I admit that in the time at our disposal there is no chance of dealing with the whole of the measures with anything like fair consideration. There have been four Bills introduced connected with the Public Service, some of them amending measures, and some quite new proposals. Why? No doubt time has shown the necessity for amending previous legislation, but we ought not to forget that sometimes we are called upon to amend Bills because of the way in which the original measures were rushed through. Although I know it is useless, I wish to express my objection to the course now proposed.
– I do not propose to use the short interval now left for the consideration of the Bill in objecting to the carrying of this motion further than is necessary to say that I shall always record my vote, and use my influence for what it is worth, against a proposal of the kind now before us. There are two instruments available to the Government for preventing the undue discussion of measures; one is the closure familiarly known as the “ gag,” and the other is the later device which it is now proposed to make use of. The Government have the numbers, and can carry this or any other motion; but it is objectionable - in my view it is indecent - that when honorable members are working on a Bill, and not dallying or wasting time over it, the Prime Minister should rush into the Chamber and take the course he has taken. In this debate the Prime Minister has taken no part, and the matter under discussion is one of which he knows nothing; but he applies the standing order merely because he thinks it right to parcel out the time that the representatives of Australia should devote to certain public business. If there is not time during the present session to deal with all the measures the Government wishto deal with, the proper course is to continue to sit until they have been dealt with, and not for the Prime Minister, as head of the Government, to arbitrarily decide that so much time, and no more, shall be devoted to any particular measure. There are a large number of amendments to this Bill, some of which have been moved, and some of which have yet to be moved; and, as these are proposed in good faith, each of them should be discussed in good faith. Under this, what I call an iniquitous standing order, introduced by this Government, it may well be that honorable members may not only have no opportunity to discuss those amendments, but may actually be prevented from even proposing them, or having a decision of the Committee regarding them. For those reasons, I enter my emphatic protest against this motion.
.- I also enter my emphatic protest against honorable members being gagged in the manner proposed by the Government. It must be apparent to every one that the Government and their supporters are merely trifling with the question of arbitration. A few weeks ago we had before as a Bill having for its object the establishment of industrial peace. That measure was declared urgent, and went through this House within a week, but in another place, although the Government have an overwhelming majority there, the consideration of it has extended over three weeks. Evidently the Government are prepared to allow any length of time that senators may desire to devote to that Bill. If the Industrial Peace Bill was urgent in the House of Representatives, it should certainly be considered urgent in another place. Since then, we have had before us a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, the provisions of which the Government refused to extend to the Public Service; and now it is sought to declare that a Bill dealing exclusively with the Public Service shall be declared urgent. It is quite evident to me that the appeals of honorable members on this side were well grounded, and that we were on right lines when we said that the Government, by their proposals, were trying to perpetrate an injustice on the Public Service. “We are told that it is the intention to introduce another Public Service measure ; but if the Government conducted the affairs of the country in a business-like way, there would be no occasion for halfadozen Bills ofthe kind, or need to stifle criticism on any one of them.
Question - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr.Lavelle’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the word “such,” second occurring in sub-clause 5, and the words “ as the Arbitrator thinks necessary,” in the same sub-clause, be left out.
I have endeavoured to submit this amendment at least half-a-dozen times, but have withdrawn it on each occasion in order to admit of prior amendments being dealt with. It covers an entirely new principle - as to whether the Arbitrator shall be permitted to deny to any one who is making a claim the right to give any evidence he wishes to submit. I quite realise that I have not the ghost of a chance of carrying this amendment, because the Ministers have behind them sufficient numbers to enable them to oppose anything.
– You do not include the Country party?
– Yes, I do. They are merely the tail of the National party.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause - put.
The Committee divided.
Majority . . … 14
Question so resolved inthe affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 13 -
In relation to every claim or application made to him in pursuance of this Act, the Arbitrator shall act according to equity, good conscience, and the substantial merits of the case, without regard to technicalities or legal forms, and shall not be bound by any rules of evidence, but may inform his mind on any matter in such manner as he thinks fit.
– A suggestion has been tendered by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), and by other honorable members opposite, regarding the appointment of assessors. And it has been urged that there should be inserted inthis clause the wording of the original Arbitration Act, which language, however, did not appear in the Public Service Arbitration Act of 1911. The latter Statute contains no express power in relation to the appointment of assessors. I propose to adopt the suggestion regarding assessors, and I move, accordingly -
That the following sub-clauses be added: - “ (2) The Arbitrator shall, at the request of the organization which has submitted a claim or application, or of the Commissioner, or of the Minister of any Department of State, who has submitted an application, or who is affected by the claim or application of the organization, and may, without such request, appoint an assessor or assessors to advise him in relation to the claim or application, and the assessor or assessors shall discharge such duties as are directed by the Arbitrator, or as are prescribed. “(3) One of the assessors shall be a person nominated by the organization, and the other a person nominated jointly by the Commissioner and the Minister of each Department of State affected by the claim or application, or, in default of such nomination, appointedby the Governor-General.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 14 -
For the purposes of this Act, the Arbitrator shall have poweras regards any claim or application of which he has cognisance under this Act -
to vary any determination, and to reopen any question;
to summon any witness before him, and to compel the production before him of books, documents and things for the purpose of reference to such matters only as relate to the matter of the claim or application;
to take evidence on oath or affirmation ;
to allow the amendment of the claim or application;
to declare by any order that any term of a determination shall, subject to such conditions, exceptions, and limitations as are declared in the order, be a common rule of the Public Service or of any branch or part of the Public Service; and
generally to give all such directions and do all such things as the Arbitrator deems necessary or expedient in the premises.
Any person who, on being summoned as a witness, refuses or fails, without lawful excuse, and after tender of reasonable expenses, to appear in obedience to the summons, or refuses or fails without lawful excuse to be sworn or to make an affirmation or to produce books, documents and things which he is lawfully required to produce, or to answer questions which he is lawfully required to answer, shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: Fifty pounds.
Amendments (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-
That in sub-clause 1 the words “ of which he has cognisance “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ submitted to him.”
That the following words be added at the end of paragraph a: - “and to give an interpretation of any determination.”
.- I move -
That the following words be added at the end of paragraph c: - “such evidence, unless otherwise ordered by the Arbitrator for reasons affecting the safety of the Commonwealth, to be taken in public.”
Among the powers conferred by this clause upon the Arbitrator is that provided in paragraph c, with respect to the taking of evidence upon oath or affirmation. That is a fundamental power, but I desire the Committee to agree to a declarationthat evidence shall be taken in public. It has been contended - certainly, from this side, if not from the other - that the position of Arbitrator will be little more than that of a Commissioner for the Public Service.
– Does the honorable member desire that the proposed Tribunal shall be declared practically an open Court?
– I do.
– The Arbitration Court has always been open to the public.
– Quite so; but I want to make it clear that this Court also shall be open to the light of day. At the same time we should not object, in the event of there being some grave reason, to the Arbitrator taking evidence in secret; while, on the other hand again, we want to indicate that we do not desire him to decide to take evidence in secret for any trifling or purely personal reason.
– Would the honorable member care to substitute for his reference to “ the safety of the Commonwealth” the words “reasons of public policy”?
– As my amendment was originally drafted, the words employed were, “ reasons of State,” but as I do not quite know what “ reasons of State “ may mean, and since I do understand the meaning of the language which I have tendered, I suggest that that is the more appropriate for inclusion here. Honorable members on this side take the view that this amendment, if accepted, will have the effect of preventing the Tribunal from degenerating into a little holeandcorner bureaucracy. We desire, as far as the Bill enables us to do so, that the Tribunal shall be made to operate with all the freedom and status - if that can be - of the High Court. It should be, in effect, a judicial Tribunal. It is our view that it should function in the presence of the public, and in the light of public opinion. I think that, if the amendment is agreed to, it will improve the standing of the Court in public estimation. I ask that this Court shall not be allowed to sit and take evidence in secret, so that it may permit itself to be influenced by purely local personal considerations of a kind which should not weigh with it. We should provide that the evidence tendered, and that the manner in which that evidence is received, shall alike be thesubject of public observation and criticism. This provision will go some distance - though not so far as one would like - to meet our objection that the Arbitrator will have the standing merely of a Public Service official.
– Would the honorable member object to the substitution of the words “ reasons of public policy “ for the phrase” the safety” of the Commonwealth.” ?
– There are many things, I think, which might be urged on the ground of public policy, which, however, might not go the length of affecting the safety of the Commonwealth. I do not desire the Arbitrator to be given discretion to say, “ I think that, on the ground of public policy, I shall hear this matter privately.” The proposed alternative phrase, I fear, would leave it open to the Arbitrator, on almost any ground which for the time being appealed to him as sufficient, to decide to hear evidence in secret. My object is to make it clear that evidence must? be tendered in public and above board; that is, unless such evidence is actually a revelation of a. kind which might be injurious to the public safety or the public defence - a matter, in fact, of grave importance. Only under a very serious set of conditions should the Arbitrator depart from the rule of taking evidence in open Court. It is a rule which applies very generally to-day, although not absolutely, of course, since there are subsidiary rules which enable Judges to hear evidence in camera on the ground of public decency, and so on.
– The words in the Bill are practically identical with those contained in section 38 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, 1914-15, which says -
The Court shall, in regard to every industrial dispute of which it has cognisance, have power to take evidence on oath or affirmation.
And those words are the same as are to be found in the Public Service Act,1911 -
The Court shall, in regard to any claim of which it has cognisance under this Act, have power to take evidence on oath or affirmation.
The intention of this Bill is similar to that of the Arbitration and Public Service Acts. In respect of both Statutes, hearings are conducted ro-day in open Court. However, I have no objectionto the amendment. It should not be lost sight of, though, that in the first place wo desire - before a matter conies before the Arbitrator - that there should be a conference; which, I take it, would be a conference conducted without the taking of evidence. I do not want to have anything inserted in the Bill which might tend against the taking of evidence if the parties to the conference so desired, and if it were considered necessary and deemed to be a factor in the solution of the immediate matter in hand. I think it would be better to qualify the amendment by providing that such evidence should be heard in public unless otherwise ordered by the Court, “ for reasons affecting public policy.” That would be a clear direction to the Arbitrator that all evidence should be taken in public, except where it was against public policy to do so’. There might be secret operations relating to a Department which it would Be inadvisable to make public, so that some discretionary power should be allowed the Arbitrator. I am prepared to accept the amendment, if it is put in that form. Meantime, before the Bill is returned to another place, I will look into the matter with the object of ascertaining if the clause, as so amended . would be likely to interfere with the taking of evidencethat might be required in anticipation of trial.
– “ Public policy “ might mean “ political policy.”
– Then let us substitute for the words “ the safety of the Commonwealth,” the words “ public interests.”
– I am agreeable to that.
Amendment, by leave, amended accordingly.
.- I should like the Minister (Mr. Groom) to state whether, under the clause, as proposed to be amended, the hearing of any case brought before the Arbitrator would be open to the public from its inception.
– Under the clause, as proposed to be amended, when the parties are at issue, and evidence has to be taken in order to enable the Arbitrator to amend a determination, that evidence will be heard in open Court, unless, for reasons affecting the public interests, it is undesirable to do so.
– How are the public to know at what stage of the proceedings they will be admitted.
– The Arbitrator will notify, just as the President of the Arbitration Court does at the present time, the days on which he will sit to take evidence.
– What objection can there be to the whole of the proceedings, both in respect of the conference and the taking of evidence, being open to the public? Surely there is no reason why tie arguments put forward, and the evidence submitted in support of a claim by public servants, should not equally be made public.
– Compulsory conferences under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act are held in private.
– I should prefer an absolutely open Court. The wider the publicity given to these matters the better the chance of an amicable settlement.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
.- I propose to move -
That after the word “Service,” line 23, the following words be inserted, “ provided that before any such common rule is made any organization whose members are likely to be affected by it shall have the right to submit evidence and arguments on the matter.”
I think the Minister will agree that it is only fair that before the Arbitrator proceeds to make a common rule in any case, all organizations whose members are likely to be affected by it should have an oppor tunity to be heard. This is an equitable provision, and if the Minister will agree to it much discussion will be avoided. I have been furnished with the following simple illustration of what would be the effect of the clause as it stands -
A particular organization may have a claim before the Arbitrator on, say, the matter of overtime. He may, after hearing the evidence of that particular organization, declare that overtime shall be payable after a certain number of hours of duty and, say, at a certain rate; and he may also, by virtue of the power given in sub-clause (e), declare that the Order in question shall be made a common rule of the Service, without giving to any other organization which may be vitally affected in this matter the power to call any evidence, or to submit any arguments which may go to show that the common rule would be inequitable if applied to the conditions of employment operating in some other section of the Service.
– I think there is good reason for such an amendment as that suggested by my honorable friend (Mr. Charlton). There is no such provision in the Act of 1911, but I recognise that under the clause as it stands, a common rule might be made and affect persons who have not had an opportunity to put their position before the Arbitrator. There was a long discussion on this subject when the original Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was before this House many years ago. It was provided in that measure that -
Before any common rule is so declared, the President shall, by notification published in the Gazette, and in such other publications, if any, as the Court directs, specifying the industry and the industrial matter in relation to which it is proposed to declare a common rule, make known that all persons and organizations interested and desirous of being heard may appear and give evidence on the subject.
– That is much the same provision.
– Yes. That, I think, would achieve the object which the honorable member has in view. I therefore move -
That the following words be added to paragraph e, “Provided that before any common rule is so declared, the Arbitrator “shall, by notification published in the Gazette, and in such other publications, if any, as the Arbitrator directs, specifying the matter in relation to which it is proposed to declare a common rule, make known that all persons and organizations interested and desirous of being heard, may, on or before a day named, appear, or be represented, before the Arbitrator; and the Arbitrator shall, in manner prescribed, hear all such persons and organizations so appearing or represented; and
Amendment agreed to.
Clause as amended agreed to.
Clauses 15 and 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 -
No costs shall be allowed in respect of any proceedings under this Act.
.- I move -
That the following paragraph be added: - “(b) the Arbitrator shall award such expenses as he considers have been necessarily incurred by witnesses in presenting evidence to assist him in arriving at any determination.”
The Minister will see that the amendment is necessary, because sub-clause 2 of clause 14 provides -
Penalty: Fifty pounds.
If a witness is compelled by the Arbitrator to attend, it is only reasonable that he should receive his expenses. The Basic Wage Commission pays the expenses of all witnesses, and the Arbitration Courts do likewise. The Arbitrator under this Bill may be adjudicating on a case in Melbourne, and it may be necessary to bring witnesses from Sydney. Some of the witnesses may not be in a position to pay their own travelling expenses, and therefore they will not be able to tender the evidence required of them unless their expenses are paid. I think the Minister will agree that the proposal is a reasonable one.
– I cannot accept the amendment. This Bill merely re-enacts in some respects the Act which has been in operation since 1911. If the amendment were agreed to, practically the whole of the witnesses’ expenses in connexion with a hearing would become a charge upon the public.
– The Committee has already agreed to a clause which empowers the Arbitrator to say that he will take no evidence at all.
– That power is not likely to be exercised as the honorable member suggests. The conductof the case is left in the hands of the parties, who will call as many witnesses as they think fit. If a party desires the attendance of a certain witness, who will not attend voluntarily, a subpna may be applied for and would not be refused. While the organizations have to pay the expenses of their own witnesses, they will be careful as to the number they call. But if the amendment were agreed to, witnesses would be brought from all parts of the continent, and there would be no limit to the evidence or the expense to be borne by the public. Mr. Justice Starke said in the Arbitration Court last month -
In the plaint of the Federal Public Service Assistants’ Association, he considered that onequarter of the evidence that had been called was not required. The case had, therefore, lasted far longer than it should have done, because witnesses had been called from here, there, and everywhere. They had, however, added very little to the case, and very little to his knowledge of it. To specially call telephonists from New South Wales was almost ridiculous.
In the first instance, the Commonwealth will appoint a Board of Management to deal fairly with the Public Service. Then those officers who feel aggrieved by the decisions of the Board will be able to appeal to the Arbitrator. If we were to provide in the Bill that the Government should also pay the expenses in connexion with a hearing, the cost of the proceedings would be greatly increased.
– We do not ask for that.
– As the Bill is drafted, the Arbitrator might desire the attendance of a witness from Queensland or New South Wales, but he would have no power to award him his expenses.
– But sub-clause 2 of clause 14 provides for the payment of reasonable expenses to any witness.
– That is a general power to enable witnesses who do not come voluntarily to be subpnaed. It is assumed that the parties will call their own witnesses.
– Sub-clause 2 of clause 14 definitely provides for the tender of reasonable expenses to any witness who is summoned to appear before the Arbitrator.
– It does not say that the Crown shall provide that money.
– Who is to pay the expenses of the witnesses ?
– The party which applies for the subpna.
– A party informs the Arbitrator that one of its witnesses will not come, and the Arbitrator thereupon issues a summons to compel the attendance of the witness.
– I might be summoned to attend a hearing before the Arbitrator in Queensland.
– The honorable member could not be compelled to attend unless the party summoning him tendered his expenses.
– At present the Bill provides that a person may be compelled to attend before the Arbitrator, but declares that he shall not be allowed one penny of his expenses.
– If one of the parties desires the attendance of a witness, who will not appear voluntarily, it will not be able to compel him to attend until it has tendered him his reasonable expenses.
– The organization may not have the money with which to pay the expenses. Trade unions, and particularly Public Service organizations, are not wealthy.
– Does the honorable member know of any difficulties having arisen under the Act of 1911 in regard to the attendance of witnesses?
– I do not. This Bill compels witnesses to pay the whole of their expenses in connexion with their attendance before the Arbitrator. Already the Committee has given the Arbitrator power to say that he will refuse to hear any witnesses.
– Clause 12 reads- “ after hearing such evidence (if any) in respect of such matters as have not been agreed to at the conference as the Arbitrator thinks necessary.” The Arbitrator may think all the evidence unnecessary. An organization desires to prove its claim, and for that purpose has to bring witnesses from other States, and the amendment merely asks that such expenses as the Arbitrator thinks have been necessarily incurred shall be paid by the Commonwealth. Surely that is fair. We do not ask that a big bill of costs shall be piled up ; we ask only for the expenses incurred by the witnesses. The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) mentioned the case of those officers who, because they are few in number, are not able to get their cases heard. There may be probably not more than 100 watchmen employed by the Customs Department throughout Australia. In order to get their case before the Arbitrator they must belong to an organization whose main claims are of little interest to them. Such men should be allowed at least their travelling expenses in order that they may put their claims before the Arbitrator. It will be for the Arbitrator to decide what expenses are necessary. We are not proposing that lawyers shall be employed. Another portion of the Bill provides that lawyers shall not appear in such proceedings, although when we were dealing with the Bill relating to industrial organizations generally, the Government would not agree to a proposal from this side that lawyers should be excluded from the Arbitration Court.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) voted with the Government.
– Very likely; he is the “ little leaven,” but he does not “leaven the whole lump.”
– It means that in that particular instance he was right.
– It may be, but I think he was wrong. In my opinion, the amendment proposed is a perfectly justifiable one, and ought to be accepted.
.- The Arbitrator might be desirous of hearing the evidence of a witness resident in Western Australia, as necessary to assist him in arriving at a proper decision, but it appears that there is no power to grant the expenses of such a witness. Even if the Minister will not accept the amendment of the honorable member for Macquarie, though I think it is an eminently fair one, surely he would accept a modified proposal giving the Arbitrator power to pay the expenses of an essential witness from a distance.
– There has been no difficulty in working the Act so far.
– But we are multiplying Arbitration Courts andTribunals so much that it is hard to see where the expense is going to end.
– We are trying, by the machinery of this Bill, to reduce expense.
– Does the Bill provide that only the members of an organization shall reap the advantage gained ?
– No; it is open to both sides.
– Then an organization has to bear the whole of the expense, and gets no corresponding advantage?
– Outside organizations always pay their own expenses of going before a tribunal.
– In such a case as I have indicated, I have known union officials to obtain a written statement from a witness for the information of the Court.
– The new clause, 14a, which the Minister proposes to introduce, will cover such a case. That clause gives the Arbitrator power to delegate a person in a remote place to take evidence on his behalf.
– That, of course, modifies the position.
– If the Arbitrator thinks that a witness from a distance ought to be called, it becomes a matter on which he may make application to the Department; but no such case has yet arisen.
Question - That the paragraph proposed to be added be so added (Mr.
Nicholls’ amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 18 (No counsel or solicitor to be employed).
– No; there is nothing, for instance, to prevent a member of the legal profession, who is a member of the Association of Legal Officers in the Attorney-General’s Department, from appearing on behalf of that association. The object of the clause is to prevent the retaining of legal gentlemen to appear on behalf of an organization.
– Do you object to the insertion of a proviso making that point clear ?
– It is not necessary; already such membersof an organization have appeared.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 19 agreed to.
Clause 20 (Determination to be laid before Parliament) .
.- On the occasion of the adjournment of the House during the visit of the Prince of Wales, there were, I think, ten or a dozen or more cases, such as would come within the operation of this clause; but I mentioned the case to the Prime Minister, and the matter was arranged. I suggest that after an award has been laid before Parliament, it shall take effect at a date not later than that on which it was made. If an award may come into operation only after it has laid before Parliament for a period of thirty days the men concerned may be deprived of its advantages for as long as six months.
– The Judge has power to deal with such cases and make the awards retrospective. I have already mentioned to the Committee a case in which Mr. Justice Powers made the award retrospective to a date earlier than that of the award, the award being made on the 1st October and made retrospective to some day in August. If a Judge or Arbitrator is of opinion that an award should begin on the day on which it is made he can say so, and then, no matter how long it lies before Parliament, it is operative from that date. The meaning of the clause is that an award comes into operation as from a date fixed by the Arbitrator not earlier than after the expiration of thirty days after it has been laid before Parliament, but it is retrospective to the date fixed by the Arbitrator. That was done in the case before Mr. Justice Powers, and that view was approved by the SolicitorGeneral.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 21 and 22 agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clausebe added: - “ 14a. The Arbitrator may refer any claim or application submitted to him under this Act, or any matter arising out of the claim or application, to a person authorized by the Governor-General in that behalf, for investigation and report, and may delegate to that person such of his powers (other than the power to determine the claim or application) as he deems desirable; and the Arbitrator may, on the report, with or without hearing further evidence or argument, or both, determine the claim or application.”
If a case arises in any part of Australia on which the Arbitrator wishes to have a report, this provision will enable him to obtain one.
– What class of individual will be called upon for a report?
– The Governor-General may authorize a Police Magistrate or a State Judge.
– Who will pay the expenses of conducting such inquiries?
– The Commonwealth Government will pay the expenses of the person appointed.
.The words “ with or without hearing further evidence, or argument, or both “ ought to be omitted. If assessors are sit ting with the Arbitrator, they should be in a position to discuss the nature of any report which is furnished to him, and certainly those who are appearing for the various parties ought to be entitled to express themselves upon it. It will really be portion of the evidence on which the Arbitratorwill come to his determination.
– The inclusion of these words will not prevent the Arbitrator from hearing evidence or argument.
– But they enable him to proceed to a determination without hearing further evidence or argument, and the persons appearing for the parties may be shut out from being heard in reference to any report which is furnished to him.
– The Public Service Act 1911 provides that the Judge of any State Court, or a stipendiary magistrate, or other person authorized, may conduct an investigation on behalf of the President of the Arbitration Court, so that a very wide range is given in this clause, which permits the Arbitrator to delegate this task to any person authorized by the Governor-General. In reference to the point raised by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), I find that the words to which he takes exception appear in section 7 of the Act of 1911. If assessors are appointed, the Arbitrator must necessarily bring under their notice any matter contained in a report concerning the case in which they are assisting him, so far as it comes within their authority. We ought not to make it compulsory upon an Arbitrator to hear further argument upon a minor matter. I think it is quite sufficient to leave it to his discretion, as the proposed new clause does, to hear further evidence or argument upon receiving a report from a person to whom he has delegated certain powers of investigation.
– But the report which is furnished to him might have an important bearing upon the claim or application.
– In such circumstances he would not be so blind to his duty as to decline to hear further evidence or argument upon it. I think the wording of the provision giving him discretion in the matter is quite sufficient.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be added: - “ 23. ( 1) The living wage on its declaration shall apply automatically to awards and agreements varying all wages and salaries in such by not less than the amount the living wage may have been varied.”
I am moving in this way at the express desire of a very large and representative section of the Public Service. It is very desirable that we should provide that the living wage mentioned in the measure shall vary according to the findings of the Basic Wage Commission, which, I presume, will be based upon the cost of living for the time being. I propose to add later a supplementary clause, which will more clearly define the method of arriving at what is the living wage. I think honorable members will agree that the living wage ought to be varied from time to time according to the . variations in the cost of living. There is nothing contained in this proposed new clause inconsistent with the whole system of arbitration. Arbitration Court awards are always based on the cost of living. If the latter is high, the award is high. If it is low, the award rate drops. I need not repeat what I have already said in regard to the low standard of wage paid in the Public Service. Some honorable members opposite have said that it is a scandal to the Government. We are all hopeful that the cost of living has reached its pinnacle, but we have been hoping for that for a very long time. My opinion is that the cost will mount still higher. But while it is at such a height, over 14,000 public servants employed by the Commonwealth are compelled to exist on less than a living wage. It is only natural that they should desire that their wages should be in keeping with the high cost of living. I hope that this clause will commend itself to the Minister, and that he will not raise any objection to meeting the desire of, I might easily say, the whole of the Commonwealth Public Service in this regard.
.- I hope that neither the Minister nor the Committee will agree to this clause, which aims at varying awards in accordance with the decline in the cost of living. We all know that since the outbreak of the wax the cost of living has been steadily in- creasing, and that the wages of the workers have all along been much less than an actual living wage. They have had to fight continuously for increases. But with every increase gained up has gone the cost of living. This state of affairs cannot go on for all time. There must be an end to it. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) does not think that we have yet reached the pinnacle. If we have not, we cannot be far off it to-day. The drought is over, and there is an improvement all round. We may still be suffering from the effects of the draught, particularly while the pastoralists are stocking up in sheep and cattle, but with a couple of good seasons the cost of living must recede. Any one who votes to insert this clause in the Bill before us must be ready to insert a similar provision in every other Arbitration measure, providing that the living wage, whatever it may be ascertained to be, must go up or down. The workers have not been able to get up to the living wage during the last four or five years.
– This provision will bring them up to it?
– Yes, for the time being; and then, when the cost of living declines, their wages will be going down all the time. Is it proposed that those men who stood loyally to us during the war fighting against adversity and accepting lower wages than those to which they were entitled shall now have applied to thema provision never previously included in arbitration legislation, whereby the employer will have no occasion to go to the Court to fight a case for a reduction in the wages of his employees on account of a drop in the cost of living; but by the application of a. sort of ready reckoner will automatically reduce wages according to what is declared to be the living wage for the time being? We might as well cut out the Arbitration Court altogether if we set up machinery of this kind. The honorable member’s next proposal is to insert a provision in the Bill by which the living wage shall be based on thefigures of the Commonwealth Statistician, relating to the purchasing power of money, to be declared on the 31st March, 30th June, 30th September, and 31st December. How ridiculous it would be to secure an award from the Court and have it increased or reduced every three months, according to the declaration of the Government Statistician as to what is a living wage at the moment, when we know that he deals only with certain phases of the cost of living ! He merely takes into consideration the cost of the ordinary necessities of life, and pays no attention whatever to the cost, for example, of clothing. He tells us that the sovereign is not worth more than 10s. to-day, but as a matter of fact, in arriving at this figure he has not included the cost of clothing, which is more than double that which ruled in 1914. That factor, however, is not taken into consideration by the Statistician in determining the cost of living. If this proposed principle is adopted - after the workers have been battling for five or six years against adverse circumstances, and just at a time when the cost of living may begin to recede - it may be found that the employers, upon every occasion on which the figures of the CommonwealthStatistician show that the cost of living has decreased by 5 per cent., will promptly reduce wages by 5 per cent. The workers want to keep their wages at a higher standard than that which ruled prior to the war. They have had to fight throughout the years of the war to secure increased wages in keeping with the ever- increasing cost of living; and it would be unfair and dangerous now to provide an easy means to bring about reduction of wages. The principle is wrong, and I hope the honorable member for Hume will withdraw his amendment.
– No, I will not.
– If the party to which I belong vote in favour of the amendment they will pledge themselves to the principle, as such; and, before long, the Government may seek to apply it, not to a particular section of the Public Service, but may incorporate it in all our industrial legislation. The result would be disastrous. The great body of toilers in this country would have nothing to do with arbitration if such a provision were included in our laws.
– Should not all arbitration awards be based upon the cost of living?
– The honorable member is suggesting an easy means for the reduction of wages.Such action will not prove to be in the best interests of the Labour movement. I will be no party to the adopton of the principle, and shall vote against the amendment.
– I cannot accept the amendment. As a piece of machinery it would be impossible to give effect to it. My objection is taken, in the first place, on the ground that all such matters must be left to the decision of the Arbitrator. His hands must be free.
. -There are some organizations in regard to which this principle is already working. They include the tramway employees of this State, over whose union the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) presides. The tramway men accepted the principle three or four months ago; and, so far since then, they have secured only increases as a result. Nevertheless, I agree with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) that we must surely be very near to the pinnacle of the cost of living. To-day we are paying for first-class meat practically 2s. a lb., and 3s. a lb. for butter. If prices go still higher many people will begin to starve.
– The adoption of this principle, in respect of the tramway men, was a condition upon which they went back to work.
– That was so, at a time when they raised a difficulty just prior to the arrival in Victoria of the Prince of Wales. The gas employees have also adopted the same principle. But, again, I agree with the honorable member for Hunter, that the figures furnished by the Commonwealth Statistician do not go far enough. His statistics take into account such matters as prices of food and house rents, but do not take cognisance of the cost of clothing and household furnishings. For example, clothes to-day are, in some cases, 300 per cent. more expensive than a few years ago. Ordinary cashmere socks, which we used to buy for1s. 6d., cost from 6s. to 7s. 6d. to-day.
– And the quality is not so good.
– One can read a newspaper through them. A suit of clothes, which could have been purchased for from £3 10s. to £4 before the war, is now priced at £10 10s. Prices of boots have gone up tremendously, and nobody knows whether they will not go still higher. The same story may be told of ordinary household furnishings. Costs have been practically trebled. Crockery costs five times as much as formerly.
Many of our daily necessities have advanced in price in greater ratio than that of the commodities of which the Commonwealth Statistician takes notice. The workers have had to fight slowly for better conditions during these hard years, and wages have only very tardily risen with the increasing cost of living. If ready means were now provided for the reduction of wages they would undoubtedly come down with a flop at the slightest pretext. It would have been far more acceptable to the unions if the amendment of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) - introducing the basic wage as a principle - could have been accepted.
– But that is the principle which underlies this amendment.
– The Basic Wage Commission has been making inquiries far wider in their scope than those of Mr. Knibbs. I fear that the amendment will not prove advantageous to the workers. If we were now to provide ready means for the reduction of wages, those honorable members on this side who voted in favour of it would be held responsible.
– I do not favour anything tending to automatically reduce wages. I oppose the amendment for the reasons which the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) advanced. Many organizations, although they may have received some increases of wages, are still a long way behind a just wage. If Parliament were now to adopt the principle set forth in the amendment - which would act automatically both in respect of those trade organizations which may have had the good fortune to secure liberal awards, as well as with regard to others,which may not have been so lucky - it would be the height of folly.
.- There is evidently a misapprehension in the minds of honorable members concerning the purpose of the amendment. At an earlier stage, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) moved an amendment, with which I was in entire accord, which sought to provide that the Arbitrator should not be able to award less than the basic wage, as ascertained by the Commission sitting to deal with that matter, or by any other duly constituted authority. I understand that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) did not move for the purpose of having the living wage standard fixed solely on the basis of Knibbs’ figures.
– The amendment, as printed, sets forth distinctly that it shall be “ based on the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician.”
– I moved the first part of my amendment only.
The. TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Watkins). - The honorable member moved the whole of his proposed new clause.
– Clearly, a misunderstanding has arisen. I moved the first part only, and addressed my remarks to that portion, and indicated that, subsequently, I would move the second part.
– The great difficulty associated with all awards having to do with wages is that the purchasing power of whatever increase may be granted varies. There is no means of automatically checking the ever-rising cost of living. If an increase of £1 per week is awarded in the case of a particular calling, the cost of necessary commodities may rise at the same time by 30s. In such circumstances the award should be similarly automatically increased.
– And what if the cost of living were to fall every month or so ?
– The principle of the basic wage is a sound one, no matter which side may attempt to contradict it. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) laid down a principle in the course of his Bendigo speech, but he has not kept to the promise which he there indicated.
– The Basic Wage Commission has not yet reported. The honorable member should wait, before offering such a criticism, until the Commission has done so.
– The Committee has already turned down a provision for the acceptance of the basic wage as a basis for determination. I agree with the honorable member for Hunter that wages today, generally, are not in keeping with the standard of a living wage. My purpose in rising was chiefly to point out that some misunderstanding has arisen regarding the meaning of the proposed amendments emanating from the Letter Carriers Union. Itis at the request of that organization that the honorable member for Hume has moved this amendment, the object of which is to make it impossible for less than a living wage to be awarded. With such a provision, there can be no wage lower than what has been declared to be the basin wage. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) that in this respect Mr. Knibbs’ figures are not wholly reliable, since they do not take into account many commodities the price of which should be considered in determining the cost of living. I think that the “ living wage “ referred to in the amendment should be such as is found by some competent authority like the Commission now sitting to be the basic wage. In some cases, considerably more than the basic wage will be awarded; but the purpose of the amendment is to insure that not less than the basic wage shall be fixed. If there is any doubt on the point, I am sure that the amendment can be so shaped as to carry out what is obviously the purpose and intent of the union which has made the request for it.
.- A question of principle is involved in this case. It is not a matter concerning a particular union, since the conditions laid down in the amendment, if applied at all, must apply all round. We stand, I take it, for principles, and not for sections. If we agree, as proposed in this amendment, that the living wage shall be based on the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician as to the purchasing power of money, is it to be argued that the great bodies of industrial workers in this country who may be detrimentally affected by such a provision will agree to a reduction in wages? Is it not the experience of all honorable members who have had much to do with industrial matters, that if a certain rate of wage is fixed as a minimum, it immediately becomes the maximum? In New South Wales during the years 1903-4-5, 7s. per day was regarded as the minimum wage, but every one knows that it became the maximum, and that men who were entitled to more could not induce their employers to grant them a higher wage. If we provide in this Bill that the living wage shall be based on the findings of the Basic Wage Commission, the award so made will operate as the maximum. The Arbitrator will say that Parliament, itself has decided what is meant by “ a living wage.” He will have no difficulty at all in coming to a decision if we adopt a principle of this kind. Parliament will have practically determined what shall be a living wage, and the Arbitrator will have to deal only with the questions of hours and incidentals. This is a bad principle, and we should not tolerate it During the last six years the wages of the workers have been lagging behind the increase in the cost of living. The workers have not been able to secure increases equal to the rise in the cost of commodities; and surely at a time when we seem to have reached the summit, so far as prices are concerned, we are not going to say to them that they shall be bound in this way, and that a tribunal may reduce the rates of wages every six months. The Committee would be well advised to have nothing to do with the amendment.
– I am somewhat at a loss to account for the interpretation which has been placed upon the amendment. When I rose to submit it, I stated that, later on, I would move the second part, or subclause 2, of the proposed new clause, and that I desired, first of all, to secure the approval of the Committee to subclause 1. I hope there will be no objection to sub-clause 1 being put as a separate clause.
– If the honorable member finds that he has made a mistake, I shall not object.
– That can be done.
– There has been a misunderstanding.
– Not at all. The honorable member’s amendment as a whole has been printed and circulated.
– As a matter of fact, the amendment as handed in by me consisted of two separate clauses, whereas, as printed, it consists of one clause with two sub-clauses. As to subclause 2,I take it that the Letter Carriers Union, which requested me to submit it, desired that the living wage should be based on the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician relating to the purchasing power of money, because there were no others at their disposal. I admit that Mr. Knibbs’ statistics, so far as the cost of living is concerned, are incomplete and therefore unreliable, but since the Basic Wage Commission had not presented its report there were no other figures onen to the union. I shall, however, confine my attention to sub-clause
– I did not suggest that.
– Quite so. The workers are constantly being asked to submit to a reduction, but they rarely get a rise in wages. We are aiming at an increase.
– What I object to is the easy means provided in the amendment for bringing down wages.
– If the wages of these men were reduced, they would have the consolation of knowing that they were paying less for their boots, shoes, and clothing, as well as their food supplies. After all. the value of wages must be measured by the cost of food and clothing. My chief concern is that the men shall have their wages raised as prices go up. I am not so optimistic as to hope for any early reduction in the cost of living. The combinations that we have in trade - the Trusts and Rings operating in connexion with everything we eat and wear - will see to’ it that the cost of living does not come down. If, however, wages are reduced, it will be because of decrease in the cost of living, so that in the circumstances a man might be better off with a wage of £5 per week than he was when receiving £7 a week. Let us consider for a moment the position of the letter carriers, the only section of the Public Service who have secured an award since the ex-Public Service Commissioner (Mr. McLachlan) was appointed a Commissioner to report on Public Service administration. On 3rd March last they obtained an award which provided for a living wage of £182, based on the cost of living figures for the twelve months ended 31st December, 1919. The living wage based on the cost of living figures for the year ended 30th J une last, however, was £200, and it is safe to say that, having regard to the increase in prices since then, the basic wage to-day should be £210. The letter carriers, however, are still working under an award providing for a wage of only £182 a year. I do not know how the honorable member for Hunter would meet that position.
– I think the Arbitrator should be able, after hearing evidence, to adjust an award from time to time, but we should not provide specially for a reduction of wages consequent on a fall in prices. Let the employers fight for a reduction ; do not let us provide special machinery to bring about an automatic decrease in wages.
– The chief object of the union at whose request I have submitted this amendment is to obtain an increase in wages corresponding with the increase in the cost of commodities. The members of the union are not unreasonable, and I am convinced that, for some years to come, the cost of living will remain high. One of the conditions on which the gas workers in the city returned to work was that there should be a quarterly review of their wages, and the men had to remain out on strike for some weeks before that was conceded to them. The employees of the Tramway Board, a semi -Government institution, have been working for some time with considerable satisfaction, in accordance with this principle. I take it that the public servants should be the best judges of what they require, and I repeat that I have submitted this amendment at the request of a very large section of the Service.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) sought to convey the impression that Opposition members only are in favour of the adoption of a basic wage. The amendments which have been proposed this afternoon by honorable members opposite convey the idea that they are attempting to anticipate the fulfilment of the promise made by the Prime Minister, so that when the Basic Wage Commission presents its report to the Government, and the Government carry out their pledge, the Opposition will be able to say, “We attempted to do that earlier.” The Commission has not yet reported, and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) is unable to say whether the wage to be fixed by that body will meet with “his approval.
– The Commission may fix a wage less than many workers receive to-day.
– Quite so; and the workers, so far from being enthusiastic over the recommendation of the Commission, may find that it proposes a wage much below what they already receive. I desire to know what wage is recommended before I commit myself to the adoption of the Commission’s report. The Government are pledged to take certain action as soon as they receive the report of the Commission,, so that a basic wage may be adopted as the basis of awards of the Arbitration Court.
– The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) said that the Basic Wage Commission exists under no legal authority.
– Whether or riot that is so, the legislation which we shall base upon the report of the Commission will have legal authority and effect. The accusation that the Government are not keeping the pledge made by the Prime Minister at Bendigo is unwarranted. A Commission has been appointed, it is still inquiring, and when it reports it will recommend a basic wage which Parliament may be able to incorporate in its legislation. That will be the time for bringing forward a proposal such as the amendment now before the Committee.
.- As one who was born and reared in the industrial movement, and who has been actively associated with trade unions during the last few years, I know that one of the principal difficulties in the way of inducing members of our organizations to remain loyal to arbitration was the fact that as soon as they obtained an award the cost of living increased, their wages remaining stationary; they were deprived of the fruits of the award and were penalized for their loyalty to the principle of arbitration. In addressing industrialists, I have very often emphasized the desirability of amending all Arbitration Acts in order to provide that wages shall automatically increase with any rise in the cost of living. Awards are always based upon the cost of living, and if that cost increases, it is reasonable that the wage also should be increased. If the cost of living decreased, and the amount paid in wages decreased correspondingly, the worker would be no worse off. After all, what counts is not the actual money received, but its purchasing power. It is idle to argue that if the amendment is agreed to the purchasing power of wages will be reduced. It will mean that the men shall at least receive a living wage; from all sides of the Committee we have heard today the admission that the workers are not receiving that. The workers demand the automatic regulation of wages, according to the cost of living; and if arbitration is to be a success, and the trade unionists are to remain loyal to it, a provision similar to that proposed by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) must be inserted in every Arbitration Act. It is common knowledge that, as soon as an award is made, the cost of living increases, and the workers are thus automatically robbed of a large proportion of any extra money they have been granted. Some optimists in the Committee believe that the cost of living will decrease; I believe it will 6oar yet higher. For the last four or five years the cost of every commodity has been rising steadily, and during the last few months the increase has been more rapid than at any previous time. Believing that the cost of living will continue to increase, I, on behalf of the industrial workers, earnestly urge the Committee to accept the amendment, because it is fair and reasonable, ‘ and will meet with the approval of the workers.
: - I have pleasure in supporting the proposed new clause, and in indorsing the remarks of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Lavelle) in regard to the necessity for automatic variations of awards. One of the principal arguments used to-day in favour of direct action is that it yields a quicker decision than does an appeal to the Arbitration Court, and that when the cost of living increases the workers can strike again to secure a corresponding advance in wages. The majority of the people of Australia are in favour of arbitration ; that is the policy of the Labour party; but not arbitration which ties the workers down to an award for a fixed period, during which the profiteer may dip his hands deeper into the pockets of the wage-earner, and by raising the prices of commodities, deprive him of half of his increase in earnings. Industrial unrest is largely’ due to the extortionate profits made by Trusts and Combines. What this Parliament has to consider is how best to make the wages effective rather than how to increase them. It is useless to increase the wage 100 per cent, if the cost of living increases 150 per cent. I do not anticipate any substantial reduction in the cost of living in the future. In Queensland and New South Wales, where Labour Governments are in office, there is a chance of some reduction, but bo far as the rest of Australia is concerned I see little likelihood of costs declining so long as the present Federal Government remain in power. In reply to some arguments that have been advanced, I point out that the proposed new clause cannot affect the wages fixed by awards already in existence.
– We have to deal with principles, not with isolated cases.
– I differ from the honorable member. The Labour movement is aiming at making the return for a man’s labour more effective in securing for him the necessaries of life.
– The workers require a bigger share of the results of their labour.
– Yes. That does not mean merely a greater amount of money, but a more effective purchasing power.
– Suppose that the cost of living declines 20 per cent, in twelve months. Does the honorable member think that those who laboured to get an award will agree to an automatic reduction of 20 per cent, in the wages which have been fixed?
– I am not arguing on that point. The cost of living is not likely to fall 20 per cent, in twelve months; but if it does, and the wages correspondingly decline, the workers will not be worse off, because the purchasing power of the money will be as great as it is to-day. There is a mistaken idea abroad that if a man is paid more money he is better off, whereas as a matter of fact, the effective power of the increased money may be less than that of the lower wage’ he previously received. Government supporters have shown great hostility to the inclusion in this Bill of a provision that the Arbitrator shall base his awards upon the wage recommended by the Basic Wages Commission. The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) told us emphatically that when the Commission’s report is received it will be considered. I believe that the reason why the Government will not accept the amendments which have been proposed from this side is that they intend to use the privileges enjoyed by the Public Service as a set-off against wages, and thereby deprive the Government employees of the benefit of the basic wage. That was attempted by the representative of the Public Service Commissioner in the Arbitration Court in 1913, and Mr. Justice Higgins said on that occasion -
That judgment affords a cogent reason why we should provide that no public servants shall receive less than any nian in a similar walk of life outside. “ I believe that the hostility of the Government to the proposal now made is due to their intention to use the privileges enjoyed by public servants as an off-set to ‘their wages, instead of paying the basic wage as provided by the Commission. No other interpretation can be put upon the attitude of the Government and their supporters. This proposal comes from one of the great bodies of the Public Service, which has always stood loyally by the Government. According to the honorable member for Hume, they are working for a wage of £182, although the basic wage as laid down in New South Wales is £200. Since that decision was arrived at, the cost of living has further increased, and I have no doubt that at the present time the figure would be more like £210. It is easy to see the great disadvantages that these men labour under simply because they loyally abide by the provisions of an award. No harm can be done by the amendment, which simply means that if the cost of livingcontinues to increase wages shall also (proportionately increase. If on the other hand, the cost of living comes down, then the men will be in no worse position than they are to-day. The only fair assumption, however, is that there will be a further increase in the cost of living, and then their wages, in effectiveness, will remain where they were at the time the award was given. The majority of the people of Australia are in favour of industrial arbitration, which ought to be made as effective as possible, and not allowed by unsympathetic treatment, to give rise to industrial unrest.
.- This amendment is well worthy of. consideration by the Minister (Mr. Groom). I have long advocated such an idea; and Ibelieve that if the Government had introduced some such scheme, particularly when the war first started, and applied it to industry generally in Australia, there would have been little room for the agitator in the community.We found wages keeping at bedrock, with the cost of living continuously rising, and no effort apparently was made to protect those who suffered from that cause.
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has withdrawn that part of his amendment, which would cause wages to be reduced automatically.
– Then the first part of the amendment is impossible, for without the second paragraph I cannot imagine how the idea could be made workable. There must be some guiding authority on whom we canrely to judge what the increase or decrease in wages shall be; and twelve months agoI suggested that for such a purpose Mr. Knibbs, with two others, should be appointed. The omission of the second paragraph certainly makes the amendment useless, unless the honorable member for Hume has some other method to suggest of arriving at the same and. We cannot leave such a matter to one Judge to-day, and to another Judge tomorrow.
– If the amendment now before the Committee is carried the other will come on afterwards.
– But you withdrew that part of the amendment.
– I asked leave to have it put separately.
– Having regard to the objections raised by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr; Charlton), do you intend to proceed with the other paragraph if this one is carried?
– Yes, if this paragraph is not carried, the second will be useless.
– I feel a difficulty in agreeing to an amendment of this sort in this Bill, when a similar provision is not made by our other industrial legislation. To me it appears as a natural corollary that a similar amendment should have been made in the Industrial Peace Bill and the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, for it is hardly fair to have conditions in the Service that do not apply all round.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– I should have liked the whole of the amending industrial legislation embodied in one comprehensive Act; and I hope that later on we shall take a step in that direction.
– We are told that we are to have the main Public Service Bill later on. I agree with what the honorable member has said.
– I should like to see the industrial laws codified. Different conditions may apply to different classes of the Public Service, but general conditions should apply to all. I am afraid that so many different Statutes will only lead to great confusion, and, probably, trouble. I should have supported this amendment had it formed part of a general scheme; but, under the circumstances, I cannot do so.
.- It is impossible to prophesy whether the cost of living will increase or decrease in any extraordinary degree. A very large number of trade unionistshave fought long and hard, and at great expense, to bring their wages within the region of the cost of living, and in some cases they have received a modicum of comfort in the shape of increases. Whe tier or not we have reached the pinnacle of high prices is difficult to say. Whether there may be a decline in prices from this point, or whether it will date from a month hence-
– It might be three years hence.
– I do not think so. As to primary production, I question whether Australia ever stood in a better prospective position than it does to-day, and that is only expressing an opinion that I believe to be general throughout the country. If we are going to have what may be termed one of the biggest “ bumper “ seasons we have ever seen, I do not think that the people will tolerate any further increase in the cost of living. As a matter of fact, people, even now, are not paying so much for certain commodities in New South Wales and Queensland as is being paid in Victoria.
– A new Government is required here.
– There is no doubt about that. Only the other day, Mr. Storey, the Premier of New South Wales, when approached with a request for increased prices in a certain direction, said he could see no justification for the step. It is true that there have been great losses amongst the flocks and herds, and it must be . a considerable time before they regain their strength of a few years ago, yet, with our prospects, I look forward to a decrease in prices. If that should come about, then I think the “leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) will prove to be correct in their surmise that a proposal such as is now before us will invite the Courts, and those opposed to Labour, to use the legal power given them to bring wages down with a run-
– There are other means than Parliament of dealing with those questions.
– That is so, but we are now dealing with an Arbitration Bill, and I do ‘not desire to run any risk of causing trade unionists to lose what they have fought years to gain. The clause must stand as a whole; and I say unhesitatingly that the community, and particularly the wage-earners, have stood more than I ever expected them to stand in the way of high prices and low wages.
– Existing awards cannot ‘be reduced.
– I would not say that, for I could quite understand employers making use of an amendment of this kind against the employees. People will not tolerate any further increase in the cost of living without making a strong move for increased wages.
Proposed new clause negatived.
– I move -
That the following new clause be added: -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, any organization of such employees may avail themselves of the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration under the provisions of the Arbitration (Public Service) Act of 1911.”
I moved to insert a similar provision at an earlier stage, but the Chairman pointed out that it was not germane to the clause to which I was endeavouring to attach it. The discussion which has already taken place in Committee upon the principle contained in my proposal has only served to strengthen my opinion of the necessity for including this provision. Although it may be in conflict with other clauses already agreed to, that is a difficulty which can be overcome by consequential amendments. In conversation with many public servants, I have been led to be- lieve that the great bulk of them hold the view that the proposed Arbitrator will simply be a substitute for the existing Public Service Commissioner, and that they prefer to be allowed to remain under the Arbitration Court, which, they consider, will give them’ a better deal than they are likely to get from the Arbitrator. In any case, they do not think that there should be1 any differentiation between them and employees outside the Service. There are many public servants who may consider themselves a “ cut “ above ordinary workers, but it . is a great pity they do not get out of their heads as quickly as possible the idea that they are capitalists. As a matter of fact, they are simply wage-earners, receiving some remuneration in. return for the services they render, and should be treated just as others outside the Service are treated. There is’ no need to labour this question. My proposal should commend itself to every reasonableminded member, particularly in view of the fact that the Public Service organizations have intimated their desire for this provision as a safeguard against any possible unfairness on the part of the Arbitrator.
– As the Committee has already decided in clause 11 that members of the Public Service shall not be entitled to submit claims under the Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1911, the honorable member’s proposal is quite impracticable. It is in direct conflict with something which the Committee has already decided.
Question - That the proposed new clause be added to the Bill - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
– As the Public Service organizations have not that opportunity of securing redress for breaches of awards that is available to employees outside the Service, I move -
That the following new clause be added: - “ Representatives of organizations may take proceedings for breaches of awards.”
It is just as important to provide that the Government may be sued as in the case of private individuals ; more so, as a matter of fact, because, in dealing with the Government, one must move through the medium of red tape and officialdom.
– What would the honorable member suggest by way of penalty ?
– Before deciding upon the nature of the penalty, it must be established that proceedings can be taken. That is my desire.
– I cannot accept the amendment, for obvious reasons. If any officer of the Service is guilty of a breach of the law, there is a proper method of dealing with him under our Public Service legislation. If the proposal of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) were accepted, who would pay the penalty for a breach on the part of an official ?
– The Government.
– Exactly !
– Would the Minister suggest, then, that employees of the Government must suffer without right of redress ?
– Every employee has his proper means of redress.
– Why should not organizations representative of employees be empowered to proceed on their behalf ?
– For the reason that there is no necessity for organizations to do so.
Question - That the proposed new clause be added to the Bill - put. The Committee divided.
Majority - . . . 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
– I move -
That the following new clause be added: - “ Any employee who is not eligible to join an organization may personally submit to the Arbitrator a matter relating to hia salary, wages, rates of pay, or terms or conditions of service or employment.”.
The Bill is based - as all arbitration measures must be - upon the recognition of organizations. In the Public Service, however, there are certain employees who are ineligible to join any existing organization, and who, as a group, may consist of such small numbers as to be unable to form’ themselves into an organization. Under this measure they would have no means of redress. They should have the right to appeal as individuals to the Arbitrator, who would act as a conciliator, in order to secure redress of their grievances.
– I cannot accept the amendment. The principle involved is opposed to the whole scheme of the measure, which is designed for the settlement of general matters originating in memorials filed by organizations. The honorable member now suggests that an individual member of the Service who is dissatisfied with, say, a decision of the Public Service Commissioner, shall have the right to go before the Arbitrator, where he is not eligible for membership of an organization. There cannot be many such cases.
– Even if there are only a few, they should have a means of redress.
– Quite so, but not under this Bill, since it provides only for arbitration for the settlement of disputes with organizations. It is not for the Arbitrator to deal with individuals. An individual public servant always has the right to make representations to the permanent head, and his complaint may go to the Ministerial head of his Department. I ask the . honorable member not to press the proposed new clause.
Proposed new clause negatived.
– I move -
That the following new clause be added: - “No employee shall be dismissed or injured in his employment or have his position altered to his prejudice by reason of the circumstance that the employee -
is an officer or member of an organization or of an association that has applied to be registered as an organization, or
is entitled to the benefit of an industrial agreement or an award, or
has appeared as a witness or has given any evidence in a proceeding under this Act.
Penalty: Fifty pounds.
In any proceeding for an offence against this section if all the facts and circumstances constituting the offence other than the reason for the defendant’s action, are proved, it shall be upon the defendant to prove that he was not actuated by the reason alleged in the charge.”
Section 9 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act contains an almost exactly similar provision ; but in that section, of course, special reference is made to the employer, and the penalties are more definitely directed to him. This proposed new clause may be considered by some to be somewhat vague. It is put in the negative form, because I do not wish to make the Commonwealth directly liable for the penalties for which it provides. That “ the King can do no wrong” is a legal axiom, bur, it is incorrect, because, curiously enough, the King can do wrong, although he cannot be held guilty of wrongdoing in the sense of committing a crime. There is a number ofways in which an employee may in these circumstances be prejudiced in his employment. A great many employees in the Public Service might be dismissed from their employment, not necessarily by the G-ovcrnor in Council, but by some subordinate officer who is given the right to discharge an employee. I do not hope to make this clause such as to impose penalties upon the Government, but I do desire that any subordinate officer who prejudices the position of an employee in the Service by reason of any of the circumstances mentioned in the clause shall be liable to penalties for so doing. I do not think this is out of harmony with the Bill or the intention of the Government as evidenced by section 9 of the original Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– How would the honorable member sheet home the guilt of any particular person with regard to the offences specified in the clause?
– In exactly the same way that we hope to sheet home responsibility for such offencesunder the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, in circumstances there set out. We throw upon the defendant the onus of proving that he was not actuated by any of the reasons set out in the clause. 1 wish to carry the matter no further than it is already carried under that Act, which has been recently re-affirmed by the Government. My object is not to make the Government liable, but to render liable any individual who would prejudice the employment of a member of the Public Service by reason of the fact that he is seeking the benefits of arbitration or joining an organization. I hope that the Minister will agree either to this clause or to the insertion of a provision in somewhat similar terms to give effect to what is the evident intention of the Government, and certainly the in tention of our party in regard to victimization.
– I cannot agree to the proposed new clause. It provides that no employee shall be dismissed because of his association with an organization, or for the reason that he is entitled to the benefit of an industrial award; but I would remind the Committee that no member of the Public Service can be dismissed except in the manner provided by the Public Service Act.
– What about temporary employees?
– The honorable member’s proposed new clause is not confined to temporary employees of the Service. It would have a general application. Under the Public Service Act, if any officer is guilty of wilful disobedience of a lawful order or of negligence, incompetency, using intoxicating beverages to excess, or any disgraceful or improper conduct, he cannot be dismissed until his case has been dealt with and his guilt proved before a Board of Inquiry. Officers of the Service are thus absolutely protected. The definition of “ officer “ is -
Any person employed in any capacity in the Public Service of the Commonwealth, whether appointed or transferred thereto before or after the commencement of this Act.
That, surely, is wide enough. The honorable member says that he does not wish to penalize the Government.
– I could not expect to have the Government charged with an offence.
– Quite so; but the clause does not specifically mention any person who may be charged with an offence under it. The intention is, no doubt, that if any person in the employ of the Commonwealth dismisses or prejudices the employment of an officer by reason of any of the circumstances for which the clause provides, he shall be liable to a penalty. There is not, however, the necessity for such a provision in this Bill as exists in relation to private employers under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. An employee of the Crownhas not the same motives that an ordinary employer would have for preventing a man from joining an organization.
Mr.Fenton. - There have been some pretty strongcases. Public servants have been victimized for joining an organization.
– That is not my experience. I find that practically every person in the Service joins an association. Even the officers in the highest grades of the Service are often members of an association, and it is difficult to realize how such persons would seek to discourage their subordinates from joining an organization. In the circumstances, I cannot accept the proposednew clause.
Question -That the proposed new clause (Mr. Brennan’s amendment) be added to the Bill - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third’ time.
.- We have endeavoured to improve the Bill in the interests of the persons who will come under its control. I believe that a wrong principle has been adopted in segregating the Public Service from other sections of the community. That system has been tried in other places, and has proved a failure. I predict that we shall have the same experience with this Bill. The same object could have been attained by appointing a High Court Judge to deal with Public Service cases.
– The same effect of segregation would have been created.
– But the public servants would have been under the same forms and rules of procedure as obtain in connexion with the Arbitration Court. This Bill does exactly the same as the present Chief Justice of Victoria, who was then referred to as “ Iceberg “ Irvine, did when he, as Premier of Victoria, introduced his notorious” Coercion Act.” He boasted that he would smash every railway union in Victoria. To-day the railway organizations are stronger than ever they were. I remind the House that not one line of the coercion legislation passed by the Irvine Government remains on the statute-book today; and I trust that the same fate will befall this Bill.
.- I did not speak on the second reading, and I take this opportunity of expressing the objection I have always had to differentiation between employees in the Public Service andpersons in private employment. Both belong to the same set of citizens and taxpayers; both are called upon to bear the same burdens, and in every respect they are on the same footing. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that some day this Parliament, differently composed, will take pleasure in repealing some of the legislation which this Government are piloting through the House, including this Bill. I was one of many who prophesied, when the Victorian Parliament separated the Public Service from the remainder of the community by giving them separate parliamentary representation, that a subsequent Parliament would take extreme pleasure in repealing that legislation, and re-establishing the privileges of the Public Service. Some persons anticipated that that legislation would be permanent; but within a very few years of its enactment Sir Thomas Rent, who had been a member of the Irvine Cabinet, moved for the repeal of the Irvine Act, and the public servants of Victoria were again placed on an equality with their fellowcitizens on the electoral rolls. I admit that times have changed since those days, and that public servants now enjoy much greater political freedom. I remember that at one time a public servant was hardly allowed to put a question to a parliamentary candidate. I did that on one occasion, and was. tapped on the shoulder by a policeman, and was told afterwards that a public servant had no right to interfere in politics. Those conditions have passed, and to-day the public servant can express a political opinion without being penalized in any way. Yet some of the old spirit survives; and this Bill testifies that there are some members in the House who, if they dared, would go further than the Bill proposes in denying to the public servants some of the political privileges they have won after so much hard fighting. This Bill represents a reversion to the old principle of separating the public servant from the rest of the community.
Another fact that causes me concern is the multiplication of arbitration Tribunals, which must mean increased cost to the parties who appear before them and to the taxpayer. We cannot set up a separate Tribunal such as this Bill will create without establishing a new Department, and I predict that in less than five years the Arbitrator will be the head of a considerable Department. The mere correspondence in connexion with an office of this kind must lead to the creation of a new Department, at considerable expense to the taxpayer. At this time, when we should be saving money, the Government are continually introducing legislation which involves an increase in the Departments of the State and the number of public servants. One way in which we are trying to reduce circumlocu tion, red tape, and the number of Departments, is by co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth in the matter of taxation collection; but, on the other hand, the Government are establishing new Departments, and enlarging the army of public servants.
– Making for greater efficiency all round!
Mr.FENTON. - I do not thinkso. Already, we have an arbitration law which should be all-comprehensive. So far as I know, the public servants have been abundantly satisfied with it, and why should we not allow them to continue under it?
– Does the honorable member think that this system will be more expensive than would the continuance of the public servants under the Arbitration Court?
– The Arbitration Court will continue to cost us a considerable sum of money, but, side by side with it, this Bill is establishing a new Tribunal for the public servants. Will the honorable member say that the cost will not be increased ?
– I do not think that the cost will be greater than the salary of an additional Judge.
– I prophesy that this Bill will mean a considerable increase in the cost to the taxpayer. Honorable members have only to look back over the history of Federation to realize how many new Departments have been created. In connexion with the repatriation of our soldiers, we have established new Departments that will remain in existence for many year3.
– The honorable member does not object to that.
– I realize that the creation of those Departments was unavoidable; but I am pointing out that, side by side with those special Departments which arose out of the war, the Government are busy establishing many further Departments. If that policy is continued, the money which should be available for developmental work will be entirely ab- sorbed in administrative expenses. The scheme which this Bill introduces will lead to greater friction in the Public Service. Members were told in the early days of Federation that the appointment of a Commissioner who should have carte blanche in regulating wages and conditions would lead to a contented and smooth-working Public Service. That promise was not fulfilled. To-day the Government are hurrying into existence a new phase of Public Service reform.
– What if I were to say that the honorable member is a Conservative, and opposed to reasonable change ?
– I am net; but I hope the Government will not continue the establishment of new Departments. I do not believe that this measure will lead to any great amelioration of the conditions in the Public Service. On the contrary, it will cause greater discontent, and it will certainly involve extra expense.
– The honorable member may be agreeably disappointed.
– I know a little about the inside as well as the outside of the Public Service, and I am aware that some reforms ostensibly introduced to bring about greater contentment in the Service have led to almost seething discontent. I do not say. that that will be the result in this case, but I see no reason why we should not have let well alone, allowing the public servants still to bring their cases before -the Arbitration Court. Instead of dividing the arbitration law into sections, we should have consolidated it. First we passed the Industrial Peace Bill, then the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill amending the principal Act, and now we have dealt with an Arbitration Bill affecting the Public Service. All three measures could have been incorporated under one heading. We ought to be consolidating our Acts instead of breaking them up into a number of small sections. Some day I suppose Parliament will have to set to work to put this right. Perhaps the present Chief Justice of the High Court will be called upon to blend all our various Statutes into consolidated measures, which we shall have to pass. I object to this Bill, and intend to vote against the third reading, because it is absolutely undesir able, not needed by the great Public Service of the Commonwealth, and will not conduce to its better working.
– I wish to reply briefly to the misrepresentation of the purposes of this Bill made both by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) and the honorable member who followed him. It is suggested that the Bill is like a certain Act that deprived some people of the franchise. The false insinuation is made with a view to creating” discontent and dissatisfaction with this legislation, whereas it will be found in operation to be a very beneficial piece of legislation. It takes away no rights from anybody. It gives the public servants rights, and a means of having their rights determined and benefits conferred upon them. It simply appoints an Arbitrator with all the powers and jurisdiction that the Judge had under the Act of 1911.
– And it will give the public servants more and better facilities to have their cases heard.
– Yes; it offers the advantage, that instead of having a number of varying decisions leading to trouble and difficulty in administration, the Service will have one. Tribunal where the whole of their rights and privileges will be promptly worked out as a consistent whole. It is said that a costly new Department .will be created. No new Department is being created, as is incorrectly alleged. If the Arbitration Court had to go on hearing all the Public Service cases, we should have to go to the expense of appointing another High Court Judge, and that would be much more costly than the appointment of the Arbitrator will be. Instead of creating friction, I believe the Bill will help towards a better feeling, and create a greater amount of confidence in the administration of the Public Service, through the officers having a just Tribunal to deal with their rights.
Question - That the Bill be, now read a third time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 8 p.m.
– (By leave). - In order that honorable members may better appreciate that part of the Budget, shortly to be placed before them, which relates to Defence expenditure, I desire to make to the House a preliminary statement regarding the Defence policy of the Commonwealth. I shall not detain the House in considering how far those ideals, which are cherished by many earnest men, of a world in which the sword is beaten into the ploughshare are capable of realization . It is very clear that a cursory survey of the world as it exists to-day, the teachings of history, and the experience of the ages, show very clearly that only by sufficient preparations for effective national defence can the political integrity and the freedom of nations be maintained. Nor need I occupy the attention of the House in considering the view that, although Australia must be defended, she need not undertake the task herself, but may rely on the protection of the British Navy, or on the good offices of the League of Nations.
What are the main factors in the determination of the scale of defence by sea, land and air which it is necessary for Australia to maintain in the immediate future? As I see them, they broadly group themselves under four headings - first, the international situation; second, the League of Nations as regards the obligations it imposes on us, and then as regards the protection it affords us; third, our partnership in the British Empire: and fourth, the special conditions of Australia, including our geographical situation and the Australian policies and ideals, especially the White Australia policy.
Let us consider the international situation as it confronts us to-day. The world war is over, but it can hardly be said that world peace is yet in sight. Peace treaties have been ratified by the Allied Powers, but not yet by the associated power of the United States of America, with Germany, Austria, and Bulgaria; and the ratification of the treaties with Hungary and Turkey may shortly be expected. But the world is not at peace. I have often said in this place, and elsewhere, that had it not been for the world’s cataclysm of the great war we should have considered the present state of affairs as the most menacing that has confronted us during the last fifty years. When people speak of peace I ask them to look at Russia, seething with internal conflict, and engaged in open war with Poland. I ask them to look at the aftermath of war - those phenomena of a world’s shortage of goods, economic upheavals, disorganization of finance and trade, and revolutionary propaganda. All these promise very little in the way of assurance of permanent peace. And then we have a Germany which, if we are to iudge by deeds, and not by words, is still unrepentant, lacking, if you like, the power to strike, but having the desire as keenly accentuated as ever. The whole world is now dis turbed by propaganda which menaces its peace, and the political integrity of nations - propaganda which, whether we speak of it as Bolshevism or Sinn Feinism, or by whatever name we give it, nevertheless does most certainly disturb and menace the peace of the world. In any case, the world as we see it to-day is obviously .not a world in which any prudent nation can afford to allow its war insurance policy to lapse, and to trust to luck for protection against invasion and attack.
Turning from the international situation, let us look at the League of Nations, the obligation it imposes on us, and the protection it affords us. The League of Nations represents a noble ideal, and its acceptance by the greater part of the civilized world is the only hope of the world - the only hope of enduring peace - and on its ultimate success depends the future of civilization. But the League is yet in its infancy, and it is Utopian to expect from the League in its present state of development that protection which would. if there were no obligations on us, render unnecessary any preparations for our own defence. War cannot be banished from the world by the stroke of a pen. I think it only proper to say that the League of Nations is the most hopeful machinery yet devised by man for the settlement of international disputes - disputes between nations - by an appeal to reason rather than to force. It is machinery which we hope in days to come will enable nations to think internationally, and to submit their quarrels to its arbitrament, in exactly the same way as .individual citizens submit theirs to the decision of municipal courts. But the success of the League of Nations depends on the growth, of the peace spirit. We should be living in a paradise of fools if we did not recognise that at present the will to war exists as keenly in the mind of man as ever it did. Until for that will to war has been substituted a desire for peace we cannot expect the League of Nations of itself to be sufficient. We have lately seen how powerless the League of Nations is to deal with a de’ facto state of war. Consider the situation, for it is most suggestive, particularly to us Australians situated as we are. There is Poland, but a stone’s throw from the greatest military forces that the League has at its disposal. It is a basic principle of the League that the territorial integrity of every member of the League must be respected, and that every violation of that integrity is an act of war, and must be regarded as an act of war by every other member of the League. Yet we have seen Poland overrun by those latest missionaries of the gospel of peace, the Bolshevists, and left to her own resources. If Poland is free to-day she owes her freedom, not to the League of Nations, but to her own valour. If that applies to Poland within a stone’s throw of the great military resources of the League of Nations, how much more does it apply to us in our geographical and political isolation, of which I shall speak later ? But, in any case, there are some interests that cannot be submitted to the arbitrament of the League. So much was recognised by the League itself, and expressed- in tie Covenant. Great Britain, for example, could not submit the freedom of the seas, as interpreted by Germany, to the arbitrament of any League. America could not submit the Monroe doctrine to the arbitrament of any League, nor can we submit the question of a White Australia to any League. And we must be prepared, just as Great Britain must be prepared, and America must be prepared, if necessary, to fight to the death in support of that principle which we believe to be absolutely vital to our own existence.
The most vital point of our “policy is the one to which I have just alluded - a White Australia. That same policy is calculated to be one of the most fruitful means of provoking international complications. However, I do not believe that there are any Australians who will not readily declare that, on this principle, there can be no concession whatever. I had the honour to place the position of the Commonwealth before the great Peace Conference, and whether the people of Australia agree with me or not politically, I think the overwhelming bulk of them will indorse my attitude on this subject. We must always be ready to defend this principle. We cannot hope to maintain it merely by pious or blatant declarations of our intentions. Behind all this there must be some force - the utmost resources of the nation. So much is obvious. But quite apart from our obligations with regard to the White Australia policy and our other ideals, there also rest upon us important obligations as a partner in the great British Empire, and these obligations we must always be ready to discharge.
Let us look for a moment at the League of Nations and see what it does for us, what protection it offers, as well as what responsibilities it imposes upon us. We have attached our name to that document. We are a member of the League of Nations, on a level with every other signatory nation, and the League, as the result of our entrance, guarantees this country its protection. I have already said something of the practical effects of this protection, and need say no more on that point. Every man knows the circumstances perfectly well. The Covenant may be regarded as the law of the nations, but in the most law-abiding State there must be some adequate force to insure administration of the law, and so behind this Covenant there must be an adequate force to compel obedience to its laws. There is no international force per se. This international army, which, it is hoped, in the future will be quite adequate, is to be recruited by quotas from each member of the League, and, therefore, there is imposed upon Australia, as a member of it, an obligation to contribute her quota, which hae- yet to be determined.
It is interesting to turn to the Covenant’ in order to see exactly where we stand, what it is we have put our name to, what obligations we have incurred, and what privileges we hope to enjoy. The members of the League affirm in article 8 of the Covenant their recognition of the principle that -
The maintenance of peace requires the reduction of national armaments to the lowest point.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– But that is not the end of the sentence. The Covenant declares -
The maintenance of peace requires the reduction of national armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety and the enforcement by common action of international obligations.
If this Commonwealth desired to bea’t it3 sword into a ploughshare we could not have signed that Covenant, which imposes upon us a solemn obligation to furnish our quota of the international army. This quota of an army which must be sufficient to maintain the peace of the world, will be determined, not merely on the basis of population, but by the geographical situation of the nation member, and by the intensity of the probable danger to civilization which may enter through its doors.
B*y Article 10 members of the League undertake - to respect and preserve, as against external agression the territorial integrity and existing political independence of all members of the League. .
That is to say, if the territory of any member of the League is violated there is an obligation upon other signatory nations to go to its assistance. America is hesitating to sign the Covenant for this very reason. She asks, “ Why should we ‘be involved in the quarrels of Europe?” But during the Great War the United States of America found it impossible to maintain this position of splendid isolation. As a matter of fact the day has long since passed when geographical isolation was anything more than a name. The nations of the world are coming closer and closer together, and any doctrine that assails civilization in one part assails civilization in every part. Freedom is a tender plant. It is not the natural herbage of mankind. It is a carefully nurtured plant that has been watered by the blood of the martyrs and by the sacrifices of the people of all the ages. Free nations can only protect themselves by grouping together. Articles 12, 13, and 15 contain covenants by the members of the League not to resort to war with one another until the causus belli has been submitted, either to the Judiciary of the League for arbitration, or to the Council of the League for conciliation. In the case of arbitration no member may resort to war against a member which complies with the award. In the case of conciliation, no member must go to war until the lapse of three months after the report of the Council, and if the report of the Council is unanimous, must not go to war with a member which complies with the recommendations of the report. These are weighty considerations. They are covenants which, if the League, by God’s providence prospers and grows, will mould the destiny of mankind. They re- present, it is true, limitations upon our freedom, but likewise they impose limitations upon the power of those who would do us harm, and injure civilization.
The sanction to these covenants is found in Article 16, which states that if a member of the League resorts to war against another member in disregard of its covenants, it shall , ipso facto, be deemed to have committed an act of war against all other members cf the League, which undertake to submit it to a complete boycott as regard trade, finance, and intercourse of all kind. This is a very effective weapon, perhaps the most effective at the disposal of the civilized world. Its employment involves, of course, a readiness to maintain it by a state of war, if necessary, * and the Covenant requires the Council to recommend, to the several Governments what effective military, naval, and air forces the members should severally contribute for the protection of the Covenant. But, as I have already said, the League has no armed forces of its own. It looks to the various member nations for this weapon.
So much for our position under the League. As I have said, the League is, as yet, in its infancy. The will to war still exists, and at present there are no adequate forces to prevent it. Within the last few weeks we have seen what has happened in the case of Poland, which is only a few hours distant from France, the greatest military Power of the League. Some matters there are which cannot be submitted to the League at all. These are taken out of the Covenant specially by articles which declare that reciprocal arrangements such as the Monroe doctrine and others shall not be submitted to the League. Therefore, there are some causes of war which cannot be submitted to the League except by consent of the nation concerned. There are obligations imposed upon us under the League. There are privileges accorded to- us as the result of our membership. We must not forget either of these things. “Now, let us turn from the League of Nations, and see what is involved by our partnership in the British Empire, for another obligation rests upon us to provide an adequate Defence Force which can do its part in defending that
Empire. Our membership of the League does not at all imply any weakening of our status as a member of the British Empire. President Wilson’s maxim of “ No leagues within the League “ was obviously, in any literal sense, not only undesirable, but also impossible to apply, as in any case it could not, to our Empire which is sui generis, and what is unique in the history of the ages, a federation of free nations, many yet undivisible, having the same ideals, springing from the same mother, and bound together for their own protection as well as for the peace of the world. Much as may be said against the Empire, no single factor has been more effective in. preserving the peace of the world, and advancing mankind, than it has been. Under Article 20 of the Covenant, members of the League of Nations engage to abstain from any engagement inter se inconsistent with the terms of the League, but, nevertheless, the partnership of the British Empire is a league within the League which will endure. The league of nations which composes the British Empire is one which is not written on paper ; it has sprung from the womb of time; it has been tried in the fire, and has not been found wanting: and Australia, like every other part of it, must do its part in its defence. We cannot leave to Great Britain and the British Navy the sole task of defending an Empire, upon whose stability our very existence depends. Great Britain to-day is staggering under a load of debt, the like of which the world has never seen. We speak of our own heavy war debt, but the load which the people of the Mother Country are bearing is incomparably greater than ours, while the resources of their land are not to be compared with ours. We must do our part in the defence of the Empire. So then, by virtue of our membership of the League of Nations, and by reason of our partnership in the British Empire, there are obligations imposed upon us to provide an adequate Defence Force for Australia.
Now, let us consider our geographical situation. Australia is a continent almost as big as Europe, but is as remote as possible from European nations. To the north-west and north of us there are 750,000,000 people- half the population of the entire world, and about 150 times our population - living nearer to us than the nearest people of European race. Irkutsk, on Lake Baikal, in the middle of Siberia, is nearer to Australia than is any part of British South Africa, or any other land inhabited by people of European extraction, except, of course, New Zealand. We are, as it were, the advance guard of the white population of the world ringed about, at a distance much less remote than is the case in regard to any European nation, by ‘half the population of the world, and set down in an ocean which is one-third of the size of the surface of the whole globe, counting land and water. We have to defend a coast-line of 12,000 miles, as great as is the distance from here to Great Britain. In addition, we have now taken over the control of huge islands in the Pacific, involving new obligations and responsibilities, because the protection of those territories by land and air will be a. very serious problem. We have a vast overseas shipping trade, worth £250,000,000 per annum, to say nothing of Inter-State and Intrastate trade. Until 1906, the centre of the Empire’s naval policy was in the Mediterranean. After 1906, owing to the menace of the German navy, it shifted to the North Sea. As a result of the war, the centre of gravity has again shifted. Between 1906 and 1920 the Pacific has assumed a new importance, for which the opening of the Panama Canal is in some degree responsible, but to which the development of all the Pacific countries, such as Japan, the western coast of America, and Australia has also contributed. This great expansive ocean extends from the Arctic on the north to the Antarctic on the south, ham Japan in the east to the two’ continents of America on the west. A great deal of it is our heritage. Along this great, almost limitless, pathway comes the commerce of the world, a great deal towards Australia. The islands in the Pacific, all of which have now been distributed among the different Powers, and many of which have been handed over to us, are nos merely places at which vessels touch, but are a source of wealth, where merchandise is carried to and fro. A sane policy for Australia involves taking cognisance of our ‘ geographical situation, our future greatness, our opportunities, and our dangers, all of which are obvious, our dangers no less than our opportunities, our isolation aud our distance from the rest of the world no less than our great resources. It is very evident that if we are to maintain this country as our own, and to continue to live as a. free people, we must be prepared to defend ourselves.
Having thus very briefly reviewed the considerations upon which our policy [must be based, I come now to what that policy must be. We have definite responsibilities and obligations to share in the defence of the Empire, and particularly in the defence of the Pacific; but at the same time we must recognise the limitations imposed upon us by the smallness of our population, the heavy burden which the war has placed upon us, and the fact that we are a peace-loving community to whom the maintenance of a large standing Army aud a great Navy is distasteful. However, there remains one other factor which must “ not be overlooked. Our quota and sphere of operations under a scheme of Imperial defence, which it is expected will be formulated as the result of deliberations in the near future between representatives of Great Britain and the overseas Dominions, have yet to be determined, and, therefore, whatever proposals the Government may put forward now can only be regarded as tentative. There are three essentials to an effective Army: - (1) An efficient and highly-trained staff; (2) a sufficient supply of munitions and equipment; (3) training. The first, as I have pointed out, is an efficient and highly-trained staff, not merely of permanent, but also of citizen officers, and, without boasting, I think Australia may say that it possesses such a staff. It has been generally admitted by the general staffs of the Allied Armies that the staff work and organization of the Australian Forces would compare favorably with that of any Army.
The second essential is an effective supply of munitions and equipment. We have received certain equipment for the five Infantry and two Light Horse Divisions which we had in the field”; but we are deficient in heavy artillery and ammunition, and, to a lesser degree, in material for the light guns. Without an effective equipment no Army, no matter how efficient its staff or how numerous and highly trained and courageous it is, can take the field with any hope of success. The Government are placing proposals in the Estimates for a commencement to be made to remedy our deficiencies in this respect.
I come now to training, which, is the third essential. We have in Australia, in the Australian Imperial Force, a highlytrained personnel, which in the immediate years could, if necessity arose, be organized and placed in the field for the defence of Australia; and the Government proposes to invite the co-operation of the members of the Australian Imperial Force to form the basis upon which the future Armies of Australia shall be trained. Each year, approximately, 16,000 young men, physically fit for military service, and within the training areas, reach the age of eighteen years. °It is proposed to recommence the training of this young manhood this year, but, owing to the financial position, only to a limited degree. The experience of the Australian Imperial Force has demonstrated that to give effective recruit train-‘ ing a much longer period than that laid down in the Defence Act is necessary. At the same time, it has demonstrated that once the recruit training has been carried out, there is no necessity to spread the period of training over such a number of years as is now provided in the Defence Act. Proposals will, therefore, be brought forward by the Government to amend the Defence Act to concentrate the periods of training over a lesser number of years, and to give the longer period in the first year of training. Details of these proposals will be made available later. The Government proposes to invite the cooperation and assistance of the members of the Australian Imperial Force to engrave the traditions and exploits of that splendid body on the Citizen Forces of Australia, and as they, by their example on the battlefield, have made the magnificent history that is theirs and ours, to transmute into the Citizen Forces those traditions. To that end, .an invitation will be issued to the members of the Australian Imperial Force to co-operate and insure that the old units will become the centre and part of the defence scheme of Australia to which the future manhood of Australia, as they are trained, will be attached.
Some figures may be given as a basis of comparison. The figures relate to the Estimates for the current year, and give the cost of Defence Forces in previous years, including the year before the war.
In 1913-14 there were 54,051 persons in the Citizen Forces, then liable for training. In this year there will be 108,000 liable for training. The cost of training the Citizen Forces and Cadets in 1913-14 was £64S,000. This year, owing to the reduced period of training, it will be £423,000. The number of Permanent Forces in 1913-14 was 2,627. This year it is 2,603. ‘The personnel of the civic staff of the Defence Department in 1913- 14 was 715. This year it is 995. The total expenditure on defence in 3913-14 was - Military, £2,644,000; Naval. £2,001,000; or a grand total of £4,645,000. .The total military expenditure this year is estimated at £3,250,000. In comparing the present cost of defence with pre-war days, it is necessary to take into consideration the purchasing power of money. Here I quote from the debate in the House of Commons .on the Imperial Estimates, where Mr. Churchill, the Minister of State for War, said -
As to the normal estimate, they had to pay £55,000,000 for the same military work which cost, before the war, £2S,000:000.
That, of course, is obvious; but when we speak of money we must remember what money purchases. An expenditure of £7,000,000 to-day is only equivalent^ to about £4,000,000 before the war.
I turn now from the military side to consider the Naval and Air Forces. It may be confidently expected that aviation and those scientific methods of warfare which developed so rapidly during the war, and which, particularly during the latter portion of the -conflict, were resorted to so freely, may develop still further. No doubt that development will completely revolutionize warfare; and let us hope that it will make war impossible. That, I think, is the earnest prayer of every civilized man. If some scientist were to find a means for the general destruction of mankind, I venture to say that that would abolish war. At any rate, we must hope that war will become so terrible >a thing that all nations will be appalled at its possibilities; but in the meantime we have to face the facts. In our present position, success in war depends primarily upon military and naval operations, and as a part of a world-flung Empire we must consider the Navy our first line of defence. We have an island continent, and it will be a bad day- for us if we have Ito defend Australia within Australia. I cannot forget those days, now happily gone, when we were informed by some shortsighted people that we should wait until the Germans came here. Britain has relied on her Navy for nearly 1,000 years, and never since the time of William the Conqueror has any nation successfully invaded Britain. Britain has always defended herself on the seas. I say emphatically that either on the sea or in the air must we endeavour ito fight our enemies. If they come here, we shall do our best ; but it is better that they should not come here at all. Therefore, our main, lines of defence must be on the sea and in the air. Sea power has long been recognised as essential to the political integrity of sea-girt nations. Quite recently there have been tremendous conflicts between the greatest military Power and the greatest naval Power the world has ever seen. In Napoleon’s day we saw the same, and on all occasions the greatest naval Power has been victorious. That is a lesson we must never forget. It is on the sea that our destiny lies, and it is on the sea that we must uphold our freedom. The air, that new element which man has now conquered, is but the sea in another form, and it is on the sea and in the air that we shall have to look for our defence. By a general consensus of opinion, naval mastery still depends upon capital ships, and not on submarines and light cruisers. The battleship is still the deciding factor in naval warfare. This, of course, creates for us a serious situation, because the maintenance of a great battle fleet is beyond the capacity of 5,000,000 people. We must remedy this by getting more than 5,000,000 people, and the Government are setting about immigration in earnest. In the meantime, we must cut our coat according to our cloth. It must not be supposed that we shall, perforce, be compelled to resort to and solely rely upon light cruisers and similar craft, because if we have a perfect scheme of defence that will not be necessary. We hope that there will come from the Imperial Defence Conference a scheme in which we shall be able to co-operate and do our share. Under that scheme we anticipate that there will be expected from us a given quota, and that there will be allotted to us and the other Dominions a given sphere of operations. I think I would be doing a wrong to Australia if I did not say that, although we have not done our share in the naval defence of the Empire as compared with Britain, we have, when compared with other Dominions, done more than our share. I hope that as a result of the Imperial Defence Conference, which I believe will meet next year, that there will be evolved a real Imperial defence policy. I hope Australia will be able to do her part. We did our share in time of war, and I trust that we shall be able to do our part in times of peace. I hope I have not said anything which might lead my fellow citizens to think that I decry submarines or light craft. I say that they are essential, but that the decisive factor in a naval engagement is the battleship; and, for Australia, the first line of defence is the sea. I want to emphasize that.
I desire now to quote some figures as to our naval scheme of defence. Australia’s naval expenditure for 1913-14 was £2.001,000: for 1914-15, £7,330,000; for 1915-16, £11,336,000; for 1916-17, £11,433,000; for 1917-18, £7,129,000; for 1918-19, £9,854,000; and for 1919-20, £5.633,000. For this year it is proposed to reduce the estimate to £3,959,991, which sum includes £710,000 for transport services and trading vessels under the control of the Navy. Taking into consideration the value of the sovereign today, I venture to say that the Government cannot be fairly accused of possessing an extravagant naval policy. We can be accused - and, if nobody else will accuse us I will do so - of having a policy which is very near to the danger point; but we must take some risks. We shall spend, this year, at the rate of 12s. 6d. per head. The Imperial Government are spending now at the rate of £1 16s. 3d. ner head, which is three times as much. In respect of the Army, we are spending at the rate of 12s. 4d. per head, while in Great Britain the expenditure is at the rate of £2 13s. 9d. - more than four times as much.
Now I desire to turn attention to the air. I am among those who believe in aviation. I think that every man possessed of imagination must believe in it. As for any man who has not the imagina- tion, I am afraid I cannot attune myself to his intelligence. To an imaginative man there is something exhilarating and inspiring about this conquest of the last element by mankind. It is very splendid to think that in the air, as on the land, and on the water, Australians have held their own. It is grand to realize that Australians have made the longest and the greatest world nights. With one machine we have bridged the enormous gap between Britain and Australia ; and we have lately seen arrive here a little machine which more timid souls would hesitate to fly from this spot to Flemington racecourse. Yet it has beaten and fought its way right through these thousands of leagues of airway to Australia. Our aviators, in the matter of performance, have been no whit behind our infantry and light horsemen. As for what they did, their deeds are written in letters of fire which will live for ever. I believe in the air. Its conquest is a matter to which this country lends itself very specially. The possibilities of aviation are infinite. No country alfords greater scope for commercial purposes; and the Government recognise that. We believe, too, that in the air we may hope to create a force which will be of incomparable service in defending us against an enemy. The Government, therefore, are placing on the Estimates a sum sufficient for the building up of an efficient air force. The recommendations upon which the defence policy of the Government are founded are the outcome of deliberations by the Council of Defence, the members of which comprise the best of our permanent and citizen officers, naval and military. The air force is to be under the control of a Board upon which there will be representatives of the Navy and the Army, with a representative also of civil aviation.
It is proposed to place such a sum on the Estimates as will encourage commercial aviation. It is intended to pass legislation in order to insure the safety of aviators and of ordinary citizens, it is proposed to map out air routes immediately, to mark out landing places, and to create petrol depots. It is proposed to afford such inducements as are hoped will encourage manufacturers to make engines and aeroplanes in this country, and the Government will not hesitate to give a very substantial bonus for that purpose. It is very obvious that unless we can repair our machines and, if necessary, make them here, we may be left, in an emergency, in an absolutely helpless position. It is proposed, as I have already announced, to appoint a Director of Civil Aviation, and he will have a seat on the Air Board Council. We believe that commercial aviation will afford us that reserve of personnel and machines which, in an emergency, will be necessary to our fighting forces. The Government propose to apply themselves to these matters without delay.
It is proposed to place a sum of £500,000 on the Estimates for the purposes of military aviation, and £100,000 for civil aviation. I am - if honorable members care to say so - a fanatic in my
Belief in aviation. I do not say that £ am a fanatic on aviating. I have had my ups and downs; and I am bound to say that, so far as I am concerned, a very little of that kind of thing goes a long way. As for the amount of £100,000 which has been placed on the Estimates for the encouragement of commercial aviation, it rests with enterprising men in this country to demonstrate that it is the duty of the Government to provide still more. What the Government desire to do is to encourage commercial aviation. But let us have twenty shillings’ worth of value for every pound spent. We believe that money will be well spent by encouraging commercial aviation.
I ought to say, before concluding, that, in a comparison of the cost of defence, note must be taken of the fact that, in 1919-20, £1,110,224 of the Military Estimates was paid for out of war loans. That is now charged to revenue. In considering the amount of the Estimates, therefore, regard must be had to the fact that we are defraying our defence costs out of revenue.
I have placed before the House the position as I have seen it. I have not attempted to overwhelm honorable members with details, but have traced a general outline of the scheme of defence. It cannot be said to err on the side of extravagance. How far we are justified in cutting down our Naval Estimates to the mark which we have reached is a matter upon which this House will have a little leisure to think. I ask honorable memN bers not to pass over what I have said, nor to brush on one side the teaching of history and the experience of this very hour in relation to how much naval defence means. Had it not been for the
British Navy we should not have been here to-night. There would have been no Allied victory. There would have been, for Australia, no future save that of a vassal State. Those who say that the great world-war business is now over and, so, “ Why further bother?” are men to whom the lessons of history mean nothing. But I say to honorable members, who are intrusted by their fellow-citizens with the grave responsibilities of seeing that the ship of State is piloted safely into port, that they should consider, not whether we are spending too much, but whether we are not spending too little.
Mr. POYNTON (Grey- Minister for
Home and Territories) [9.16]- - In moving
T.li at this Bill be now rend a second time, it is not my intention at this stage to deal with the amendments which, it is proposed to make in the existing law. I shall do that later on. It will be readily admitted that these proposals constitute a further indication of the attitude of the Government towards our returned soldiers. But (probably before I deal with the Bill itself honorable members will be interested to know what has been accomplished in connexion with the housing of those soldiers. Only a very limited period has elapsed since the principal Act was passed, and when I give the figures relating to what has already been accomplished, notwithstanding the difficulties under which the War Service Homes Commissioner has laboured, it will be readily admitted that we have reason to congratulate ourselves upon the results which have been achieved.
From a progress report dealing with the activities of this Department up till 30th August last, I gather that the total applications for homes which have been approved, number 12,609, and that they involve an expenditure of £7,370,050. The number of houses completed upon that date was 1,276, of which 1,091 had been erected under contract and 185 by day labour. In addition, assistance had been given towards the completion of 87 new homes, whilst 6,121 houses already ‘built have been purchased on behalf of our returned men at a cost of £3,480,789. In addition, 1,418 mortgages have been paid iff, the amount involved being £672,544.
It will be seen, therefore, that, although the War Service Homes Department has been in existence for such a limited period, 8,815 soldiers, or their dependants, have been provided with homes.
– I will give that information a little later. Upon 30th August last there were actually in course of construction 2,740 homes, the majority of which were well advanced, and of these 1,493 were! being erected by day labour, and 1,247 under contract. There were 247 additional houses for which tenders had been called but not finalized. The Commissioner has secured for future operations 2,500 acres of land for the ;purpose of erecting war service homes thereon. His programme for the current year covers the erection of 8,000 houses. He is confident that unless some industrial disturbance occurs of a very serious character, he will be able to complete that number of homes within the year.
– In addition to those which have already been erected ?
– Exactly. The average cost of the homes already built is £616. I think, therefore, that we may fairly congratulate ourselves upon the work which has been accomplished to date. One has only to realize the disabilities under which the Commissioner has laboured in order to appreciate the results which have been obtained. He started operations with a staff which had to be trained. He was confronted with Combines in timber, bricks, cement, and practically every other material which he had to purchase. Since his accession to office, we have experienced the worst industrial troubles that we have ever had to encounter. Indeed at one time, owing to a shipping strike, the whole of the work of the Department was practically held up. But for that a larger number of Avar service homes would have been completed.
Honorable members will doubtless desire to learn something in regard to the cost of administration. I have already said that the total expenditure of the Department up till 30th August last was £7,370,050. Upon the 6th March, 1919. the cost of administration was 2.20 per cent., or £2 4s. per £100. On the 30th June of this year the administrative cost was 2.18 per cent.
– Does that include the cose of the collection of rents?
– I take it that it covers everything.
– Does it cover the operations of the Commonwealth Bank as well as of the Department?
– No. It relates to the operations of the Commissioner alone. I have endeavoured to ascertain what is being done in other parts of the world, in connexion with the housing of their returned soldiers, with a view to seeing how their efforts compare with our own. But whether I look to Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, or, indeed, ‘any portion . of the Empire, I find that no country has done anything approaching what has been done by the Commonwealth.
– The Government have done only what they should have done.
– I have said nothing to the contrary. I have looked to other countries to ascertain whether there was anything to be learned from them in the matter of providing homes for our returned men. But even in America I find that no housing scheme for soldiers has been introduced. New Zealand approaches most nearly to the efforts which we have made in that direction. There are, however, disabilities connected with the Dominion scheme which are absent from our own. There, the authorities have practically allocated certain .moneys to the purchase of land. That land may be purchased either .upon a ten years’ flat mortgage or by repayments over a period of twenty-five years. The alternative system operating there is one under which a returned soldier is advanced £750 for the purpose of purchasing a house. Under no circumstances will the State undertake the responsibility of building a home for him. In other- words it leaves him to compete for the materials required in his building with the people who are engaged in -the various trades. We are able, by purchasing materials in large quantities, to erect homes for our soldiers at a much less cost than they could erect them for themselves under the system which is operative in New Zealand. In England, nothing has been done in the way of building homes for returned soldiers. There, this work has been left to capitalists, to public utility societies, to co-operative societies, and to the municipal authorities. Nothwitstand- mg that in May last it was estimated that there were 1,000,000 people in England who lacked accommodation, and that increased housing accommodation is required for 200,000 persons per annum, practically nothing is being done in that direction. One leading authority upon this question estimates that during the next five years housing accommodation will be needed in England for 2,500.000 people. Upon the assumption that there are five persons in an average family, that is equivalent to 500,000 homes. Only 5,392 houses have been erected in the Old Country as the result of the combined effort which has been made there, and of these only 129 are occupied by the parties for whom they were built.
– The Minister is now tackling the British Government.
– I am snowing how the efforts made in England on behalf of returned soldiers compare with our own.
The Union of South Africa has not introduced any special legislation to provide houses for its returned soldiers, although the housing problem in South Africa is most acute. A special report was submitted to the South African Parliament at the end of last year by a Housing Committee appointed by the Minister for Public Works. This report consisted of 235 clauses, but not one of them contained a reference to any special provision for the returned soldiers of the Union, although the effects of the great war upon the housing problem were frequently referred to. The responsibility for the adequate housing of the people of South Africa was thrown entirely upon the local authorities. In Canada, again, no special provision has been made for housing returned soldiers. The Dominion Government merely makes advances to the Provinces for this purpose, and the Governments of the Provinces in turn make amounts available to local government bodies and other organizations. On the Canadian Estimates for the present year is an item of £2,500,000 to satisfy these provincial loans, and that comparatively small amount shows up the Australian Commonwealth provision in a very favorable light, since the’ amount which we shall spend on soldier housing during the present year will be in the neighbourhood of £7,000,000.
It might have been anticipated that the United States of America would have been among the first to specially provide for her fighting men in the matter of housing, but no special scheme has been laid down vp to the present, though hutments and cottages which were erected by labour gangs for the housing of munition and other war workers, have been largely availed of to meet the house famine in America. At the end of 191S the United States voted a sum of money to ‘be spent on war housing, but the Monthly Labour Review, of May, 1919, stated that the available and prospective funds were not sufficient to justify more house construction than would simply take the peak off the war-time shortage.
It will be seen that the Australian soldier stands in a very satisfactory position compared with soldiers in other parts of the Empire. The people of the Australian Commonwealth have from the very outset asserted that the best that could be done should be done for the men of the Australian Imperial Force. and every effort is being made to carry out this great national ideal.
The fact should not be lost sight of that in housing our soldiers a very valuable contribution is being made to the solution of the general housing problem of the Commonwealth. Honorable members need no information from me as to the acuteness of the housing situation in their own States. No statistics are available which might indicate the actual shortage of houses in the Commonwealth, but the Commonwealth Statistician in a recent statement furnished to the Repatriation Department estimated that the present rate of increase of population in the’ Commonwealth is 100,000 per annum. Taking the average family or household at five persons, this increase would require the provision of 20,000 new homes per annum. It is admitted that since the outbreak of war in 1914 there has been nothing like even a normal provision of new dwellings, and thus there is a very serious leeway to be made up. In addition to the new homes required annually, there is always a considerable programme of replacement building to be carried through, and this programme necessarily fell behind during the war period. Articles have recently appeared in the press of Sydney, Melbourne, and other State capitals indicating an acute shortage of housing accommodation, and there is therefore no need for me to stress the national importance and the national value of the war service homes scheme to this .young country.
I feel that I ought to make a reference to the way in which the returned soldiers are meeting their obligatio’ns under the War Service Homes Act. Up to the 30th June last, of the total amount due by soldier occupants of war service home3, namely, £116,144, all but £2,447 had been repaid. It must not be assumed that that small balance of £2,447 is to be written off as a loss. In a number of cases the repayment is a little late owing to temporary financial difficulty on the part of the returned soldier, and doubtless in practically all cases the repayments will ultimately be made. It will be seen, therefore, that the soldier is meeting his obligations in a most satisfactory manner.
There is one other phase of the operations of the War Service Homes Commissioner to which I ought to refer, and that is the War Service Homes insurance scheme. This scheme became operative only in January last, but on the 30th April 2,059 certificates were in force. The gross amount covered was, approximately, £2,135,000. On 30th June, 1920, the insurance revenue totalled £3,115- 3s. 6d., against which were the items, adjustment of claims, £1 19s., and administrative expenses, £103 18s., leaving a balance of £3,009 6s. 6d. The percentage of administrative expenses to total revenue was 3.4 per cent. The Commissioner is charging a considerably lower rate of insurance premium than is charged by private companies. For a £600 house, built of brick, stone, or cement, Abe insurance premium under the War Service Homes scheme is 7s., as compared with 13s. charged upon a property of similar value by a private company. For a wooden house of equal value the insurance charge by private companies is 40s., while the War Service Homes Commissioner charges 19s.
– That is the charge for insuring such a house up to its full value ?
– Yes. The Commissioner has determined his charge upon actuarial advice, and the economy whichhe is achieving under his insurance scheme is due primarily to the fact that his administrative costs in this direction are infinitesimal as compared with private insurance companies. He has not to canvass for his business, and commission charges, therefore, : do not concern him. He has no directors’ fees to pay, nor ls his own salary a charge against his insurance administration. The Commissioner would not be paid anything less if there were no insurance premiums attached to theWar Service Homes scheme. Again, a great saving results from the absence of any necessity for inspection of the properties covered by insurance. A private insurance company when asked to insure a property sends an officer to inspect it. The Commissioner knows the house which he insures from its foundations to its ceiling, and requires no inspection as a precedent to insurance. It should be noted that the benefits accruing from the lower rates of insurance pass to the soldiers themselves; the Commissioner reaps no advantage.
I pass now to a consideration of the amendments proposed to be made by this Bill in the principal Act. These are all in the direction of widening the scope of the measure. The most important of the amendments are those which (a) propose to extend the original Act to a class of beneficiaries not previously entitled to become applicants, and (b) to increase the maximum amount which may be advanced from £700 to £800. In support of this proposed increase, I have only to point out that since the coming into operation of the original Act the cost of labour and material has increased by 25 per cent., freights by 10 per cent., and cartage by 20 per cent. I was asked a few days ago whether this additional £100 would be available to those whose homes had already been built. The Minister responsible for this measure informed me that it will not be available in such cases, but that it will be advanced in respect of all houses that have not yet been completed, and which, therefore, can be enlarged.
It is proposed to include among those who will be entitled to become applicants for war service homes, men who had enlisted and were in camp, but were discharged prior to leaving Australia. Many of these were discharged upon the signing of the armistice. In that regard the amendment will bring the War Service Homes Act into line with the main Repatriation Act. Another class of men who will be eligible under this Bill are members of the Young Men’s Christian Association who saw service abroad, also seamen and wireless operators who served in the war zone. In addition, it is proposed to make eligible, under the Act, the wives of men mentally afflicted. The reason for this extension of eligibility will be obvious.Under the original measure only the eligible person himself could apply, or in the event of his death, his widow or other dependant. In the case of the wife of a mentally afflicted soldier, it is obvious that while the eligible person is still alive, he is not capable of presenting his application.
The Bill also tightens up, somewhat drastically, the powers of transfer under the principal Act.
– That is very necessary.
– Quite so. It provides checks upon trafficking. The original measure sought to impose checks of this kind, but actual experience has shown the necessity for a tightening up in that direction. These houses will fetch in the open market considerably more than the amount charged against the soldier occupant.
– Probably £100 at least.
– The president of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League here said that each of them would realize at least £100 more than it cost.
– Some of the men anxious to leave for another State have received £100 on their bargain.
– Yes. In some cases a soldier occupier has been approached with an offer of £800 for a house which, under this scheme, cost him £700. The would-be buyer has advanced him £800, with which the returned soldier has paid off the £700 due to the Department, obtained a discharge, and has then pocketed the balance of £100. In this way some of these houses have got into the hands of persons to whom the benefits of the scheme were never intended to apply. We are, therefore, tightening up the provisions relating to transfer, although we do not take exception to the transfer of any of these homes to men who, are legitimately entitled to come under the scheme.
We should draw the line against giving outsiders the benefit of this legislation.
– Transfers should be allowed only to eligibles.
– That is so. In the original Act provision -was made that, for any purchase of land involving the expenditure of £5,000 or over, it was necessary for the Commissioner to obtain the approval of the Minister. ‘ It was thought that that provision covered an expenditure to that amount, not only upon land, but upon material, but it has been found that under the existing Act there is no such restriction upon the powers of the Commissioner in the purchase of material. In this Bill, therefore, an amendment of the existing law is proposed requiring the Commissioner to obtain the approval of the Minister for any expenditure of £5,000 or over upon either land or material.
I believe that it was never intended when we passed the original Act that both wife and husband should each be able to secure a war service home.
– I did not think that that was possible.
– There have been cases in which both wife and husband have secured homes under our scheme. Thi6 has been found possible where a marriage has taken place between eligible persons who have each made an application for a war service home. The Government are taking powers under this Bill to prevent that. Where a marriage takes place between two persons, each of whom has secured a war service home the Commissioner will, under this Bill, have power to take over one of the homes, allowing for depreciation or for improvements.
Under the original Act the returned soldier is the person eligible to apply for a war service home, but in the case of the death of a soldier his widow may become an applicant. We have, unfortunately, to deal with some returned soldiers who are mentally afflicted and who. consequently, are not in a position to make an application for a war service home. Under this Bill the unfortunate wives of such persons will be entitled to make an application under the law.
– Can a widowed mother put in a claim for a war service home?
– Yes that is provided for under the existing Act. I have mentioned the principal amendments proposed by the Bill, and it is not, I think, necessary that I should say any more at this stage.
– Will it be possible to secure a copy of the Minister’s informative speech before the debate on the second reading of the Bill is resumed?
– I think that can be arranged.
– Is the’ Minister in a position to give any information as to how the War Service Homes Commissioner has been able to deal with the Combines in the matter of prices ?
– I have not gone fully into that, but I understand the Commissioner has effected some reductions in the cost of construction.
– Can the Minister say how the purchase of saw mills and timber areas in Queensland will affect the cost of construction in the future?
– I am not in a position to- give particulars. I am speaking for the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), and I have not seen the papers dealing with the transaction referred to.
– Certain figures have appeared in the press which suggest that the purchase may result in a tremendous paving.
– A statement on the subject was made” to the House yesterday by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). I was speaking to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) this morning to ascertain when the papers in connexion with the purchase would be laid on the table. He thought that it would be possible to lay them on the table to-day, but he found that one important paper was not yet available. He has assured me that the papers will be tabled at the earliest possible moment, and honorable members will then have an opportunity of perusing them, and may find occasion to discuss the matters with which they deal. I understand, generally, that the purchase is expected to be of great advantage to the Department in enabling it to secure cheaper material.
– I understand that where a soldier buys a house already built, there has been a change in the Government policy, and he is now required to put down 10 per cent, as a deposit. I have had several complaints on that account.
– I would not be dogmatic on the point, but probably what the honorable member is referring to is that when this Bill waa originally introduced in the Senate, the proposal increasing the advance from £700 to £800 was conditioned by a provision requiring the applicant to make a deposit of 10 per cent.
– I am referring to the case of an existing house purchased by a returned soldier for, say, £700. As I understand the matter, the applicant in such a case is required to make a deposit of £70.
– On houses built up to date, the applicants have not been required to make any deposit.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr.Ryan) is referring to the purchase by returned soldiers of houses already erected, but not provided by the War Service Homes Department. In those cases, a deposit of 10 per cent. is required.
– I cannot speak as to that; but I know that in this Bill as introduced in the Senate, there was a provision requiring a deposit of 10 per cent. from applicants securing an advance up to £800,. but that provision was rejected in another place.
Mr.Ryan. - I can assure the Minister that the deposit of 10 per cent. to which I refer is being required in Sydney.
– I shall make inquiries on that point. I am not in a position to answer the honorable member definitely at the present time.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
House adjourned at 9.57 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 September 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200909_reps_8_93/>.